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


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

Significance of Thanksgiving During Trying Times

Giving thanks is more difficult than it has been in years for so many Americans.  As banks foreclose the economic crisis hits home and has become about more than money.  Families overextended themselves when professionals told them they would fall behind if they didn’t BUY NOW.  Students, young and old took out mountains of loans when shown statistics of graduates obtaining high paying jobs upon graduation.   Insight into the phrase “Buyer beware” is at an all-time high as consumer confidence hits record lows.

This Thanksgiving, imagine the executive salesmen of the country far off in their ivory tower while those of us who labor focus on the fundamentals and give thanks for the basic necessities we have that others do not.

We are thankful for our families who love us, for the food we have to nourish us and for our communities that support us.  Law firms in your community can help you learn about your rights as a consumer, form a business to provide you work when jobs are scarce and identify protections in the law that you were unaware of.

Join us as we post articles here to answer many of the questions we receive every day.  Please comment at your leisure and suggest topics of interest.  If you have a specific question, call and set up at time to come in and talk about your problem.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for family, friends, food, football but also the opportunity to give back to my community by advocating for them at a time when the sound of their voice may be the most important thing they have left.

- John Mlnarik, Founder/Principal Bankruptcy Attorney

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