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What is Mediation?

The Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe supports resolving the issues in your family law case through the process of mediation, serving either as mediator or as consulting attorney. Through mediation, your family law matter can be resolved without court proceedings. Rather than having a stranger, a judge, make important decisions about you and your family, mediation allows couples to determine their own destinies and to make their own decisions about how their children will be raised and their property divided. Mediation also allows the parties to determine their own timetable rather than being subject to the court’s calendar. Mediation allows the parties to resolve their dispute with minimal conflict.

In addition to serving as a mediator, Lynette Berg Robe also serves as a consulting attorney during mediation for a party who is participating in mediation with another mediator.

Mediation is especially useful when discussing:

• Child Custody and Parenting Plans
• Child and Spousal Support
• Property and Debt Division
• Premarital, postmarital, and cohabitation agreements
• Estate planning agreements

Although mediation is the preferred choice by many families, it only works if all parties cooperate.

Contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe today and find out how the mediation process may be able to help in your legal affairs.

How Does Collaborative Law Work?

Collaborative Law is a form of mediation. In the Collaborative Law process, each party is represented by his or her own attorney, who has been trained in collaborative law. The couple and their attorneys all sign a contract agreeing not to go to court and to share all information relevant to the divorce. This allows the attorneys to conduct research in a timely manner, and reduces legal costs. The attorneys and clients meet to discuss the details of the case, whether it is a dissolution of marriage or paternity case.

In the Collaborative Law process, the clients and attorneys work together to reach a settlement of the issues in dispute in their case rather than going to court and having a judicial officer in a courtroom make the decisions for them. Sometimes, mental health professionals can serve as “coaches” for the parties to help resolve particularly emotional issues. Also, the process enables the parties to retain a joint expert such as an accountant, if needed.

If either party decides to leave the collaborative law process to go to court, the couple must agree to secure new attorneys for the litigation. This principle is what differentiates Collaborative Law from other processes.

Collaborative Law is useful in finding resolutions for family law-related matters including:

• Child Custody and Parenting Plans
• Child and Spousal Support
• Property and Debt Division

In a collaborative law setting, each spouse is represented by his or her own attorney.

Contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe today and find out how Collaborative Law can help resolve your legal issues.

When Spouses Can’t Agree

If the individuals involved in dissolving the marriage or in establishing parentage and child support are unwilling to cooperate in a mediation or collaborative law situation then litigation is the alternative. The couple will appear before a judge who will make the decisions over the most personal and private issues affecting their families, how their property will be divided, how support will be paid, and how the time with their children will be divided. The court will be governed by the rules of evidence, so the information the court receives may be very limited. Recommendations for custody may be provided by a child custody evaluator. Litigation is emotionally and financially draining, and the time period for reaching resolution of the case is dictated by when the court is able to schedule the time to make these decisions.

The Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe have litigated many family court cases over the years with considerable success.

Contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe today and find what can be done about your family court case.

What are My Options?

Ask most people their image of divorce, and they will use terms like “angry,” “bitter,” “destructive.” Unfortunately, in many cases, this may well be true. However, with the right attorney using consensual dispute resolution methods such as mediation and Collaborative Law, it is possible to have a dignified dissolution of marriage process without making it a conflict that continues the rest of your life.

Ideally, a divorce should just end the marriage. It should not destroy a family. Lynette Berg Robe is well-versed in litigating cases and is more than qualified to represent you in a courtroom situation. That said, years of experience have taught her that most family issues can be resolved outside of court with positive outcomes. Sometimes, the parties need to experience court process before they are willing to enter into negotiations or other settlement options.

Contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe today and find out how we can represent your immediate interests.

Who Gets Custody of the Children?

Lynette Berg Robe always seeks settlement of custody issues, trying to put the children’s best interests first. Custody litigation of any kind can be harmful to children. Studies show that ongoing conflict between the parents has a devastating effect on children. This is why it is so important to have child custody and parenting plan decisions made in as fair-minded a way as is possible. The ability of children to adjust to a new family situation will greatly depend on how the parents react to the situation and to each another. Lynette Berg Robe encourages clients to try mediation or the Collaborative Law process before even considering resorting to litigation in the courts.

The Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe help clients who must make child custody decisions and how parenting time with each child is divided. Also, choices must be made about who will make decisions about the children’s health and education. These issues can be easily resolved by creating an agreement between the parents called a parenting plan.

Mediation is required by the California courts in child custody cases. If parents are unable to agree on child custody, either through court mediation, private mediation, or by negotiation, then a family court judge will make the decisions. Often, to assist in the decision, the court may order a child custody evaluation to be conducted by a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or marriage and family counselor. The mental health professional will render a report to the court regarding custody, visitation, and related issues, and the judge will base his or her decision upon information contained in the report. A child custody evaluation can be very time-consuming and expensive, but may be necessary in some complex or high conflict cases. Sometimes, parents even need a “Parenting Plan Coordinator” once a custody order is entered if they continue to have conflict over day to day issues. Lynette Berg Robe knows which mental health professionals are qualified and can make recommendations for experts for these procedures if required.

Contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe to get these more delicate matters resolved.

Who Pays Child Support?

Child support is determined by a formula called the “child support guideline,” and the formula has been incorporated into a computer program. The amount of child support is based on the relative incomes of the parents and the time each parent spends with the children. Of course, the result depends on what numbers are put into the calculation. Child care costs and medical expenses are also included in child support orders. In general, child support continues until a child graduates from high school or attains his or her 18th birthday, although it may go on until a child is 19 years of age if he or she has not graduated from high school and continues to be dependent on the parents. In some cases, parents may agree to extend support depending in the child’s needs, such as college, graduate school, etc Child support may also be modified as circumstances change.

The Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe will ensure that child support is calculated in a fair and equitable manner for her client. Mediation is one process which the parties can use to reach a settlement as to child support that is evenhanded for both parties and the children.

Contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe today and find out the best way to handle your child support proceedings.

How is Spousal Support Determined?

Spousal Support is a complex matter in a marital dissolution case. Spousal support may be paid by either party to the other if one party is a higher earner than the other. Temporary spousal support may be calculated using the computer program that determined child support, but long-term, post-judgment spousal support is based upon a list of factors set forth in Family Code section 4320. Among the most important factors are the length of the marriage and the “lifestyle” established during the marriage. The award of spousal support is always discretionary with the judicial officer. Whether the client needs spousal support or is the party who will pay spousal support, Lynette Berg Robe will try to resolve the issues by settlement, or through mediation, but, if not, she knows how to present a case to the court regarding spousal support. Sometimes, an expert witness called a forensic accountant needs to be engaged in order to testify about the parties’ lifestyle during the marriage and the cash flow that is available for the payment of spousal support.

Contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe today to discuss your spousal support issues.

Attorney's Fees and Costs

Family Law is different from most civil cases in that in Family Law cases, the court can order one party to pay for all or a portion of the other party’s attorney’s fees and costs. The court may also order one party to pay for all or a proportion of a child custody evaluator’s fees and costs or a forensic accountant’s fees and costs, if those experts are required in a case. The award of attorney’s fees and costs is within the court’s discretion as to whether or not to order a party to pay the other’s fees and costs and how much they are to pay. Lynette Berg Robe tries to resolve the issue of attorney’s fees and costs by agreement or through mediation. If agreement fails, she knows how to present or defend the request for attorney’s fees and costs before the court.

Reasons for having a Premarital, Postmarital or Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation Agreements

California does not recognize “common law marriage,” where a marriage is established by parties living together for a prescribed period of time, but it does recognize the so-called “Marvin” or “palimony” action. The basis for a “Marvin” or “palimony” action is a contract, usually oral, where one party promises the other property or support even if they later cease to live together or be a couple. If parties do not desire to marry but want to cohabit or live together, a cohabitation agreement sets forth the terms and conditions of their relationship. That way, there are no surprises if the parties later break up, and each person understands what will happen if they cease to be a couple.

Premarital Agreements

Premarital agreements are becoming more and more commonplace. Premarital agreements are contracts made between prospective spouses in contemplation of marriage and intended to become effective upon marriage. These agreements are also known as “prenuptial” or “antenuptial” agreements. They are governed by the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, Family Code sections 1600-1617.

While California’s Family Code determines the rights of parties received by marriage, the parties may make an agreement that is different from what the law dictates. Parties can make their own contract for their marriage. Parties frequently use them to protect separate property acquired prior to the marriage. Sometimes, parties wish to limit the creation of community property acquired during their marriage. Also, a premarital agreement can be used to change the character of a specific property. For example, one party may wish to change certain separate property from separate to community under certain conditions. That change, called a “transmutation” can be made in a premarital agreement.

The parties also may agree upon a way to determine spousal support in the event of dissolution of their marriage. An agreement to waive future spousal support can be made, but under California’s premarital agreement law, such an agreement will be reviewed by the court at the time of dissolution of marriage and may not be upheld if the court deems it “unconscionable” under the circumstances existing at that time.

Sometimes premarital agreements are used for estate planning purposes, particularly if the parties have children from prior relationships. The parties may want to specify what property will go to the new spouse and what property will be maintained as separate to pass to each one’s children in the event of death.

Premarital agreements cannot contain agreements about children or child support. Such agreements would not be enforceable. There are strict rules for the preparation of premarital agreements that must be followed. It is recommended that a premarital agreement be completed well before the wedding date. In fact, it is best to have it signed before the wedding invitations are mailed. It is also essential that both parties are represented by attorneys.

Postmartial Agreements

Sometimes, parties have disagreements about property after marriage but do not wish to dissolve their marriage. Sometimes, parties need a postmarital agreement to assist in estate planning or to clarify property transactions. These agreements may include the “transmutation” of property, where the character of property is changed from separate to community or from community to separate property. Such a change must be set forth in a “express declaration” so that it is clear what was intended by the transaction.

Because spouses have fiduciary duties to each other, they have the duty of highest good faith and fair dealing and are subject to the same rights and duties as nonmarital business partners in making these agreements. For this reason, it is important for postmarital agreements to be handled with care.

The Law Office of Lynette Berg Robe is experienced in these matters and can assist you with your cohabitation, premarital, or postmarital agreement.

Post-judgment Modifications

Family Law is unique in that a judgment does not make all issues final. Child custody, child support and spousal support orders may be modified after judgment is entered. Unless there are omitted assets and debts, or unless fraud or perjury is involved, property judgments are usually final. In order to modify a child custody, child support or spousal support order, the party must file for a court hearing for a motion or an order to show cause. Usually, the party must show a change in circumstances before the court can hear the motion. For example, for child support orders, an increase or a decrease in one party’s income may be a change of circumstances. In child custody matters, whether or not a change of circumstances is required may depend on the words in the judgment. Generally, a request for a change in the time share or schedule is not considered a change of custody and does not require a showing of a change of circumstances. For post-judgment matters, discovery is much more limited than before the judgment is entered.

Post-judgment modifications can also be resolved through mediation.

If you have a problem after judgment has been entered, contact the Law Offices of Lynette Berg Robe to see how it can be resolved.