Attorney Donald Schweitzer’s “Exhibit A” podcast has been helping couples and families deal with the sometimes stressful logistics that can accompany family law cases for a number of years now.
In response to reader requests, Pasadena Now presents highlights of three of Mr. Schweitzer’s popular episodes from the last year.
The first is a recent podcast from January 2020, entitled “Exhibit A: How to Make a Financial Recovery, Post-Divorce.”
Schweitzer talks with Gail Roque of Roque and Associates. Schweitzer’s firm deals with Roque frequently and often refers clients in need of financial advice, to them.
As Schweitzer discusses, “A lot of people in my practice are people who never really took the helm with respect to dealing with finances,”
As he notes, “I see a lot of cases where one spouse or the other manages everything. Sometimes they’re very secretive about the finances and they don’t let the other side know what’s going on. Consequently, the ‘out spouse,’ as we call them, doesn’t pick up the habits, doesn’t have any knowledge about how to do finances, they just basically know how to spend money according to what was given them, like a credit card or some cash, or anything.”
Roque explains that she would advise young couples who are divorcing very differently than she would for older couples.
Younger couples should be looking at a wide range of options that are available to them.
“If I’m working with a younger person,” says Roque, “what we call an ‘achiever,’ they are just beginning to start looking at savings. They probably paid off debt, student loans and so on. And they really want to look at the bigger picture. If they have children, education planning, they’re thinking about insurance needs may, may own a home. If not, they’re looking to purchase one. So I help in all those areas, but then also take it one step further and we talk about estate planning, retirement, making sure that they are doing a little bit of planning for those areas, too.”
On the other hand, a 60-year-old who gets divorced needs to look at a different strategy in their financial planning, Roque says.
“If somebody is heading into retirement, they’re very, very focused on ‘Am I there yet? Do I still have to save a little bit more? What is the strategy? What is the plan?’ With those folks, a lot of times it’s mainly taking care of what other retirement assets you have in place and what your income looks like,” says Roque. “They’re usually in their highest earning years at this point in time. And social security: when do they want to start claiming Medicare, how soon is it going to be before they’re on Medicare. Estate planning, is that in place? What insurances do they still need, what are they going to be looking at to make changes to long-term care planning, that becomes very important as well as medical issues.”
Oftentimes, some discussions come down to the hammer and nails of the relationship. For example, in a difficult child custody case, the question becomes, ‘Where do you meet to drop the child off?”
Schweitzer discussed the issue in a podcast on October 7, 2019. As he notes in his “Don’s Desk” series, he advises against exchanges of children at either parties’ residences, to avoid conflicts inside of the house.
A curbside meeting in front of their houses next to their cars is doable, Schweitzer says, but notes that this solution isn’t always realistic.
Sometimes the level of animosity is too intense, he says, or the parties live too far apart to make this work. In those cases, meeting in the middle could be a commonsense solution.
And perhaps a good place might be the well-trafficked parking lot of a local supermarket.
But Schweitzer also cautions that when a party has concerns for his or her safety or believes the other party is likely to act out during the exchange, the safest neutral place could well be the local police department either in the station’s lobby or the parking lot.
FInally, divorce and child custody cases aren’t always what you see on TV, not even in so-called “reality TV” programs.
In his season 2 episode, “Hollywood vs. Reality,” Schweitzer’s guest, Attorney Anthony Lai explains that, “The reality of family court is that it’s not as sexy, or exciting, as what you see on TV or in the movies.”
Lai says. “They tend to trump up the drama up to Level 11 to make a good TV show, which is great. But, unfortunately, what that causes is a misconception of what family court is really like. It’s much more procedural. It’s much more structured, and the back-and-forth arguing, the yelling and screaming, a lot of that isn’t really happening in real life. It happens sometimes, but a good judge would not allow that to happen.”
Both Scheiwitzer and Lai agree that a common myth is that every family law case requires a court hearing — a belief that sometimes leads parties in a matter to be hesitant, to pursue their issues further.
“The good news is that 80 to 90 percent of family law cases get resolved without you ever having to step foot into a courtroom,” Lai tells Schweitzer. “The very small minority of the cases that do tend to be the ones that are a little bit higher conflict or ones that you’re not able to come to agreement on. But it is entirely possible to get your case resolved without ever having to go to court.” Schweitzer says that in his experience, he finds that the only time that family cases go to trial is “when the other side is being unreasonable.”
“So I think that’s the reason why most of us settle 95 percent of our cases right now,” Schweitzer says. “Some people may have to go to court initially, but they don’t necessarily have to go to trial. And trial actually doesn’t occur as often as people think. And that’s good.”
Another common misconception people have is that mothers always win in family court cases.
“We’re now in 2019 and, and the job market has changed. Women are working and that notion of women or mothers being the only winners in family law court is no longer true,” Lai said.
“There is no real specific gender bias as to who is successful in court. It really does matter who has the better case, who’s better prepared and who can prepare their arguments and the case.”
Along with a team of partners and experts in his field, Schweizer regularly posts helpful and informative videos on their website and YouTube channel.
The Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer are at 201 South Lake Ave Ste. 800, in Pasadena. More information on their services is available at (626) 683-8113, or visit pasadenalawoffice.com.