In this video, family lawyer Patricia Van Haren discusses her new book, How To File And Survive A Divorce In California.
Hosted By: Cathy Meyer
Guest Speaker: Patricia Van Haren, Family Lawyer
Read the Transcript of this Video Below.
Cathy Meyer: Hi everyone, my name is Cathy Meyer. I’m the managing editor of divorcedmoms.com and editor of divorcemag.com. Today I am speaking to family lawyer Patricia Van Haren, who has recently authored a book on the topic of How To File And Survive A Divorce In California. Patricia Van Haren is an experienced family law attorney in California with offices in Irvine and Torrance. Patricia’s law firm services all the greater Los Angeles area and Orange County in Southern California. Her goal is to educate and inform clients; writing this book is one of her many ways of doing so. Welcome Patricia. I’m glad to have you here.
Patricia Van Haren: Thank you Cathy, so much, for having me on today.
It’s nice to have you. I’m excited to hear more about this book you’ve written: How To File And Survive A Divorce In California.
Yes. I’m really excited about this book and to get it out to the public. I’m hoping that it helps a lot of people and their divorce process.
I’m sure it will. Where can it be purchased?
You can purchase it on Amazon. If you type in How To File And Survive A Divorce In California, it will come up on the Amazon search. It is available in both print and electronic formats as well, so you can read it on your Kindle.
Good, good. What inspired you to write How To File And Survive A Divorce In California?
What inspired me was, I would often join in the middle of a case where there had been a lot of damage done or spouses were blindsided by the whole divorce process where we had one spouse that had been preparing. When my clients would come to me, they wouldn’t know what information was needed. They had a lot of fear about the divorce process, and I believe that knowledge is power. If you’re given knowledge, you’re given power in the divorce process. This book is a guide for the everyday user. If somebody’s considering a divorce, they’re going through the divorce process; I wanted to be able to give back to the community and to be able to help them.
Back when I went through my divorce, we didn’t have Google. Of course, it seems like Google is the place to go if you need to know something, but in your opinion, is Google a good option for people who are going to divorce and looking for knowledge?
Google is going to be nationwide and worldwide. When you’re looking for information, you may end up with an article about a divorce situation in New York or Massachusetts, or even out of the country, like Australia or Japan. Divorce cases are specific and the rules are governed by the actual state they’re in. The danger with Google is that there’s a lot of misinformation. No two cases are alike. You may have similar facts in different cases, but no two cases are exactly alike. I find it’s very dangerous to just use Google as a substitute for any type of legal guidance.
Since the name of this book is How To File And Survive A Divorce In California, would you recommend it for people who live in Kansas?
I would not. I am licensed in the state of California. Each state has its own licensing. They have their own rules of court. They have a separate bar for each state and California is the state that I have my knowledge, my information, and my experience in – that’s where I’m licensed and that’s where I practice family law. Each state has its own set of rules and their own codes as they relate to family law. There are some states that are community property. Other states are not. California is one of those community property states. As far as divorce grounds, that’s going to vary from state to state. Guidance for custody support will be calculated differently, depending on the state that you’re in. Your rights are going to be different depending on where you live. I always advise seeking legal counsel if you’re outside of the state of California. You want to make sure you find counsel in the state where you reside.
Is the book a substitute for legal advice?
No, the book is not a substitute for legal advice. It is guidance. It is legal information, written on a very basic level. This book talks about general guidelines, like how a court may decide things. Legal advice is going to be case-specific and fact-based.
When I have a client sit down and meet with me in my office, I’m going to look at the facts that are in their case and help them come up with a game plan that’s appropriate for their case. My book is meant to provide information and knowledge, to help people know which questions to ask a divorce attorney – whether that’s me or if they have a different divorce attorney. My book is going to give them the information that they need to figure out what they don’t know and to help them formulate the facts about their own case.
Why is it important to educate yourself about divorce in California, or whatever specific state a person lives in?
I find it’s important for people to be educated because divorce is a really scary time. It’s emotionally based, and a lot of our clients are operating on fear and emotion. It’s that fear of the unknown. If you’re educated, you have power – you have the ability to make knowledgeable, informed choices in your divorce case. I think the question that most clients have when they come into my office is, “what is my life going to look like on the other side of divorce?” Having that information is really going to save them money because they’re going to have some of those questions answered. It’s going to have them understand the process. When their attorney is asking them for documents that are asking for information, if they’re informed, they’re not going to spend attorney time asking “why do I need to give this to you?” They’re going to say “oh, I understand. You need my financial statements so that we can prepare our disclosures and decide what we’re doing with our property.” That’s what this book does. It gives you that information that’s going to help you and hopefully take away some of the fear in the divorce process.
Can the mistakes during the divorce process impact the outcome of the case?
Yes, mistakes during the process can have an impact on the outcome of the case. Particularly if somebody isn’t advised and they’re acting and trying to represent themselves. For example, sometimes there are hostile text communications between spouses. These text communications can be presented later on in the case for evidence. Or, maybe one parent is depriving the other parent of custodial time. Perhaps a document was signed under penalty of perjury and that document had errors in it, or there were misstatements of facts that can be used to discredit the person if the case does go to trial. It’s very important to make sure that you’re giving factual information, you’re not exaggerating, and you’re not presenting evidence that can be disapproved later on in a divorce case.
I often tell people that they need to be a proactive part of their divorce process. You can’t hire a family law attorney and just leave it up to the attorney because they can make mistakes, so you better be paying attention.
Right, and with a client declaration, for example, we’re going based on facts that a client has given to us. We’re writing those facts into a declaration format and then we submit it to the client to sign and to review for accuracy. If somebody misunderstood something that the client said or an assumption has been made, or maybe the client got a date wrong and they told us “oh, it was six months” but they meant to tell us six weeks – we don’t correct that in a declaration. If the client signs that under penalty of perjury, they may later be discredited, so it’s very important that our clients work with us and are actively involved. If we’re contacting clients trying to get information and they are non-responsive, it makes them look bad in court later on if perhaps the other side is going to bring that up to discredit them.
Yes. Are there different approaches to the divorce process in California?
There are many different approaches to a divorce process in California. In my book, I break them down and I advise a little bit about each of them.
Some cases can be handled strictly through mediation. That’s an alternative where both parties work with one person to come up with solutions.
There’s also collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce process, we’re going to work with a team of professionals in a divorce.
We have litigation and that is where both the parties are in front of a judge. They’re arguing their cases and generally, they both have attorneys involved.
California also offers what’s called limited scope representation. In cases like that, we may be acting as a consultant. Sometimes we’re ghostwriting documents for the client, and then they’re arguing their case in court.
Other times, when a client’s knowledgeable, they want to prepare some of their own documents. It could be that we’re representing an attorney that handles another area of practice, or a business person that’s really good with their paperwork. They would prepare their documents and file those with the court, and we would come in and present legal arguments. Other times, you’re just consulting on a case where parties are maybe in mediation, but they want their attorney to let them know what their rights are and what they should be asking for.
What would you call that?
That’s a limited scope representation or divorce consulting.
There’s also negotiation, that is where both parties are represented. Some matters may be litigated in court, but other matters may be negotiated between the parties and their attorneys to try and settle what issues they can outside of the courtroom.
What factors should someone consider when they’re choosing a divorce attorney?
When choosing a divorce attorney, you would want to look for somebody that has the same philosophies that you have. I find that there are certain cases that are not going to be appropriate for our office. We do like to look for solutions, so looking for an attorney that’s going to help you look for those solutions.
There are some attorneys that want to bill just for the sake of billing, and you want to make sure that you are aware of that when you go in.
You also want to find an attorney that does practice family law. There’s a lot of dangers in finding somebody that’s kind of a general attorney – a jack of all trades, a master of none type of attorney. In our practice, we handle cases specifically related to family law. We have some cases that are in probate court, but there’s still family law related issues such as guardianship or conservatorship, so they’re very tight into the whole family law court system. They want to look at that. They want to talk about “what is the pricing? What do you charge me for? What are your billing practices?” to have a clear understanding.
A lot of times the client interactions are going to cause their billing to increase. We always encourage our clients, if you have a lot of questions, put them together in one email. Sit down, send us over the email, and then make a phone call with us or hop on a zoom meeting. This way, we can get your questions answered all at the same time, rather than sending 20 emails with 20 questions, right?
What are the grounds for divorce in California?
California is a no-fault state. Generally, the grounds in California are going to be irreconcilable differences. The court does not care if somebody committed adultery and they don’t care who wanted the divorce – they just look at it. If one person wants a divorce, they will get out. There can be grounds such as incurable insanity, for example when somebody has dementia or some other issue. In those cases, it’s a little bit trickier where we would have to have a guardian appointed, but that’s not going to be your typical divorce in California.
So, you’re not going to be able to sue somebody for divorce on the grounds of abandonment in California?
No, California does not accept the grounds of abandonment.
They’re free to leave if they want to leave?
They are free to leave. It takes two people to get married, but one person to get a divorce, right? The court does not feel in California that you should be forced to be married to somebody that you don’t want to be married to anymore.
I could say a lot about that – but I won’t! What topics are covered in your book related to child custody?
With child custody, we’re going to cover topics such as “what is a 730 evaluation?” That’s a child custody evaluation. “What is Minor’s Counsel?” It’s an attorney for the children. We talk about the do’s and don’ts as far as your interactions with the other parent, what is legal custody, what is physical custody and what type of parenting plans are available? My book gives a lot of guidance about how you can co-parent with the other parent and the dangers in doing so poorly. Also, we talked about what are the remedies in child custody occasions cases, and how to put together the evidence that you need in that divorce process so that you can bring that to your attorney. If you are going to have a contested custody case. That requires either an attorney for the children or a child custody evaluation.
It has been an interesting discussion and I’m excited about your book. I hope it does well. I know it will. It sounds interesting and it sounds like you covered all the bases. I really appreciate you joining us today and sharing everything with our readers. Have a great day and hopefully we can do it again soon.
Thank you, Cathy. I really appreciate your having me on today and I look forward to speaking with you and being on again in the future.
Thank you, Patricia, for talking to us about the California divorce process and your book, How To File And Survive A Divorce In California. Patricia’s book is available for purchase on Amazon. If you are interested in learning more about how Patricia can help with your divorce, if you’re in California, and family law issues, please visit her website at pcvlawyer.com where you will find a lot of videos and blog posts on divorce.