Family Law Attorney Lien (Family Code 2033): Make Sure to Follow Procedures

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For those who have little or no money for attorney fees, or have run out of funds to pay attorney fees, a solution for the attorneys and the client, where the client has equity in a community residence, a family law attorney’s real property lien (FLARPL).

Pursuant to Family Code 2033, either party may lien his or her interest in community real property to pay reasonable attorney fees. The lien attaches only to the encumbering party’s interest in the community real property and is voidable and unenforceable to the extent it encumbers a nonconsenting spouse’s interest.

parental rights and liabilityWhat attorneys must keep in mind and the client as well, is that in order to enforce the lien certain procedures must be followed. Notice of the lien must be personally served on the other party or his or her attorney of record at least 15 days before recordation of the encumbrance. The notice must contain a full description of the property; the encumbering party’s belief as to fair market value; encumbrances on the property; list of community assets and liabilities (PDD’s); the amount of the family law attorney’s lien.

The other party has a right to object by an ex parte motion. The court may deny the family law attorney’s real property lien based on a finding the encumbrance would likely result in an unequal division of property because it would impair the encumbering party’s ability to meet his or her fair share of the community obligations or would otherwise be unjust under the circumstances.

New Form: Revocable Transfer on Death Deed

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Wrongful Death| Personal Injury| Thomas Hogan Law OfficeA new form of statutory deed entitled Revocable Transfer on Death Deed (TOD) has been established by the legislature. A TOD deed is a non-probate deed whereby the homeowner may deed his or her home to a name beneficiary and the transfer becomes operative on the homeowner’s death, but will remain revocable until he or she dies.

Why is this of importance to seniors? The TOD was created to allow single seniors or widows to escape probate without the need to draft a trust. Some parents add their children on the deed to the home as joint tenants for the sole purpose of avoiding probate. The problem with doing this is that the children immediately own part of the house, which may subject the house to the children’s creditors.

The beneficiary of a TOD effectuates the transfer when the homeowner dies by recording an affidavit of the transferor’s death certificate and also notifies Medi-Cal of the death.

This new law tries to combat elderly financial abuse by adding a 120 day rule and revocability of the deed. So that if you find out that Mother has transferred her home to her new boyfriend using a TOD deed and Mother is alive, you can simply have mom revoke it. But is mom is dead, you have 120 days to file a lawsuit against the boyfriend and record a lis pendens on the property so that new boyfriend is not able to sell the home.

One catch, If the beneficiary listed on the TOD deed dies before the granter, then the TOD deed is worthless and the property would be probated.

Also, one of the major disadvantages of the TOD deed is that the home will be subject to Medi-Cal recovery. While the legislature intended this new law to help low income seniors who can not afford to pay the legal fees required to draft estate planning documents, it is the low income seniors who are most likely to use Medi-Cal and perhaps lose their homes to a Medi-Cal lien.

As to married people, the best way to avoid probate on a home is to hold title as joint tenants or community property with right of survivor.

So while the TOD deed provides a possible solution for estate planning purposes for low income seniors, it leaves them open to folks who can and will commit fraud and abuse against the elderly. So please use this tool wisely.

The Law Office of Thomas Hogan is an Estate Planning specialist who is prepared to help in your time of need. Feel free to contact us if you are in need of help with Wills, TOD, or Estate Planning in Modesto CA. Call (209) 214-6600 to speak with our Modesto California Attorneys.

Contempt in Family Law Court

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Lawyer for Child Custody Sacramento, CAIf child support or spousal support is not paid, parties often ask their attorney to being a Contempt Action. The actions themselves are not as simple as one might think. Often the result is frustrating for the petitioner as the support due is not readily paid by filing a Contempt Action.

In order to be to successful in filing for contempt(s), one must strictly adhere to rule of procedural due process and the set forth the required elements of proof. As such, there must be a valid underlying order which is clear and unambiguous and it must be in writing; the defendant or citee must have knowledge of the court order; the defendant or citee must have the ability to comply with the court order; the citee must have willfully intended to violate the order; declarations must be provided to outline the issues; the Contempt Action once filed must be personally served; the citee must be arraigned; an arraignment and plea are conducted and a trial if held is subject to strict time limitations. Specific findings must be made at trial as to the facts upon which the court finds the citee guilty of contempt. The court must make a finding that the citee had the ability to comply with the underlying order.

What happens more often than not is that the court imposes purge terms as the citee is not able to pay or has limitations on bringing the outstanding support current. This is the frustrating part for those expecting to receive support is that what is collected to due to be collected is a fraction of what is owed. So the take away, is be careful on filing contempts and to be judicious, because one may well be out attorney fees with little to show for the efforts. Family Law court, despite the wishes of one filing the contempts, will not throw a party in jail for failure to comply.

Thomas Hogan is a Family Law specialist who is prepared to help. Feel free to contact us if you are considering filing for contempt in Modesto CA. Our attorney is a Family Law Specialist in Stanislaus County and is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Call (209) 214-6600 to speak with our Modesto California Family Attorneys.

How Domestic Violence Affects Spousal Support?

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spousal support|Thomas Hogan Law OfficeSpouses who are seeking spousal support as well as spouses who become obligated to pay support, must keep in mind issues of domestic violence (ie any history of domestic violence between the parties or against either party’s child) is a factor under Family Code 4320 in determining spousal support.

Under Family Code 4320 a court must consider a variety of specified circumstances in making an order for spousal support. Among these is documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Family Code 6211, between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party’s child.

Under new legislation, even if one pleas out as “no contest”, this is considered and included as documented evidence of domestic violence.

The Law Office of Thomas Hogan in Modesto CA is here to help. Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse or legal separation. Thomas P. Hogan is a Family Law Specialist in Modesto California, don’t settle for anyone when determining your rights. Call (209) 214-6600.

Void or Voidable Marriages: How to get an annulment?

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Marriage Annulment Sacramento, CAWe get many calls about annulment of a marriage. There has been fairly recent case authority on this matter in Ceja V Rudolph & Sletten, Inc (2013) 56 C4th 1113.   So if you want to annul your marriage only the party who believed in good faith that the marriage was valid will be declared a putative spouse, where the court will divide property only on the request of a party who the court has deemed is a putative spouse. On what constitutes a good faith belief in the validity of the marriage, one must present evidence under the subjective standard (ie duration of marriage; children; sharing property and accounts; public communication of marital status; wages of each party used for the benefit of the community).

Mutual Restraining Orders: Should you get one?

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1. Mutual Restraining Orders: Should you get one? Modeto Divorce Attorney

Restraining Orders are so common that when one is served a restraining order by their spouse, the other spouse wants to file one against the protected party (ie mutual restraining orders) as well. While this may be a knee jerk reaction, the legislature has clarified what conditions must be met before a court will grant a mutual restraining order.

Family Code 6305 provides that each party must present written evidence of abuse or domestic violence in an application for relief using judicial council forms, and that a responsive pleading to the initial restraining order does not satisfy the party’s obligation to present written evidence of abuse or domestic violence in an affirmative pleading.

So the take away is, if you want a mutual restraining order and have been served with one, you must take proactive steps using the proper forms, and can not just ask for one in responsive pleadings to what has been served.

The Law Office of Thomas Hogan is here to help. Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding domestic violence restraining orders. Thomas P. Hogan is a Family Law Specialist in Stanislaus County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call (209) 214-6600 in Modesto California.

Right of First Refusal in Child Custody Orders. What is it and is it good for me?

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What is a right of first refusal for childcare?

A right of first refusal, also called a right of first option for child care, is a general term for a child custody order provision which provides that if the custodial parent is unable to be with the child during their scheduled time (be it for work, school, or other engagements) that the other parent is given the option to watch the child before non-parties (like babysitters, nannies, or daycare providers) are called in.  The idea behind these types of provisions is that it is best for the child’s development to be with parents to the maximum extent possible.

The devil in the details of right of first refusal orders

As stated above, the term “right of first refusal” is a general term describing a type of order.  Without specific language regarding the purpose, intention, and limitations of how a right of first refusal should operate, an agreement that the parties “have a right of first refusal” isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Common Considerations:

  1. How frequently are situations where a right of first refusal may apply going to come up?  If a schedule provides one parent with time which they are consistently unable to exercise it may be necessary to consider revising the general parenting schedule to establish a more stable routine.
  2. Is work related childcare included in the right of first refusal? A common reason that one may use childcare is so that they can go to work.  Some parties expressly exclude work related childcare from the right of first refusal so that the child can have a more consistent routine, while others want to include work related childcare needs in a right of first refusal to maximize the time the child is with a parent.  It is important to address this particular need in crafting a right of first refusal.
  3. What minimum amount of time should the custodial parent be unavailable before a right of first refusal kicks in? Viewed legalistically, a general right of first refusal without specific limitations could require one parent to call the other if they have to have someone watch the child for a quick shopping trip, requiring the parties to spend more time coordinating logistics than the amount of time the custodial parent is going to be away.  To avoid such an absurd result the language of a right of first refusal order only comes in to play if the custodial parent has to be away for several hours or more.  The minimum amount of time which is appropriate varies on each individual family and their needs.
  4. What about time with extended family? Even if a parent is unavailable during their parenting time there are a variety of good reasons they may want to have the child spend time with extended family members.  Read legalistically, a right of first refusal could be read to bar this time with extended family unless the custodial parent is present.  It’s a good idea to discuss this issue and determine what exceptions like this may apply to a right of first refusal.

The right of first refusal is such a common part of California child custody orders that the California Judicial Council added form language to an optional child custody order attachment for the courts and family law litigants to use to create a right of first refusal for childcare.  The form language reads as follows:

Right of first option of child care.  In the event either parent requires child care for (specify number) ______ hours or more while the children are in his or her custody, the other parent must be given first opportunity, with as much prior notice as possible, to care for the children before other arrangements are made.  Unless specifically agreed or ordered by the court, this order does not include regular child care needed when a parent is working.”  – FL 341(D) – Optional Additional Provisions – Physical Custody Attachment

While the judicial council form language is good and will work for many parents, it is important to ensure that the considerations above are addressed so that a right of first refusal is right for you and your unique needs.

Who is a right of first refusal good for?

Whether a right of first refusal makes sense for you depends on many factors.  My experience working with a variety of families shows that generally a right of first refusal can be successful in the following situations.

  • If the parents have a good communication skills with each other. The implementation of a right of first refusal requires regular civil communication between parents.  Of course, good communication skills do not happen by accident and can be learned, giving such an order a greater chance of success, but this order should not used for parents who are constantly arguing.
  • If one (or both) parent(s) have variable schedules. If work, school, or other constraints require one or both of the parents to be unavailable for chunks of their parenting time, making it impossible to set an exact workable schedule, a right of first refusal may be the best solution to that problem.
  • Parents who work together with flexibility and cooperation. Like many other parenting issues, being flexible and cooperative with the other parent is good for the productivity of the co-parenting relationship and is good for the children involved.  Parents who do this well in practice (but who may need a little help establishing general guidelines on how to do so) can often benefit from a right of first refusal.

Who is a right of first refusal not good for?

Experience also shows that there are some for which a right of first refusal would not be a good idea and may even make a difficult situation worse.

  • If there is a history of domestic violence between the parties (whether or not a restraining order is in effect) a right of first refusal may cause more harm than good as it requires a high level of communication with the other parent.
  • If one parent’s time is limited to supervised visitation a right of first refusal would not be consistent with the child’s best interests.
  • If the parents do not communicate well a right of first refusal will likely not operate well in practice.
  • If one or both parents are inclined to legalistic behaviors and interpretations of court orders regardless of how that impacts the children, such an order may lead to disputes.
  • If the parents do not live close to each other, for practical reasons.

For assistance in determining whether a right of first refusal is workable for you and your needs please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced child custody attorneys.

Child Support: Termination and continuation beyond age 18

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In the start of a family law case with minor children, the parties often devote much attention to establishing an amount for child support.  In almost all cases when parents separate the court will institute an amount of support payable by one part to the other for the parties’ children.  This ordered support continues until support is modified by the court or terminated by law.  This article addresses those circumstances which give rise to the termination of child support and circumstances which may allow it to continue into adulthood.

Termination of Child Support

As a matter of law there are certain conditions which terminate an obligation to provide support for a child.  Generally child support will end when:

  1. The child dies.
  2. The child is emancipated.
  3. The child gets married.
  4. The child is adopted terminating the parental rights of the supporting parent.
  5. The child reaches the age of 18 and is no longer a full time high school student.
  6. The child reaches age 19 (regardless of whether the child is still in high school or not).

Absent certain exceptional circumstances if one of the terminating conditions listed above occurs, child support terminates as an operation of law.  After such happens the parent receiving support is obligated to notify the parent paying support and is obligated to refund any support paid after support obligation terminates.

Child Support into adulthood

The court can in certain circumstances, as listed below, order that support for a child continues into adulthood.  However, if these circumstances do not exist the court lacks the authority to continue child support.

Support to pay for colleges

While some states have instituted laws that require parents to chip in for their adult child’s college education, California has not done so.  The court cannot order a parent to contribute to an adult child’s college expenses over that parent’s objection.  However, the parents can agree to pay for a child’s college education, whether informally or as a court order, and if made into a court order the court can enforce that agreement according to its terms.  Absent such an agreement, a court order to pay for an adult child’s college education expenses is invalid and is beyond the court’s authority.

Support for adult disabled children

Family code 3910(a) creates an obligation for a parent to support “a child of whatever age who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means”.  The courts have generally imposed a support obligation under this statute when the facts or circumstances indicate that the child has a physical or mental disability which prevents them from being able to work if they chose to do so.  In cases where a now adult child has such a disability a careful examination of the facts is needed to determine the child’s vocational interests and their ability to work (whether with or without accommodations).   Cases dealing with support for adult children who may be disabled are incredibly complicated and fact specific and should not be undertaken without legal assistance.

If you have any questions regarding child support and its termination please contact our office and set up a time to meet with our attorneys.

What Is an “Offer In Compromise”?

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If you have already spoken with an attorney and determined that bankruptcy will not discharge all of your tax debt, and an installment agreement is not a feasible way to satisfy your remaining tax debt, then you will want to try to make an Offer In Compromise to the IRS.

What Is an “Offer In Compromise”

An offer in compromise is an agreement between you (the taxpayer) and the IRS that settles a tax debt for less than the amount owed.  Like bankruptcy, it gives the eligible taxpayer a chance to satisfy their tax debt and get a “fresh start” with respect to the tax debt.

Why Would the IRS Accept Less than What Is Owed?

When a troubled taxpayer prioritizes between buying food, paying the mortgage or paying taxes – taxes often got the short shrift.   Nonetheless, that tax debt continues and continues to grow.

Three tax consequences often accompany an economic downturn and rapid changes in asset ownership and/or income, and these consequences also form the bases for the IRS accepting an offer in compromise:

  1. Doubt as to collectability
  2. Doubt as to liability
  3. Effective tax administration

Doubt as to Collectability:  If taxpayer’s assets and income are less than the full amount of the tax liability, then the IRS has doubt as to collect-ability, and is authorized to negotiate and accept an offer in.

Doubt as to Liability:  Rapid economic change comes with chaos, and tracking income and tax liability across a shifting economic landscape is not easily accomplished.  As a result, a genuine doubt as to tax liability can result.   Here again, the IRS is authorized to investigate and accept an offer in compromise when there is doubt as to liability.

Effective Tax Administration:  This last basis for accepting an offer in compromise takes more of a public policy perspective on the tax administration process, and determines whether the taxpayer would suffer “economic hardship” or whether accepting a compromise would promote effective tax administration where the taxpayer provides a “compelling public policy or equity consideration” to support such compromise.

“Economic hardship” is a legitimate basis for an offer in compromise where the taxpayer can show that although full collection of tax debt could be achieved, it would cause the taxpayer “economic hardship” as specified in the Treasury regulations.

“Compelling public policy or equity considerations” require the taxpayer to demonstrate exceptional circumstances which render the collection of the full tax liability as an act that undermines the public confidence that the tax laws are being administered in a fair and equitable manner.

These are the reasons why the IRS might accept an offer in compromise, but a taxpayer must do his or her due diligence before being eligible to submit such an offer.

Are you eligible to submit an offer in compromise?

If you wish to submit your offer in compromise, you must first:

  1. File all tax returns you are legally required to file;
  2. Make all required estimated payments for the current year; and
  3. Make all required federal tax deposits for the current quarter if you are a business owner with employees.

Note – If you are in an open bankruptcy case, then you are not eligible to submit an offer in compromise.  You must first address the pre-petition tax debt through the bankruptcy case, and thereafter address any outstanding tax debt once the bankruptcy case closes.

It is important to be aware of this partial list of concerns when submitting an offer:

  1. Penalties and interest will continue to accrue during the offer evaluation process.
  2. Besides the continuing penalties and interest, the IRS can also file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien during the Offer investigation; however, unless a jeopardy situation exists, a request for a Tax Lien will not usually be made until after the final determination has been rendered.
  3. You cannot make an offer that is only for a tax year or tax period that has not been assessed.
  4. Any tax refunds or money from a levy served prior to you submitting an offer, will be applied to the tax liability.
  5. Any payments made with an offer or during the course of the offer investigation will be applied to your tax liability, whether the offer is accepted or not.
  6. If your offer is accepted, you must continue to file and pay your future tax obligations as they become due for the next 5 years.  If you fail to do so, your offer may be defaulted and the compromised tax debts, including penalties and interest will be reinstated.

Making the Offer:

There is an application fee of $150 required when submitting your offer.  However, this fee can be waived for individuals meeting the Low Income Certification guidelines.  If the fee is not waived, it will not be returned to the taxpayer, but will be applied to the tax liability.

The Offer in Compromise can be made in a couple different ways:

  1. Lump Sum Cash:  requires that 20% of the total offer amount be paid at the same time the offer is submitted.  The remainder will be paid within 24 months in accordance with the offer terms.
  2. Periodic Payment:  requires that the taxpayer make an initial payment with the offer, and then make continuous payments on the remaining balance over a period of not more than 24 months in accordance with the proposed terms of the offer.

This is a good stopping point.  The general benefits and considerations of the Offer In Compromise have been laid out.  But making an offer in compromise is a complicated undertaking, and there are IRS forms to be completed and supporting documents to be gathered.  You should become very familiar with the IRS website or obtain the services of a tax professional when getting ready to make an offer in compromise; but be leery of fly-by-night tax outfits.  Obtaining the services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney is a smart choice.

Personal Income Tax Debt: Can Bankruptcy Help?

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No creditor knocks quite as loudly as the Internal Revenue Service when they come to collect.  The consequences of not timely paying your personal  income tax debt can result in the seizure of your personal property, levying of your bank accounts, garnishment of your wages , and/or foreclosure of real property.

You may be considering bankruptcy as a way to discharge your personal income tax liability, but before you rely too heavily on bankruptcy to discharge that tax debt completely, you need to ask yourself some important questions to determine what portion of your tax debt can be discharged.

Rather than listing what tax debt is dischargeable, it is more efficient to identify which income tax debt is not dischargeable:

  1. Priority income tax debt is not dischargeable.  Several types of this non-dischargeable tax is identified in bankruptcy code section 507(a)(8)(A).  Priority status of tax debt often relies heavily on timing, and includes:
  • Taxes for which a return, if required, is last due, including extensions, on a date more than 3 years before the date that the bankruptcy case was filed.For example,  if Mary Smith filed bankruptcy on July 4, 2015 and she listed tax debt for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012.  If no tax filing extensions were obtained, then the 2010 and 2011 tax debts would be dischargeable in Mary’s bankruptcy case because those tax returns were due by April 15 of the following year: i.e.  2010 tax return due by April 15, 2011 and 2011 tax return due by April 15, 2012.  Because April 15, 2012 is the latest date that either of these returns was due,  and that date is more than 3 years before the date that the bankruptcy case was filed, then the 2010 and 2011 tax debt is dischargeble.  

Now consider that Mary received an extension until October 2012 to file her 2011 tax return.  As a result of the extension, the last date the 2011 return is due is less  than 3 years from the filing date of the bankruptcy case. Consequently, the 2011 income tax debt is no longer dischargeable in the bankruptcy case.   The 2012 income tax was due by April 15, 2013 and was never eligible for discharge in a bankruptcy case filed on July 4, 2015.

  • Priority debt also includes any tax assessed within 240 days before the filing date of the bankruptcy case, exclusive of-
  • Any time during which an offer in compromise with respect to that tax was pending or in effect during that 240 day period, plus 30 days; and
  • Any time during which a stay of proceedings against collections and arising out of an earlier bankruptcy filing was in effect during that 240 day period, plus 90 days.
  • Tax debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy for tax years for which:
  • returns were never filed;

Note – late filed returns should be reviewed thoroughly with an attorney to determine the circumstances and timing, and whether that tax is likely to be deemed dischargeable.

  1. Tax debt is not dischargeable with respect to returns in which the debtor fraudulently filed a return or willfully attempted in any manner to evade or defeat such tax.

It is tempting to believe that any tax debt not described here as non-dischargeable is therefore dischargeable, but this conclusion will not always be true.  Always seek legal advice when you need greater clarity regarding your specific circumstances, and especially when the amounts at issue are large.