Family Law

Co-Parenting During Halloween

Halloween can be a hard day for divorced parents that share children. Every parent loves seeing their kid dressed up. But how do you split the day up or split up the fun?

Co-Parenting During Halloween


Depending on what form of child custody you have, deciding on how Halloween will be spent can be difficult. There are different forms of child custody: legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and joint custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody means a parent has gained the legal right (typically through a court ruling) to have a child live with him or her. Usually, if a parent has physical custody they also have sole custody of the child, which means the other parent has visitation rights.

Sole Custody

There are two forms of sole custody a parent can have: sole legal custody or sole physical custody. Courts seem to be moving away from awarding sole custody to one parent as more information is coming out about the importance of having both parents in a child’s life. In cases where a parent has been deemed unfit due to a history of neglect or abuse, a known dependency on drugs or alcohol, or a new parent that has been deemed unfit, a court will usually award sole physical custody to one parent.  It’s advised that unless a parent has demonstrated the above issues, that you do not seek sole custody, due to the importance of having both parents in a child’s life.

While the trend is to award joint custody, in cases where courts do award sole physical custody the parents still usually share joint legal custody (which means both parents are able to make legal decisions regarding the child), unless a parents has been deemed unfit to make those legal decisions.

Legal Custody

Legal custody allows a parent to make decisions regarding various aspects of a child’s life, including: education, religion, and medical care or legal issues.

Joint Custody

Joint custody is able to be awarded to the parents if they are divorced, separated, no longer living together, or if they never lived together but still shared a child. The awarding of joint custody to both parents means each parent is able to make decisions regarding the child. Joint custody also comes in various forms, including: joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or joint legal and physical custody. Usually if a couple shares joint physical custody they also share joint legal custody. But if a couple shares joint legal custody they do not always also share joint physical custody.

Learning to Co-Parent

The key to establishing a good co-parenting relationship is to remember that your kids are part you and part your ex-spouse. And hopefully this realization will help you manage those angry, frustrated, and sad emotions.

Managing Emotions


“The biggest obstacles to successful co-parenting are emotions,” says Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, principal of Transitions Legal, a family law practice that specializes in mediative divorce. “Emotional obstacles are usually anger, resentment and jealousy. Often parents have a hard time separating those feelings toward their former spouse from their attempt to focus on their children.”

The idea of focusing on your children might seem obvious, but that can be really difficult when you receive that text from your ex that makes you want to throw your phone directly into their face. There are some tips that can help though! Here are some tips from parents who have actually found the magic combination to a successful (meaning they don’t completely resent each other) co-parenting situation.

Building a Successful Co-Parenting Situation

Give Yourself a  ‘Timeout’

“Take time to reflect on how your behavior and your decisions are affecting your child,” says Peskin-Shepherd. “Especially where there is constant disagreement, try to accept that you are not going to change the other person and find a way to make something work without being dependent on the other parent’s response.”

If you are not able to give yourself a timeout, and find that you are still stewing about conversing with your ex, consult a “co-parenting coordinator,” attorney or counselor – with or without your ex-spouse. This objective third party can be a great sounding board for ironing out your co-parenting relationship.

“Our expectations that two people who didn’t get along when they are married will suddenly be able to co-parent without some help is not reasonable,” Peskin-Shepherd says.

According to Alison Willet, a Birmingham resident and psychologist who has worked with high-conflict divorce, it is crucial for ex-spouses to heal fully from the pain that stems from their divorce if they plan to find a way to co-parent effectively.

The mother of three daughters and two step-daughters goes on to say, “People going through divorce need to take the necessary time to grieve the end of this major relationship and remember that at one time, they loved or cared about the other parent. When parents are psychologically intact, it will be easier for them to put the needs of their children first.”

Play to Your Ex’s Strengths (This Might Be Very Difficult)

By now you know what your ex is good and and what they’re not so good at. So play fair when it comes to your kids and your ex’s abilities.

“You probably know your ex-spouse better than anyone else,” says Chris Tucker, father of Finn, 9, and Simon, 7, and step-dad to Lucas, 6. “Play to those strengths – not in a manipulative way, but in a spirit of making the best use of one another’s talents.”

Tucker’s situation is: he has his boys two-thirds of the year; their mother visits monthly from Virginia. She also takes them over school breaks and summer. Tucker, his wife, his ex-wife, and her husband all work as a unit to parent the children.

“We like to think of ourselves – Colleen, her husband, my wife and I – as members of a family ecosystem,” says Tucker. “This means that everyone involved is invested in and accountable for raising our kids, and it goes a long way in building trust and mutual respect.”

Commit to Cooperating

This can be the hardest part of a co-parenting relationship – cooperating.

According to mother Shaindle Braunstein-Cohen, “Effective co-parenting does not require friendship, but it does require cooperation.”

“My ex and I get along when we have contact, but we never have contact outside of our son,” she says. “When my son wanted to show his dad his new room in our new home, he did. Successful co-parenting involves only one thing: loving your child more than you hate your ex.”

When her ex moved out-of-state, Braunstein-Cohen gained full custody of her 14-year-old Seth.  When he wants to see his dad or vice versa, both her and Seth’s father to make it happen. “Sure, that meant I had many holidays without him, but it wasn’t about me,” she says.

You can’t keep living in the past either.

“The kids can become an obsession, a club to beat your ex over the head with,” says Braunstein-Cohen. “You can’t live in the past, and you also can’t live in the future. Just live in the now. The moment is here; it’s what you’ve got. Make the best of it.”


Get it in Writing

Peskin-Shepherd advises parents to put everything in writing. That means that all plans and agreements should be kindly communicated to the other parent. This should be part of your working situation. If it’s in writing, it is harder for one person to argue about the agreed arrangement. This should be done for even the smallest things if you know that there is potential for arguments later down the road. This is especially necessary for vacation time and scheduling, agreements regarding financial decisions, and paying for child’s needs. A majority of these things will be part of your child custody agreement, but anything that comes up out side of that should also be agreed to in writing.

Vacation time and money issues are common post-divorce problems, says Peskin-Shepherd. “Parents can agree on how to pay for extracurricular activities, summer camps, boots and winter coats,” she says. “Have a mindset of cooperation to avoid problems. Likely the compromise your ex-spouse is asking of you today will be the one you need tomorrow.”

Set High Intentions

Keely Henry dealt with an ugly divorce. She did not want it to affect her son, Sullivan, 8. “I knew I could not let this ugly experience lead our lives,” she says. “I was going to have to communicate with my ex over the course of our son’s life. The only thing to do was set the ideal on a higher notion, above emotional distress.”

Because of that, Henry and her ex decided to celebrate holidays and birthdays with Sully together, which means including Henry’s new life partner and her ex’s partner, the woman that her husband left her for. “We all collaborate on my son’s parenting, with his dad and I as the final sayers,” she says. “It really is simple. Set the goal for the higher, not the lower.”

Let Go of Wanting Control

Even thirteen years after their divorce, Jodi Rubin and her ex-husband disagree about the same things they did not agree about when they were married. But they’ve been able to reach a place of mutual respect that allows them to co-parent their three children, Jordan, 19, Paige, 15, and Ethan, 13.

“It’s not about you,” says Rubin. “Instead of worrying about each other, worry about the kids. It’s a parent’s job to turn their children into productive and emotionally healthy adults, and you can’t do that if you’re focused on each other.”

Silence your Support System

Your friends and family will want to defend you, but there’s nothing helpful about your mother sending your ex a nasty email. The support system should remain impartial, and if they’re not, you need to intervene.

“There were times I had to check my mom as she ranted and raved about what went down,” Henry says. “Or girlfriends – awesome friends who had not been married or had children – not understanding how I could handle some of the things the way I did. There were moments I could hardly do anything but scream and cry – and I did, but on my own watch. There will be tough times. You can get something positive from them.”

Keep Your Ego in Check

It goes without saying that you’re going to doubt your parenting ability and fear that your children will want to be with the other parent. But you have to resist the urge.

“It’s easy to see your ex-spouse as a threat,” says Tucker. “Remind yourself that your ex is also your children’s parent and would also step in front of a bus for them. Trust that they also have your children’s best interests at heart.”

Says Braunstein-Cohen, “Be totally honest with yourself. Everyone has ego involved; they want their child to know they were not at fault, that they are a better parent. Let it go and really think about what makes your kids happy.

“Obviously you don’t agree or sometimes even like each other very much – that’s why you got divorced,” she adds. “Get over it.”

Divorce Law LA

For advice on divorce, child custody determinations, setting up a co-parenting agreement, dividing marital property, and spousal support you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550

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Depp and Heard Agreement: The Saga Continues

In mid-August Amber Heard announced she would be donating the $7 million she was awarded as part of her divorce settlement from Johnny Depp to her two favorite charities – the American Civil Liberties Union, with a focus on battling violence against women, and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The actress has volunteered at the charities for 10 years. But it seems that Depp is looking to avoid the middle man, and has sine decided to donate the settlement money directly to the charities in a series of installments.

Depp and Heard Agreement: The Saga Continues

In response to Depp’s announcement, Heard’s legal team responded, saying that while the actress “appreciates Johnny Depp’s novel interest in supporting two of her favorite charities,” the act is in violation of the terms of the settlement the couple had arrived at.

“If Johnny wishes to change the settlement agreement, we must insist that he honor the full amount by donating $14M to charity, which, after accounting for his tax deduction, is equal to his $7M payment obligation to Amber,” the statement continued.

“Anything less would be a transparent attempt by Johnny’s counsel, Laura Wasser and Patti Glaser, to reduce their client’s true payment by half under the guise of newfound concern for charities that he has never previously supported,” the statement concluded.

Meanwhile, the ACLU has confirmed that it has already received the funds, while the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles “has received the first installment and we are grateful to Mr. Depp,” according to DeAnn S. Marshall, senior vice president, chief development and marketing officer of the hospital.

Divorce Settlements

No one has ever said that divorce is a cheap process. For the most part, if you and your spouse are unable to come to a decision on things, divorce can be an expensive process with an expensive aftermath.

To Consider

If you are unhappy and unable to continue your marriage, then divorce might be the best option for you. There are some financial considerations you will need to make. Here’s a little of what you can expect:

  • Living as a single person costs more. This can be increasingly true for couples that share children.
  • Your standard of living might drop because of increased living costs that are no longer being shared.

But there are ways to minimize the financial damage. You’ll want to review these steps if divorce is in your future.

Minimize Financial Pain During Divorce

Work with a Lawyer

Negotiation versus Litigation in a Slip and Fall Case

Even if you have decided that you don’t want to work with an attorney, at least consult one so that you are aware of your rights and options. You need to protect yourself. Even the most amicable of divorces can get sticky when it comes to ironing out the legal ramifications and you’ll want to do the best you can when it comes to protecting yourself. Remember that bitterness can cause people to do things they wouldn’t normally. Most lawyers offer a free first consultation.

Look at Your Credit Reports

You are able to pull free credit reports three times a year. These reports show all of the credit accounts that exist in your name, in addition to those you share with others. You’ll want to look for new accounts opened in your name and any changes that are unexpected. Your credit score can be damaged by a spouse that fails to pay joint bills.

Close and Monitor Your Joint Accounts

A lot of times divorcing spouses will move money from joint accounts to individual accounts so that the other spouse is unable to recover the cash. A lot of times this leads to large amounts of debt on joint credit cards, for which the innocent spouse is also responsible for.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:

When you have a joint account, each account holder is responsible for the full amount of the balance. The card issuer can seek to collect the amount due from either account holder.

Because of this, it’s advised that you close or freeze your shared financial accounts, including credit cards, joint bank accounts, and lines of credit. You will then need to open lines of credit under your own name. You might consider moving to new institutions to avoid confusion. If your spouse is resistant to this, try to do it on your own by consulting the account rules in the contract you signed when opening the account. You can also ask your bank to help.

Remember to also remove your spouse’s name as an authorized user from your personal accounts.

If you must retain a shared account because of costs related to children, try to limit it to one. Make sure to monitor the activity on the car by requesting balances and records of the most recent transactions. You can do this from an ATM, bank branch, or online.

Document Your Money — All of It

Try to locate every single marital financial resource, including:

  • All accounts and assets held jointly and individually. Record the balance, date, account number, authorized users, and contact information for each bank or creditor.
  • Incomes, property, retirement plans and all other assets owned jointly and individually. This should include vehicles, homes, jewelry, furniture, brokerage accounts, and insurance policies.

Make sure you keep everything in one place. Regardless of if you work with a lawyer or not, the court will need statements and documents pertaining to all accounts, assets, bills and debts. Organize everything in a file cabinet. Include:

  • 401(k) statements
  • Insurance policies
  • Real estate purchases
  • Mortgages and refinances
  • House appraisals
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Money market accounts
  • Tax returns

Work with a Divorce Financial Analyst

You might consider working with a divorce financial analyst that can help with your settlement by:

  • Locating assets. This also includes hidden assets.
  • Ensuring information about family finances is accurate and complete.
  • Developing a long-term forecast of how your divorce will affect your finances when it comes to retirement needs, tax liabilities, and benefits.
  • Developing a realistic household budget so that you know where you stand in terms of life insurance, health insurance, and cost-of-living increases.
  • Appraising and/or valuing assets.
  • Preparing financial affidavits that describe your financial and tax implications when it comes to various divorce settlement options.
  • Mediating a financial agreement between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Get Your Name on the Deed

Regardless of if you are getting divorced or not, make sure your name is on titles and deeds of property you own together. This is important for all spouses, and can become an issue in cases of a spouse passing away.

This property is considered marital property in the state of California, and will need to be divided should you divorce your spouse.

When it comes to dividing assets during a divorce there are various concerns you will need to deal with when it comes to dividing the marital property.

What State do you Live in?

Keep a Journal in Your Personal Injury Case

State laws govern how the marital property will be divided. You will need to do your research and check with an attorney to see if you live in an equitable distribution state or a community property state.

Other Considerations

There are four other steps that need to be considered when diving marital property:

  1. Identify the assets owned by you and your spouse
  2. Categorize all assets as marital or non-marital property
  3. A value will need to be assigned to the assets
  4. Devise a plan for the division of assets that is in accordance with state laws

No Fault Divorce Laws

Though most states separate the division of marital property from grounds for divorce due to no fault divorce laws, most states do consider any financial misconduct when it comes to dividing marital property. What this means is if you or your spouse has foolishly spent money then you or your spouse will most likely be penalized when it comes to dividing marital property.

Separate Join Financial Obligations

If you feel the division of marital assets might be a contentious point between you are your spouse, you might want to consider separating financial obligations prior to starting the divorce process. Marital property does not only mean furniture and household items, but also joint credit accounts. Each spouse should have access to a complete set of all financial documents. You’ll also want to close all joint credit card accounts. If you’re not able to fully separate the accounts, draft a formal written agreement outlining the activity on the remaining joint accounts. Freeze any investment assets – this will ensure neither spouse misuses funds until everything has been agreed upon. You might also want to consider changing the title on your home to read “tenants in common” until the final agreement regarding marital property has been decided upon.

Change Beneficiaries & Rewrite Your Will

After your divorce you will need to change the beneficiary on your assets, including  insurance or stocks, bank accounts or retirement accounts. You’ll also want to update your will too if it lists your spouse’s name.

Have a Financial Plan

You’ll need to know how to budget according to your new income amount. Putting this together before entering the divorce process will help you understand your needs following the divorce so you can come to a settlement that works.

Make sure you plan for college tuition, child care, children’s lessons, sports and activities, and your own retirement, taxes, transportation and housing.

Financial Future

Considering your financial situation after your divorce can feel daunting and overwhelming, but if you take the right steps, you can be sure to set yourself up for financial freedom. It might take some tweaks, but consider the fact that you are now completely in charge and able to make your own decisions regarding how your money will be spent. Embrace it, and embrace the freedom you now have.

A Family Law Attorney

When it comes to the actual legal process of a divorce, you’ll want to work with a skilled family law attorney There are a number of things that need to be considered during a divorce: child support, spousal support, marital property division, and other things. Working with a skilled attorney can help ensure you get a fair case.  For advice on divorce, child custody determinations, setting up a co-parenting agreement, dividing marital property, and spousal support you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550

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Arnall Speaks Out About Hamm Divorce

Sue Ann Arnall, an Oklahoma oilman’s ex is speaking out about why she decided to cash the $974.8 million check she received as part of their divorce settlement after having previously denying it.

Divorce Settlement

In November, a judge awarded Arnall a divorce settlement of almost a billion dollars to be paid by her ex-spouse, Harold Hamm, the founder and CEO of oil driller Continental Resource. While Hamm’s attorneys found the settlement to be “fair and equitable,” Arnall’s attorney countered, saying the award equalled less than 6% of what the couple’s wealth was.

Initial reports said Arnall was not accepting the check. She clarified that those reports “are not accurate,” and that she was waiting to hear results from a court hearing before putting the money into her bank account. The check, offered by Hamm on Jan. 6 was meant to avoid interest building on the balance while her appeal progressed. When she deposited the check, Hamm’s legal team immediately surmised she was not going to appeal the decision.

Still Appealing

“I will not dismiss my appeal and do not feel that my right to appeal should be denied because I have accepted, in the interim, a small portion of the estate that we built over more than two decades,” Sue Ann Arnall said.

“I believe it is unfair that any woman’s property be controlled by a former husband,” she says. “During our 26-year marriage, and during the nearly three years this case has been pending, Hamm has had complete control and full use of the assets we built together, while I have patiently waited for access. I was simply not willing to wait several more years while the appeal is pending.”

Divorce Settlement “not fair and equitable.”

She adds: “I still believe that the trial court’s award was not fair and equitable.” Her decision to cash the check, she says, followed “much consideration and discussion with my adult daughters,” and was made “in the interest of my family, my privacy and my future as a business owner and philanthropist.”

Source: People, Billion-Dollar Oklahoma Divorce Case Not Over Yet, Says Oilman’s Ex-Wife, January 13, 2014

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550

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Appealing a Divorce Settlement

Either spouse is able to appeal a court’s decision on the divorce judgment – regardless of if the settlement came through settlement agreement or a court. Certain decisions, certain rights, and certain obligations are able to be challenged.

Quick Note

While either spouse is able to appeal a court’s decision to a higher court, it’s unusual for the appeals court to overturn the initial decision.

Appeal a Divorce Settlement

If you disagree with the ruling and decide to appeal it, your lawyer will file a brief containing your legal argument tat the court judge incorrectly applied the law when making his or her decision. The opposing side will file their brief stating the trial judge was correct in making his or her decision. Appeals court is heavily reliant on the “record,” which is a written version of what occurred in the first trial and new evidence is usually not introduced during the appeal. Because of this, the success of appealing depends on what occurred during the trial. After the appeals court makes its decision, you are not able to appeal it further.

It’s important to remember that you cannot appeal an agreement if you agree to it. So if you are in agreement regarding property, child support, etc…and that agreement is approved and then finalized by a judge, you are usually stuck with the terms decided to in that agreement. If you’re still in disagreement with anything in the settlement, you are are able to modify the divorce judgment.

Modifying a Divorce Settlement

After a divorce judgment has been entered, you’re still able to change certain aspects of it including: child custody arrangements, visitation schedules, child support, and alimony (spousal support). This is called a “motion to modify” the divorce judgment. You will usually file this in the same court where the divorce was originally filed and thus where the judgment was issued.


Source: FindLaw, Appeals and Motions to Modify the Divorce Judgment, 2014

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550

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$1 Billion in Divorce Settlement

In one of the largest divorce judgments ever, Continental Resources Chief Executive Officer Harold Hamm will pay nearly $1 billion to his ex-wife.

$999.5 million Divorce Settlement

Following the nine-week divorce trial, Oklahoma Special Judge Howard Haralson ruled oil magnate Hamm, 68, should pay Sue Ann Hamm, 58, a total of $995.5 million, thus making her one of the 100 wealthiest women in the United States. The two were wed in 1988 and had no prenuptial agreement. Sue Ann Hamm was also an executive at Continental at one point.


The amount, though large, is smaller than what her lawyers sought. The ruling also will not require Harold to sell any of his shares of Continental. He currently holds 68 percent of Continental’s shares. His stake is currently worth close to $13.9 billion, which has dropped from before the trial began, when his stake was more than $18 billion.

Divorce Settlement

While Judge Haralson’s ruling is subject to appeal, the judge placed a lien on 20 million shares of the company’s stock to secure the judgement. The judge also ordered Hamm to pay his ex-wife about one-third of the funds, which equates to $322.7 million, by the end of the year. The remaining payments, $650 million, in installments of at least $7 million per month. Much of the trial centered on how much of Continental’s growth could be attributed to Harold Hamm’s management decisions, in order to thus provide lawyers with a better understanding of his net worth.

Among the assets that were awarded to Sue Ann Hamm, was the couple’s $17.5 million ranch in Carmel, California, and a home estimated to be worth $4.7 million in Oklahoma City.


For advice on divorce, you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.

Source: Reuters, Continental Resources CEO ordered to pay $995 million in divorce, November 10, 2014

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550

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Collins’ Divorce

While Stephen Collins’ divorce is scheduled for court on Wednesday, there’s a chance it might not make it to trial.

Ugly Divorce

The actor and his divorce became top news a few months ago when his estranged wife, Faye Grant, taped his confession of molesting young girls decades ago. The two are scheduled to divide their assets after 25 years of marriage.

Divorce attorney Lisa Bloom, has handled some pretty divorce cases herself, but according to her, “This is probably the ugliest case to hit the media.” This is mostly due to the fact that Grant has provided a tape of the couples’ therapy session during which Collins admitted to molesting underage girls.While the audio recording is not admissible as evidence in divorce case, it does turn the spotlight on the case that has been going on for two years.

Determining Division of Assets

While the court will not assign a fault for the divorce, as California is a “no fault” state, the court will look at the martial assets that will need to be divided. “The court wants to find out the pool of assets they’re working with — real property, bank accounts, money coming in from royalties — and generally it’s divided roughly 50-50,” Bloom says. “The court does not want to get into reasons for the divorce; everyone has their reasons, everyone is angry, upset and emotional in divorces.” According to Bloom, “While the tape is not relevant in a California no-fault divorce trial, it may be relevant if the case leads to a settlement, which often happens.”

End of Collins’ Career

Collins has not been charged, but the damage to his career has already been done. He was dropped by his agent and has lost numerous up-coming roles. Grant has said in a recent statement she was not responsible for leaking the audio, and also that the tape has not played a part in the divorce proceedings that have occurred over the past two years. Grant is seeking $13,000 per month in spousal support, as well as half of the couple’s millions in assets which include properties in Brentwood. Collins is hoping to eliminate the spousal support due to the effect the recording has had on his income.


For advice on divorce, you need the expert law firm of Divorce Law LA. Schedule a consultation today.

Source: USA Today, ‘Ugly’ Stephen Collins divorce trial set to begin, November 11, 2014

Divorce Law LA, Esq.

Divorce Law LA

33 S. Catalina Ave. Ste. 202

Pasadena, Ca. 91106

(626) 478-3550