Santa Cruz Family Law Bar “Divorce and Logic: What Would Aristotle Do?”

640px-Aristotle_Altemps_Inv8575As you may know, lawyers are required to continue their education through classes called MCLE’s. While some of these include pure education on the law, others are designed to help lawyers increase their communication skills so they can work towards resolution or fine tune their persuasive skills. The recent training I attended was the latter.

You may find it interesting to learn that the skills required to be a good lawyer have been passed down from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great. As I was reminded in this wonderful training, the core curriculum for an attorney dates back to ancient Greece. Back then it was all about educating young men in the Trivium or “Three-Way Road” and the Quadrivium or “Four-Way Road.”

For Attorneys it is the Trivium that is of most value including: Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric. A little refresher on the basic principles of these key areas can help your lawyer to become more efficient and more effective for you.

In addition to learning about the history of Logical Persuasion this training was designed to highlight Emotional Persuasion. While you may believe that many lawyers are cold robots or hot blooded instigators, the truth is that we have the same brains you do!  In this training we were asked to reflect on our own emotional responses, those of others and how to best respond to different personality types. Sometimes this is quite simple but there is actually a bit of science involved.

In many cases resolution is possible and ideal. It can save you money and help you move on with your life. To come to resolution attorneys must be able to work well together and also be sensitive to their clients. In this training we learned how to help our clients separate their emotional and personal problems with the other party from the facts and goals that are legally significant. Sometimes these overlap but remember, you hired a lawyer to help you put your best foot forward and sometimes it hurts your case to put too much attention on every problem you have ever had with the other party.

In some cases a resolution is just not possible. Still, attorneys need to have a good balance between noticing everyone’s emotions or hostilities and staying calmly focused on what they need to do to best represent you in front of the Judge. Additionally, there is still much room for compromise and agreement even when some issues must go to trial.

Thank you to Ronald S. Granberg for presenting such a thoughtful training. When local attorneys attend training like this it helps strengthen our relationships with one another and increase the level of professionalism we bring to court. This can only benefit our clients who hire us with the hope that it will reduce some of their anxiety about whatever legal issues they are facing.

-Leah S. Samuels, Senior Attorney

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5 Practical Reasons to Get a Prenuptial Agreement


1)      Limit Personal Liability for a Spouse’s Business

Just about any business activity entails a certain amount of liability. In some professions, depending upon the potential damages that a would-be Plaintiff might incur, such liability could be enormous. If a business is a community asset, the community may ultimately be responsible for the cost of any damages caused by the business. By defining a business as your spouse’s sole property (instead of the community’s), you can help insulate yourself from any liability.

2)      Prevent a Personal Business from Being Liquidated Upon Dissolution

Many people invest their entire adult lives in developing a business, or inherit family businesses that have been operating for generations.  Without a prenuptial agreement, it is possible for a personal (pre-marital) business to become owned by the marriage. If this happens, the spouses would be entitled to a buyout for their portions of the business upon divorce. Moreover, if one spouse can afford to buy out the other, the Court may be forced to order the business sold.

3)      Control the Amount of Potential Spousal Support

One of the primary reasons for entering into a prenuptial agreement is to minimize the amount of spousal support that one party has to pay the other after divorce.  A spousal-support order can financially cripple a divorcee for years, as a large percentage of earnings are paid to the prior spouse.  Should your marriage end in divorce, proper planning before marriage can help insure that you will be able to move on with your life without having to make years of financially crippling payments.

4) Protect Your Assets from a Spouse’s Creditors

Under California law, debts incurred for the benefit of the community or for the benefit of a community asset are jointly owed by both parties to a marriage.  In certain circumstances, a spouse’s separate property can be sought by creditors to satisfy a debt incurred during marriage.  A prenuptial agreement can help protect your separate property assets, or even your share of what would be community property, from your spouse’s creditors.

5) Minimize Conflicts Over Finances During Marriage

One of the most cited reasons for divorce is disputes over money and finances.  Many couples have different priorities and views on how money should be spent. Under California law, the standard presumption is that income earned through a spouse’s time, skill, or labor during the marriage belongs to the marriage. A prenuptial agreement can change this presumption and allow a spouse to have complete control over his or her finances. When you and your spouse have very different spending habits, maintaining control over your own income and allowing your spouse to control theirs can actually decrease conflict and provide for a healthier relationship.

-James J. Steinle, Family Law Attorney


S. Bay Neighborhood Law Firm Making Contacts at the S3 Tri-Chamber Mixer

Continuing its outreach to the Bay Area business community, the Mlnarik Law Group, LLC will be one of only eight Santa Clara exhibitors at this year’s S-3 Tri-Chamber Mixer & Mini Expo.  Held from 5:30 to 7:30pm, January 19, 2012, at the Doubletree by Hilton San Jose, the Mixer/Mini Expo is the joint effort of the San Jose Silicon Valley, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale Chambers of Commerce.

Hundreds of Chamber members will be on hand to make new business connections and strengthen old ties, and the Mlnarik Law Group will be prominently featured in their midst.  At last year’s event our fellow exhibitors included everything from a graphic design firm to a “troubleshooting” business consultant to a candy company run by local entrepreneurs.  The Mlnarik Law Group was on hand offering its legal expertise in all matters of corporate governance, including business formation, development, and maintenance.  How to decide between being an LLC, S-Corp, LLP, GP, or Sole Proprietorship?  What should you (or shouldn’t you) include in the employee handbook?  When is it necessary to use NDAs or “non-competes”?  What will be your web agreements and privacy policies?  Our attorneys cover all that and much more, and the Chambers of three Bay Area cities are getting to know us better with each new year.

However, the Mlnarik Law Group, LLC is much more than a business boutique.  As “A neighborhood law firm committed to your success”TM our work reaches into the areas of real estate, estate planning, family law, employment law, bankruptcy and fair treatment of debtors, not to mention general litigation on a case-by-case basis.  But why read about it here?  Come on down to the Tri-Chamber Mixer and Mini Expo and we’ll tell you all about it!

Jim Erickson, Associate

Navigating Child Custody During the Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us, this time is not always joyful for separated parents that share custody over their children. It can be one of the most difficult times of the year. Balancing your desires to share the holiday with your child, the other parent’s desires and the desires of your children can quickly turn a joyous season into a headache. Below are some tips on how to successfully navigate the holidays for a peaceful and happy celebration.

  1. Remind yourself that it’s about your children. It’s ok to have your own desires, but remember that as a parent your child’s happiness comes first. In California, the Court’s overriding principal in making child custody orders is what is in the “best interest of the child”. You should have this principal to guide your decisions as well.
  2. Respect your child’s relationship with the other parent. The California legislature has chosen to codify the belief that in most cases it is in the best interests of the child for them to have full and frequent contact with the other parent. Sharing the holidays isn’t about respecting the parent but instead it’s about respecting your child’s need for a relationship with the other parent. Try and be flexible with the other parent’s schedule and encourage your children to participate.
  3. Establish a holiday schedule early. The best way to avoid holiday custody disputes is to establish a holiday custody schedule early on. Come to an agreement with the other parent over how to share the holidays with your children and have an attorney help you make it a court order. Having a preset holiday visitation order can help set expectations early and allow everyone involved to plan ahead.
  4. Make new traditions. Most everyone has holiday traditions that they grew up with as a child. Unless your traditions involved sharing the holidays between two different parents you are most likely going to make some new ones. Maybe this means that every year you have your Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve and the other parent celebrates with your child on Christmas Day. Traditions are what you choose to make and may need to be modified in order to accommodate the other parent.
  5. Be Flexible. Having a custody order helps provide stability for your child, but there will come times when either you or the other parent will want to modify the arrangement to accommodate something special. Making a modification request early and your flexibility in responding to the other parent’s requests is key in avoiding the Courts. If you are faced with an intractable parent who won’t accommodate your reasonable request, being able to point to a time when you did accommodate may go a long way toward getting a judge to side with you.

Hope these tips bring divorced and/or separated parents piece of mind accommodating to one another’s schedule this holiday season.

- James Steinle, Family Law Attorney

5 Easy Christmas Holiday Money Saving Tips

This holiday season do yourself a favor and focus on what matters most.  Time with family far away from the crowds at Costco are what I enjoy.  Sure you can buy your Christmas cookies but why not spend time with the kids baking them instead!

Tip #1: Cook for yourself- Eating out is expensive and with the average price of eating at a restaurant at $55, you can feast at home and have leftovers the next day.

Tip #2: Shop the thrift and consignment stores- When our daughter recently turned four, we bought her birthday gifts from the dollar store.  She was happy as could be and told us that it was her best birthday ever! There are great deals at Goodwill and if you haven’t been in one lately you should check it out.  Many merchandise are lightlyused and as good as new.

Tip #3: Make your gifts- Some of the best holiday cards we get are from our friends who have taken the time to make a card for us.  And if you think art supplies are expensive,
take a look at some of the packaging and things you already have and find a creative way to use them in your project.  I like to think of this as taking the middleman out of recycling.

Tip #4: Watch movies at home- We must have 200 movies at home and have watched most of them only once. Except for the animated kids movies, of course, which we watch over and over again!  I like to pull out one of my favorite “adult film”, Jerry McGuire and pretend I’m seeing it again for the first time.  What does it mean when Bob Sugar says “It’s not “show friends.” It’s show *business*”?  And it gets me every time
when the late great Dicky Fox points to his heart and says “If this is empty”
then bonks his head on the palm of his hand saying “this doesn’t matter”.

Tip #5: Enjoy Saving Money- Instead of rushing out to spend your hard earned cash this Christmas put the money away.  The thrill of purchasing something fizzles fast but the security of money in the bank lasts.  When you really need something you won’t need to worry about how to afford whatever it might be.

As a young parent I often feel caught up in working longer and harder so that I can provide my family with more things, a bigger house ora better education.  But the truth is, happiness isn’t for sale and real learning takes hard work and not high tuition.

So, WAKE UP this Holiday and see things for what they are.  Don’t let life pass you by chasing a bigger home, nicer car or faster toys.  What you need is right before you and it is FREE!

Merry Christmas Everybody!

- The Mlnarik Law Group staff