Talk Wealth to Me

#110 The Financial Realities of Divorce with San Diego Attorney, Jennifer Zachary

November 12, 2021 Felipe Arevalo, Chase Peckham, Jennifer Zachary Season 5 Episode 8
Talk Wealth to Me
#110 The Financial Realities of Divorce with San Diego Attorney, Jennifer Zachary
Show Notes Transcript

No one gets married with the intent of eventually getting a divorce yet it happens. Even though the number of divorces have declined still between 40 and 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The question for those looking to end their marriages is what is it going to cost? Not just in legal fees but who is going to be responsible for what and who is going to have to pay who? Obviously there is no straight answer as everyone's situation is different. Today the Talk Wealth To Me Crew sit down with San Diego Divorce Attorney, Jennifer Zachary who takes us through all of the different scenarios that can arise during the divorce process. This is an incredibly insightful and interesting conversation which can be an uncomfortable one.


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Chase Peckham:

Phil I'm so excited to have Jennifer Zachary here today. She is an attorney , uh, and specifically a divorce attorney. And Jen first, I just want to thank you for being here. Give us an idea. First of all, give us your background. What , how did you decide to get into the type of law that you decided to get into?

Jennifer Zachary:

Well, first of all, thank you for having me. Um, I've been an attorney for going on 16 years now. Um, I graduated law school at a time where jobs were a little scarce and you didn't have that much choice about where you were getting into. Um, I wasn't, you know, top of my class, so I didn't have an open door to the big firms and I was still trying to figure out what kind of lie I wanted to do. And I happened to fall into a family law position and stayed there for the next 15 years

Chase Peckham:

Well to have stayed there that long. That means, well, first of all, you're pretty good at it. But second of all, most, it felt like you kind of fell into a situation where you were comfortable and felt like you could make a difference.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah, it's a, it's a tough job. It's a very tough job. And it's sort of like medicine in the sense that once you become specialized in a certain area of law, it's kind of hard to change that up without taking a series step back in your career. So there's that component of it. And then yes, when you get the cases that you did feel like you helped somebody and you made their life better and they're happier and they can move on in a better place. It's rewarding in that sense. Um, but it is, it is a tough job. It's not, it's not as if I started doing it. And I said, oh my gosh, I love this so much. And I just want to be a divorce attorney for the rest of my life.

Chase Peckham:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

But , um, but it is interesting. It's an area of law that it challenges you on a daily basis. You're learning constantly. You really don't ever get to a point where you've learned it all. Like you're , you , you will always encounter new situations, new areas, new types of situations that call for application of law in a different way. And you have to figure out how to roll on a different on a different basis every day. So it's challenging,

Felipe Arevalo:

Although it's kind of like the same thing, divorce it's I would imagine very different from one case to the other, like everything else, like personal finances or things like that. Sometimes there it's the same that you're trying to accomplish, but a completely different scenario. So is it something where it just constant like, oh, this is nothing like the last case, even though it's the same process that we're going through.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yes. And that that's exactly it that's exactly the problem. And, you know, people would come to you just asking questions or maybe in a casual basis, they just want to have some information. They're like, oh, well, my, my neighbor had this happen in her divorce. So would that be what would happen to me? And I'm like, I don't know, you know, it's, it's so case specific, it depends on the judge. It depends on how litigious your ex is going to be. It totally depends on the lawyer, your ex hires. It depends on how much money you have. It depends on what kind of assets you have. I mean, there's so much that goes into how , um, how litigious your case would be and how expensive it would be. And there's no way of predicting that from the outset or from a casual conversation.

Chase Peckham:

When take us through how they go through that process when they first want to talk to, because when they go to you, they've obviously thought about this for awhile .

Jennifer Zachary:

Yes. Usually when they, somebody decided to go ahead and interview with an attorney, they are kind of at the end of their rope with their marriage. Not always, but usually someone has gone through therapy or they've just gone through abuse for a very long time, or they've just reached, or there's been a, there's been a sudden incident that kind of like launched the whole divorce into going forward. And that's when they decided to meet with you. So once they come in, part of that whole initial console is just to , to find out exactly what that reason was and then to find out kind of what their goals are and to get a picture of what their community estate is looking like, what the money is, what, you know, if both parties are working or if it's been somebody with a stay-at-home spouse for a significant period of time, certainly if there's children involved in the divorce, what w you know what that's going to look like, how contentious it is. Um, and all those factors are what kind of help us evaluate, okay, how, how much is this really gonna kind of cost in a ballpark type of way so that we can know what we're looking at, you know, cost benefit analysis. Can this person afford this type of litigation? Do they need to go look at a different attorney? Who's more affordable? Um, because unfortunately that's a big part of the analysis. Um, you know, there's,

Chase Peckham:

Or fortunately, I guess, depending on who you are.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yes. But it's, it's, it's, you know, it's really hard because depending on where you work and who you work with, you know, a lot of attorneys have gotten burned over the years by clients not willing to pay, you know, and it's hard to collect. It's like anything else it's, you know, chasing after the money, after you've already spent it, it's hard. So, you know, most attorneys will say, I want a certain dollar retainer at the outset, but everyone knows that's not to even usually come close to covering it. If it's at all contentious. Um, it, you know, attorneys everywhere in California are going to charge an hourly rate for their time. And usually if , um, you know, it can range anywhere from $250 an hour. I mean, maybe there's some people who are less, I don't know, 2, 6, 7, $800 an hour. And it depends on who you're hiring. And those hours add up pretty quickly, especially if you're going to court a lot, if you're engaging in discovery and trying to find out all the information about the other person's assets , um, if you're just fighting over dish pans, which believe me, people fight over, you know, sheets.

Chase Peckham:

Really.

Jennifer Zachary:

I mean, it's unbelievable, but yes, I've had to write letters saying, I want my wok back. I mean, I'm not joking, which is it's hard because there's so much emotion in a divorce.

Chase Peckham:

I guess that's what I was going to really get to is when you first meet with this person, you're not just an attorney and you're playing pseudo psychologist a lot of times, right?

Jennifer Zachary:

Therapist yeah.

Chase Peckham:

Because you are dealing with so much emotion through the whole thing. And how much do you deal with, like, do you have to like tell people this is what's possible versus, you know, let's just push it or let's just go for it.

Jennifer Zachary:

Unfortunately, cases can get prohibitively expensive and out of control and still remain within what the law would allow. And , and that is typically in big cases. And , and when I say big cases, I'm saying cases where there are significant assets that are not straightforward. You there's businesses, there's separate property claims. There's maybe business partners, there's commingling, there's, there's a lot of legal issues involved, which would justify the need for going after a lot of information. And in those cases, it can get expensive, fast , uh, custody and visitation cases can get expensive, fast. Um, when people are fighting over their kids, it's not a black and white situation. And unless there's extreme abuse, that is very identifiable that you could say, okay, these kids should not be with this person. Very few of the cases that are like that often it's he said, she said, there's undocumented abuse. There's there's parents who may be talking to their kids inappropriately, or, you know , suggesting things that never happen. And, you know, and it goes both ways. Right. And trying to ascertain what is in the children's best interests , what kind of parenting plan is in their best interest, which is what the state of California wants to make orders on. Trying to ascertain that can evolve, you know, experts and minors , counsel , and therapists, and psychologists, and many, many trips to court to review the parenting plan. And that can be so cost prohibitive and so expensive. So there's just so many ways you can go around, unfortunately ramping up the expenses of the case. And sometimes it's, it's not justified. Sometimes I feel like, and I'm going to say this. I think sometimes lawyers are driving the case expense up. Um, and I've seen that I've been on the other side of that. And, and it, it's so hard because there's so little you can do in that situation, because you can't just say, I don't want to do this. You can't just not participate. You have to participate to get the case to finality

Chase Peckham:

And does it get to a point too, because one might have more resources than the other. And they just know that they can prolong this until they give up.

Jennifer Zachary:

Absolutely. It's a war of attrition sometimes. So sometimes yeah, the person who has the money, the, if it's money in the estate that they have access to, or if it's grandparents funding the litigation, or if there's an aunt or rich uncle or something like that , um , those are the people that, yeah, they can keep their attorney paid and they can keep going after whatever it is they're pursuing or if it's just to make the other person go away. And that does work. Unfortunately,

Chase Peckham:

I think it's a movie Felipe sorry, there was a movie, I believe it was Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner called War of the Roses. Is that right?

Jennifer Zachary:

Yes.

Chase Peckham:

That was pretty big. I think I remember feeling very sick to my stomach after watching a movie like that.

Felipe Arevalo:

Yeah. I was saying, you mentioned sometimes there's arguments over little things. You meant, you mentioned dishes or whatever. Is there ever times where you just kind of look over it , the side of the argument that you're working on and say you don't really it's, is it really worth arguing over that, you know, couch pillow or do we just let it go.

Jennifer Zachary:

Absolutely part of your job is as a therapist, Really? So it's, it's having this conversation with, you know, this is how much it would cost us to file a motion, to pursue a reimbursement for this, or to go to trial over this issue. And you're, you're fighting over a total of $3,000 worth of household items, right? I mean, it's, it's not that that analysis of cost benefit analysis, just, that's the thing you do say to your clients and say, that's just not worth it. You can go to target and buy the replacement, you know, item. And, but th but the problem is so many of the times, it's not about the money. It's not about the thing. It's about the emotion. It's about winning. It's not , you know, sometimes people felt very taken advantage of in their marriage and it's about fighting back and standing up for themselves. It's about control. Sometimes the party who's been typically may be a more controlling person in a marriage. They that's the role that they play and they can't let that go. And so you're dealing with a lot of the emotional elements of people's personalities that , that have led in large part to the marriage coming undone or reaching a finality point. And that's hard to argue with people may come to realize after they spent thousands of arguing over something that it's not worth it at at that point. And maybe they finally engaged in therapy and are dealing with their issues and can come to that realization. But oftentimes there's, there's a lot of stuff at the beginning of a divorce that you have to weed through and kind of work through. And the personalities, and sometimes mental illness of parties that are involved is a huge stumbling block.

Chase Peckham:

How much we've talked about assets, and if they have them, but there are people that get divorced that don't have a ton of assets. Yet. There might be mountains of debt in places. And how much does, is that taken into consideration as well? And how often do they , how do they figure out who owes what debt? Um, so for instance, let's take credit card debt and somebody , you know, how do you prove that this person came into our relationship with $30,000 in credit card debt before I ever knew him ? How do you, how do you work that out?

Jennifer Zachary:

Well, there's, there's a lot of different situations there. So any debt you had prior to marriage, if you come into marriage that is still your separate property debt. Um, but if you, if the other person can't prove it, if there's no more documents,

Chase Peckham:

I was going to say. How do you document that?

Jennifer Zachary:

Well, you have to keep documents.

Chase Peckham:

At the beginning and say here's what I came with.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah. I mean, that's the unfortunate part is most people going into a marriage aren't necessarily thinking about that? You know, especially, I mean, young people usually aren't that much. It's not that much of an issue, but it can be right. I mean, people can come in with, with credit card debt that the other person doesn't know about, and maybe they're not even aware of it. And then there's however, they work out their finances they've been paying for it. And then all of a sudden there's still a bill and they had no idea. It was even there.

Felipe Arevalo:

We hear this story all the time, though. One of the spouse will reach out and say, you know what? I didn't realize how much credit card debt they had until we've been married for like six months. And then trying to figure out like, where's all your money going. Well, you know, I have 20 something dollars worth of 20 something thousand dollars worth of credit card debt. And they're sitting there , like I had no debt, I , I had a savings account and all of a sudden we have, it's really still in the other person's name, but you know, all of a sudden, now this family has 20,000 plus worth of credit card debt that I had no clue about. And we unfortunately hear that more often than we'd like to.

Chase Peckham:

And how so, how does that get worked out most of the time?

Jennifer Zachary:

Well, it's, it's hard because if people don't have money to litigate, they're not really going to be spending money to litigate over debt.

Chase Peckham:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

I mean, so usually in less , there are significant assets to kind of offset that debt. That's not something we're going to be dealing with.

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

Okay. So how do people reconcile that amongst themselves?

Chase Peckham:

Yeah.

Jennifer Zachary:

I mean, if it's not

Chase Peckham:

So they're just going to leave that out.

Jennifer Zachary:

Leave that out of what?

Chase Peckham:

You said that you're not going to really deal with that. Is that just something they'll say, look, we'll just split it and how , I mean, they usually comes to a , I had pretty quick ,

Jennifer Zachary:

Um, I mean, we, when , if we're representing somebody, we have to address all the issues.

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

So we don't leave anything out, but I'm saying we probably wouldn't represent people that just had debt that they were fighting over because they couldn't afford to pay fees.

Chase Peckham:

Gotcha.

Jennifer Zachary:

Right. So whoever they might choose to have as their attorney, if they can find someone to help them with this, or if they're going to go find like a free legal service or something, depending on how many assets they have , um, they don't, they're not responsible for separate property debt, as long as they can prove that out. The other party is trying to claim that they incurred that during marriage. Then it's going to be a battle of evidence. How, where are the statements were ? Where can you show the community, community expenses were incurred on this card? Can you show that how much is allocated to separate property debt from the beginning? It's that those things are not easily resolvable because it's an accounting.

Chase Peckham:

And how many people keep track of that.

Jennifer Zachary:

Most people don't, most people don't. So, I mean, yeah. Going into a marriage, you know, there really ought to be more , um, you know, lectures and information available to people who are about to get married and, and, and combining , um, their incomes and their assets and all of that, because yeah. Honestly, get a credit check, done,

Chase Peckham:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

Exchange your credit checks, you know, and see what each person it's , especially, if you, I mean, it's terrible to say, oh, I don't trust you. I'm about to marry you, but.

Chase Peckham:

I love you with everything.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah. I love you everything. But can I see your credit report? Because I actually don't trust that you're telling me the truth on this. You know, I , you know, most people don't do that. Right.

Chase Peckham:

But it might not be a bad idea. Right. I mean, that's what we talk . We tell people all the time, if you , your credit report, take a snapshot of that before, and, you know, at least what you started with and not to say that you're going to get divorced, but I mean, we keep hearing that number 50% of all marriages.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah. And most people don't plan for it. You know, most people aren't planning for that.

Chase Peckham:

Of course not.

Jennifer Zachary:

They're not going to keep the documents showing that they received gifts or inheritance from family members , um, which is their separate property, regardless of when they received it. They're not going to keep documents, showing respective contributions, maybe to the purchase of a house. Maybe they're , they're not going to keep that. Maybe they would, you know , um, because they would have a reimbursement claim for that, even if they acquire the house as a joint asset. Um, but yeah, a lot of things get lost in the shuffle during a marriage and the documents get shredded at some point to make room for new documents. And banks only keep records for about seven years. So there's that information. And that record is going to go away if you're not actively saving it. Of course, nowadays people have the benefit of being able to just scan documents in and download their statements. So it's much easier to keep a lot of records. And it was certainly when we married.

Chase Peckham:

For sure.

Jennifer Zachary:

Um , but that.

Chase Peckham:

And that was just 15, 16, 18 Years ago.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah. I mean, not that long ago, but a lot has changed.

Chase Peckham:

Absolutely. It's take Snapshots of anything you want any time Now.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah. And I mean, I've had clients who've come in and, you know, they're dusting off massive boxes and giving you piles of paper from like 30 years ago. And you're like , um, you know, some of it's relevant, some of it's not, but it's, it's hard to weed through that. So certainly I think people having the, the sense of being financially savvy from the outset and saying, let's make sure we're on the same page with our finances and let's have a good conversation about what debts we each have and what, what kind of savings plan we want to have and what are our goals in terms of acquiring real property together and all that sort of stuff. And having that laid out and saved in files on computers and all that sort of stuff is certainly a great idea, but regardless of divorce or not,

Chase Peckham:

Which is completely separate of , um , when, when you hear about people's getting a prenup or whatever that might be, right. I mean that that's a whole different deal right?

Jennifer Zachary:

Well, prenup is, is a contract that you're entering into prior to marriage. And the , the main purpose of a prenup is to specify what assets each party has going into the marriage. And that way they're , if they're identifiable easily identifiable, then you don't need to later on prove that they were your separate property going into marriage. And usually the purpose of a prenup is to specify that those items remain your separate property, regardless of the fact that you got married. And regardless of your PR , you know, like for real property, regardless of the fact that you're paying the mortgage on this property, your payment of that mortgage with your income is not going to make that a community property asset, or have any sort of community interest acquired in that asset. And that preserves that asset in the event of a divorce that you don't have to say, oh, a portion of this is now belongs to the community. Um, another purpose of a prenup is to specify whether or not spousal support would be due to some, one of the parties and you can contract and agree not to pay that , um, something that's a sticky subject going into a marriage. You know, I'll only marry you, but if you agree, I'm never paying you spouse's support. It can create problems, obviously. Um , you can't contract around child support. So if you, if you end up having children or you already have children with that person, you're going to be liable for child support. If, and if you end up getting a divorce,

Chase Peckham:

Oh so there's no way around that.

Jennifer Zachary:

There's no way around that.

Felipe Arevalo:

Yeah. Well, I was going to say, is it because really the child support is for the child? So it wouldn't make sense to enter into a contract with the other parent, if it's not really for the other parent.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yes, yes, yes. And the whole purpose is to support the child to make sure the child is not living two different standards of living with two different parents is trying to equalize their lifestyle between the two houses. So if

Chase Peckham:

So if it's for the child, does that money get put into a trust or a separate account, or does.

Jennifer Zachary:

Well no.

Chase Peckham:

It still go to the parent? And they you're trusting the fact that they're going to do with it, what it's supposed to.

Jennifer Zachary:

Of course, it's never perfect science, right?

Chase Peckham:

Sure.

Jennifer Zachary:

But the idea is when you have a child you're paying for part of your mortgage or rent for that child, you're buying food in part for that child, you're paying for their clothing and general expenses. So child support is never going to be itemized per you know,

Chase Peckham:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

Your grocery bill and your mortgage and your gas , gasoline, and all that, all that. sports, dance, band. But that is actually different. So typically extracurriculars are a different subject area because they can be expensive. And so parents can, they can agree if the child is going to participate in this X, in this extracurricular sport, typically it will overlap in each parent's parenting time. They have to agree to do have the child participate on each of their parenting time. And they usually agree to split the cost. I mean, you can agree to whatever you want,

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

But if you're unilaterally enrolling a child in a sport, say an only is on your parenting time. And the other parent doesn't agree to participate in that they don't have to pay for it.

Chase Peckham:

Oh geez.

Jennifer Zachary:

So there's, there's again, very, not that many things are in black and white, so you can always go and challenge us in court.

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

You can say there's a special circumstance here that will justify the other parent paying regardless, but typically it's, you have to agree to participate in that , that activity. And then once you agree, you're paying for half of it.

Chase Peckham:

Oh. So I can make it even that much more difficult.

Jennifer Zachary:

Oh yeah.

Chase Peckham:

In that your kid wants to do this. And one parent probably can afford a lot of it. And the other parent cant,

Jennifer Zachary:

And you can agree, you know, people will agree, oh, 75% of the cost is, you know, dad and 25, his mom, you know, you can agree when people can get along, they can agree to whatever they want. Right. If they can't get along, you know, the court order is typically agreed upon extracurriculars 50, 50 medical expenses that are uncovered by insurance, 50 50, and then everything else you're paying for your kid is covered under the child support order. So there's no, you know, I bought him $25 shorts for school. You owe me $12.50, you know, there's none of that.

Chase Peckham:

It's typically a number and then you make it, it's like anything else, you budget for it. And that's what you have in, You deal with it.

Jennifer Zachary:

And is it fair or not? Well, you know, usually nothing's fair in divorce and family law . So

Felipe Arevalo:

I would imagine usually it's both sides not feeling that they got the fair part of the deal.

Jennifer Zachary:

Exactly. Yes, no one's ever happy. Rarely

Chase Peckham:

You hear the word common law a lot. And I know that there are so many states that are considered common law states. Can you kind of tell us, give us an idea of what that really means? Um ,

Jennifer Zachary:

Um , well, so California is not common law.

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

And so that's not something we typically deal with in California. There are a number of states and I looked at this a little bit. It's not something I've actually ever come across in my practice. Um, but there's like a handful of states that do recognize common law marriage. And the idea is that if you've been together for like seven years, you've held yourself out together as man and wife you've taken, you know, one of the parties is maybe taken the last name and the other party you've raised your children as you know, acting.

Chase Peckham:

Even though they're not legally married.

Jennifer Zachary:

Even though they're not legally married. I mean, there's, it's not just living together for seven years.

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

It's holding yourself out as man and wife. There's a lot. And each state has their own requirements to reach that level of being married. But once you satisfy that state's requirements of being in a common law marriage, you have a marriage that's recognized by other states as a legal marriage. So then if you moved to California

Chase Peckham:

So saying that you're half as responsible for half of the things that you've been together, okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah.

Chase Peckham:

Interesting.

Felipe Arevalo:

So if someone is in a common law state and they check off all the boxes and then they move to California. California will still recognize them as married because they've fulfilled their home states.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yes, yes. California will recognize a legal marriage in whatever state or country of origin, just as if they were married here. But you have to have a legal marriage from wherever you came from to have it recognized here.

Felipe Arevalo:

So on that note, when, when people move, because they, each state might be a little bit different, is it always going to follow the rules of their home state or is it going to follow like their original state back home, wherever that was, or would they fall into California law? Or what if they moved several times like military people who maybe they were in South Carolina and Florida.

Chase Peckham:

and weren't technically married.

Felipe Arevalo:

Hawaii, and now California, is that just.

Chase Peckham:

That's going to get sticky?

Jennifer Zachary:

I don't think you would have, you would be able to check all the boxes of the state because there be residence requirements are in and I don't know all the requirements,

Felipe Arevalo:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

But I'm , I'm pretty certain that you wouldn't be able to qualify under a particular state if you're moving that frequently.

Chase Peckham:

Basically you wouldn't be able to check all those boxes.

Felipe Arevalo:

That makes sense. So most of them will have some kind of like, you're only there for a week. Doesn't count

Jennifer Zachary:

It . That will not count. Yeah. I mean, you, you would probably have to be there. I mean, again, I didn't look at all the different statutes, but I assume that you would have to be there for like seven years to qualify.

Felipe Arevalo:

Got it .

Jennifer Zachary:

Like you couldn't be there for only two years, but be together for seven years, somewhere in total, you know,

Chase Peckham:

Do you here, are we here that , um, there's something like at fault , um, that they're , you know, somebody's cheated on their spouse and the other spouse that was cheated on filed for divorce and feels like, you know, I was completely fooled or whatever it might be do , does that have more legal right to assets and all those kinds of things? Um, based on the reason for the divorce,

Jennifer Zachary:

So in some states possibly, I don't know, all the states that recognize at fault divorces.

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

California is a no fault jurisdiction. So you don't have to prove anything to get a divorce. You just have to say, there's been irreconcilable differences between the parties and we've made a good go of it and we're giving up on it.

Chase Peckham:

Okay.

Jennifer Zachary:

And that's all it takes in California. So some jurisdictions, yes, you, I mean, it historically divorces, you did have to prove fault. That's why there'd be like private investigators back in the twenties, trying to find the, the cheating spouse and you'd have to prove it. And there was all very dramatic. Right? And it was at a disadvantage typically for the woman.

Chase Peckham:

Sure.

Jennifer Zachary:

Right. Because she didn't hold the assets and she couldn't afford it. And so she'd be basically trapped in the marriage. Um, so I think the law recognized that unfairness over time, and that's why it's gotten away from salt jurisdictions. Um, but there , I believe there are still some states that do require some showing of,

Chase Peckham:

I mean I know my brother-in-law , uh , they had to go through 12 months kind of a , I don't want to say a probation period, but a rest period before, you know, maybe you can fix things before we'll actually go through with it.

Jennifer Zachary:

Well, California has a similar period.

Chase Peckham:

They do?

Jennifer Zachary:

There's this six month waiting period after filing. So you can't get a divorce before six months after filing and service. Um, so you , in that period is I think with the intent of giving you the opportunity to say, you know what?

Chase Peckham:

A cool down period so to speak.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah. Are you sure? Are you sure you don't want to back out of this? Cause there's still time before it's final. So yeah, it's a, it's a bit of a period just to get that peace of mind that yes, you're absolutely certain you want to go through with this

Chase Peckham:

When you get to a certain point financially there you have it . Let's just say your client , uh , is saying, look, I deserve $3,000 a month. Um, their spouse is saying no way I can afford $3,000 a month. How did you come up with that number? How do you guys go about figuring what it is that one of the spouses is going to have to pay?

Jennifer Zachary:

Well, it's not just pulling numbers from the air.

Chase Peckham:

Yeah I would imagine it's not.

Jennifer Zachary:

So it's child support is very specific and in the codes, there is a very mathematical breakdown of how you calculate child support. And back in the day, I would feel really bad for whoever had to actually manually calculate it. Cause it's, it's a very complicated formula. Luckily we have a program called DissoMaster that you just plug in a bunch of numbers in it, and it's primarily the wages of each party. It's how they would file taxes. So if you're filing jointly or separately, how many exemptions you're claiming , um, you're , if you have a mortgage interest deduction, you're going to throw that in because that increases the amount of income you have available for support , uh , health insurance deduction. There's, there's various ways of tweaking. It there's a lot of fields that you could enter information in if it was relevant, but for most people it's, it may be three or four numbers that you're putting into the program. And then it will pop out a child support amount. And that child support amount is going to be directly impacted by the timeshare for the non-custodial spouse. So say , um, there's been a court order in , and you say, and let's just say for argument's sake, mom has a 30% time share with the children. Dad has primary custody. He is 70% timeshare with the children. Um, but dad makes more money. That timeshare is going to affect how much he ends up paying mom.

Chase Peckham:

Oh wow.

Jennifer Zachary:

So the more mom times the more of the timeshare mom would have under that scenario, the more money she would get since dad has paying.

Chase Peckham:

Gotcha.

Jennifer Zachary:

The less timeshare she had the less money he's paying her, because it's, it's, you're thinking about how much time each child is with the parent. It makes sense. The parent has more time. They're going to be spending more money on that child. If they're the payer. They should be paying less than the other parent. If they're the re , if they're the parent receiving the support, they should be receiving more money during that time period. So it's that there's a direct correlation. Um, so child support, sometimes there's, there's what you argue about in terms of the inputs or like the custodial timeshare, you're having a hearing on all those things at once. Um, sometimes you're arguing over income, if somebody's particularly self-employed, that's not always , uh , typically it's not a very black and white figure.

Chase Peckham:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

That there's a lot of room for argument there. Um, but if you have two W2 wage earners, not a lot of argument in this,

Chase Peckham:

So it's basically who's earning more.

Jennifer Zachary:

And who has the highest higher custodial.

Felipe Arevalo:

And who has them the most time.

Jennifer Zachary:

Who has time. So it's a formula it's available on in California on the court's website. You can go ahead and put in your own information so you can get an idea for yourself. It's a child support calculator. Um, once you have that information, as an attorney, spousal support is different. It's, you're not supposed to be looking at this child support calculator, but it does kick out a temporary support number as well. So that often is what everybody's looking at, because it, it gives you a number just based on the scenario that you have with the money. Um, so that's typically for temporary support orders. That's, that's not often a that's often what is referred to when it , when the, when a judge is making orders or when you're negotiating a support order. That's what you're going to look at. Um, long-term support when you're looking at the end of the case, when you're looking at what is the support amount going to be for however long, going to negotiate often.

Chase Peckham:

So there is a time limit on most of these things.

Jennifer Zachary:

Not always, not always, if , if it's been a very long marriage, there's no end point to support, it's just going to be open-ended and it can be usually it will be subject to having another hearing at some point or up for renegotiation at some point, depending on the circumstances, but, you know, may, and maybe this will be a different trend as time goes on. But certainly when I first started practicing, you'd get people married 20, 30 years. And they were, you know, typically the mom was a stay-at-home mom. Yeah. You're looking

Chase Peckham:

So would it be the length of the marriage typically?

Jennifer Zachary:

No, That's not.

Chase Peckham:

Really?

Felipe Arevalo:

There's no end point.

Jennifer Zachary:

It there's no end point . It's just , no , there's just, it's open-ended this is

Chase Peckham:

This is the way used to living my life. And

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah, I it's , it's hard for both people to swallow because the support often is not what they actually lived like. Right.

Chase Peckham:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

I mean, it's going to be a lot less than what you lived during the marriage, but the payor let's say typically husband is like, whoa, I have to pay this for an open-ended amount of time for who knows how long. And it's like, yeah Yeah, you do.

Chase Peckham:

It's like another house payment.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah. Even when he gets re married now he's got two wives to support.

Chase Peckham:

So that brings me to probably the, one of the last questions I have. And it's a trend that I have been seeing with people that I know , um, one, a friend, another people that I've gotten to know, but I have seen relationships that have looked into divorce and then decided that we're just going to stick it out for a number of reasons, either it's too expensive. Um , and we're just going to live in the same establishment and be friends and do our own thing. Have, are you seeing, or in your experience over time, have you seen, did you ever have anybody come to you and then they decided, you know what, we're just going to stick this out. It's too expensive.

Jennifer Zachary:

I honestly have not. Um, pretty much even reconciliation and throughout , you know, in the middle of the process has been extremely rare. I think maybe only once that happened.

Chase Peckham:

Really, that went through a therapy.

Jennifer Zachary:

That started the process and then called it off.

Felipe Arevalo:

And then changed their mind.

Jennifer Zachary:

And then changed their mind. Um, so no, in my practice, no most people who started it are seeing it through and they want nothing to do with the other person. And by the end of it, and often, you know, some every now and then you have people who can actually get along, which is great, especially for the kids. I mean, that's so much better than fighting all the time. Um, but now I haven't seen that trend. Um, but I understand it it's, you know, especially with kids, it's just watching this and seeing people live through it, trying to divide kids in households, having them go two days here, two days here, a week here and a week there and, and breaking everything up. Yeah. That's extremely hard. Right. But I will say , um, I think even harder would probably be having new relationships with new people, but still living with your ex I that, to me, I don't know how people would do that.

Chase Peckham:

I don't , yeah. from a non-legal matter. I mean, that's, that's a conversation that we have had , um, with I just, and , and what are the long-term effects on the children? I mean, they gotta know.

Jennifer Zachary:

Well sure.

Chase Peckham:

That and they feel it like there's not, something's not right.

Jennifer Zachary:

I will say just from my experience, the emotional scars that can be caused by parents who are very litigious, who've involved their children in their divorces who have put the children in the middle, who've caused just un imaginal amounts of contention and, and angsty in their family. That is probably the most damaging thing you can do in a divorce. And it's awful. It's awful how destroyed these kids are and how they've, you know, you watched all the problems they start having as they get older. It's awful. So the only thing I could say to that is if, if it's a better situation for everybody to be on better behavior, by doing that sort of cohabitation situation, then more power to you,

Chase Peckham:

Obviously everybody's different. And some people can handle that. I would, I would imagine you're right. Do you, as a, as a whole, do you see a lot of the parents using the kids against each other.

Jennifer Zachary:

Oh yes,

Chase Peckham:

And all that?

Jennifer Zachary:

Oh yeah and it's horrible.

Chase Peckham:

Even though they know it's screwing them up.

Jennifer Zachary:

A lot of people, the people that we've seen, a lot of people just aren't mentally healthy themselves.

Chase Peckham:

Yeah they are sad or angry.

Jennifer Zachary:

And they don't understand boundaries and they don't, they're depressed and they have mental illness and it's just, there's, there's a whole host of problems that they haven't addressed in their own lives that don't let them understand that their children, what their children are experiencing or what their children's needs are. So they just, you know, I'm not making excuses for them, but I just feel like they just can't comprehend how their actions are affecting their children and.

Chase Peckham:

They may not realize what they're doing.

Jennifer Zachary:

And they don't really realize it. And , and, you know, you'll a term that I never really heard before becoming a divorce attorney. And then I heard so much that it was, I just never want to hear it again, is narcissism. Once you start representing people, everybody's spouse is a, narcissist

Chase Peckham:

You've become an expert in narcissism

Jennifer Zachary:

And you hear it endlessly. And sometimes I think it's true sometimes yes, there's, there are a lot of people who are narcissistic and they just cannot see beyond themselves and to the detriment of their children. And sometimes the person calling the other person a narcissist is the narcissist, you know, and sometimes it's not there at all, you know, but it's, it's people. I, I think there is a crossover, there is a need for mental health in divorce situations, and that's something that's been recognized in the community.

Chase Peckham:

And are we seeing more of that?

Jennifer Zachary:

Um , You know, I think,

Chase Peckham:

Incorporating.

Jennifer Zachary:

But just culture in general, I think awareness in society about mental health and mental illness is helping that become a forefront picture and having judges at least be more aware of that. And in terms of when sometimes we're asking for parents to be ordered to go to therapy or children, to be ordered to therapy, go to therapy. And I think that's becoming more normal and more accepted, which is really good because

Felipe Arevalo:

I was going to say, is it something where they can be a part of the divorce as part of the divorce settlement, you've got to go to XYZ amount of things. And we have to take the kid to this much therapy and that kind of stuff?

Jennifer Zachary:

Yes yeah. It's , um, therapy orders are , are more routine, you know, and asking the judge to order it. If somebody won't agree, that's becoming more routine. Um, it's not to say that it's easy per se, but I think, I feel like the shift has been where maybe back in the day, 10 years ago, or so it's much harder to get that sort of order in place. Now the attitude is more, well, it can't , it's not going to hurt. Right.

Chase Peckham:

Right.

Jennifer Zachary:

And there's more of a recognition of all the emotional issues that go along with the divorce to say, yeah, I think this is a good idea just to get

Chase Peckham:

Well, especially just nowadays that type of care is handled by a lot of health insurance. So it doesn't get extraordinarily expensive and out of pocket so that I would imagine helps things. Well, Jen, thank you so much for being here today and explaining what can be so sticky.

Jennifer Zachary:

There's a lot to it. It's not something that I would say, you know, you just wing it or ballpark it, especially if it's at all complicated, but you know, I definitely have always encouraged my clients. If you can settle, if you can negotiate, if you can reach agreements without having to go to court and having, without going to trial go that route, because it's just, even if you're giving up more than you want to, because you will benefit from that in the long run, it's just so expensive and it's just emotionally destructive to have to go through that process. Just Don't get divorced. Maybe that's the takeaway.

Chase Peckham:

I don't think any of us get married planning on or are figuring we're going to get divorced. Eventually it just, it just seems to happen that way. And you know , hopefully when we say we do and for richer, for poorer in sickness and health, that it holds that way.

Jennifer Zachary:

Yeah let's hope.

Chase Peckham:

Then again , again, Jen, thank you for being with us today. And , uh, hopefully , uh, we can do this again.

Jennifer Zachary:

Thank you would love to.