For most people, divorce is an emotional, scary time. Many people make decisions without thinking about the consequences. Likewise, people going through a divorce oftentimes make decisions without realizing that it is against the law. When a divorce is filed, certain laws go into effect that prohibit both parties from doing certain things. These laws, called “Standard Family Law Restraining Orders” can be found on page two of the Summons. Unfortunately, many people do not read these laws, and some attorneys fail to inform their clients about these laws. However, ignorance is not bliss. As the Judge will be quick to tell you, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Here are some of these laws, which again apply to both parties in a divorce:
1. Do not remove the children from the State of California without the other party’s written consent or a court order.
2. Do not change the beneficiary of health insurance, life insurance, or even car insurance.
3. Do not sell or give away any property without the written consent of the other party or court order, unless it is in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life (housing, food, medical care, and the like).
4. Do not change the pay on death beneficiaries of your accounts (such as pension, deferred compensation, IRAs, mutual funds, bank accounts).
For a full list of what actions are legally prohibited during a divorce, read page two of the Summons.
There are also certain actions that are highly frowned upon by the Court. While these actions are not illegal, these actions can lead to serious, negative consequences for you:
1. Do not talk to the kids about court proceedings. As a parent you need to protect your kids. This means keeping the kids out of the crossfire that occurs with court litigation.
2. Do not speak negatively about the other parent to your kids, in front of your kids, or even within hearing distance of your kids. If you need to vent about your soon to be ex, do it to your best friend or family but only when the kids are not there.
3. Do not allow your family and friends to speak negatively about the other parent to your kids. When I tell people this, I often hear them complain, “I can’t control my family.” Yes, you can. It’s all in how you explain it to your family. If your family loves you and loves their grandkids, your family will want to do whatever they can to help. This means not speaking negatively about the other parent in front of the kids. Explain to your family why this is so important (you still want your kids to have a healthy, loving relationship with the other parent; the Court can consider this when deciding child custody and visitation issues).
4. Do not move and conceal the kids’ whereabouts from the other parent. This is a crime in California.
5. Do not make withdrawals or transfers from bank or investment accounts without consulting with a lawyer and financial advisor first. I had a client recently who withdrew 1/2 of all investment accounts based upon her friend’s advice. Besides the fact that she was potentially in violation of the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders, my client did not consider any financial consequences of these withdrawals. For example, she had to pay federal and state income taxes on her withdrawals, as well as a 10% penalty for taking an early withdrawal from certain retirement accounts. Furthermore, the withdrawals now put her in a higher tax bracket such that all of her income for the year was now going to be taxed at a higher rate.
The bottom line is while divorce is emotional, do not make emotional decisions in your divorce. Divorce mediation can help both parties understand the law, review all options, and guide both parties to make the best decisions. Call California Mediation Solutions in Riverside today to schedule your free consultation. (951) 328-8400.