Category Archives:Divorce Riverside County


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Divorce Help: Changing Your Name After Divorce

Divorce is very unsettling, to say the least.  It is difficult to think about changing one’s name when there are so many other more pressing issues, and many women decide to continue using their married names, at least for the time being.  Resuming your former name is a significant step. It marks a return to a former SELF, and for many women, this represents a positive step towards recovery and acceptance of the divorce.

Changing your name can be done at the time of divorce or at a later date, and is easy and cost-free.  It is slightly easier to restore your last name or change your current name during the divorce process.  If you are considering this, notify your divorce attorney before the divorce is finalized so it is handled as part of the judgment or settlement.  However, if you were not ready to make a name change at the time of divorce, and now you are, it is neither too late nor too difficult or expensive.

Change of Name Process

If you have to file a Petition for Change of Name in court, the process can take up to 3 months.  After you file your Petition for Change of Name, you will get a court date on your Order to Show Cause for Change of Name that will be between 6 and 12 weeks away.  If your paperwork is correct and you followed all the required steps, on or soon after your court date, the court will give you a court order called a “decree” officially changing your name.  Some courts are busier than others and it may take longer.

In some limited cases, the judge may not agree to change your name.  For example, this can happen if the judge finds that you are changing your name to commit fraud, or if the judge finds that you are changing your name to hide from the law or the police or for some other illegal reason.

Changing your name to your former name if your divorce is final and was granted in California.  Contact the court clerk in the county where the case was filed and give the court clerk the case number, case name (names of the parties), and the date of the order/judgment/filing, if possible. Include a copy of your Notice of Entry of Judgment (Family Law — Uniform Parentage — Custody and Support) (Form FL-190), if possible. Complete an Ex Parte Application for Restoration of Former Name After Entry of Judgment and Order (Family Law) (Form FL-395). Include a self-addressed, stamped, return envelope, if necessary.

If your divorce is NOT yet final. If you are getting divorced in California and the divorce is not final yet, you can ask the court to restore your name to your former name. You can ask for this when you submit your proposed Judgment (Form FL-180) for divorce. Talk to a  Family Law attorney to find out how to do this. If you want to change your name to something other than your maiden name or to a prior married name you used in the past, then you have to follow the steps for filing a Petition for Change of Name.

If you have any questions, contact a Family Law attorney who can review your forms to make sure you filled them out properly.

Once you have your court order changing your name (whether through your divorce or through the regular Petition for Change of Name process), you can use that court order to change your legal name on government-issued identification documents such as your driver’s license, passport, and social security card.  You will generally need a certified copy of the decree changing your name.  The court clerk can provide you with that.  You will have to pay a small fee or qualify for a fee waiver. 

Sharing Your New Name

If you have children, consider the impact of your decision to change your name, and give them a simple explanation for the switch.  The children will likely continue to use their father’s last name after the divorce is completed, so tell them the truth so they feel pride in their birth name.  Telling your family, friends, and acquaintances may require a more in-depth explanation, or none at all depending on if they knew you before you were married.  Be prepared to answer these types of questions.

A name change should not be an impulsive decision, nor is it alone the measure of your recovery from divorce. Before you change your name, make sure you have thought your decision through and it is best for you.

When filing for a California divorce, be sure to let the your attorney know if you wish to change your name.  It is much easier to do it at the time of divorce. When you elect to change names later additional work and costs are involved.

Divorce Help: Could Your Husband be Hiding Assets?

If you’re a woman who needs divorce help, you need to ask yourself those two tough questions:
    1. Could your husband be hiding assets? 
    2. If he is hiding assets, does that mean you won’t get the divorce settlement you deserve?
Hiding assets during a divorce is sneaky, unethical and illegal—yet, it happens all too frequently.  Even in the best of times, it can be extremely difficult to keep track of your financial portfolio (this list might include your marital residence, rental and/or vacation properties, bank and brokerage accounts, retirement and pension plans, stock options, restricted stock, deferred compensation, life insurance with cash value, perhaps a business or professional practice). When a couple decides to divorce, that task can get significantly more complicated.  
Unfortunately, as you go through the divorce process, your husband may try to hide income and/or assets to try to take advantage of the situation.  How can you help ensure you have an accurate accounting of your family finances?
For starters, be on the lookout for certain telltale signs that your husband has some dirty tricks up his sleeve. 
  • Bank and other financial statements are no longer being delivered to your home address. A change in regular delivery could signal that marital assets are being diverted or dissipated.  Check with your bank, credit card companies, etc. to make sure that you receive copies of your statements. You’ll want to start gathering these, as well as tax returns, pension/IRA/401K statements and other financial documents, so that you can keep your own records and be alerted to any unusual activity.
  • A sudden decrease in salary. Any dramatic decrease in salary may indicate that your husband has decided to defer salary and/or hold commissions and bonuses for future distribution.  (That way this income won’t be “on the books” until after the divorce is final.)
  • Intentional overpayments. What happens if your husband overpays the IRS (or other creditors)? He’ll get a refund later –presumably after the divorce is final. I’ve also known cases where people fabricate loans from family members. The idea here is that they can lower their bottom line by listing these debts in their financial statements or sending the family member cash to “pay the loans,” knowing that the family member will return the funds after the divorce. You should also watch for money that might be transferred to your child’s (or his child’s) name.
  • No new clients. But, surprise! New employees. If your husband owns a business, there are many different ways he can “cook the books” in order to make the business appear less valuable than it is.  Maybe he’ll pay employees who don’t exist, or “pay” friends and family who agree to hold the checks until after the divorce is final. He could also delay signing new clients until after the divorce settlement is signed. Remember: The less the business is worth, the less you’ll get.
  • Defensive behavior. A husband who suddenly becomes secretive, controlling or defensive about money could be someone who is diverting or dissipating marital assets. A forensic accountant can help you uncover this type of deceitful activity.
After that, you also need to be fully aware of the most common unethical practices husbands use.  Here is a small sampling of some of the tactics that can come into play.  If your husband wants to undervalue or disguise/hide marital assets he may:
  • Purchase items that could easily be overlooked or undervalued.  Maybe no one will notice that expensive antique/carpet that’s now at his office? Were you wondering why he recently made several significant additions to his coin/stamp/art collection?
  • Stash money in a safe deposit box, somewhere in the house or elsewhere.  Think through your husband’s recent habits and activities. Does anything lead you to believe he is hiding assets in actual cash?
  • Underreport income on tax returns and/or financial statements.  If it’s not reported, it can’t be used in a financial analysis.
  • Overpay the IRS or creditors. If your husband overpays, he can get the refund later, after the divorce is final.
  • Defer salary, delay signing new contracts and/or hold commissions or bonuses. This sneaky trick means this income won’t be “on the books” during the divorce proceedings.
  • Create phony debt.  Your husband can collude with family members and/or friends to establish phony loans or expenses.  Then, he can make payments to the family members or friends, knowing that he’ll get all the money back after the divorce is final.
  • Set up a custodial account in the name of a child, using the child’s social security number.  He could also use his girlfriend’s social security number, in which case it might be difficult to locate the account.
  • Transfer stock.  Your husband may transfer stock/investment accounts into the name of family members, business partners or “dummy” companies.  After the divorce is final, the assets can be transferred back to him.
You may be asking yourself, why would a husband do any of these things? Whatever the reason, hiding assets, income and debt is not only unethical; it’s also illegal and subject to severe penalties IF discovered.
Legal updates brought to you by  Riverside and OC attorneys of Don Ho Law, LLP.
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