Monday, October 6, 2014

7 Tips for Collecting Your Family Law Money Judgment

7 Tips for Collecting Your Family Law Money Judgment
By: Sophia Henderson Wood, Associate Attorney
Levine Family Law Group

So you have spent months (or maybe even years) reaching a resolution in your matter, but the process is not over yet. If you received a money judgment against your ex-spouse as part of your Judgment, you still need to collect these funds and you probably want to do it quickly and cheaply!

Here are some simple, and some not so simple, but effective tips for collecting money owed to you:

     Mailing Information. Make sure you provide a permanent address where they can mail the payment (alternatively, ask if they are willing to do a bank transfer provide your bank information).

    Be Accommodating. Being flexible about payment terms is a simple way to increase your odds of receiving payment with little effort. While the party may fully intend to pay you, they may not have contemplated real world application of regular payments. If the Judgment provides for regular payments, you can offer to accept less if they pay you immediately. You can offer to accept payments weekly or biweekly rather than monthly. If you opt to receive regular payments, setting up an automatic deposit can be helpful and also offer some peace of mind.

     Follow-up Letter. If your former spouse fails to pay by the court ordered date, write a letter (or an email) reminding them that they owe you money and the consequences of failing to pay the debt, including, inter alia, accumulation of interest at the rate of 10% and negative effect on their credit rating. Further state that failure to pay may result in more serious action being taken, including wage garnishment or levying of their bank accounts. Sometimes, it can make a big difference if you have an attorney send this letter on your behalf.

Asset Tracking. After receiving a Judgment, you (“creditor”) can ask your former spouse (“debtor”) to appear in court to answer questions about their financial status and assets. If they fail to appear, the court may issue a bench warrant for their arrest. Determining their assets helps you know what steps you should next take to collect on those assets.

Obtaining a Lien on Real Property. You must draft an “Abstract of Judgment” to be certified by the clerk of the court and recorded at the county recorder’s office. All required information must be included otherwise the lien will not be valid. After obtaining the lien, you may get paid once they refinance or sell the property. Remember, if the debtor owns property in more than one country, you need to record the “Abstract of Judgment” in every county where property is owned.

Collecting debtor’s wages (aka wage garnishment). You can obtain an Earnings Withholding Order to garnish the debtor’s wages until paid. Remember, you can only garnish up to 25% of the amount over the federal minimum wage that they earn.
  
Collecting money from debtor’s bank account. You can levy the debtor’s bank account. This is completed by asking the court to issue a “Writ of Execution”. There are several required court forms that must be completed in order to complete a “Writ of Execution”. If you decide to take this enforcement route, it may be beneficial to obtain the assistance from a family law attorney as this process is procedurally intensive. 

     Sometimes, getting the Judgment or Family Law Court Order is only half the battle. In cases where your ex is hiding assets and/or refusing to pay, considering meeting with an experienced family law attorney to help you with collection. To schedule a legal strategy session with a Family Law Specialist, contact Levine Family Law Group at (510) 595-4112 or www.levinefamilylawgroup.com.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why Hire a Certified Family Law Specialist?


A Certified Family Law Specialist is more than just an attorney who specializes in Family Law.

Family Law Attorneys may only identify themselves as 'certified specialists' if they have been certified by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization, an organization whose certification program has been accredited by the State Bar. Attorneys can only apply for specialist certification if they have been in practice for at least five years and have dedicated at least 25% of their practice to family law. To become a Certified Family Law Specialist, lawyers must demonstrate a high level of experience in their field. The applicant must pass a full day 'mini-bar' examination and have conducted a specific amount of trials, hearings, settlements, stipulations and mediations. Certified Family Law Specialists must complete over 45 hours of continuing legal education over a three year period covering specific areas of family law and must be favorably evaluation by other attorneys and/or judges familiar with their work. The process provides potential clients assurance that they have hired an expert who is experienced and educated in all areas of family law. By selecting a CFLS, consumers are assured their attorney is well qualified and trained.

We are pleased to announce that Erin Levine has joined Ashley Schuh, as the second attorney at Levine Law Group to become a Certified Family Law Specialist!

What can Levine Law Group's Certified Family Law Specialists do for you?

  • Properly prepare Marital Settlement Agreements, Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements;
  • Identify tax issues which may affect the distribution of marital property and the payment of child, spousal or family support;
  • Help you effectively deal with complex legal issues involving community property laws;
  • Negotiate or mediate the difficult and emotional issues relating to same-sex relationship dissolution, legal separation, dissolution of marriage and child custody;
  • Protect clients who need restraining orders for domestic violence;
  • Handle matters relating to modification of child custody, spousal support or child support;
  • Offer a collaborative process enabling clients to resolve their issues without court intervention.

To schedule a one-hour Divorce or Family Law strategy session with a Certified Family Law Specialist, complete the contact form at this link, and a client services representative will be in contact with you within 24 hours. We pride ourselves on being passionate about finding solutions that meet the needs of our clientele!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

10 Facts You Should Know About CA Child Support Modification

1.  Parents are not allowed to 'agree' to a non-modifiable child support order. 

2.  Even when the initial family law petition does not request child support, or a judgment does not address child support, the court can still make child support orders at a later time.

3. The payor or payee parent can only modify support back to the date s/he files a motion to modify. 

4. To change a child support order, you must show a change of circumstances such as a change in income of either party, change of custodial time share or change in the statutory minimum child support.

5.  National Guard service members and US military deployed out of state are afforded special considerations with respect to the modification of child support orders (and custody/ visitation).

6.  In California, a court may modify (and enforce) another state's child support order in a proceeding to register that order if all the parties reside in California and child does not reside in the issuing state.

7.  Even a so called 'final' divorce judgment can be modified with respect to child support.

8.  A party seeking to modify child support bears the initial burden of proof in modification proceedings. 

9. A parent seeking to impute income to the other parent must prove the ability of the other parent to earn and his/her opportunity to earn. 

10.  Keep in mind that not everyone plays fair! A party could agree to a below - guideline order (lower than they are legally entitled to) to obtain a certain benefit s/he wants in the divorce and then file a motion to modify the child support shortly there after.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Levine Law Group is hiring an office coordinator for our boutique family law firm!

We (Levine Family Law Group) are excited to announce a new employment opportunity  at our Emeryville office. If you or someone you know is interested and qualified, please email your resume and cover letter to Erin

Job Description: 

About Us:
Levine Family Law Group (LFLG) is a premier, bay area, boutique law firm specializing in family law offering a fresh and innovative approach to the practice of law. We measure our success on the outcome we achieve for our clients. We listen to what they need – their priorities, intentions, goals and concerns. We then use our expertise, passion, and problem solving skills to craft a legal strategy that is tailored to each client. We offer a wide range of services ranging from divorce and domestic partnership dissolution, to adoptions, paternity actions, and pre + post nuptial agreements.

We promote from within and are committed to a work-life balance.

About You:
You are a team player. You understand the importance of your role as the ‘face’ of our Firm and that your presence is key to the office work flow and process. You care about the human story and want to see our clients succeed. You value a work-life balance but thrive in a fast paced, multi-tasked environment. You want to be a part of a firm that excels among its competition and values diversity.


You are personable, energetic, self-motivated, tech savvy, smart, confident and a good listener. You thrive with good systems skills and have a keen attention to detail. You are committed to client confidentiality. You have law firm and/or office experience and are proficient in Microsoft Office.

Summary of Duties:
·    Greeting clients and vendors;
·    Answering phones: inquiries, checking for conflict of interest, scheduling client meetings and consultations, summarizing services and coordinating attorney calendars/ check for conflicts;
·    Check voice mails every hour, record and distribute messages;
·    Check email regularly and promptly respond;
·    Confirm appointments and court dates;
·    Fax and scan documents;
·    Add postage and updates to machine and print addresses;
·    Open mail and distribute;
·    Keep track of bills and pay them;
·    Send out billing and call clients with overdue balances;
·    Order supplies after reviewing best prices;
·    Office maintenance: Keep office tidy, change water bottle and organized;
·    Deposit checks and record payments, track payment plans;
·    Data entry;
·    Open files (paper and electronic file)
·    Assisting paralegal with filing and closing files when necessary;
·    Assist management with: obtaining HR forms for new hires, insurance applications;
·    Reviewing vendor bills for discrepancies, over charges and following up;
·    Organizing Billing, tax and other financial  (vendor) files in a practical and efficient
·    system; and
·    Coordinate office lunches/meetings and run errands.


Thanks for reviewing and happy hunting!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Our Manifesto -- A work in progress

We are currently in a wonderful state of transition -- a combination of rebranding identity and rediscovering our strengths and passions. Developing a manifesto is exciting in its own right -- a reminder that we've allowed ourselves the space to grow into the legal professionals and people that we are and also want to become. Most importantly, in focusing our goals and philosophy, we get to hone our approach to each case -- and do our damnedest to meet the economic and emotional needs of each client.  


Round 1 - Our Manifesto

1. We define family in broad and inclusive terms.
2. We aim to change the way you think about lawyers.
3. We are humbled by your story.
4. We measure our success by your outcome.
5. We are passionate about efficiency.
6. We are team players.
7. We recognize your matter is a personal investment - with results that can have serious and long lasting implications. 

     We are welcoming feedback and constructive criticism. We are excited to roll out our 'new look' in the coming months and are grateful for the continued support from our family, friends, legal community and clientele. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

What is a Certified Family Law Specialist?

Erin Levine has passed the Certified Specialist Exam,
met all other requirements and is awaiting certification
Ashley Schuh, Certified Family Law Specialist
Family Law Attorneys may only identify themselves as 'certified specialists' if they have been certified by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization, an organization whose certification program has been accredited by the State Bar. Attorneys can only apply for specialist certification if they have been in practice for at least five years and have dedicated at least 25% of their practice to family law. To become a Certified Family Law Specialist, lawyers must demonstrate a high level of experience in their field. The applicant must pass a full day 'mini-bar' examination and have conducted a specific amount of trials, hearings, settlements, stipulations and mediations. Certified Family Law Specialists must complete over 45 hours of continuing legal education over a three year period covering specific areas of family law and must be favorably evaluation by other attorneys and/or judges familiar with their work. The process provides potential clients assurance that they have hired an expert who is experienced and educated in all areas of family law. By selecting a CFLS, consumers are assured their attorney is well qualified and trained.
To schedule a one-hour Divorce or Family Law strategy session with a Certified Family Law Specialist, complete the contact form at this link, and a client services representative will be in contact with you within 24 hours. We pride ourselves on being passionate about finding solutions that meet the needs of our clientele!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Should I stay or should I go? 5 issues to consider before you move out of the marital residence.

While each divorce is different, and every case requires legal advise tailored to the client's individual situation, there are certain issues that everyone can consider before taking the leap to move out. (even if you can no longer deal with your spouse). Of course, if there is domestic violence or another abusive situation, the goal is to get out - now. Or better yet, get the abuser out. 

1. Financial Stress: 

While it's no fun to live in a house with someone you dislike, sometimes the stress that moving out causes to your pocket book can feel even more overwhelming. One or two incomes to support one household can often times be a whole lot less stressful than two households. If you are considering moving out, create a budget, consider whether or not you will receive (or pay) support, make a budget, and/or discuss with a financial advisor.

2. Legal Stress:

Moving out can cause an array of legal issues that can be expensive and time consuming to deal with -- not to mention, emotionally draining. Who will pay the mortgage, taxes and insurance? Will one of you be entitled to credits for over or under payment of the expenses associated with the house? 

3. Parenting Agreement: 

Has a custody agreement been reached? Might you be jeopardizing your ability to co-parent / obtain custody if you move out? Do you have the legal authority to move out and take the children with you? Probably not. The last thing you want is your kids in the middle of a terrible fight over where they will live and have them shuffle back and forth without stability or consistency. If you are considering moving out, perhaps co-parenting counseling, mediation and/or a legal motion is in order. Preparing for parenting apart is a very important step.

4. Assessing Finances:

An important part of a divorce in California is dividing debts and assets accurately. While CA law requires full disclosure, sometimes spouses make every effort to conceal information or hide assets. While you are still living in the home, get a copy of all asset, debt and income information from your personal computer and files. Get records that may be helpful to your various legal claims. It's much easier to take matters into your own hands than ask for it later while your in litigation. Because personal property has a tendency to 'disappear' or get lost in the shuffle, consider taking a photo or video inventory of all furniture, furnishings and possessions you leave in the home. 

5. Forwarding Address: 

With all the emotional turmoil you are experiencing, sometimes little things get lost in the shuffle. If you do not want your spouse to know where you are moving (perhaps domestic violence is an issue?) – get a post office box. Complete a change of address with the post office as soon as possible.


Moving out of the home is a big deal. Do not make significant financial decisions like signing a lease on a new home or buying a new car before you know if you can afford it. If your divorce has already been filed, you will need to ensure that you are not violating any standard restraining orders. It's of course, not a bad idea, to schedule a consultation with a trusted and experienced Divorce attorney. 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

8 Things You Didn't Know About the Ladies of Levine Law (Part 2)

We got such a great response from Part 1 of this blog, we thought we'd share a bit about our newest associate, Sophia Wood Henderson. While Sophia's our newest addition to the team at Levine Law Group, she is no stranger to Family Law, having several years of experience in the field. Her primary focus has been litigating child custody matters and serving clientele with complex mental health issues. 

She's not your 'typical' lawyer, and we couldn't be more pleased. We think you will be too. 

From Sophia:
  • I love eating weird food. I have eaten birds’ nest soup (the saliva of birds is steamed off their nests and served with raw egg) and fried locusts.
  • I have been diving with sharks in open water.
  • I learned how to spell by spelling words backwards.
  • I dislike planes, but enjoy skydiving.
  • There was a time as a child when every night at the dinner table my parents made all the children (our friends included) stand up and conjugate verbs on a giant chalkboard.
  • I am a classically trained violinist.
  • I wish I had been born a Marx Brother. I own all of their movies (on VHS and DVD), and fancy myself an amateur Groucho Marx impersonator.  
  • I have appeared as an extra in an HBO television series and several independent films

Monday, February 3, 2014

Will child support change when I get remarried?

Charlie Sheen pays over $100,000 per month in child support to his ex's.
'Is my new spouse's income taken into account for purposes of calculating child support?'

While we find that many of California's family laws are common sensical, this issue is not. Unfortunately, the legal answer often ends up causing one parent serious frustration and a feeling of injustice.

For purposes of calculating guideline child support, a new spouse's income may not be considered by a court when establishing or modifying a child support order. An 'extraordinary case' is often times very difficult to prove and exists only 'where excluding that income would lead to extreme and severe hardship to any child subject to the child support award.'

Now, the income of the step-parent is considered for the limited purpose of determining the tax liability of the payee parent. Since the new spouse's income may push the payor parent to a higher tax bracket, the payor spouse actually takes home less money from their own earnings. Since guideline child support takes into account net income, this may result in a decrease in the amount of child support owed to the payee.

Say what?

Here's another example. You are the payor parent. Your ex remarries a wealthy spouse. Your ex seeks to modify support. You may actually have to pay more support to the custodial parent since s/he is now in a higher tax bracket (by virtue of her high earning spouse) and therefore theoretically has less 'net' (after tax) income of her own. In other words, the payee parent gets to have her/his cake and eat it too. A tough pill to swallow for may non custodial parents. 

Depending on the facts of your case, there may be other laws that apply to your circumstances, allowing you to modify your support obligation. Contact Levine Law Group for a child support strategizing session. 

Giving Bloglovin a Try....

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

10 Things You Didn't Know About the Ladies of Levine Law (Part 1)

We may be lawyers but we still would like to think that we have a unique side to ourselves. We'll let our clients be the judge....

Erin & Ashley, circa 2005
Ashley Schuh:
  • "I was admitted to NYU School of the Arts and almost went there to pursue a musical theater career."
  • "I've seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s over 100 times. My daughter’s middle name is “Darling” because Holly Golightly calls everyone “darling.”
  • "I dream in black and white."
  • "If I could pick a fashion era to live in, it would be the 1950's. I collect flats, cardigans and silver napkin rings with initials."
  •  “My parents had a rule when I was child: I could not read during dinner, but I was allowed to read almost every other minute of the day; which I did, and still would if I could!”

Erin Levine:
  • “When I win a court hearing, I often fantasize about breaking into a flash mob dance party.”
  • “I put sour cream on everything.”
  • "I once wore platform boots everyday for a month while I trekked Europe."
  • “I never buy a full suit. My blazer is always different from my pants or skirt."
  • "My first job was as a gymnastics routine choreographer. I spent a short period of time training with Cirque Du Soleil."
  • "I was on Romper Room!"

Monday, January 6, 2014

Plan B: Why the Happily Married Should Consider a Post-Nuptial Agreement

What the heck is a divorce lawyer doing writing a blog for two people in love, married, and with no intention of ever separating?

Hmmm...

Is it because I'm unromantic? cynical? distasteful? 

Gosh, I hope not. 

I guess I've seen a lot of good love gone bad. I've seen once happily married people saying things like, "she was my best friend but I don't even know her anymore" or "I've worked so hard for what I've earned, he doesn't deserve what he's demanding" or "I'm going to make her pay for giving up on us."

But despite what we say in the heat of passion or when reacting to a broken heart, we loved and respected this person enough to marry, sometimes have children with, and share our most intimate moments. 

So, what's wrong with planning for the unexpected? Creating a plan while we are still in love so if god-for-bid, we hit splitsville, we can focus on healing and embarking on a fresh start -- instead of fighting over everything including the kitchen sink. 

We carry a first aid kit with us when we go camping. Not because we expect to fall down and hurt ourselves, but because we simply don't know what might happen. We hope we'll never have to use it, but feel better knowing we've got it. Similarly, I'm suggesting we talk about the tough stuff while we are head over heels. We work on a "Plan B" -- what life will look like should we separate. What if one party wants to go back to school? Will one parent stay home with the children? How will credit card debt be divided? Sure, we can't plan for everything, but we certainly can think about what would financially make sense, and be "fair" -- if our love goes south. 

A Post-Nuptial Agreement can be a really effective tool for mitigating the perils of divorce. It's time we confront the uncomfortable.