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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How Many Rings Are There in a Marriage?

Answer: Three! (Engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffer-ing)

I wanted to take this entry to discuss the issue of engagement rings and marriage in California. Many a client has asked me, "I was engaged but not anymore. Can I get the ring back if I don't marry?"

In California, there is actually a law written on this! It is found in California Civil Code § 1590, and it says, "Where either party to a contemplated marriage in this State makes a gift of money or property to the other on the basis or assumption that the marriage will take place, in the event that the donee refuses to enter into the marriage as contemplated or that it is given up by mutual consent, the donor may recover such gift or such part of its value as may, under all of the circumstances of the case, be found by a court or jury to be just."

In other words, the answer hinges on "Who broke it off?" The law says if the RECEIVER broke it off, or it's mutual, you can get it back.

Speaking of rings, companies are specializing in making "DIVORCE RINGS" now. Says the owner of http://www.transitionrings.com/ - "...it's my divorce ring but it was all about hope." "They are symbols of hope for life's transitions," she said. "They are all about hope and moving on ... step by step, day by day with hope. "It's about taking it a day at a time," she said. "I have a heart to see people emotionally heal." Sounds like a gold mine! For the full article, CLICK HERE.

And here is some advice from Abby:

LITTLE ROCK — DEAR ABBY: I am a 45-year old woman with two daughters, ages 20 and 23. I married my high school sweetheart, “Cooper.” I had heard rumors that Cooper had strayed from time to time, but had no evidence to back it up, and, of course, he denied it.

I went by my husband’s office one day to surprise him, and his new secretary informed me that Cooper had just taken his wife to lunch at a local bistro! I went right over there and found them whispering, kissing and feeding each other. I did not make a scene. When Cooper arrived home that evening, I confronted him. He tried to deny it. I called him a liar and he slapped me! (A first.) He moved out that night, and I filed for divorce.

I pawned my wedding band and engagement ring. The clerk asked if I was going to buy a divorce ring. I had never heard of one. I searched online, found a nice one, ordered it and wear it proudly.

Cooper and his parents are livid! They say I am poking fun at him and accuse me of “promoting divorce.” My friends and oldest daughter think it’s cool. Some of my divorced friends have ordered rings, too. The ring is different in design, beautiful, makes me feel good and shows my independence. Should I feel guilty for wearing an identity ring like this?

- Divorcing and Loving it North Carolina

DEAR DIVORCING AND LOVING IT: No, you should not. The next time Cooper and his parents accuse you of “promoting divorce,” remind them that it was Cooper who promoted divorce by openly cheating on you. If the ring brings you pleasure - and comfort - then enjoy it.

However, please be aware that many people will not understand its significance - and if you wear it on the third finger of your left hand, they may think you are still married and unavailable.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Women MBA's More Likely to Divorce Than Men?

So this article recently came out in the Wall Street Journal. The basic findings on successful women and divorce:

1. Women with MBAs described themselves as divorced or separated more often than women with only bachelor’s degrees (12% of female MBAs compared with 11% of women with only bachelor’s degrees) and more than twice as often as men with MBAs (5% of whom reported being divorced or separated);

2. Women with law or medical degrees divorce less often than those with only bachelor’s degrees, but are still more likely to divorce or separate than their male counterparts (10% of women with law degrees and 9% of women with medical degrees, compared with 7% of male lawyers and 5.1% of male doctors).

3. Finally, the study also found that female professionals (aka high wage earners) abstain from marriage at double and sometimes nearly triple the rate of men.

This article is reminiscent of the article in Newsweek magazine published in June of 1986 entitled "Too Late for Prince Charming?" which contained the infamous line, "Well-educated women over the age of 40 are more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to find a husband." Newsweek incidentally retracted this statement 20years later.

Truly harsh words. It seems like everyone blames WOMEN for today's failed (or non-existent marriages). In my own experience, I do handle several divorces of women who are extremely well-educated (sometimes more so than their husbands). However, it seems to me that their education doesn't really have anything to do with the rising divorce rates. I think it has more to do with today's changing society and morals. Decades ago, when women weren't allowed to work or be self-supporting, it was much more difficult to file for divorce. Financially, it wouldn't make any sense. That didn't mean there weren't any unhappy marriages. Just meant there weren't any divorces.

I think the best advice I can give to marrying couples is to:

1) Pick the right person at the right time in your life. Yes, like the standard "best interests of child", this label is incredibly vague, and contains many factors. But, as an ecstastically married person, I can tell you - you definitely know when you find him or her;

2) Prior to marriage, have the tough discussions. You know - about money, about children, about religion, about beliefs. Leave no stone unturned. ALWAYS get a prenup. It's worth it. As they say, "Marriage is grand! But divorce is ten grand. (at least).

3) After you get married, honor your commitment. Treat each other like equals. Share chores and duties. You'll know when you're honoring.

The WSJ article on MBA's ended with this bad advice: "Well-educated, highly compensated women should be targeting particularly loving and supportive men."

My own two cents: I think EVERYONE should marry loving and supportive people, not just MBA's.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What is a "Presumed Father"?

Here is an interesting question that was posed on the Avvo website (incidentally, a wonderful website with tons of resources and the "ins and outs" of attorneys).

"My wife nor I ever told the third party he was the father of our little girl. We never pursued child support or asked for any type of help at all. I was in the hospital when she was born, I signed the birth certificate, and I am raising her. Now, my daughter is age two, he wants to do a paternity test. Neither me or my wife want this done. What are his rights?"

This entry will discuss the difference between a biological father and a presumed father. In California, presumed fathers are accorded greater rights than natural fathers, such as the right to counsel and reunification services. [In re A.A. (2003) 114 CA4th 771, 779-780; see WIC §361.5(a).] Services are discretionary for non-presumed parents. Due process for an alleged father requires only that he be given notice and an opportunity to appear and assert a position and attempt to change his paternity status, and he is not entitled to appointed counsel or to reunification services. [In re Kobe A. (2007) 146 CA4th 1113, 1120.] A man is a presumed father of a child if he meets any of the following conditions:

So what is a presumed father?
A man is a presumed father if:
1) he was married to and cohabiting with the mother at the time of conception, and was not impotent or sterile. [FC §7540 et seq.]; OR

2)He and the mother were not married, but they both executed and filed a witnessed voluntary declaration with the Department of Child Support Services. [FC §7570 et seq.]; OR

3) He and the child's natural mother are married or were married, and the child is born during the marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is terminated by death, annulment, declaration of invalidity, or divorce, or after entry of a judgment of separation. [FC §7611(a).] OR

4)He and the child's mother tried to marry before the child is born, but the marriage is not legal, and the child is born either: During the attempted marriage or within 300 days after the marriage is declared invalid, or Within 300 days of cohabitation if the attempted marriage is invalid without a court order. [FC §7611(b).]

5) After the child is born, he and the mother marry or attempt to marry and
He consents to being named on the child's birth certificate, or

6) He is obligated to support the child under a written, voluntary promise or by court order. [FC §7611(c).] OR

7) He receives the child into his home and openly holds out the child as his natural child. [FC §7611(d).]

The presumption may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence [FC §7612(a)], or by a judgment establishing paternity by another man [FC §7612(c)]. IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THERE CAN BE MORE THAN ONE PRESUMED FATHER. And when there are competing presumed fathers, the biological paternity of one father does not necessarily rebut the presumed status of the other man.

So what's the answer to the original question. If you had presumed father status, this would effectively override any biological father claims.

It is important to remember that presumed father status MUST be raised in order to successfully challenge a bio dad's paternity action. I once had a case where I represented the bio dad, and on the other side, there was a presumed father. The mother's attorney never raised the issue, and I was able to successfully obtain custody and visitation for my client.

Yes, I know this is confusing. If you have any questions, please discuss with someone well-versed in California Family Law.

Weekend Musings on Internet Advertising

I have been practicing law since June 2000. Ever since I started my law firm 3 years ago, I have had the fortune of meeting many wonderful contacts who have helped me greatly. Whenever people discover that I own my own law firm, they naturally tend to ask me - "How do you get your business?"

I would estimate that approximately 70% of my clients are referrals from past clients. That is sincerely the biggest secret of being in practice. NEVER disappoint your clients. I have had over 800 clients, and though some of them are difficult, while others are outrightly insane and vindictive, I have generally had great luck wtih my clients. I think my biggest secret is my ability to connect with clients. I am blessed in that way. I am very happy with their ratings, and often update my website with their appreciative emails and remarks, and pictures they send me of their clients. Happy clients are still the best source of referrals.

Then there is about 5% of my business which comes from just being at the right place, at the right time. I get a lot of referrals from being very active in the community, and knowing a lot of people. In addition, I have actually gotten clients from being in court. They will walk up to me and ask for my card after I have successfully argued and won a case. (Thank God for Advanced Trial Advocacy classes in law school!)

The remaining 25% of my business comes from the blind internet referrals. Admittedly, I receive 100's of hits on my website daily. However, of these, very few are promising. There are several people out there that wish to receive free legal advice. Although I would love to help everyone who calls me, there is only a limited amount of time in one day. That is why lawyers charge consultation fees. They would otherwise be out of business!

I find it amusing that people think that my advertising on the net is the reason for my busy practice. There have actually been articles written about my many YouTube videos, television appearances, etc. Here's one called "Kelly Chang, Esq.: Online Marketing Genius". Here's another one: "Do Lawyers Leverage YouTube? Kelly Chang Does, But You Probably Don't.". And here is one I just found right now - called "Not your grandchildren's YouTube:
Lawyers tap into marketing potential of online video"

I do have several videos online - you can view them here:
Here are some straight-forward, strictly marketing videos.

Then, here are some other videos that went up on the internet AFTER I made guest appearances on the news, etc.

Here is a clip for when I was a regular at Legal Grind, a wonderful coffeeshop located in Santa Monica and Inglewood, which offered "Coffee and Counsel". Unfortunately, since my schedule has become superbusy, I have not had the time to volunteer there.

Here are two videos for when the Britney Spears custody case, for TV Guide

Though I have had the fortune of being quoted by MTV, and other quality magazines, as a result of the popularity of my website, I still have to say, "word of mouth" is still the best way to generate real business. In conclusion, I must say that my YouTube videos and media appearances basically serve no purpose but shameless self-promotion. It's a lot of fun though, to be net-savvy!

Airing your Dirty Laundry on YouTube

What has this world come to? With the advent of the internet, it is becoming easier and easier to become vengeful. In New York, a woman airs her dirty laundry on the net.

Here is a good article written by the experts on http://www.divorce360.com/, which quotes me.