Monday, December 30, 2013

My kid is 18 years old, why am I still paying child support?

You've been paying child support for years and years. 

You're child has now turned 18 and you run down to the courthouse to request a termination of support -- only to find it's not as easy as you thought it would be. 

But why?

There are several reasons why a parent may be on the hook to pay child support past age 18. 

  • If your child is still in high school (full time) your obligation continues until s/he graduates, becomes self supporting, or turns 19 y/o, whichever comes first. If you are paying by earnings assignment, make efforts to schedule a termination date so that you aren't paying long after your obligation has ended. The process to terminate a wage garnishment is slow and can result in a significant overpayment that quite frankly, is often times never paid back.
  • If you owe arrearages for unpaid child support, your obligation to pay those arrears will continue until and unless you have an agreement with the custodial parent and/or court order. Keep in mind that if your local Department of Child Support Services has been involved in your matter, they will also need to sign off/ approve any agreement with the payee parent. Unfortunately, there are certain circumstances wherein an agreement between the parents to wipeout arrearages, will not be honored by the court. Arrears can be financially debilitating -- there is no statute of limitations for collection, interest accrues at 10% (!), your credit can be severely impacted, and your wages, tax refund, bank accounts (etc) can be garnished. If you find yourself with a large arrearage balance, it is well worth your time to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney to determine whether there is a possibility of: (1) reducing and setting your monthly arrears payment; (2) eliminating interest accrual; (3) reducing the total amount of arrearages owed; and (4) mitigating unwarranted penalties (suspension of driver's license, sanctions etc).
  • If your adult child is disabled, you may be on the hook for child support long after your kid turns 18. Under Family Code section 3910, parents have an equal responsibility to provide support for their adult child if s/he is incapacitated from earning a living and is without sufficient means for support. A child is incapacitated from earning a living if s/he is unable to support herself because of a mental or physical disability. The problem is -- there isn't a whole lot of case or statutory law guiding the court on this issue. Judges have a lot of discretion in determining the amount of support (usually guideline unless unjust or inappropriate) and whether or not the child meets the legal qualification. So, for example, is an autistic child with a part-time job (and a job coach) incapacitated from earning a living? What about a service member that returns from war with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? How about a child addicted to drugs and in and out of rehabilitation? Even a child that receives social security or other financial support will likely be entitled to support if s/he meets the FC 3910 requirements. An experienced attorney can help you and your family navigate the system, negotiate a settlement (when appropriate), and litigate your matter (assuming it makes financial sense).

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Sophia Wood Henderson: An all-star addition to the LLG team

At Levine Law Group, the success of each case we handle is dependent on the ability of our team to work efficiently, collaboratively and strategically. We work to produce the best possible work product because in law, a single mistake can lead to a huge loss. Sophia has been the perfect addition to this puzzle. Her keen attention to detail, combined with her excellent follow through and professional yet empathetic client contact -- compliment Ashley's ability to simplify complex legal problems and Erin's strong litigation technique. 

After attaining her Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Berkeley, Sophia spent a summer studying Law in Colorado, completing legal research on the Yugoslavian war crimes against humanity for the defense on a case pending before the Hague. She later received her law degree from the University of San Francisco where she graduated with honors and obtained a Public Interest Law Certificate and a CALI "Excellence for the Future Award."

Sophia began her legal career as a law clerk with Justice Now, Bay Area Legal Aid, a private family law firm, the JusticeBus program and San Francisco Superior Court. While at Justice Now, her interest peaked in prisoner's rights and she published a law review article "Prisons as a Tool of Reproductive Oppression" in the Stanford Law Review. She also gained valuable experience in child custody matters and representing clients with complex mental health issues. 

Since graduating law school, Sophia has dedicated her practice of law fully to family law. She obtained employment with a small family law firm in San Francisco and San Mateo where she improved her advocacy, legal research and writing skills. 

Since joining the Levine Law Group, she has quickly risen from a part-time paralegal position, to an associate attorney -- partially due to pressure from client's to spend more time working with her and also because of her passion and dedication to family law. She has quickly become key to the LGBT aspect of the practice, assisting heavily with Donor / Assisted Reproduction Agreements, Second Parent Adoptions, Cohabitation Agreements, Marvin actions, Pre/Post-Nuptial and Transmutation Agreements. 

In her spare time, she enjoys cycling, musical sing-a-longs, fun runs, traveling, taking her cat to Dolores Park, and pretending she lives in warmer weather. 

We are beyond excited to welcome Sophia and are confident she is a rising star in the Bay Area legal arena. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Is a donor agreement enough to protect my same-sex partner from a challenge to her parental rights?

Usually not. In California, maybe.

In short, we recommend a second parent adoption or a 'Paternity' action to terminate the parental rights of the (known) donor 'father' and establish the non carrying spouse as the second parent in the eyes of the law.

But why?
The law is unsettled, especially with the passage of new legislation that allows for more than two legal parents of a child. Artificial insemination can be the key to building a family, especially for same-sex couples, and choosing a donor whom you know and love is certainly a viable option. There are several concerns that we see on a regular basis:

  • What happens if the donor decides he wants parentage rights over our child?
  • What if my partner leaves me and seeks to deny my parentage by seeking to establish our donor has the lawful parent?
  • What if the donor dies -- will his family have visitation rights over our child?
  • If I let the donor visit with our child, will he have legal rights over her/him?

The process of reaching a full agreement, putting it in writing, complying with the requirements set forth in the California Family Code (e.g. supervised by a physician), and signing -- assures that the donor and recipient have the same parentage intentions. We find that most people honor this agreement and very few (if any) issues arise. 

However, the court is not always obligated to follow the intentions of the parties as defined in the agreement. If a situation arises in the future, the court has to decide between each of the competing people to determine who should be the lawful parent. Case law has dealt with only two parents but California has a new law that could potentially allow for more than 2 parents!  While we do not know how the court will apply new law, we strongly believe that court's will find donor agreements very persuasive -- especially when the contract clearly indicates that the donor will have no parental rights or responsibilities for the child.

To be completely safe, intended parents should strongly consider a second parent adoption or a parentage action to establish parental rights and terminate the parental rights of your donor. This doesn't mean your donor has to be excluded from your child's life, it only means that he will not be considered a parent under the law. A judgment of parentage will not only protect you and your family in case of a challenge to parental rights-- but it will confirm your legal rights and obligations as a parent to everyone, every state and every country you travel through or to.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

All you need is love, or a divorce attorney if it doesn't work out.

After nearly a decade in family law, one would think a divorce attorney has seen enough broken hearts to be forever cynical of love. And maybe most are.

I for one, am not. Perhaps financially disentangling lost love has given me more of an understanding and appreciation for the capacity and great intensity of the power two beings can share in heart and soul.

I don't profess to know a whole lot about it. After all I am not called upon to determine the reason for heartbreak or how it can be repaired. But I do have the unique privilege to see it daily - raw and unfiltered. Sure, I see dysfunction, despair, anger and much uglier emotion -- in fact it's my job to spot them and vet those feelings out to focus the parties on the factors our state deems important --  but I also recognize that none of those feelings would be so strong, if these two people, didn't at one time feel deeply for each other. If you read into my rant, it may look like I thrive on dysfunction or misconstrue passion for love. I'd like to think that I've done a bit more self work than that.

So for what it's worth, this is what one divorce lawyer has learned about love and relationship:

  • Talk about finances before you spend it -- or be prepared for resentment and disappointment. Be transparent with your finances or expect distrust. I've seen clients reconcile when they knew how the other party was spending money, but just didn't approve of it. I've never seen a reconciliation - let alone an amicable divorce - when one party controlled all of the finances or there was lots of secrecy around money.
  • Take care of you first. Self-care is not selfish. When you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off -- you cannot possibly be present for your partner or kids. Learn to say no instead of yes. Get enough sleep. Don't try and fix every problem at once. Take a walk, breathe, and gain some perspective. You'll find it much easier to nurture your relationship! If you're not happy, little things build up and you end up blowing up over the smallest things.
  • Don't punish your spouse by withholding sex. When one spouse uses sex as a fight tactic, it's like giving the silent treatment (in the bedroom). At one point it was good right? Find that healthy way to feel close again.
  • Quit raving about a co-worker. I've had several clients tell me that their partner would constantly compare them to another person of the same sex. They always felt like they were being compared and couldn't keep up with that person's 'perfect' facebook life. Be your spouse's number one fan!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tips for (separating) parents

I stumbled upon the "Parenting Plan Handbook" today from the San Diego Superior Court. I strongly encourage separating parents to take a look, particularly parents with small children. It's very introductory and would not be very helpful for a drawn out, acrimonious, legal battle -- but it is a clear, concise resource for defining (in 'layman's' terms) legal terms and offers a lot of practical options for developing a parenting plan.

Click here for the handbook!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Child Custody Recommending Counseling and Mediation: What's theDifference?

In a case involving children where the parties have not agreed on a parenting plan, the Family Law Court mandates that parents "mediate" prior to a hearing on the matter. Mediators
have experience in counseling or psychotherapy and must have a master's degree in a behavioral science related to marriage and family interpersonal relationships. 

Parents required to attend mediation include those who are involved in legal actions concerning parentage, divorce (with children), domestic partnership dissolution (with children) and domestic violence (when a parent is requesting child custody orders. 

But what will you participate in? Recommending Counseling or Mediation? What's the difference?

In some counties like Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano and San Francisco, Family Court Services requires parents to participate in Recommending Counseling. The Counselor is charged with the duty to assist parents develop a parenting plan and work out their disputes. If you and the other parent are unable to come to an agreement, the FCS counselor will provide a written recommendation to the Court. You will have an opportunity to review the recommendations prior to your hearing. If you disagree with the recommendations, you will have a chance to argue/ explain to the court why a different result serves the best interest of your child(ren).

Like recommending counseling, parents participate in Mediation to try and work out a parenting plan and resolve their disagreements with respect to the care of their child(ren). If an agreement is reached, the parties will sign an agreement that the Judge generally approves and makes a court order. If you do not come to an agreement, the Judge will decide legal and physical custody, as well as parenting time share at the hearing. 

Whether or not you participate in Mediation or Counseling -- depends on the county in which your action is pending. 

To schedule an in-person, telephonic or video chat legal consultation, contact Levine Family Law Group. Our lawyers and staff are skilled at all types of child custody litigation including alternate methods for resolving disputes such as ADR, private mediation and settlement negotiation. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is a gift from your spouse really a gift?

When you are given a gift of substantial value from your spouse or Registered Domestic Partner, you might be in for a surprise at divorce in California. Why? 

If you do not have an express writing from your spouse, then it will likely be deemed community property upon separation. Additionally, if that gift was paid for from your ex's separate property funds (an inheritance maybe?), your spouse will likely be able to claim a Family Code section 2640 reimbursement for the funds spent on the acquisition of the gift. In other words, you get nada. 

The California Family Code provides that married persons may "transmute" separate or community property to the separate property of the other spouse only if the following requirements are met: an express declaration, in writing, that is made, joined in, consented to, or accepted by the spouse whose interest in the property is adversely affected. 

What's the lesson? If you receive a gift of substantial value from your spouse, delicately request a card, letter or memo reflecting that the gift is in fact a gift that s/he shall not be entitled to any reimbursement -- and keep it! Romantic huh?

Now if the gift is relatively inconsequential when compared to the value of your marital estate, the the court will probably find that the gift is the separate property of the donee. But again -- absent a clear, written declaration that the property is intended to be a gift with no right of reimbursement -- you may be leaving it up to chance. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Can my boyfriend/new wife/mother/daughter/friend come with me to meet with my attorney?

Short Answer: YES, but you may want to THINK TWICE. 

The 5 most popular 'type' of people who accompany our Divorce clientele to their consultation:

1. New spouse (for post-judgment support modification requests)
2. New girlfriend / boyfriend
3. Mother and/or Father
4. Friend 
5. Sibling

What's wrong with having a support person join you in the consultation? 

While we love meeting your family and friends (and often do), sometimes we need to be careful with whether or not they attend your legal consultation. If you bring a third party into your conversation with your (potential or actual) attorney, you waive the attorney / client privilege for the conversation that occurs. In other words, you consultation is NO LONGER PRIVATE in that it can be "discoverable" in court.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Have a heavily contested chid custody action?

You've separated from your child's other parent. Life is tough and litigation is messy. You are looking for good resources any where you can find it. 

Do try a support group.
Do consult an attorney or a court facilitator.
Do try mediation if your ex is a good candidate for it. 
Do think about co-parenting counseling.
Do ask counsel about the possibility of a child custody evaluation.
Do determine if minor's counsel may be appropriate in your case.
Do focus on the needs of your child instead of revenge on your ex.

Do read books that help you focus on your child's needs during this seriously conflicted, scary and frustrating time. 

Don't turn to books like "Hit Him Where it Hurts" or "How to Outsmart Your Husband." Judges can see through that behavior and family law is all about good faith. 

What are some alternative reads?
Try Janet Johnston's "Through the Eyes of Children" or "A Safe Place to Grow" for helping your child cope with a multitude of trauma, including violence, abuse and insecurity.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Why mediate your legal matter?

Benefits of Mediation

If you reach an agreement in mediation, you do not have to appear in front of a judge or walk into a public courtroom.

Even if you confer with an independent attorney during the process, the cost of Mediation is less than courtroom litigation.

Decisions are made by the parties - not mandated by a Judge, evaluator or arbitrator. The parties determine the process, schedule and dates of appointments. 

Reduce Animosity
Who wants more conflict? Especially when emotions are high. A working relationship can feel empowering and reduce anger. Granted, you generally will not get your best case scenario in Mediation, but at least you can work cooperatively towards a result you can live with as opposed to a feeling of someone won / someone lost.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Common California Divorce Questions

At Levine Family Law Group, we find that many clients ask the same questions about California Divorces. They seem like simple questions, but sometimes it is difficult to find the right answer. We've done our best to answer some of the most common questions below. 

  • Will my divorce be automatically finalized in 6 months?
No. Once your divorce is filed, you must have a third person serve the petition personally on your spouse. Your divorce may be finalized six months from the date of service. However, all of the mandatory paperwork must be filed prior to obtaining a final judgment of divorce.

  • We were married or domestic partnered in another state, but I live in California now. Can I file for Divorce in California?
It depends. To file for divorce, you must have lived in California for six months and your county for three months just prior to filing your Petition. If your ex still lives in another state, and your children primarily reside in that state, you can file your Petition in California but risk the possibility that some (or all) of your divorce action will be transferred to that state.

  • Can I change my name through my divorce?
Sure. If you are filing a divorce or domestic partnership dissolution in California, you can return to your maiden name through your divorce judgment. If you finalized your divorce in California but did not change your name back, you can still file a request to change your name back to your premarital name.

  • What is a legal separation?
A legal separation resembles a divorce except the parties are  not free to remarry. There are no residency requirements to file a legal separation. Be careful not mistake legal separation for date of separation.

  • What is divorce mediation?
Unlike arbitration or litigation where a judge or arbiter makes a final decision, mediation allows the parties to negotiate an agreement that is satisfactory to both of them. Mediation at Levine Family Law Group involves several joint meetings between spouses wherein we discuss issues which need to be resolved in your case. The mediator facilitates the discussion, assists with communication, provides information and suggestions and uses their specialized training to assist the parties resolve differences. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator can write up the agreement.

  • How is child support determined?
California law provides that parents have an obligation to support their kids -- whether or not the parents were married. In general, child support is based upon the incomes of both parties, the custodial time share and certain tax deductions. The information is collected and a computer program is used to calculate support.

  • What is an annulment?
An annulment, or Judgement of Nullity may be obtained under any of the following circumstances: incest, bigamy, lack of informed consent to the marriage, the husband or wife of the prior marriage was believed to be dead at the time of the subsequent marriage, but in fact was not, unsound mind, fraud, force (unless afterwards the party who was forced freely cohabitated with the other party as husband and wife, or either party, at the time of the marriage, was physically incapable of consummating the marriage, and the incapacity appears to be incurable. If you are seeking an annulment based on fraud, an action must be filed within 4 years of discovering the facts constituting fraud.

In some cases, even though a Judgment of Nullity voids the marriage, a party may be able to obtain support, division of property and/or restraining orders. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Can a Special Master help in my child custody matter?

Special masters are often used in divorce and paternity actions when parents are having serious child custody issues related to custodial exchange disputes, visitation schedule changes, transportation disputes, religious training, difficulty determining schools, handling behavior problems, choosing extra curricular activities, holiday and vacation scheduling, behavior or boundary issues with one or both parents, other co-parenting issues and health care concerns. Special masters can also make recommendations in connection with parties' income and assets for purposes of calculating child and spousal support, determining arrearages/over payments and disposition of community of property. 
A special master may be a mental health professional, mediator or family law attorney who specializes in helping parents resolve their disputes about what is best for the kids. Parents must agree to use a special master and agree on a specific person.Through a "Stipulation and Order" the parties decide what issues the special master has the power to make decisions about and define how long the special master will perform their job. In some circumstances, a special master will be appointed even if the parents object. In these situations, the special master reports his or her findings and recommendations to the court. The judicial officer can then choose to adopt or modify recommendations after hearing arguments from both sides.
In some circumstances, special masters can make binding decisions related to your children. In other circumstances, parties agree to allow the special master to make recommendations that become binding if neither party objects to the recommendation in court. 
Whether you are represented by an attorney or not, special masters can be a useful alternative to repeatedly going to court and having a judge make decisions on child custody issues. In some circumstances, using a special master is preferred anyhow -- because s/he is generally much more familiar with you and your children. A special master can help a timely issue get resolved quickly instead of the party's waiting 1-3 months to get a court hearing. 
After a special master has been appointed, he/she will meet with parents -- sometimes in an office setting or at the respective residences of the parents. The special master will review evaluations or other court documents that may help them get to know the family better and determine the types of problems The special master may also meet with the children and other parties who come in contact with them.
Hiring a special master is not cheap. They usually require a retainer up front and bill on an hourly basis. They should not be your first option -- but rather a last resort after other options like a co-parenting counselor, parenting classes and mediation have failed. Of course, in a hotly contested matter, a special master may prove to be far less expensive than litigating each issue as they come up. 

If you believe a special master may be helpful to your case, contact Levine Family Law Group to schedule a legal consultation.
By: Erin Levine

Offering Legal Assistance to Transgendered Individuals and Their Families

Lana Wachowski, formerly Larry Wachowski: Director of Matrix
Our team at Levine Family Law Group believe that all people deserve the right to create the type of family that is right for them. We offer legal assistance with gender and name change as well as the family law issues that are often tied to a person's gender. Whether you need full representation or a little assistance along the way -- our team can help. 

Services include but are not limited to: domestic violence restraining orders, marital planning or dissolution, gender and name change, domestic partnerships, property or cohabitation agreements,  power of attorney, advanced health care directives, wills, second parent adoption and parentage actions.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Will tomorrow be the day? LLG anxiously awaits landmark decisions on gay marriage

Tomorrow morning the Supreme Court of the United States is expected to announce their decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry, a case that challenges California’s gay marriage ban (Proposition 8), and United States v. Windsor, which contests the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  

As family law attorneys practicing in the Bay Area who have strong ties to the LGBT community, we are particularly interested in the outcome of these two cases.  While many people expect landmark decisions to be released, there is the possibility that the Court will avoid a discussion on the major issue of gay marriage all together by deciding one or both of the cases on technical or procedural grounds.  Nevertheless, we here at the Levine Law Group stand united with our gay family members, friends and their supporters who have longed for equality under the eyes of the law.  We are praying that that day arrives tomorrow.  


The Team at the Levine Law Group

Monday, June 24, 2013

How will my bonus income affect child or spousal support?

Many employers give an annual or quarterly bonus to their employees when certain company or individual goals are met. Payors and payees of support want certainty but sometimes it isn't that easy. A common theme throughout our practice are questions like these:

  • Will I have to pay support based on my gross income or will bonus income be treated differently?
  • How can I pay support based on my income when I don't know what (or if) I'll receive as bonus income?
  • Is my bonus community property or used to calculate support? I don't want it double counted.
  • If I am ordered to pay support based on my gross income (including bonuses), I won't have enough net income each month to pay the large amount of support ordered. 
  • Does bonus income have to be inputed in the calculation for temporary support?
  • How does the Department of Child Support Services track employment bonuses?
  • If a bonus is received in January, is that added to January income to calculate support? Is it annualized?
Bonus income is usually factored into calculations for child support and often taken into consideration for temporary or permanent (post-judgment) support. Whether you are the payor or payee, it is important to understand how bonus income may or may not affect your order and/or negotiations.

When it comes to calculating child support, the court may consider "income" from whatever source derived. Income includes salary, commissions, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability benefits, social security benefits and spousal support paid by someone other than the other parent.

Community Property?
When we learn that one party has received a bonus shortly after separation, our first task is to determine whether any aspect of it is community property. If a bonus is community property, the ex spouse will likely receive a much higher portion of it than if it is simply treated as income for purposes of support. A bonus earned during marriage (resulted from hard work during the marriage) may be paid out after separation but would likely be considered community property and subject to division. We first need to determine if the bonus is an earned bonus or an incentive bonus for future effort as opposed to employment efforts during the marriage. The most important component is to ensure that the community bonus (marital asset) is not also considered income for purposes of support -- otherwise it's double dipping!

Bonus income: Child Support & Spousal Support
When the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is involved in a case, they will usually argue that bonus and overtime income should be factored into monthly calculation of support. It makes it much easier for them to enforce support obligations via wage assignment (garnishment). Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, they often argue that any other approach would violate the support guideline. The problem that many have with this approach is that this type of income can be uncertain and it is difficult to pay a hefty monthly obligation that can often times exceed the payor's monthly net income! Additionally, payor parents do not want to be on the hook for paying a monthly support amount based on receipt of a large bonus that may never materialize. 

While the law generally requires that bonus, dividend and interest income be considered when calculating support, a preferred approach for my client's is often to order it when received. Payor spouses prefer the certainty of knowing they will only have to pay a percentage of the amount they actually receive and payee parents are will receive an order that reflects the amount they are entitled under the law. The child support calculator (DissoMaster), allows counsel to prepare 'bonus tables'  (or schedules) that specify a certain percentage of the amount received will be paid to the payee. The actual percentage will vary depending on the amount of bonus and in some cases, overtime. The table can account for the uncertainty of not knowing how much the bonus will be. A failure to request a court order for bonus income as child support may likely result in a forfeiture of that money! If the extra income is regular and predictable, the Family Code requires that it be included in gross annual income for purposes of calculating monthly child support. 

When it comes to bonuses and spousal support, it is often factored into temporary support using a bonus schedule (see above). When it comes to more permanent (post-judgment) support, a good advocate is essential. The ex-spouse paying support may want to argue that support based on post-separation bonus income would result in a windfall to the payee spouse since the standard of living during the marriage was based on far less income and/or a percentage of bonus income may exceed the supported spouse's needs. In cases like this, an annual 'cap' may be appropriate. There are other issues with bonus income that often come up -- percentage based support often times leads to trouble with calculation or difficulties with enforcement. Given the uncertainties, we often encourage a settlement to reduce legal fees and provide the party's finality. 

If you have questions regarding child support and/or spousal support, our team is ready to assist! Contact Levine Law Group to schedule a legal consultation. What works for one person, may be problematic for another. It's a good idea to know your rights and responsibilities associated with support.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Levine Family Law Firm Announces New Accomplishments and Expansion for the Fourth Consecutive Year


Levine Law Group is proud to announce two accomplishments that will enhance the client experience in complex family law litigation.

Erin Levine, Andrew Levine, Ashley Schuh
Ashley Schuh, an eight year family law veteran, has recently been certified as a Specialist in Family Law by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization. Certification was a grueling process which included the successful passage of a written examination, completion of numerous litigation tasks (including several complex trials in various family law matters), attendance of approved education programs and peer review. "I am pleased to continue focusing on a practice that strategizes practical solutions for each client, embracing the ideology that every client is unique and will benefit from a thoughtful approach to resolving their particular family law issue." Ashley's specialties include domestic violence, same-sex relationship dissolution, pre and post marital agreements, child custody, adoption, support and complex property and debt division. 

Andrew Levine, first cousin to Owner/Managing Partner, Erin Levine, was sworn in to Legal Practice today by Alameda County Superior Judge, Sandra Bean. Attendants included Robert Levine (Partner at LLG and Drew's uncle), his parents (Richard Levine, attorney and Deborah Levine, court reporter) and Raymond Toney (esteemed military and security claims lawyer). Andrew began his legal career with LLG as a legal assistant but soon climbed the ranks to become a rising star in the Family Law community. He completed his undergraduate degrees in French and History at UCLA and received his Juris Doctor degree from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law in New York. Andrew brings a wide range of experience to his practice, having been employed in the non-profit and public sectors, and working in the compliance and risk departments of a large financial institution. "I am passionate about advocacy and serving our community in a holistic manner -- focusing not just on family law, but the various legal matters that also touch our clients --- including credit issues and estate planning needs."

Levine Law Group is located in Emeryville, California and provides full representation and unbundled legal services to individuals dealing with family law issues throughout the bay area. Their legal team provides straight forward advice and works with clients to carry out a legal strategy that is both cost effective and practical. Their aggressive, yet collaborative and compassionate advocacy produces positive outcomes for their clientele.

Contact LLG for a complimentary 30 minute legal consultation in your divorce or family law matter.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ouch, this hurts! Easing the stress & pain of divorce with a support group.

"I recently separated from my spouse. So far things are amicable but I have a lot anxiety regarding the legal process and how it will work with two separate households and three kids"

"Private therapy is too expensive but I'd really like to do some self-work so I don't end up with the same type of guy as the jerk I was married to"

"My wife just announced that she wants a divorce, I'd like some support from people that are not connected to the both of us (e.g. friends, family). I'd like a group setting, where I can share and participate -- and hopefully learn from others' experience"

"I am angry, confused and overwhelmed. I don't know anyone else who is struggling with the same issues."

"I am a professional in my 40's with two very young kids. My spouse just announced his/her plans for divorce. S/he has been thinking about this for months -- planning where we would live, where the kids would go to school, and how things will be paid for. I don't even know where to begin. Help!

There are several Divorce / Separation Support Groups in the Bay Area. Below are a few resources that have been raved about by some of our former clients. I don't care who you are -- when you go through a painful separation, it is helpful to gain the support of others. No matter your resources or your situation, Divorce is not fun and can feel very alienating. A Support Group is a great option to assist you with transition, as you are faced with a whole new way of living!

-Separation/Divorce Support Group by Susan Regan
999 Sutter Street                                                                                      Every Tuesdays                                     5:30PM-7:00PM
San Francisco, CA. 94109                                                                     $60.00
(415) 800- 1185                                                                                                            All Genders

-Women and Divorce by Dr. Mary Thomas
2241 Central Ave. Ste. 1                                                                       Every Wednesdays          
Alameda, CA. 94501                                                                               $40-$50
(510) 470-7238                                                                                                             Genders: Female

-Woman’s Relationship/Separation/Divorce/Support Group by Illana Berger, PhD.
 Mindful Partnership/Mindful Divorce                                       Times Vary
 1832 Gouldin Road                                                                                 Call for Rates
 Oakland, CA 94611
(510) 759-8758 

-Divorce/Separation Support Group for Women
2315 Prince St.                                                                                           Thursdays                              6:30PM-8:00PM                
Berkeley, CA,                                                                                               $50 (one time reg fee) $50 per session
Topics Center On: Loneliness and Unmet Needs, Grief and Loss, Anxiety, Guilt and Shame, Decision Making, Children and Parenting, Rebuilding and Self Care
Another website you can visit is: there you can find, and/or start a variety of support groups from self-help to divorce and grief groups, at the location of your choice.

Alameda County Divorce Support Groups:
-Christian Life Center 4121 Lowry Road Fremont, CA 94555
Contact: Roger McCarthy                                                  Phone: 510-489-3265
-Neighborhood Church 20600 John Drive Castro Valley, CA 94546
Contact: Nancy Mathiasen                                              Phone: 510-537-4690
-Trinity Baptist Church 557 Olivina Ave. Livermore, CA 94550
Contact: Tom Walsh                                                             Phone: 510-447-1848

Kelly Cushner and Mara Rosen Nachtsheim have small groups that meet on College Avenue in Rockridge.   

Here is the link:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why Computer Generated Divorce Documents Suck

In the last six months, several people have come to me requesting that I 'fix' their divorce after an online document preparer screwed up their case. They thought the (legal) aspect of their divorce would be painless, quick and cheap. They purchased a "DIY" package from Legal Zoom or the like and had all their documents prepared. Just when they thought it was over, their relatively simple Divorce Judgment was rejected by the court. Prior agreements became unenforceable and in some cases - resulted in the other party 'lawyering up.' They made phone calls (a lot) and spoke to customer service representative after representative -- to no avail. They tried making the changes themselves, after all -- it's not brain surgery right? Right. But the local rules for each jurisdiction can be complicated and difficult to navigate.

Soon, the convenience of an online Divorce Document preparer became more time consuming, expensive and frustrating than ever anticipated. That's where Levine Law Group enters the picture. "Can you please please please push my judgment through so I can finalize my divorce?" 

Every jurisdiction is different. Every Judge is different and interprets local rules and state Family Law codes differently.  If your divorce documents do not meet the procedural requirements, it will not get past the court clerk -- and therefore, it will not be signed (or even seen) by a Judge no matter how simple your divorce is. 

Why not get it right the first time? For as little as $500 - $3,500, we will prepare, file and serve your documents. We will also personally ensure that your divorce is finalized and that you are updated along the way. If you so choose -- everything can be processed and completed online -- using our secure and personalized case management web portal. 

Legal document websites definitely have their place in our lives. But when it comes to filing a legal action --- you're probably better off with a local paralegal / document preparation service who has an attorney to oversee any issues and approve all documents and a staff to ensure your experience is nothing less than convenient, affordable and friendly. The last thing anyone needs when their going through the trauma of a break up -- is learning that your divorce was never finalized or the agreements made between spouses are not enforceable in your jurisdiction!