Family Law

Resolution of family legal issues requires discretion and sensitivity, in addition to expertise. At a time of major transitions and uncertainties, McManis Faulkner combines a supporting, caring approach with strong, seasoned representation to create successful outcomes for all involved parties. In so doing, we provide the expertise and knowledge of a team of family law attorneys, rather than the single attorney most other firms offer.

Over the course of our 40 years in the law, we have worked with clients on issues such as:

  • Marital and domestic partnership dissolutions
  • Separation disputes
  • Domestic violence and issues stemming from drug or alcohol dependency
  • Child custody, visitation and support
  • Spousal support
  • Valuation of property and division of assets
  • “Move away” and abduction issues (domestic and international)

We begin each engagement by providing clients with a comprehensive resource binder that helps explain the language of family law and guides them through the process. We listen carefully to the details of every case and apply our considerable legal skills and insights to analysis of the matter. From this process we craft effective legal options specific to clients’ circumstances.

Complementing our family law team are the firm's civil and business litigation attorneys. Together they provide a powerful combination of family law sensibilities and business acumen.


Case Studies

Family Law Case Studies

McManis Faulkner Obtains Largest Ever Sanction Award

Result:
Original judgment of $ 552,153.28 in sanctions was affirmed. The Court of Appeal, Sixth Appellate District also sanctioned appellant $15,000 and each of her two attorneys $5,000.

Client:
In re the marriage of: Jane Doe, Appellant, and John Doe, Respondent

Overview:

After initiating divorce proceedings, child custody for the parties’ two minor children was contentious from day one. The mother moved across the country with the children when they were still toddlers. In 2006, just months after a permanent custody order was entered, the mother petitioned the Court for sole legal and physical custody of the children, inexplicably requesting supervised visitation for the father. After three years of intense litigation and exhaustive settlement negotiations, the parties reached a comprehensive written settlement regarding custody, including provisions to resolve future custody matters through alternative dispute resolution. The day after the orders were entered by the Court, the mother repudiated them – and then fired her attorneys.

The mother never filed a motion to set aside the agreement, but eventually filed a document titled “Rescission of Signature and Agreement Affixed Thereto.” In it, she purported to rescind the original agreement. During the next year, the mother, according to the trial judge, “created a legal universe all her own. In this universe, [the mother] does what she wants when she wants. She does not follow the Permanent Order or the Court’s subsequent orders. She does not appear in Court. She does not accept the Court’s authority to make orders.”

The father filed a motion for sanctions against the mother, requesting attorney’s fees to cover the numerous motions necessitated to enforce the stipulated custody orders and to defend against the improper custody litigation commenced by the mother on the East Coast.  After an uncontested trial on the father’s request for monetary sanctions and attorney’s fees, the Court ordered that the mother pay the father $552,153.28 pursuant to Family Code section 271.  This sanctions award is the largest ever in California family law.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Sixth Appellate District found that the mother put forth “completely and undeniably meritless arguments.”

In addition to affirming the original judgment, the court imposed sanctions against the mother and her attorneys of record, Kim M. Robinson and Richard Ducote.  The mother was ordered to pay $15,000 and the attorneys $5,000 each. 




Drug and Alcohol Dependency Issue Client

Result:
Obtained emergency custody and visitation orders awarding custody of children to client against a drug and alcohol addicted parent.

Client:
Business Executive/Sales Person

Overview:

Sole legal and physical custody was awarded to the father due to the mother’s addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. McManis Faulkner represented the father to obtain temporary custody, an emergency screening and a custody assessment at Family Court Services that resulted in recommended orders requiring the mother to meet specific and measurable benchmarks prior to visitation and custody being restored.




Cross-Country Custody Battle

Result:
Obtained a global settlement of all outstanding custody and visitation issues that provided our client with expanded parenting time and communication with the children.

Client:
Father - Silicon Valley Entrepreneur and Executive

Overview:

Parties separated 11 years ago, and the mother was permitted to move across the country with the parties’ children when they were still toddlers, before the move-away laws in California changed dramatically. Since moving, the mother engaged in a pattern of alienation that caused significant difficulty, both emotionally and physically, in the client’s relationship with his children. Just months after a permanent custody order was entered, the mother filed an application seeking sole physical and legal custody of the children, with limited, supervised visitation by the father. McManis Faulkner entered the case on the father’s behalf after two full years of discovery and litigation of the mother’s motion. Within a year, a global settlement was obtained that provided the client with significant additional parenting time and increased communication with the children. McManis Faulkner also obtained significant and numerous sanctions awards on behalf of the father for the mother’s misconduct throughout the custody case.

The stipulated agreement instituted a two-step alternative dispute resolution process, involving both co-parent counseling and co-parent coordination, to keep the parties from having to return to court. Under the terms of the agreement, the parties are to engage qualified mental health professionals to assist them in resolving any disputes that arose with respect to the children.

Previously the father’s role was limited to that of a “visiting parent,” spending time with the children only on weekends and school vacations. Since entry of the stipulated order, however, the father has had the opportunity to visit the children during the school week, and engage in their lives in a way that had been denied previously.




Hidden Assets

Result:
Order that client receive reimbursement for $50,000 that the spouse secreted during marriage in connection with his extramarital affair.

Client:
Stay-at-home Mother

Overview:

After 17 years of marriage, the wife arrived home one afternoon to find her husband’s personal belongings in a moving truck. The wife was suspicious of the husband’s financial management during their marriage. To determine whether he had diverted assets, McManis Faulkner prepared and served significant discovery. Through this process, it was found that the husband opened new accounts during the marriage in his mistress’ name and transferred community funds into this “firewall” account. McManis Faulkner traced these funds to community sources and obtained an order that he repay the client everything that was rightfully hers.

In the same case, McManis Faulkner traced a reimbursement claim for the client related to a separate property inheritance that the parties had used for the down payment on the family residence. The parties were nearly divorced a decade ago, but decided not to go through with it. The client’s attorney from a decade ago never discovered her right to these significant funds, but McManis Faulkner was able to trace them and provide her with a much-needed nest egg for her new life.




Drug and Alcohol Dependency Other Party

Result:
Represented a client with drug and alcohol dependency and provided him with a custom package of services through an emergency screening and custody assessment that resulted in joint custody and an equal timeshare schedule.

Client:
Small Business Owner

Overview:

McManis Faulkner worked with the father to regain custody and visitation rights with his children whom he had not seen in several weeks. The father was provided with appropriate resources to accomplish the goals set for him by Family Court Services to regain visitation and custody. The father regained contact with his children and managed his sobriety with great success. The collaborative process involved working with family members, community drug and alcohol resources and medical providers to create change and a new future for the father.




Settlement of Spousal Support Based on Vocational Assessment

Result:
Negotiated settlement of spousal support based on vocational assessment and discovery showing one party’s failure to earn to capacity.

Client:
High Tech Executive

Overview:

McManis Faulkner successfully implemented the work of vocational experts and work efforts orders to show that the supported spouse was malingering and not actively seeking re-employment. Experts were used to assess the spouse’s earning capacity. The experts’ reports and testimony demonstrated specific activities the spouse should have performed to become self-supporting. The spouse’s failure to follow the Court’s orders and recommendations of the vocational experts resulted in the client paying a modest support award with termination of support in three years.




"Marvin" Case

Result:
Seven-figure divorce settlement for client in spite of many obstacles including a prenuptial agreement.

Client:
Retired Flight Attendant, Stay-at-home Mother

Overview:

A flight attendant, who was the sole support for her four children, met a single, never married doctor on a flight. After a long-distance relationship developed into deep attachment, the doctor asked the flight attendant to move with her children to California. After several years of living in a rented house, the doctor asked the flight attendant and her children to live with him. She moved in, continuing her own work, as well as acting as a homemaker and hostess for the doctor’s growing business. When the airline she worked for ceased operations, the doctor asked her not to find another job so that she could devote herself to him, his business and the household. Finally, the doctor asked her to marry him, but only if she signed a prenuptial agreement renouncing all rights to the income and assets accumulated in their years together and severely limiting her rights to future income. Now totally dependent on the doctor, she signed the agreement. Shortly thereafter, the doctor left her and filed for divorce. The doctor tried to enforce the premarital agreement. McManis Faulkner challenged the validity of the premarital agreement. The main issue in the case was the client’s right to the large increase in the value of the doctor’s business before marriage, which represented the major economic asset. Unmarried couples typically have no rights in the assets and income of each other accumulated while they live together, even if they later marry. Only if the couple has a contract (oral or written) with each other are they entitled to share assets accumulated during their relationship. The doctor nevertheless agreed to settle, paying the client more than $1 million.




High Asset Case / Community Business

Result:
Dissolution of marriage with multi-million dollar assets including valuation and division of real property and complex settlements involving buyout of spousal support and valuation and division of business.

Client:
Business owner

Overview:

The case was resolved largely without litigation, through the cooperation and collaboration of the parties and counsel who worked through the issues and exchanged information in a cost-efficient manner. Forensic accountants assisted in determining the value of a privately held business. McManis Faulkner used creative solutions to craft a settlement that included the division of one spouse’s interest in the community business.