Property Rights for Unmarried Couples

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediators; California Divorce MediatorsIt is easier for unmarried couples to separate or breakup mutually rather than go through a divorce. If both the parties can agree on the division of their assets, there is no need to approach a court of law. At most, you may need to employ the professional help of a legal mediator.

If you and your partner cannot reach an agreement and have to go through a divorce procedure, here are some of the legal rules pertaining to property division that you need to be aware of:

  • Divorce laws governing married couples are not applicable to unmarried couples who are separating – Only those couples recognized under a legal marriage or registered as domestic partners get to divide their property following the family law available to married couples.
  • Each unmarried partner has right to their own property – If the unmarried partners have not signed a deed establishing joint ownership of the house or do not have joint accounts in the banks, each partner is the owner of their own property. All debts and assets remain with the original owner unless the partners have signed any agreement.
  • Partners have signed a written agreement – If written agreements have been signed, the partners will get shares as stated in the agreement even if they approach a court for a separation.
  • If everything is jointly owned – If the unmarried couple jointly own any property or assets or debts, everything gets divided 50 -50. An exception can be made if an agreement stating otherwise has been signed.

If a situation arises where you have to approach the court for a settlement on matters related to property, it would be considered similar to the dissolution of a business. The ordinary business section of the state’s civil court will settle the matter.

To avoid such confusing and difficult situations related to unmarried separation, unmarried partners are encouraged to prepare and sign a written ‘living together agreement’. The agreement should cover matters related to property, house, and other assets.

Written agreements are legally enforceable in all courts of law. A written document can, in most instances, do away with the need of going to the court. It makes the separation a lot less difficult.     

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Protecting your Assets in Divorce without a Prenuptial Agreement

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Premarital agreement orange county; California Divorce MediatorsMost California and Orange county divorce cases have assets at the core of the fight between the two spouses. The importance of assets to each of the spouse is paramount since the word assets is used to describe all kinds of properties, personal, commercial, and even business stakes. The reason both spouses are willing to give their all in divorce cases is because they are looking to have the largest amount of assets for themselves.

Increasingly, spouses have started to get into pre-nuptial (premarital) agreements to make sure that their assets are protected from that dreaded day in divorce court. Some spouses however cannot agree on pre-marital agreements to have their assets protected. Here is a list of a few other options that such spouses can use to make sure their assets are protected despite not getting into a pre marital agreement.

Make Sure You Keep Your Funds Separate

This step is fairly simple and will allow you to escape lots of complexities in your divorce case moving ahead. If you have separate funds that belong exclusively to you, and were in your possession before you got married, make sure you keep the money that you had prior to your marriage in an individual account. This will allow it to be easily distinguished from the joint assets.

Separate Your Separate Property

One of the most important things in the assets category tends to be property. Property is often the most valuable of all assets and therefore will be fought over with the most commitment by the spouses. The best way to make sure that you protect the property that you have had in your possession even before the marriage is to keep it separate from your joint property with your spouse. This is trickier than handling separate funds.

If you have separate property that belonged to you even before you got married, the best way to keep it away from your divorce proceedings is to manage all its expenses from money from your pre marriage wealth exclusively. Any use of mutual funds to pay off the properties recurring expenses could drag what should have been your exclusive property into your Orange County divorce proceedings.

Making A Trust To Protect Assets

One of the easiest ways you and your spouses can protect their assets is by creating a trust before marriage. A trust will mean that there is a clear determination by the spouses to keep some parts of the property separate. When a trust ownership is involved in assets cases of divorces, judges will be more willing to accept that the spouses intended to keep certain aspects of the assets separate from the division.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Making Your Divorce Mediation Checklist

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsThere are several factors that play a part to determine the failure or success of Orange County divorce mediation. The levels of trust between the couple, the willingness to negotiate, the case’s complexity, and the level of contention are just a few of these. There are two parts to divorce mediation – one can be described as the work of the Orange County divorce mediator while the other is the work of the two spouses. One of the most important thing spouses need to do, to make their mediation successful, is to come to mediation prepared and having thought about important aspects.

It is advisable to make a divorce mediation checklist prior to the start of mediation so that you have your goals and the list of issues that you want to address in mediation, listed in order of importance to you.  Here are some of the issues that you will likely address as part of your checklist.

·         The Children in the Marriage

Children are often considered the most important issue in a divorce mediation. Before a couple decides to part ways, the children in the family are likely to have spent their time under co-parenting by both the parents. This however cannot be the case after divorce. Spouses need to, before they come to an Orange County divorce mediation, deliberate on the amount of time they can give their child, the timings that will be feasible for them and their own activity time table. These are important matters to consider, since during a divorce, the most affected people after the spouses are their children. All through the process, make sure you are there for them to support and calm their fears.

·         Debts

This is never a topic that couples love talking about. Yet, it is one of the most important assets (or liability) that needs to be divided between the spouses much like the rest of the assets. Before coming to mediation, it is best for you to have a private one on one conversation with your spouse to avoid any surprises that might await him/her in the mediation process.

·         Real Estate

We have talked about children being the most important assets, but real estate is one asset that comes a very close second. These are often the largest chunk of the monetary materials and hence are the most hotly contested aspect of a divorce. Any property that has been created in between the time the marriage lasted can be regarded as joint property. This aspect is likely to involve all kinds of homes, lands, etc., including the one you currently live in making this one of the most important aspects to think about pre mediation.

·         Business

People who own business are likely to derive their source of income from them. Business, if jointly run or made/ significantly enhanced during the marriage, would have to be divided between the two parties. This might not work out too well for a business’ profitability and hence you need to talk about this aspect with your spouse before your mediation date to make sure your financial interests are protected.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Why Peaceful Divorce Mediation Works Well

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Divorce mediation attorneys Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsDivorce is one of the hardest fought cases between the people, since it involves not only assets and children, but it also involves lots of emotions each of which can take a toll on  spouses. The process of divorce can be divided into two broad categories legally, i.e. divorce through mediation and divorce through litigation. On the more practical side of things, this can also be divided as peaceful divorce mediation and bitter divorce litigation proceedings.

Orange County divorce mediation is becoming a more common methods for couple to get divorced. The primary reason for this is the emotional and procedural benefits that such a method gives to spouses. Peace is one word that is important when associated with a process as emotionally sapping and bitter as divorce.

Here are a few reasons why peaceful Orange County divorce mediation is what you want to consider.

·         Peace will nurture the parental relationships

One of the things that hurt a child most is seeing their parents fight it out against each other. In the process of divorce litigation, this is one of the norms. More often than not, spouses will be logger heads against each other, will bad mouthed one another in the process, among other things. This will not harness but destroy their relationship with their children. The bitterness created from such ruckuses is hard to get away from. In the case of Orange County divorce mediation, however, the tables are likely to be turned. The fact that the process is based on cooperation means that even when getting divorce the parents will have a sense of cordiality and cooperation between them.

·         You can get what you want without fuss

Divorce mediation is all about the cooperation, communication and coordination that go on between the spouses. The role of the mediators is simply one to try and facilitate the proceedings and not dictate them. As opposed to bitter litigations, a mediator will not give you any order that both the spouses have to follow. The mediation agreement is all about spouses and how much they are willing to work towards a peaceful resolution. The cooperative nature of the divorce means that mediation will allow you to agree upon what is best for you and what you want.

·         Peace also comes with a variety

No one size fits everyone. This is one of the most famous statements that have come to define the world.  Everyone in the world is different and the fact of them being different means that they are all in need of something that is made specifically for them instead of being treated generally. While litigation has set court procedures that cannot be truly modified, it is mediation that allows such spouses the chance to make the most of the flexibility of options.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Debunking Divorce Mediation Myths

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Divorce mediators Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsEver since the rise of the process of divorce mediation and its subsequent popularity among couples wanting to end their marriage, a few myths surrounding the phenomenon have also come into being. The leading myth that is attached to divorce mediation is regarding certain types of couples not being able to get the best out of divorce mediation in a way that other couples can. This, however, is nothing but a myth and has no real substance in reality. All kinds of couples can try divorce mediation and be able to get a cooperative, coordinated, and communicated divorce for themselves.

Here is a list of a four of the leading candidates that have been said to be at a disadvantage in regards to divorce mediation and their myths debunked.

People That Have Assets

There is a common myth that people that have assets should avoid Orange County divorce mediation, since the mediation process is unlikely to work efficiently in cases where assets are involved. In reality though, the facts are quite the contrary.

In reality for couples that have significant amount of assets, divorce mediation is likely to be a better option than litigation. Litigation proceedings are long, time-consuming and costly, which will need the spouses to utilize their assets to finance the case. In divorce mediation, however, both the spouses will be able to save tens of thousands of dollars in terms of litigation costs and still be able to amicably agree on the division of assets without an ill feeling involved.

People with Children

Living with divorce parents is unlikely to be an easy experience for the child, yet what is more damaging for such a child is having to see his/her parents fight it out in court and for the divorce to become a long drawn out process. While the myth is that divorce mediation is not effective when children are involved, the reality once again is different. .

Mediation is the best way for parents to end their marriage if children are involved, since mediation allows for amicable, hassle free resolution of issues and disputes.

People that have hired a Lawyer

It is believed that people who have already filed paperwork for divorce in courts and hired an attorney cannot try their hands at divorce mediation. This, however, is not true.

Divorce mediation can be used at any stage by the spouses as long as they are willing to contribute to the resolution of the dispute. The fact that you have hired a lawyer will affect the mediation in no way. If you want, you may ask your lawyer to represent you in the mediation or even keep him/her by your side for help.

People who want to do it themselves

Increasingly, people are trying to save on costs and want to do things on their own. While there have been rumors that mediation is not for people who want to do it themselves, such rumors are baseless.

Divorce mediation is a process that allows the people to be able to represent themselves and even decide the solution among them.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

How to Tell Your Children About Your Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange-County-divorce-mediation-attorneys; California Divorce MediatorsNo matter how old they are when you and your significant other decide to part ways, your children will still be greatly affected by the divorce. It will be up to you and your partner to see to it that they handle the news well. Don’t bombard them with the news when they least expect it, but explain to them why both of you have taken this decision.

Even though your children may already know that something’s up, most probably, they are too afraid to admit. For this one time, you and your partner will have to band together and break the news gently to them, and here’s how you should do it:

1.     Do It Together

When you break the news to your children, you should do it together. Parents that do it alone because they can’t stand their ex, confuse their child even more, as they will be hearing two different versions from two different perspectives. Therefore, both of you need to sit together to decide on a story to tell your child. Try to agree on a story to tell them that doesn’t end with your father or mother is bad.

2.     Do Not Blame Your Partner

Your partner and you may not see eye to eye anymore, but the doesn’t give you grounds to mock your ex in front of your child. Your child doesn’t need any more drama in their life, as this is a sensitive time for them. If your children are young, they will be more impressionable, which means they may blame themselves for your divorce. This is something that you need to avoid doing at all costs and anytime, you well up with anger, think of your children to help you cool down and regain your exposure.

3.     Use Simple Language

Young children don’t want you to provide them with a complex reason such as “Your father cheated on me.” You want to explain to them about what is exactly going to happen after the two of you get divorced. You start by telling them that one of you is going to get an apartment, which they will come and visit. However, this conversation needs to happen after both of you have decided on the days and times each will get to spend time with your child.

4.     Do Not Delve Into the Details

You will have to stay organized during this time, as you don’t want your child to come across anything that they shouldn’t be seeing. Moreover, you will have to take certain precautions when discussing your divorce proceedings. You don’t want your child to witness both of you discussing matters that rile each other up. So, choose a time, place, and day to talk about this, away from home.

Children are the glue that keeps a family together and you want to keep that glue intact by being careful in how you both address each other in their presence.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

A Guide to Marital Settlement Agreements in Mediation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange-County-divorce-mediators; California Divorce MediatorsMarital settlement agreement is a contract signed by both parties, agreeing on the terms and conditions decided by them during the divorce mediation process. The contract is then made part of the dissolution of marriage order and has the same impact as a judge would have if he or she had decided on who gets what in court.

If the contract is just, both divorcing parties will be content with what they agreed upon during the mediation sessions. However, in the case of a family court, the judge may view the agreement to make a ruling on the fairness of the agreement drawn up.

Normally, the agreement is final, which is a relief for both parties, as the conflicts were put to rest during the divorce mediation sessions. In some cases, the partners may require the assistance of a lawyer if the combined assets are high in value or if minor children are involved. If you’re not facing any such issue, you won’t need a lawyer to assist you negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract and through divorce mediation, you’ll be able to take care of all the major aspects of the divorce.

What Does a Marital Settlement Agreement Contain?

Marital settlement agreement contains important categories that will have a profound effect on your life after the divorce is finalized. The divorce mediator will go over one category at a time during the several sessions that you will have with him or her.

The discussion will be about various issues that need to be sorted out before anything is signed. Some of the issues that are discussed include the division of property, division of debts, alimony, visitation rights, child support, and child custody.

These issues during a litigation proceedings can take days to decide, but not during divorce mediation sessions. The reason for this is that both parties enter the mediation session with a cool head and on the basis of creating an understanding between the two instead of adding more fire to the fuel. Here is a list of issues discussed in the meetings:

  • Minor Children– Who gets the children, visitations days and time, and other issues are discussed.
  • Alimony– This depends on the laws of the state you filed for divorce in.
  • Division of Assets– Personal property such as money, stocks, bank accounts, bonds, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, furniture, clothing, cars, and other assets are discussed. Next, on the list to be discussed is real property such as the house or any stores that you own.
  • Debts– Both of your debts will be discussed in detail, and then will be divided amongst the both of you. However, the debt must be applicable to you and if you were responsible for it, you should take ownership for it to minimize conflict.

After all of these points are covered in detail, the partners will decide what they want to do and draft the marital settlement agreement.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Three Practical Ways to Prepare for Divorce Mediation

Posted by: Gerald Maggio

28416853_mlWhile it is true that divorce mediation can save time, money and heartache, mediation won’t skip over the details to get to a resolution. Mediation is a comprehensive process that examines all of the relevant facts of a couple’s situation thoroughly.

One of the best things that divorcing parties can do ensure that mediation moves forward smoothly is to devote some time to preparation. While it is ideal if both parties have taken steps to prepare, it still helps the process along if at least one of the parties comes well-prepared.

1. Begin gathering documents.
All divorce processes require a hefty amount of paperwork, and nothing creates a speed bump like missing information. Ask your mediator for a complete list of the documents required, identify those not in your possession and request them immediately. Obtaining records can be a lengthy process, and divorcing parties who don’t emphasize their collection can find themselves growing frustrated with the haphazard process that can result.

2. Find and use a co-parenting communication tool.
A number of online communication tools exist for planning and communicating about the practical details of family life, and some of them are uniquely designed for separated or divorced parents. Co-parenting tools like Our Family Wizard can reduce conflict and misunderstanding while helping keep communication drama-free. With effective, practical co-parenting tools in place, mediation can move forward smoothly.

3. Create a divorce mission statement.
Write down your goals for yourself and your family through the divorce. If you are having trouble doing this on your own, we suggest getting some context: talk to a therapist, watch a documentary about divorce or read a book. Outside references can help you articulate what you do and do not want. We have found that divorce mission statements help participants stay focused, making the process easier and the outcome more successful.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

The Key Differences between Divorce Mediation, Collaborative Divorce, and Litigation

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsThe saying, “Till death do us part,” never really lives up to what it dictates with more partners opting for divorce courts instead of living happily ever after.  For those seeking to divorce when divorce is the only remaining option, such parties can choose to get divorced by seeking a divorce mediation, collaborative divorce, or litigation. These divorce methods are different from each other in these ways:

What is Divorce Mediation?

The pair who is splitting up hires a divorce mediator to help them establish a settlement agreement. The mediator doesn’t favor one party over the other, but works neutrally with both parties.


  • Helps to maintain an cordial relationship with your partner even after the divorce
  • Children will not be caught in middle of a child custody battle in the instance you have kids
  • Speeds up the divorce proceedings
  • Less expensive
  • The partners make the decision and not the court
  • Lets two people handle the divorce in private


  • If two people are not able to reach an agreement, some additional money and time will have been spent in the process
  • An inexperienced divorce mediator may be biased towards one partner
  • If the agreement is not drafted correctly or if legal problems arise, it can be challenged in court (which can be a problem if the mediator is not also an experienced divorce attorney)
  • The agreement may not be fair if one partner overpowers the other partner

What is Collaborative Divorce?

In order to avoid going to court, the separating partners can decide to go the route of collaborative divorce, which is a separate system where each party agrees to that system.  By doing so, each party is represented by a collaborative divorce attorney trained in collaborative divorce.  In addition, there is a financial professional involved that handles all of the financial disclosure work, and generally one or both parties also have a “divorce coach” involved, such as a therapist.  In other words, there can be at least 4 professionals involved in the collaborative divorce process.


  • Provides the partners with solutions to reach an amicable settlement agreement
  • The process is meant to resolve cases peacefully out of court
  • The couple divorcing are in-charge of deciding what to do with their lawyers advising them along the way
  • Lets partners address a variety of issues unlike in court


  • Unlike divorce mediation where there is generally just the divorce mediator involved, the collaborative divorce process involves multiple professionals, all of which must be paid for their services.  As a result, the collaborative divorce process is not necessarily a cost-effective way to resolve divorce cases compared to divorce mediation
  • If an agreement is not reached, the collaborative divorce attorneys will have to resign from the case and the partners will have to appoint new attorneys, as neither party can hire the same attorney

What is Litigated Divorce?

Litigated divorce is the most common divorce, as the two parties hire separate attorneys and fight in court on the issues of divorce such as child custody and the distribution of assets.


  • Most common divorce procedure
  • Best for divorcing parties who cannot work together in resolving their disputes
  • The most appropriate procedure where domestic violence or abuse is involved


  • It’s expensive and produces financial distress for the average divorcing family
  • If the partners have children, child custody battle could turn ugly
  • Often puts children in the middle of the divorce disputes and causes the most emotional damage to children
  • Tends to take the most time to resolve
  • Produces animosity, stress, and fuels further litigation
  • Results in court orders not worked out by the parties and which might not be as enforceable as a result

If you are located in Orange County or anywhere else in California, and are planning to get divorced, you should seek the assistance of a reliable California divorce mediator. For further information or to schedule a consultation with California Divorce Mediators, please call (949) 553-0911 or visit  California Divorce Mediators is an experienced Orange County Divorce Mediation and Family Law firm serving the Orange County and Riverside areas and neighboring counties, serving individuals, couples and families with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, spousal support, child support and child custody issues.  As Orange County divorce mediators and Orange County divorce lawyers, we have the experience to help you decide if divorce mediation is a good option for you and your situation.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”

Posted on Friday, August 1st, 2014. Filed under California Divorce Mediation, California Family Law, Divorce, Divorce Mediation, Family Law, Mediation, Orange County divorce, Orange County divorce mediation, Orange County divorce mediators.
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4 Ways to Communicate Effectively with Your Partner During a Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Top Divorce Mediators Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsWhen two people decide to part ways, they may not be on speaking terms with each other, but may still want an amicable settlement that can be done efficiently and quickly without the intrusion of lawyers fighting a costly battle for the rights of their clients.

Whatever your issues are with each other, you need to put them aside prior to coming to the table and proceeding with divorce mediation in Orange County, California. In order to come up with an agreement that both parties are satisfied with, communication needs to be clear, unbiased, and free of emotion (albeit sometimes easier said than done). For divorce mediation to be successful, adopt the following ways to communicate effectively:

1.     Choose a Neutral Stance on Issues

When talking with a mediator, many hot button issues may come up such as child custody, who gets the house, and other financial issues. Either you can take on a stubborn and unwavering approach when addressing these issues or you can ask your partner’s input on the issue, come up with reasonable solutions, and come to an understanding agreed on by both of you.

2.     Listen to Your Partner

Ask your partner to voice up their concerns first before you share your input on it. By taking turns speaking and sharing views on certain issues, the mediator can make an agreement that is fair to both parties. While your partner is speaking, be sure to keep quiet and be attentive to what they are trying to communicate. Even if you do not agree with them, do not interrupt them mid-way. When it’s your turn to speak, they may do the same.

3.     Make Certain that You Fully Understand the Agreement

Neither of you want to be misunderstood while communicating your views. If your partner says something, ask them again to avoid confusion when the settlement agreement is drawn up. Remember to use a respectful tone when asking them to clarify their point. Do not jump on them about something you don’t agree with before hearing it the second time. If you give them respect, they will give you respect in return. Listen to them, ask them again, and only then agree on it.

4.     Present Your Views in an Objective Manner

Just like in a court of law where someone has to provide the judge with proof to prove their client’s innocence, you need to do the same during divorce mediation.  You want the issues solved rather than become bigger than they already are.

In order to do that, you need to present your views on issues objectively. Provide them with evidence to back up your claim. For instance, the issue to keep or sell the house should be dealt with by providing evidence from different real estate agents on the value of the house.

By incorporating this communication technique while negotiating with your partner on issues, you both will be able to agree on a settlement in a good-natured manner.

If you are located in Orange County or anywhere else in California, and are planning to get divorced, you should seek the assistance of a reliable California divorce mediator. For further information or to schedule a consultation with California Divorce Mediators, please call (949) 553-0911 or visit  California Divorce Mediators is an experienced Divorce Mediation and Family Law firm serving the Orange County and Riverside areas and neighboring counties, serving individuals, couples and families with legal issues including divorce, legal separation, spousal support, child support and child custody issues.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, “What is Divorce Mediation.”