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Frequently Asked Questions from Ane Murphy
At the Law Office of Ane Murphy, we believe you cannot afford to NOT hire a qualified and experienced attorney. Our firm was founded on the principle that everyone deserves access to quality legal representation. A divorce can have a life-long impact on your quality-of-life and your future emotional, physical and financial well-being. Child custody cases can dramatically impact your relationship with your children forever. There are many ways to keep the costs down of your divorce or family law matter. The most important is to be prepared and to have the goal of seeking a fair and equitable settlement. In addition, obtaining and organizing your financial documents in a way that is easy to understand will help eliminate expensive discovery and therefore will help to reduce your costs. You may also choose to be self-represented and simply consult with Ane Murphy as an assistant to you in the preparation of your court documents. Another way to keep your attorney's fees down is for limited-scope representation in which Ane Murphy represents you for only limited matters. There are many complex areas of the law in divorce and other family law matters; it is always recommended that you seek advice from an attorney specializing in family law to assist you. If your finances do not allow you to hire an attorney, you may wish to use the Santa Clara county court website at www.sccsuperiorcourt.org or the Santa Cruz County court website at www.santacruzcourt.org to assist you.
Spousal support is a very complex area of family law. There are two types of spousal support: temporary spousal support and post-judgment also known as permanent spousal support. Temporary spousal support is typically ordered at the beginning of the dissolution of the marriage after one party files a motion requesting spousal support. The purpose of temporary spousal support is to provide the supported spouse with money during the divorce process while the issues are being sorted out. A motion for temporary spousal support is often accompanied by a request for child support as well if there are children of the marriage. In Santa Clara County, temporary spousal support is typically calculated using a computer program in which both parties income, tax factors and timeshare with the children are input and temporary spousal and child support are determined. Post-judgment or permanent spousal support is much more complicated. The term "permanent spousal support" is a misnomer in that it implies spousal support will be paid until death. Although, that sometimes occurs, it is often not the case. The length of time spousal support is paid varies with each case for both temporary and permanent spousal support. The public policy of the State of California is for each spouse to be self-supporting. In determining permanent spousal support the court is mandated to weigh all of the factors set forth in Family Code Section 4320, such as the length of the marriage, the parties' age, the parties' health, how long one of the parties was out of the workforce caring for the children, the tax impact, relative hardship, the marital standard of living and other just factors. The court may not terminate spousal support in a long-term marriage (which is ten years or longer) without making a finding that both parties are self-supporting, or that the supported spouse has not used reasonable efforts to become self-supporting or that the relative hardships of the payor spouse support terminating spousal support.
I charge $50 for a 30 minute initial consultation. Any additional time is billed at the rate of $400 per hour. My typical retainer for full representation is $7,500, and you must keep a balance of $3,000 in your retainer account until your matter is complete. Any amount of the retainer not used is fully refunded. If you wish to be self-represented and to consult with me to assist you with preparing the court documents, I bill at the rate of $400 per hour and you pay as you need me. For limited-scope family law matters the retainers are typically $1,500 -$3,000, but can be more or less depending on the scope of work. The retainer for a trial will vary depending on the complexity of the matter. My goal is to complete your legal matter as quickly and as cheaply as possible while preserving your rights and making sure you receive an equitable settlement.
It is critically important that a spouse has a clear understanding of the family finances. If a divorce or separation is being considered it is important to obtain copies of all of the financial documents for at least the past five years, including but not limited to: tax returns, bank statements, check registers, Quicken or other financial accounting records, credit card statements, brokerage accounts, pay stubs, deeds, vehicle registration and other documents regarding the family finances. Each spouse has a fiduciary duty to disclose all assets, income and debts whether separate or community both during marriage and during a divorce. If a spouse fails to disclose such information that spouse can be sanctioned and the other spouse could be awarded 100% of the hidden asset. If your spouse is hiding assets, it unfortunately escalates the cost of the divorce because we must use formal discovery and often have to hire private investigators and forensic accountants to achieve resolution.
In California the court is mandated to use the state guideline formula, except in a few very rare cases. This is a complicated formula in which the factors weighted most heavily are each parent's income and the timeshare with each child. Tax factors, deductions for property taxes, deductions for mortgage interest deductions for child support paid for a child from a different relationship, deductions for spousal support paid to a former spouse, deductions for payments to retirement accounts, deductions for payments to pre-tax accounts, deductions paid for health insurance, and other deductions may be taken into consideration as well. At times the parties do not agree on the factors that are to be input into the guideline formula. Child support is very high in California and it is in the best interest of the parents and the children to make sure the calculations are done properly. Given the complexity of the support factors, it is a very good investment of time and money to have an experienced family law attorney determine the appropriate amount of guideline child support.
Yes, Ane Murphy deals with all issues concerning restraining orders and abuse allegations. These issues can dramatically impact a divorce and child custody cases. An abused spouse can seek restraining orders, which effectively provide temporary child custody and sole use of the marital residence. When vindictive allegations are made which aren't true, having an aggressive and experienced divorce attorney is the best way to deal with those types of accusations.
While California law mandates an equal division of marital assets, determining what constitutes a marital asset is one of the most critical aspects of a divorce case. For instance, will retirement accounts be included? Will a property owned by a spouse before marriage be considered a marital asset? What if rental property was purchased before the marriage but combined money was used to maintain and update the property? What if property was gifted or inherited while married and combined money was used to maintain the property and yet the inheritance was given only to one person? Seeking the advice of an experienced divorce attorney is critical to fighting for a just settlement during a divorce case.
Family Law cases are civil cases that consist of divorce, annulment, domestic partner dissolution, parentage, domestic violence, child custody, child support, spousal support, division of property and division of debts. In Santa Clara County there are four court houses: two located in San Jose, one in Morgan Hill and one in Sunnyvale. There is one family law court house in Santa Cruz County and one located in Watsonville. Ane Murphy has dealt with family law cases in all of these court houses.
The State of California has set rigorous standards for knowledge and experience in various areas of law before an attorney can become board-certified. Fewer than 1,000 of California's 200,000 attorneys (or .05 percent) are board-certified in Family Law. As you may have noticed, Ane Murphy is a Certified Family Law lawyer
. Before attorneys can refer to themselves as a specialist in an area of law, they must obtain board certification. Very few attorneys meet the requirements or rigorous demands necessary to become board certified. Hiring a board-certified attorney helps ensure that you are retaining the services of an attorney who is a certified specialist in his or her area of law.
Determining a fair valuation - or a valuation fairest to you - is extremely important during a divorce case. For instance, will a home be valued at its purchase price or its current fair market value? While California law requires an equal division of marital property (50/50), valuation can significantly impact the end result. As a law firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of our clients during divorce, child custody, and other Family Law matters, the Law Office of Ane Murphy has the knowledge, experience, resources and access to accountants, property appraisers and other legal and professional experts to help ensure you are getting the best settlement possible.