HEADLINE: Mel Gibson is not only single, but $425 million poorer, thanks to a divorce settlement between the actor and his wife of 31 years, mother of his 6 children, Robyn Denise Moore. The judgment, finalized by a judge in Los Angeles, keeps virtually all details of the settlement secret.  People magazine reports that the couple did not have a prenuptial agreement, meaning his ex-wife would be entitled to half of everything Gibson earned during their 3 decade marriage.The Oscar-winner’s fortune has been estimated to be as high as $850 million --"


Q. What is the first step that needs to be taken when getting a divorce?

A. GIVE UP on the GUY! His gambling, drinking, tom catting around or abuse has gone too far. It's hurting the family's feelings kids included or its economy. If there are children, you don't want to divorce a man just because he doesn't light rainbows the way he did when you were teens although the above reasons are sturdy enough to warrant this solution. Losing Dad means your kids will come out warped in the end, so you don't want to do that unless it's the above syndromes. Dad may be a more avid dad, spend more quality time with the child after he's been booted out, but don't bet on it. Just as easily, he can find a new woman, a new set of children and his affection for the old group wanes. That's only natural. You do not want to be responsible for STEALING their only FATHER from them! Your kids will not forgive it.

OK. Now, Study all the DO IT YOURSELF DIVORCE books at library. Decide if you can do it or you need a lawyer. Traditionally a dissolution of marriage, or divorce proceedings are initiated by the filing of a Petition by one party. Not hard to do. The Petition for Dissolution of marriage is then served to the responding party. The party originally filing the Petition is known as the “Petitioner” and the other party is known as the “Respondent”. Following receipt of the Petition, the Respondent generally has 30 days in which to file his or her responding statement to the facts stated in the Petition.

Alternative Dispute Resolution models such as Mediation and Collaborative Divorce may answer this question differently based on the circumstances involved. It is not uncommon for the divorce process to “unofficially” begin months in advance of a petition when it is necessary to retain a team or consider whether these processes might be appropriate. They come with a high price tag.

Q. How long will it take to get divorced?

A. California maintains an established “cooling off period” of 6 months that begins after the petition or complaint has been served. This “cooling off period” represents the shortest time you must wait before the divorce is final. Assuming both parties can agree on how to divide marital assets, care for children, and resolve other issues that may arise; the divorce process can be as short as 6 months. If an agreement cannot be met by the parties in that time frame the amount of additional time will depend on how complicated the unresolved issues are. If correspondence must be done though each party’s attorney then additional time may be added.

Q. How soon after our divorce can I get married again?

A. The date of service of the Dissolution of marriage Petition on the Respondent is important as it commences the 6-month waiting period between the start of the Dissolution of marriage and eligibility to request that the marital status of the parties be terminated and Judgment entered. It is not possible to terminate your marital status earlier than 6 months from the date of service of the Petition, and until your marital status is terminated, you are not free to remarry.

Q. How much is getting a divorce going to cost?

A. Thousands for your lawyer. If that's too much --get a do it yourself divorce kit. All you can know for sure is that there is a hierarchy of costs associated with different processes that can be organized into three groups.

The first group would be called litigation. A case that actually goes to court will be the most expensive and can easily push into six figures on each side including attorney fees and expert fees for child custody, financial, vocational, and many other specialties. This would be followed closely by those cases that are litigious but never reach the court room. A litigious case that misses the court room can be just as expensive and reach into six digits on each side including the same previously mentioned experts as well as private judges.

The second group consists of Collaborative Divorce and complicated Mediation cases. This group is characterized by the fact that the decisions making process is put more into the hands of the parties. This of course means that the better a couple is at communicating and decision making, the less expensive the process is likely to be. Of course complications arise when difficult issues are present but a Collaborative case can generally be expected to be significantly less expensive than a litigated case. In all of the cases we have completed; only one has reached the six figure range and most cases average twenty to thirty thousand dollars. Mediation will almost always be the least expensive if the parties are willing and able participants in the process. Costs can significantly rise in this process when communication and follow through are not commitments of the parties.

The third group, a Pro-Per divorce is always the least expensive because you do it yourself. This means the divorce can be done for the cost of the filing fees. Very low. And you can claim poverty and make it LOWER.

Q. Do I need to hire an attorney? NO!

A. LAW FIRM GIVES: "We believe that everyone should consult an attorney to insure they understand their legal rights and obligations but that does not mean you need to retain their services for a traditional litigated divorce. You can choose to consult on specific issues often called “unbundled” services, hire an attorney mediator, or retain an attorney as part of your Collaborative Divorce team.

Q. What responsibility does my spouse have to care for me during the divorce process?

A. To the extent possible; it is expected that the family should maintain the status quo during divorce proceedings. This is usually accomplished by a temporary or interim support agreement. Temporary support will be based on need and ability to pay and it is common to see families struggle to make the monthly budget work when they must stretch it across two households.

Q. What if my spouse is abusive or has become abusive since I asked for a divorce?

A. The State of California and San Diego Police Department have self-help and contact centers on the internet for answering questions about various proceedings including dissolution and domestic violence.
Q. What is alimony?

A. You need to ask? Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a series of payments from one spouse the one with the good job or business... to the other spouse, often a stay at home parent...after a divorce. NOTE: The only alimony, or “separate maintenance” payments provided to spouses under many states' law following a divorce requires that the marriage be for a minimum of ten years. The purpose of these payments is to help balance the earning abilities of the former spouses so that they may carry on a similar standard of living post divorce. If there is a Mr. Mom, he will get alimony. If they've been legally married l0 yrs to the day.

  Q. What if my ex-spouse does not pay the spousal support?

A. Spousal support is an order of the court, and as such, it must be obeyed as any other. Failure to comply with a lawful order of the court can be punished by contempt. If your ex-spouse is not paying your spousal support award or is paying late on a continuous basis, it is recommended that you contact a lawyer to address this matter. There are legal actions to be taken to rectify the situation.

Q. Are spousal support payments taxable or tax deductible?

A. It depends on which end of the transaction you find yourself on. Spousal support is taxable to the spouse receiving the payments and tax deductible to the spouse making the payments as long as the payments fall within IRS guidelines. This has the affect of moving income from the higher tax bracket of the support payer to the lower tax bracket of the support recipient and reduces taxes.

Q. Are there alternatives to paying/receiving spousal support?

A. Yes, you can consider an upfront cash buyout or offset with marital assets. For the recipient this eliminates the risk of relying on your ex-spouse to pay in a timely manner and the need to write painful checks for the payer.

Q. What about my OLD AGE and my Ex-Spouse's Social Security?

A. Ahh, the FED payout. Well, to qualify for your ex-spouse's Social Security retirement, you must have been married ten years and divorced at least two years. You must be at least age 62 and unmarried to collect Social Security benefits on your spouse's work history. The spouse must also qualify for Social Security retirement benefits but does not have to file for benefits. Your ex-spouse must have a minimum of ten years or 40 credits of work history, paying into the Social Security system, to qualify for benefits. If you both qualify, you may be entitled to receive Social Security retirement benefits. As an ex-spouse, you may receive 50 percent of his full retirement benefit when you are of full retirement age. Full retirement age is 66 for individuals born between 1943 and 1954. You receive 35 percent if you collect spousal benefits at age 62.

Q. How is child custody decided?

A. In California, either parent can have custody, or the parents can share custody. In court the judge makes the final decision about custody and visitation but usually will approve the arrangement both parents agree on. If the parents cannot agree, the judge will make a decision at a court hearing after the parents have met with a mediator from Family Court Services. Private practice Psychologists are often called as expert witnesses in court cases and almost always used as Child Specialists in Mediation and Collaborative cases with custody issues. States differ.

Q. Who pays the children’s college costs?

A. Child support guidelines do not require a parent to support a child after age 18. This does not mean that the cost of post secondary education should not be considered. You may wish to build an agreement into your marriage settlement agreement that puts marital finds aside for future college obligations or requires each spouse to commit to saving a predetermined dollar amount on a regular basis.

Assets and Debt:

Q. What is community property and separate property and how is that determined?

A. The classification of property as community, separate, or quasi-community will determine how such things are divided between the parties upon dissolution of the marriage. Community property has been defined by the State of California as “all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state.”

Under California law, each spouse owns a one-half interest in any property acquired from the date of their marriage to the date of their separation. This holds true unless the property is “Separate Property”.

Separate property is any property that has been acquired by either spouse prior to marriage, after separation, or during marriage by gift or inheritance. A gift or an inheritance received during the marriage might be considered separate property.

Ultimately: it is necessary to consult a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to analyze the likelihood that an asset might be considered community or separate property. BUT the MOORE MARSDEN act says that if HE OWNED it beforehand and made you live in it and didn't buy you your own damn house, you get HALF the property's APPRECIATION. Estimated worth in 1980? 35,000? Now a million. YOU GET HALF of 965k, baby.

Q. Does it matter if we were married in another state? What happens to the property we brought with us?

A. It generally does not matter where you get married unless you acquired assets while living there. Acquisition of property while married and living in other, non-community property state may create quasi-community property. Quasi-community property is real and personal property, wherever situated, which would have been community property had the owner spouse been domiciled in California at the time of acquisition. The characterization will require further analysis by a qualified professional.

Q. What access do I have to assets and property during the divorce process?

A. This may be determined differently for different assets. The status quo should be maintained in the absence of other agreements. For instance: an agreement may be made during the process that grants sole use and possession of the family residence to one party. Community property cash accounts should remain available and no changes should be made to account access or beneficiaries during divorce proceedings. Automatic temporary Restraining Orders go into effect upon filing of the Petition for Dissolution which precludes changes to titling and other legal rights.

Q. Can my spouse keep information from me, such as bank accounts and credit card statements?

A. No. Not LEGALLY, but he will try to do it, of course. His lawyer may tell him to do it and then you can sue the lawyer, a second, separate and very lucrative suit.  Evidence? Record him admitting it.

The State of California Family Code holds a divorcing couple to the same fiduciary and disclosure standards as when they we married. It is a common passive aggressive stall tactic for one party to make the information hard to get or offer only what they are specifically asked for but that does not change the fact that they have a duty to share the information. An experienced and qualified attorney, mediator, or financial professional can help dig up what is not freely given.

Q. What if my spouse is hiding assets?

A. PREVENTION and XEROXES of all papers you can find, DURING the marriage is best. If you suspect your spouse may be hiding assets the best thing to do is to educate yourself on any information you can  But women usually do that when it's all over. It's important to ANTICIPATE and XEROX   

Forensic accountants are expensive. Don't even go there. If you feel divorce is nigh, Begin collecting statements and records as they come in the mail or are available online. Review any saved records and keep a folder or binder filled with copies of everything you obtain. Keep it where the mate cannot find it, possibly a parent or friend's house, deep in a desk. If you feel the situation warrants it you may want to consider hiring a financial analyst to trace assets and uncover anything that could be hidden. If your divorce becomes final and later an asset is found that was hidden during the divorce process this could be fraud.

Q. How is my share of our assets determined?

A. New York, Idaho, Arizona, California are Community Property States and there are about six more... so the default is that any asset accumulated during marriage is to be split equally. Assets owned prior to marriage, acquired via gift or inheritance during marriage, or accumulated post separation require further analysis. IF a wife put a husband through school or paid for everything during the entire marriage while he was struggling to put through a deal, if the wife put in property, if the husband spent her inheritance, these are important points you want to run by a divorce lawyer or google.

Q. What if my ex-spouse has debt that was brought into the marriage am I responsible for that?

A. No. Just like an asset owned pre-marriage, this would be considered separate property of the account holder.

Q. How is it decided who will stay in the family home?

A. If you and your spouse can not decide amongst yourselves then the default is that it is sold. Many factors affect the decision making process. The MOORE MARSDEN act states that if it was his house when you moved in and was worth a million and now it's worth 7 million,  the wife, you, will get HALF OF THE AMOUNT it increased in value.

Q. Is there a separate property interest for either party?

A. Many variables. Can one party afford to keep the house on their own? Are there minor children and concerns about changing their school district? Options have arisen over many years dealing with this question and include co-ownership post divorce and co-habitation also known as nesting which have increased in popularity during poor real estate markets.

Q. If my spouse keeps the house as part of the asset settlement then what happens to the mortgage?

A. The mortgage generally stays with the spouse that retains ownership of the house. If your spouse is awarded the house and your name is on the existing mortgage, ensure a condition in the marriage settlement agreement states your name must be removed from the existing mortgage and the mortgage be refinanced. As long as your name is on the loan creditors can hold you responsible if obligations are not met. Make sure to remove yourself from any kind of outstanding debt that you are not responsible for.

Q. Is my ex-spouse entitled to part of my business?

A. That depends on many things. If the business was started or acquired during marriage then the answer is almost always yes. The answer is more difficult if the business was owned prior to marriage. The State of California does offer guidance on answering the question. The analysis is long and complicated and would require the assistance of professional experts in the matter. The question on most business owner’s minds is; “Will I get double dipped when I buy my spouse’s interest in the business and still have to pay support based on the income from that business interest?”

Retirement Plans:
Q. Am I entitled to my ex spouse’s retirement plans or pension?

A. Yes. Any balance in retirement accounts accumulated as a result of contributions made during marriage is community property. The questions of vesting, pay status, present value, benefit amounts, and pre-marriage or post-separation contributions will require further investigation by a competent analyst.

Q. My spouse and I are splitting his/her retirement plan, what do I do with my share?

A. There are only three options you have once your share is awarded to you:

    * Take all or a portion of the funds in cash and possibly pay taxes and penalties for early withdrawal.
    * Roll all or a portion of your share into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) in your name.
    * You may also have the option of leaving your share at the company that holds your spouse’s retirement plan but they will likely charge fees for you to keep the account there.

Q. Am I entitled to my ex-spouse’s Social Security?

A. For a marriage under ten years in duration; the answer is no. If you are married more than ten years each party is entitled to the greater of two options; the benefit you are entitled to under your own Social Security record or one half of your ex-spouse’s benefit. Further complications arise from additional marriages and other issues such as the Government Pension Offset Provision and Windfall Elimination Provisions. Google these if applicable.

Q. My health insurance is through my ex-spouse’s employer. Can the children and I stay on the policy after the divorce?
A. You cannot stay on the policy as you are accustomed to. However: you have three options for getting health insurance post divorce.

    * You can get COBRA coverage through your ex’s employer for a maximum of 36 months post divorce for you and the children. However, COBRA can be very expensive.
    * You may also wish to purchase your own insurance through a company that insures individuals and families.
    * If you are employed you can likely get coverage through your employers group plan.
    * Children can stay on the ex-spouses/non-custodial parent’s insurance. Most likely child support credits will be given to the parent who is responsible for paying for the insurance.

Q. Should I cancel the life insurance policy on my former spouse?

A. No. If you are receiving spousal or child support payments from your ex-spouse the payments will stop if he/she dies. Therefore, you may want to carry life and disability insurance on your ex-spouse. You should be the owner and beneficiary of the policy. If your ex-spouse is uninsurable consider asking that a marital asset be pledged as collateral.

LOOK at this event from the man's point of view: Here, a little help from the DICTIONARY OF Fine, American HUMOR:

DEFINITION of Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

"Ah, yes, divorce, from the Latin word meaning to rip out a man's genitals through his wallet." Robin Williams