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February 15, 2013

Don't Discuss Your Divorce Case with Your Children.....

For decades, my staff and I have told our clients not to talk to their children about their divorce or their spouse - let them figure it out for themselves. Clients and lawyers don't always act sensibly, however.

From a colleague, I received the following transcript of a judge's ruling/speech obviously made in anger, but right on point. These words should probably be yelled at every litigant in every contested case [not that they would heed the warning]:

2 The court has previously ordered both parties

3 to keep their children out of this case. And apparently

4 you don't know or understand what I mean by that.

5 Can you tell them you're going to court on

6 this case? No.

7 Can you tell them what motions have been

8 filed? No.

9 Can you tell them you're fighting over

10 support? No.

11 Can you tell them what job he's looking or not

12 looking for? No.

13 Can you tell them anything about this case?

14 No.

15 Can you hand your children support checks to

16 hand to him? No.

17 Can you complain about her and what she's

18 doing in this case? No.

19 Can you discuss this case in any way, shape or

20 form or fashion with the children? No.

21 Can you discuss this case with an adult friend

22 with the children in earshot? No.

23 Can you leave your documents out where they

24 can read them? No.

25 Can you keep them in your desk so they can


1 open your desk and find them? No.

2 You may not bring these children into this

3 case under any circumstances, except when you two are in

4 the room together, and you both say, "Your father and

5 I," or "Your mother and I agree that this is what you

6 should know."

7 Do you understand that your children are not

8 to be involved in this case, in this divorce, in this

9 property dispute, in this domestic violence dispute, in

10 any hearings in any form whatsoever?

11 Do you both understand that?


He didn't add comments like "I don't have money to buy you Christmas presents because your father spent it all on that drunken w____, instead of paying support." And, yes, we've heard such stories.

August 31, 2011

California Divorce Rate Down....

According to a story in the Sacramento Bee, California's divorce rate is down, at least for 2009, the year of the study.

Even more significant for those of us who live here, the divorce rate was lower than the national average, by about 10%. Hard to believe, when we tend to assume Californians get divorced more than residents in other places, and our marriages don't last [maybe it's just Southern California that has that reputation].

By region, what we are told by some is the conservative, family oriented, religious South had the highest percentage of divorces, while the liberal Northeast had the lowest.

These statistics don't come from left wing think tank; but from the U.S. Census Bureau., the agency that travels around the country every 10 years gathering information and performing its Constitutional duties.

June 28, 2011

It's the Lawyers' Fault.....

Here's a typical client's excuse: Felon blames his lawyers.

Invariably, no one wants to accept responsibility for their own wrongdoing. Here's a guy who plead guilty for bribing a congressman, among his many woes. As he sits in jail, his excuse is that he didn't read the plea agreement he signed, just before he was sent to jail to serve the agreed upon sentence - he wants us to believe he thought he was just going to get a slap on the wrist and go about his business, and the lawyers didn't explain it to him properly. He claims that the only reason he was sent to jail was that he wouldn't name the other congressmen he'd bribed. I like that story, and it's certainly funnier than "the lawyers made me do it."

Last week I watched as a former client testified in court that he wasn't at fault for putting his girlfriend down as his spouse on his income tax forms. He "relied on the professional," his accountant, to put her income on the form someplace and it wasn't his fault she was listed as his spouse. The other testimony was that he'd said that "The judge will certainly understand that I was just trying to save money." He claimed she wasn't his wife when she wanted support and some of his earnings - the judge agreed she wasn't his wife, but entitled to the same rights as a wife because he had claimed her as such for years - year after year, in fact, until he was done with her.

April 1, 2011

E-mail, Instant Messaging, Facebook, and other electronic communications...

Watch what you write - those e-mails and instant messages may come back to haunt you. In a recent trial in Federal District Court in Florida, an instant message between two parties to a business contract were found to have made a major modification to their contract. A more complete report can be found here. One party to the exchange didn't like the court adopting what it deemed to be a modification of a prior written agreement - where a contract required any modification to be in writing, the court found that the IM exchanges satisfied that requirement even though they were very cryptic.

It is amazing how quickly people dash off messages, forgetting they may be read much later - the electronic form allows speed without much consideration. Or they make an agreement, but later forget they have done so. And once the message is turned into electrons, it can last forever with endless copies being made and transmitted.

In Family Law, we see people post things on their Facebook pages or send what they believe to be a witty remark - usually we see them for the first time when someone attempts to produce them at a hearing. They can sure be embarrassing.

February 5, 2011

Divorce Lawyer Bragging Rights? Pulling the Wool....

The economy is lousy, so I expect a little puffing by my competitors to get a bigger share of business. But sometimes the claims are really silly.

I have a permanent Google alert set to send me any news about family law in San Diego, so I get a lot of weird posts from blog sites, press releases, and other efforts by lawyers trying to get noticed: I.e., to move up their Google ratings. The more their names and and web addresses appear on the web, the higher they rate, on the mistaken assumption that a lot of people are pointing to them.

Sometimes, the stories or posts read as though they had been written by a third grader who wasn't a very good student - pure gibberish, incomplete sentences, and typos in almost every sentence. [yes, I know, I make a few]

Last week, a lawyer who runs a mill and isn't a certified specialist, issued a press release bragging about the great skill of one of his employees. The young lawyer had "managed" to increase a father's custody time share from 35% to 50%. That is almost a 50% increase, but hardly one that requires great skill in most cases.

Any lawyer who has a significant volume of cases has results like this all the time, and most of the time it has nothing to do with his or her skill - usually you get such a result when Family Court Services recommends and increase, but sometimes it's not much more than a father who decides he is able to spend more time with his children, or a mother who goes to work full-time and can't care for the children all day.

It reminds me of an older post commenting on a lawyer whose website brags he is the recipient of a "coveted award." That award, in reality, used to be given out by a retired judge at our family law bi-annual dinners to point out lawyers who show up late regularly, and always have an excuse for not quite measuring up - someone we like, but not too reliable. You need to be careful with what you read - it's not always what it seems.

January 10, 2011

Dogs, Divorces, and the San Diego Lawyer.

More on Doggie Divorces from the Huffington Post.

I'd previously posted about pets and divorce. Since then, we've adopted Emma, also known as The Office Mascot. Now I see the issue. No one is prying her away from me, except from my cold, dead hands :) She is wonderful.

Amazing how many of my friends and colleagues either take a pet [dog, cat, or bird] to their offices or want to but can't. Being self-employed and owning my office condo, I have control over my office policies, and we are "dog friendly." When in residence, there is a water dish by the front door.

The criminal defense lawyer across the courtyard doesn't like Emma being here, but she is a lot more desireable than his average client. :) And she leaves smaller messes. When we were out of town on vacation before Christmas, someone or something left "a present" on the back steps - probably one of them, since Emma was in Doggie Day Care, where she plays on her days off [i.e., when I'm in court and the staff doesn't need the distraction].

Her "new puppy" picture is in a prior post, showing her gazing at some big dogs for the first time. I've tried to take her photo since, but she is so blazingly fast she turns out to be a blur even with my Nikon D3 camera and a fast lens. :)

I had to go to New York City in September to meet with clients, and walking around was amazed at how doggie that city is - dogs go everywhere, including Bloomingdales. Noto Bene: Bloomies won't let you take pictures of dogs in the store, go figure. But, they are everywhere; and their parents are always happy to stop, let you pet the dog, and tell you the pet's story. Whereas in Southern California you might see a sign in a store window that it is "dog friendly," in NYC that seems to be assumed, although there is occasionally a sign that says "No Pets Allowed."

August 3, 2010

Escondido Divorce Lawyer's Office Mascot

Our office has a new mascot, Emma. She is a 12 week old Wheaten Terrier puppy. She is cute as the dickens. She arrived Saturday, and came to the office the last two days to keep us company and work on her house breaking. What fun. New clients get a free hand licking. We are so proud of her that we had to post a picture.


Emma.jpg

Naturally, this is on her day off.

July 16, 2010

Phishing Scams, Amazon, and Junk Mail....

I get about 300 pieces of e-mail a day, the vast majority of it junk. A high percentage of the junk is a scam of some sort [usually phishing, which is trying to get you to give up private codes], and ads for Viagra. I have spam filters, but the evil doers get better each day at making the spam look like it comes from someone with whom I regularly do business, or by coding the messages to make the computer think they come from me or my office.

I regularly do business with Amazon.com. I order books related to divorce, custody, relationships, computers, and other areas that relate to my law practice. So, I'm often on the lookout for e-mail from Amazon to notify me of a shipment, or notify me of or resolve a problem.

The latest scam I've noticed is and "Amazon Thanks for your order" message addressed to me. They look just like a regular notice from Amazon that it has acknowledged an order, and it gives me an opportunity to "view and edit your orders online." Of course they want me to click on one of the links, go to a page that looks like Amazon, and find out what the heck I've ordered that I wasn't expecting. Each of these is different in it's content, so I must read them carefully to see if they are legitimate. They want me to try to log onto my account, enter my user name, e-mail, and password so that they can later do this themselves.

When I read the mail carefully, I start to see obvious errors. One of several that I received this morning says that the Order Grand Total is $63.99. Below that is a summary that says that the subtotal of all items is $96.99, then the total before tax is $43.99, sales tax is zero, and "Total for this Order" is $10.99. It then gives me the option to click and see the items, Price: $71.99. Must be Nigerians filling out a form letter. Usually, phishing scams aren't this obvious.

I'm glad my parents don't use the computer I gave them for e-mail. I'm sure that they would just assume it is an honest mistake and give away their life savings.

June 9, 2010

Trees and People: A quote for the day [and a photo]!

Upon returning to Manhattan in his youth from a stay in an art colony, Andrei Codrescu wrote:

"That was me then: a young poet. I needed people more than I needed trees. I'm older now. I need trees more than I need people. But it's nice to have both - only the ratios change. When I was young, I needed 10 people to one tree. Now it's 100 trees per person."

I live near a big city [4 miles from Nordstrom], but in a rural area next to a natural open space park. I travel to Manhattan on business about once a year, and love it there [at least for brief periods]. But, the best part of my trips [aside from the food] is walking through Central Park.

The older I get, the more space and wilderness I need. When I came across this quote, I realized I am not alone. I cannot imagine life in an apartment full time.

This NYC-Park-Pond-and-Skyline-3462.jpg was taken by me in May, 2010. [Double click on the image for a full view] What a lovely spot, although just beyond the tree line are huge numbers of people living and working - Central Park helps ease the pain by adding some nature to the mix].

January 27, 2010

Escondido Divorce Mediation with Guns - a New Technique?

Well here's another complaint about non-lawyers handling your divorce, from our local newspaper, the North County Times

Allegedly the drunk entrepreneur operating a "divorce assistance office" [or as I call them "practicing law without a license"] was drunk and pointed a .357 at two customers.

Maybe this is the way to keep the costs and heartache down: "Settle now, or else"; or how about "Focus on me and your own problems won't seem so great." Well, they do have a website and claim to have thousands of satisfied customer for divorce or bankruptcy, although they don't claim to have any license or training. The "founder," one Dennis Jester, puts an "MA" after his name. That implies he has a Master of Arts degree: Maybe in Art History, or Hotel Management - doesn't say!

I hope he qualifies for a court appointed lawyer and doesn't try to represent himself. :)

July 21, 2009

A Unique Take On ADR to Solve Marital Problems...

Last Friday, a not too well liked or respected lawyer who practices family law was arrested. The allegation was that he had found a new way of alternate dispute resolution [ADR] to solve his divorce problems: According to the San Diego Police Department, the lawyer had repeatedly solicited others to murder his estranged wife, who had a restraining order against him. Early this week, he was released when the DA announced they were still investigating the case because they didn't have enough information to ensure a conviction.

Now, it could be a husband sarcastically saying "I'd like to find a hit man to get rid of her," or some similar comment without real intent, or....

Among lawyers the arrest fell into the "I hope he did it and gets convicted" category. Much like the obnoxious, lying pig of a lawyer a few years ago who died [originally of unknown causes] in his mid-50's - everyone was hoping he's been murdered - vicariously imagining someone taking the life of a miserable human being [although I'm sure he was nice to his wife and children, most of the family law bar despised him].

Phones were ringing off the hook as lawyers called to alert their friends, and confirm their alibis, and joking that the list of suspects was the San Diego phone book. Many were depressed when it was disclosed he died of a heart attack - certainly not the joy of thinking of someone literally ripping his heart out.

Nearly 30 years ago, an attorney named Richard Crake was murdered at his front door in a gated community - same jokes, but the most likely theory was that it was a former client, former opposing party, some member of the bar association, or someone else who learned to hate him - turned out to be employee of a man who claimed Crake owed him $100,000, who hit him in the head in an attempt to intimidate him into paying.

It's not that we really want these people convicted or dead, it's just our way of hoping there is justice, even though not direct - like Al Capone going to jail for tax evasion.

June 24, 2009

Blogs, Useless Information, and Rancho Santa Fe Divorce Lawyers...

As I've written here before, I have several word searches enabled through Google to keep me up to date on legal issues, primarily divorce, family law, and the geographical areas where I practice. Generally, I want any information relating to my area of practice and the two towns where I have offices: Rancho Santa Fe and Escondido.

When I don't recognize some alert Google sends me, I click on the link and go to the web page to which it refers. Some of these alerts merely send me to someone else's blog, which I read to see if it contains anything related to my practice. Sometimes, the blog is virtually unintelligible, for no particular reason. Today, I found the following "post":

"This is an warning of a WordPress page, you could modify this to place aggregation
most yourself or your place so readers undergo where you are reaching from. You
crapper create as some pages same this digit or sub-pages as you same and control
every of your noesis exclusive of WordPress."

WordPress is a site which will host your blog for you. Now I get a lot of these - they sound as though maybe the original was written in English, translated by a computer to Swahili, then converted to Japanese, then a computer translated the result back to English.

If this is "The Information Age," why do I have trouble finding the information part of it, hidden among the crap. Sometimes it's like looking for the needle in the haystack, not knowing for sure that there is a needle in there.

April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day...

Citrix, owners of GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting, had an interesting e-mail today.  It has some interesting stories to brighten your day.

BMW, which is famous for its AFDay print ads, reportedly announced in ads in Britain a new technology and Microsoft announced it is releasing "Alpine Legend" a new game to bring yodeling to the masses, as reported by CNN, in an article discussing the history of the day, and some examples.

Enjoy the Day.