Family Law Hearings During Covid19

Family Law Hearings During Covid19

Family Law Hearings During Covid19

Covid19 has caused major disruptions  in the lives of people around the world. In the past several months most of us have been required to adapt to the reality of life in the age of Covid19. This article is intended to inform you how Covid19 impacted the family court in orange county and the rest of California. Additionally, if you have a pending case in the family court, we hope to  give you some guidance on what you can do to resolve your family law dispute through a private family mediation.

California Stay Home Order

On March 19, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay home order to protect the health and safety of those in California during the Covid19 pandemic. As a result, state courts all around California closed their doors to all non-emergency matters. Most trials and hearings were rescheduled.

On March 28, 2020, Governor Newsom, through another order, gave the judicial council of California power to modify certain laws within the court system for the protection and health of Californians. Therefore, a lot has changed as to the  rules of state courts in California.

Impact on Family Courts

To know the exact changes in the operations of the family courts within each county, you must visit the courts website for your specific county. However, in most counties, family law hearings are now conducted in a virtual manner. Most hearings were changed to status conferences. This has caused a large backlog of cases in family courts. Family law trials have, for the most part, been delayed. Depending on the nature and facts of your case the court may hear your case virtually or in person if physical presence is deemed necessary.  

Emergency Family Law Cases

Despite the backlog, family courts are open to hear cases involving domestic violence or other forms of abuse or harassment.  Additionally, time sensitive and emergency cases will be heard by the court. Yet,  many divorce and custody cases that are not time sensitive or emergency have been rescheduled. To determine whether your case can be heard by the court, talk to a family law attorney in your area.

Family Law Private Mediation

If you have a family law case, going through the family court system is not the only option. Many people, to resolve their dispute, have turned to alternative dispute resolution.  Mediation is one way you can resolve your divorce, custody, support, or other family law issues without having the judge decide the case.  Mediation is effective even in complex and difficult cases. With a help of a mediator you can resolve your complex family law disputes faster, cheaper, and more effectively.


Despite the disruption caused by Covid19 and its impact on family courts, you can still work to resolve your family dispute privately with the assistance of lawyers and mediators. Thus, you do not have to wait for the family court. You can take charge and use other dispute resolution tools that have been proven more effective. In doing so, you can save money and time while working on truly resolving your legal dispute. 

Best Interest of the Child

Best Interest of the Child

Best Interest of the Child in Family Court

Best Interest of the Child

The phrase “best interest of the child” is commonly used in California child custody disputes. So, it is reasonable to ask what does this phrase mean? This article is intended to help you learn the legal meaning of the phrase “best interest of the child” or “child’s best interest” in California child custody disputes. We hop you find this blog useful.

Court’s Discretionary Power

When it comes to child custody dispute in California, the law gives the family court judges a broad discretion in determining which parent gets custody. This discretionary standard means that one judge can rule in one way while another judge can rule in another way. Because the law gives this broad discretion to family court judges, it is often difficult to persuade an appellate court judge to reverse the custody determination of the lower family court. In cases where the appellate court does reverse the lower court’s decision it is often because the lower court judge has abused its discretion.  Thus, in most cases appeal can be a uphill battle. 

Best interest of the child in California

Think of the concept of “best interest of the child” as a set of presumptions. What do I mean? Well, when you file a child custody petition, the court will automatically presume that it is in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with both parents. So, there is an automatic preference for joint legal and physical custody.  

A parent who wants to argue that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child has the burden to overcome that presumption. That parent must persuade the judge (through facts, law and evidence) that joint custody is not in the best interest of the child.  If the court finds that the parent who wants sole custody has overcame this presumption the burden shifts to the other parent to prove that in fact joint custody is in the child’s best interest. This shifting of presumptions and burden of proof can become very complicated. Thus, it is a good idea to work with a family law attorney.

Agreement between parents

Very often when there is a custody dispute there is some sort of temporary arrangement between parents as to custody, visitation and decision making. This agreement may or may not be in writing. However, the judge often turns this arrangement into a temporary court order until there is an actual trial as to the merits of the case. The judges do this because the law says the judge can presume that an ongoing arrangement between parents regarding custody and visitation is presumed to be in the best interest of the child unless one party shows otherwise. So, an agreement between parents as to custody or visitation can easily overcome the presumption that the child should have equal time with both parents.

Other Factors- See Family Code § 3011

What does it take to persuade a judge a certain arrangement is not in the best interest of the child? The family code gives some factors for the judge to consider. However, there are so many other factors the judge can consider determining the best interest of the child.

Some of the statutory factors the judge will consider are the following:

  • Heath, safety, and welfare of the child;
  • Spousal or child abuse;
  • The nature and amount of contact with the parents;
  •  Abuse of illegal drugs, alcohol, or controlled substances;

Additionally, the court will consider which parent is more likely to allow the child to have a relationship with both parents. So, if the judges is persuaded that you won’t allow the child to have a relationship with the other parent, the judge may grant custody to the other parent. 


In our opinion, you should work with a family law attorney to increase your chances of success in any family law matter outside and inside of the family court. In doing so, you will be able to use the right set of concepts and law to argue your position whether it is to the court or the other parent.

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What you need to know about 730 Evaluation in California

What you need to know about 730 Evaluation in California


What you need to know about 730 Evaluation in California

California Evidence Code 730 is commonly referred to as 730 evaluation in family law court. This law states that in court, at any time, the judge can order that an expert be assigned to investigate the issue that the judge must decide on. For example, in a child custody matter, one parent may claim that the other parent is unfit to have custody of the child. The court needs evidence to determine whether the claim is true. Thus, the court, on its own, or after request by a party, can appoint an expert to investigate and analyze. Remember, 730 evaluations are not just for custody cases. It applies to divorce and  financial issues as well. For instance, we have 730 child custody evaluations, 730 financial evaluations and more.  

730 Child Custody Evaluation

Court may order a 730 child custody evaluation  to determine who should have physical and legal custody of the child.  For example, if one parent is claiming the other parent is abusive, then the court may order an evaluation by a licensed social worker, psychologist or Marriage and Family Therapist. The role of the expert will be to collect data, determine facts, and analyze. Once the investigation is complete, the expert prepares a report for the court. The report may have a recommendation. The report may also be used as  evidence to help the court decide. Thus, 730 evaluations can become very important.

730 Financial Evaluation

The court usually orders a forensic accountant or other experts when there is a dispute regarding ownership, value, or misappropriation of property. These types of analysis are done by an expert. A report will be drafted by the expert so the lawyers and the court can determine the division of money or assets between the spouses. As with the custody evaluation the court will consider financial evaluation report as evidence in court. Thus, it is important to take it seriously.

730 Evaluation Cost

730 evaluations can become costly. Depending on the extend and complexity of the dispute it can cost thousands of dollars. Usually, the court will ask each spouse to file with the court an Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150). Based on that form and based on the finances and income of each party the court may either divide the cost or have one party pay it in entirety. Sometimes the court may require one party to pay and require the other party to pay his or her portion later. This is called allocation. Remember, the court can require the investigation despite the parties both disagreeing to the investigation. Additionally, the court can require one or both parties pay the cost. In short, this could cost the parties a significant amount of money depending on the complexity of the matter.

Will 730 Evaluation Be Fair


Generally, evaluators are neutral experts who are unbiased and uninterested third parties. In fact, the law requires the evaluators to be unbiased and neutral. Usually, one party cannot speak to or communicate with the evaluator in the absence or without the permission of all parties or the judge. Thus, the evaluation should be fair. Having legal representation can help make sure that the evaluator does not have a previous personal relationship or other conflict of interest with the other party. So, it may be a good idea to have a lawyer to make sure everything is done properly.


730 evaluation is basically a report that is prepared by an expert that the court appoints. The report will be used as evidence to help the court make a proper decision in the family law case before it. Thus, it is important to take it very seriously.

Questions to ask your divorce lawyer

Questions to ask your divorce lawyer

Questions to ask your divorce lawyer

We know hiring a lawyer is confusing, complicated, and expensive. If you can avoid hiring a lawyer there is a good chance you should. However, sometimes it is necessary to work with a lawyer so that you can protect your legal rights. In this article, I will discuss some questions to ask your divorce lawyer. In doing so, we hope to make this difficult time easier for you.


Ask your divorce lawyer about how he or she communicates. Communication between client and attorney is very important. Certain decisions must be made by the client. The attorney must be able to explain the implications of such decisions. Many attorneys communicate via email. Others do it via phone. Some use text message. Ask them how they communicate and if you have any preference make your preference known.

Ask about lawyer fees

Hourly Fee

Before you hire a lawyer find out about his or her fee structure. Most lawyers charge hourly. The hourly fee ranges between $250 to $1000 per hour. In addition, there is a retainer fee that must be paid upfront before the lawyer to begin working. In California, it is not uncommon for a family law attorney to charge an upfront retainer of $5000 to $20,000. Sometimes, a lawyer might charge $5000 upfront (which is relatively low) but may have an hourly fee of $700 (which is relatively high). Other times, a lawyer might charge $10,000 upfront in retainer amount but only charge $300 per hour. In this example, you will likely get more done going with the second lawyer. Not all divorce lawyers charge hourly. Some charge a flat fee.

Flat Fee

Flat fee is a set fee for specific legal work. For instance, a lawyer may charge $4000.00 to complete the divorce, if there is no trial. There is no hourly in a flat fee structure. This type of fee structure gives you more certainty as the amount you may need to spend.  You will know that your attorney fees will not go above $4000.00 unless you go to trial. Flat fee is risky for lawyers because family law cases have a lot of twist and turns. The lawyer may end up having to work an amount more than the fee he or she was paid. Thus, many lawyers avoid flat fee structure.


Contingency is when the lawyer does not charge the client upfront but instead takes a percentage of whatever amount the lawyer recovers for client. In California, family law attorneys will not take divorce cases on a contingency. Thus, this option will likely be unavailable.

Payment Options

Legal services can get very expensive. Some law firms will bill you hourly but will provide clients with payment options. Some law firms will give the option of weekly payments while other firms may agree to monthly payments. Usually, the payment amount is at least $600 per month. Therefore, feel free to ask your divorce lawyer about payment options.


One way to pay for legal fees in a divorce is using a collateral as a security against your legal fees. For example, if you may own a house, you can allow the lawyer to place a lien against the property. This means that when the house is sold, the lawyer will get paid his or her legal fees. Using a collateral as a security against your attorney fees is something to consider. Talk to your lawyer about it.

Attorney Fee Request

In many marriages one party often makes significantly more income than the other. This can be because one spouse stayed home to care for the kids or worked to advance the career of the other. Regardless of the reasoning, if there is an income disparity the spouse with less or no income may request the other spouse to pay for his or her attorney fees. This is something you may want to ask your divorce lawyer about.

Who will be working on my case

Lawyers have a different hourly fee than paralegals, law clerks, billing clerks or filing clerks. Even lawyers of different caliber may have different hourly fees. For example, an associate attorney at a law firm may have an hourly rate of $300 while a partner’s hourly fee might be $500. Paralegals and other none-attorneys may have an hourly rate of less than $200.  Remember, if there is work that can be done by a paralegal, we advise that you request the paralegal do the work. Family law is a form-based practice. A large part of the practice is administrative. You may be able to use your money more efficiently if you just ask the lawyer to do the necessary legal work as opposed to the administrative work.  In other words, the service of the lawyer may be better used for court appearance, legal research, legal analysis and drafting strong

What is the scope of representation 

Scope of representation are the areas of which the lawyer is responsible for legally representing you. Is the lawyer responsible for your entire family law or divorce matter including custody, support and division of assets or is the lawyers representation is limited to one of these areas. It is important to clarify the lawyers scope of representation so you both can be on the same page. So don’t forget to ask about it. 

Ask what what you can expect 

No attorney can guarantee results. However, good attorneys set expectations. So, ask your divorce lawyer to give you his or her honest opinion about the strength of your case. We believe honest objective opinions about the strength and weaknesses of your case can help you make better decisions. So, ask your attorney for his or her objective opinion.


We hope you found this article useful. Our goal is to make this process a little easier by providing you with educational material. If you want to ask us any questions, feel free to schedule a call with us!

Preparing for custody mediation

Preparing for custody mediation

Preparing for custody mediation


In California custody disputes, the law requires the parents to a custody dispute participate in a court mandated custody mediation.  In this article, you will learn the steps you need to take to prepare for custody mediation in California family court.  We hope to give you practical advice on how to prepare for your child custody mediation. 

What is custody mediation? 


Custody mediation is a process where parties negotiate with a help of a mediator to resolve their dispute prior to the judge hearing the case. The law requires parents to participate in custody mediation prior to the hearing. See Family Code 3170-3173 The purpose is to encourage parents to resolve their child custody or visitation dispute through negotiation. Therefore, the law is encouraging you to resolve your family law dispute with minimal court involvement.

Who will be the child custody mediator?

Custody mediator will be a neutral person whose job is to facilitate a discussion between the parents. Much of the time the court has certified mediators. Sometimes the mediators are former lawyers or current law students.  Remember, mediators are not judges. They cannot decide on anything. So, whether there is an agreement reached in mediation is a choice the parents have to make.

Can custody mediation help or hurt my case?

Generally, everything that takes place during a custody mediation is confidential. In some counties, if the parents cannot agree to custody the mediator can make a custody recommendation to the judge. Additionally, the law requires that parents participate in good faith. However, there is no requirement that you agree to any custody arrangement in mediation. Therefore, it is important to participate in good-faith and be prepared to negotiate to make a success out of your custody mediation.

Preparing for custody mediation


Below we will give you some practical advice on how to prepare for your child custody mediation.

Know your case!

Is is important for you to know whether your custody case is weak or strong. This can help you determine how much leverage you have in mediation. Thus, know your case!

Create a custody or visitation proposal

In most cases even the none-custodial parent is entitled to reasonable visitation with his or her child. To prepare for custody mediation, get a calendar and mark on a calendar the days each parent will have custody or visitation. You can mark “M” for mother or “F” for father. Feel free to include when custodial/visitation time starts and ends. You can even say at what time each parent is entitled to a phone call or face-time with the child.

Create alternative proposals

Creating alternative custody or visitation proposals will help you negotiate a fair custody agreement. So do not just create one. Have different options in case the other parent cannot accommodate one of the proposals.

Do not be late

You will have certain amount of grace period in case of traffic or emergencies. Try not to be late to your custody mediation. Remember, in some counties the mediator may make a custody recommendation to the judge. So, do not be late to make sure you don’t end up on the bad side of the mediator. 

Be polite

Custody mediation’s are supposed to be cooperative. Because in custody disputes emotions are high it can be hard to be polite. It is important for you to participate in good-faith. Being polite may show good-faith participation. If you do not participate in good-faith the judge can reschedule the heating to require you to participate in good-faith.

Show flexibility but do not be pushed  

Showing flexibility to reasonable proposals in a custody mediation is important. Remember, the goal is to act in the best interest of your child. However, do not be pushed around by the other side. A good strategy for showing flexibility but remaining firm is to give a counter proposal. For instance, if the other parent gives a suggestion that you do not agree with then take that suggestion and modify it to your liking and give a counter proposal. This way, you are engaging in a flexible but firm negotiation.


Custody mediation in California is required. For you to make the most out of your mediation it is important to prepare for your custody mediation. Participate in good-faith and consider implementing the suggestions in this blog. Doing so,  can make a success out of your custody mediation in family court.

Chances of a father winning custody

Chances of a father winning custody

What are the chances of a father winning custody

There is a common belief that in custody disputes the law prefers mothers instead of the fathers. Yet,  this is not the case. The law does not give preference based on sex. Thus, the chances of a father winning custody should be the same as the chances of a mother winning custody.

Primary Caretaker/Caregiver Rule

Whether you are the father or the mother has little impact whether you will get custody of your child. What matters is who is the primary caretaker/caregiver of the child. If the father is the primary caretaker then his chances of winning custody goes up. If the mother is the primary caregiver, then her chances of winning custody goes up. Thus, the of the parent is not directly relevant.

Historically, mothers have assumed more of the caretaking role within the family unit. In the modern age, things are changing. Many fathers are now primary caretakers since the father is the parent who changes diapers, takes the child to school and cooks while the mother goes out and works to support the family financially. Therefore, as society is changing the perception that the law favors mothers over father in child custody disputes will change as well.


As stated, the primary caretaker rule is only one factor the court will consider in determining whether you will get custody of your child. So, talk to a local child custody lawyer to discuss other factors the court may consider for your specific case.