Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Getting Along During the Holidays

The holidays can be a difficult time reminding you of better years when the family was still together. It is sometimes helpful to take a vacation during the holidays to get away from painful triggers and escape the stress of cooking and cleaning, questions from well-meaning relatives and friends, decorating, going to parties alone, etc. Your children should be told that the holidays will be a happy time and you will make new memories. For examples of how to create new family traditions, check out a book by Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe called Ex-Etiquette for Holidays and Other Family Celebrations . The authors' book on how to handle the holidays is practical and thorough. Make sure that you think about your child's best interests in making your plans. Be respectful of your ex's rituals and traditions and try not to speak ill of your ex-spouse or his family, or or anyone else for that matter.
Emphasize for the children that they will be celebrating with both parents and that the important thing is being together, not necessarily on a certain day. Just be sure to avoid giving your younger child the power to make the decision as to with which parent she or he will be during certain celebrations. That could make him or her feel guilty.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Noteworthy Changes in our tax laws for 2009

There are many tax incentives set to expire. As a result, accelerating qualifying expenses into 2009 to take advantage of these incentives, rather than incurring them early in 2010, may make a significant difference in your overall tax bill. Some noteworthy changes in 2009 include the following:
• New vehicle deduction - The new economic stimulus law includes a special tax provision
designed to generate sales of motor vehicles. It applies to qualified vehicles purchased after
February 16, 2009.
• Residential Energy Credits - Take advantage of the energy tax credit for installations in
your home. The new economic stimulus law enhanced the residential energy credit for
installations in 2009.
• For businesses, bonus depreciation and enhanced "section 179 expensing," both designed
to temporarily encourage business to make capital investments, likely will be headed for
extinction at the end of 2009.
• Education Tax Credits - Qualifying taxpayers can now deduct 100% of the first $2,000
of tuition and related expenses and 25% of the next $2,000 of expenses for the first four
years of postsecondary education.
• Unemployment compensation - First $2,400 excluded from federal taxation in 2009.
• Cash for Clunkers - Excludable for federal tax purposes but potentially taxable in

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Too many changes!

Along with my two associates, Drorit Bick Raiter and Katherine Su, I went to the San Fernando Valley Bar Association Family Law Section dinner meeting last night and heard Supervising Judge Marjorie Steinberg give us more bad news about all the family law judges who have barely learned how to handle their assignments being transferred out of family law and new judges with absolutely no experience in family law, or some with a bit, taking their place. Starting next week! Clients need to know that the whole system is so precarious right now that it is imperative to try to take the issues out of the courtroom and work in one of the alternative dispute resolution forums available, such as mediation or collaborative law to maintain at least a modicum of control over their own lives. The budget for family law court has been slashed by $90 million. If an employee leaves, there will be no replacement. There already is furlough day once a month on Wednesdays. Litigants will likely have to travel farther to a consolidated courthouse to have their matter heard because resources are being cut so much at individual branch courts, only a few will be hearing family law matters in the future. The legislature and our governor needs to know THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. Please contact your local representatives and tell them to introduce and/or sign legislation directing more of the State's budget to the Family Law Courts where people's lives - children's lives - are at stake.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Congratulations to Avery Cooper and Frieda Gordon

Avery Cooper and Frieda Gordon were named among the Super Lawyers for 2009. Visit in the near future in order to see the online tribute to the General Partners of Cooper-Gordon LLP.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October is Adopt a Pet Month!

Please take a few minutes to look at this website and maybe even look at Jeff Howard's blog at . There are so many animals out there looking for love and a warm place to sleep and these same would-be companions will give back to you far more than you will ever give to them. The world and your life will be all the better for your efforts. I look forward to finding the right dogs for our family; and, in case you know of a yellow or white lab mix and/or an Australian shepard type black and white mix female between 1 and 3 years old, please let me know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Plea by Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO of HSUS

I tried this and it is so cute and easy to find just the right match, I hope you all use it.
Do you ever wonder what happens to a cat whose owners go through a nasty breakup over an affair? Or a dog whose cowardly owner leaves him on the side of the road? It's a sad fact, but these pets end up at animal shelters through no fault of their own.
We can feel sad for the dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and even guinea pigs in shelters, or we can take action and spread the word that shelter animals make great pets. Today we're proud to announce the launch of an unprecedented advertising campaign aimed at doing just that:
The Shelter Pet Project.
Beginning today, several humorous, meaningful Public Service Announcements will be hitting the airwaves across the country. Why wait? You can watch the commercials now and even find a shelter pet of your own at The Shelter Pet Project's website.
The Shelter Pet Project, a collaborative effort by The Humane Society of the United States, Maddie's Fund, and the Ad Council, in partnership with the entire animal welfare community, is designed to encourage pet lovers to make shelters their first choice when they decide they want to add another pet to their family.
I encourage you to watch these humorous commercials at the Shelter Pet Project website, then search for adoptable pets near you. Test out the Adopt-A-Gram, an interactive e-card that you can send to friends and family to encourage them to adopt a pet, too!
Thank you for all you do for animals.
Sincerely,Wayne PacellePresident & CEO The Humane Society of the United States
P.S. When you're ready to add a new companion to your life, will you adopt a homeless pet?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This is a wonderful newsletter sent to me by a great Financial Planner, whom I highly recommend to everyone trying to find a way to apportion income and savings more efficiently over the long term and keep more than we spend these days.

Income or Net Worth
By Colin S. Mackenzie, CFP ®
One of the truly interesting aspects of being a financial planner is watching people develop in their understanding of and sometimes their maturity around money. Each of us grew up watching our parents and other adults dealing with money issues in different ways. We also grew up hearing that dreaded word from time to time…...NO! It usually came up when we asked for something our parents felt we did not need or the family could not afford. It was our first encounter with a life long balance between our wants and the money available to satisfy these wishes.

So, we went to school, pursued our talents and interests and set off into the work force to begin to earn a living. It is a time in people’s lives when they have the fewest possessions and the most needs. To make matters worse for many people, it is when they also take on the burden of starting a family. So what are young people to do to make ends meet and prepare for the future?Is More Income The Answer?The first answer to this is income, to earn as large a paycheck as possible. The challenge is that most entry positions pay accordingly and starting a business with no bank roll is perilous at best. Somehow though we manage to get our feet under us and begin a life long journey of balancing what we would really like to spend money on, what we should spend money on and saving.

Face it, Friday night out is a lot more fun than saving for a 1st home purchase. So where does the answer lie? Our first thought is, if I could earn more money then there would be enough to support my lifestyle and save too. A funny thing happens though, we figure out how to earn more money and still it doesn’t quite seem to be enough.
Several very smart and successful couples have come to me in the past year with combined incomes over $200,000, which still wasn’t enough to permit them to get ahead. Why? Well the reasons are many, however their situations provide many insights that are worth consideration.A Different Yard StickThese couples were all normal parents, who all by the way were under the financial burden of providing for a private education for their children….and on the verge of years of college costs. All had settled into their careers and so the raises they were likely to see in their incomes were very modest. So how could we make this work? After all, isn’t that the job of the financial planner, to help people make their finances work?

Besides carefully helping each couple consider budget options, we spent a good deal of time discussing the idea of “Net Worth”. We begin our adult life in pursuit of bigger incomes not always realizing that the more important measure leading up to financial independence, retirement if you will, is actually net worth. However when you ask people to give you an idea of their net worth, most people are at a loss to provide even an estimate of that net worth.Different Horses In the RaceWhile everyone seems to know what their paycheck sends to their checking account twice a month, they are not sure where they stand when it comes to their assets minus their liabilities. Though you can’t spend net worth, there are many ways for net worth to generate income and reduce certain costs. In my opinion, the more profound measure of someone’s financial health can be found in their net worth, much more so than in their income.Finish Line Recently ING, the company that owns Financial Network Investment Corporation, has had an advertising campaign that you may have seen. In it they ask: “What’s your number?!” The concept is, what number you will need to be financially independent…..when earning a paycheck becomes an optional activity. As you probably already know, that number is the amount of net worth someone would need to be able to retire.Often there are different “finish lines” along the way in life. Having enough to:

buy the first car
buy the first home
pay for college for the children
take the well earned 25th anniversary second honeymoon
buy the retirement home or dream remodel
pay off the mortgage, if that is a goal
retire with a feeling of security

Each of these finish lines is reached with a careful eye towards building your assets and reducing your liabilities and debts. So this being said dear reader, What is your number? And how are you doing this quarter in tracking towards that number?? Bottom Line Simple things are often very hard or they are hard to find time to do. The bottom line here is to measure your net worth at the end of each quarter to see how you are doing. It is your best measure of financial health. If you would like to get some help in getting started on this exercise, let me know. I would enjoy helping you understand the value of this exercise and would enjoy helping you establish this quarterly habit.Of the two measures, income and net worth, net worth and the direction of your net worth is the more important measure. For excellent insights on this principal, pick up a copy of Dr. Thomas Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Next Door. It offers some great perspectives on this idea.

I would love feedback on this newsletter. Future issues may include a host of good ideas, insights, specific steps to take financially, life insights and of course “Wit and Wisdom”. Most importantly, I’d like it to be of value to you and to encourage an exchange of great ideas and insights. Please send your feedback to:
Colin S. Mackenzie, CFP ®Financial Network301 E. Colorado Blvd, #400Pasadena, CA 795-8896

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I loved spending this Rosh Hashana with my wonderful husband Avery and my mother Zelda and the dear people of our Santa Monica Synagogue. Each year it seems more and more meaningful to me as I recite the prayers, sing the familiar songs and wish my loved ones and friends a sweet New Year. I only regret that my daughters treat this day the same as any other. Each to his own, of course, but I would love to share the warmth and good feelings with my children, and of this I am deprived. Anyway, the best of everything the fresh New Year has to offer to believers and non-believers alike. L'Shana Tova.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend in San Diego

Had such an amazing time in San Diego during the State Bar Conference. Our Association of Certified Family Law Specialists Cocktail Party Saturday night was not only successful, but alot of fun. The view from the 21st floor of the Marriott didn't hurt, either. Our board meeting was amazing. Avery and I managed to have time to relax and have fun on our own, despite my still broken and painful foot. Always hard to face Monday's inevitable stressors at the office.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

I want to thank our wonderful staff and firm members for working so hard all year long, sometimes late into the evening and even on weekends, to give our clients the best possible service, quality legal representation and emotional support that could be expected. Have a great day off!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Chinese Proverb

"Fu bu guo san dai" - wealth does not make it past three generations. Does anyone else feel that the current generation (our collective children) is squandering what our parents fought so hard for us to have? With many exceptions, of course, investing in hard work does not seem to be a priority for the under-forty set.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Securing Legal Fees

There is a way, when, as now the real estate market seems to be on the rise, that clients can secure their lawyers' legal fees for services rendered in family law matters (including divorce, custody, visitation, support, enforcement, collaborative law and mediation). It is called "Family Law Attorney Real Property Liens" ("FLARPLs"), which provide an alternative means for payment of fees and costs in ". . . a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, for nullity of marriage, or for legal separation of the parties." (Fam. Code §2033.) These liens originated under common law, but are now codified in Family Code sections 2033 & 2034, where the modern guidelines are set forth. These FLARPLs prevent the use of a bankruptcy petition to discharge the attorney's claim for fees and costs. Section 522 of the Bankruptcy Code permits the debtor to avoid certain liens on exempt property, such as the former marital residence. The reason for the statute is to protect the debtor’s exemptions in order to facilitate his "fresh start." Although this is indeed important, this concept only applies to "judicial liens." It is unclear whether a FLARPL is a statutory lien or a judicial lien. However, the statutory text of the Family Code and cases which are similar suggest that a FLARPL is a statutory lien that cannot be avoided, if properly perfected.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Court Closures

Every third Wednesday of the month, the courts in southern California are, for the most part closed now, indefinitely. While this is an inconvenience and loss of income for many, many people, I believe the worst victims of this budget fiasco are the family law litigants and the probate litigants, whose lives all hang in balance and in limbo for months and years as it is, and now the delays are anticipated to be months and years longer. With those delays are the huge, sometimes unsurmountable costs of legal fees, unnecessary support payments, decrease in values of property, inability to purchase property or obtain further education or pursue careers, and much, much more. I often decry where the priorities are for my fellow Californians. My usual cause celebre is the lack of priority of education expenses. I now add the burden of the court systems. Will we all have to take to private judging to effectuate our clients' needs?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Life Insurance Plans

Even though divorce takes such a significant financial and emotional toll on the parties, their children and other family members and friends, it is often necessary for the parties to look beyond their immediate legal and financial needs in order to recognize the future needs of one or both parties, as well as any children of the marriage, in the event of an untimely death of one of the parents. In fact, even in a non-marital relationship, factors to consider relative to the future financial security of the children of such a union are just as important.
One solution for securing financial stability in the future is through life insurance. Life insurance is one way to secure payment of spousal support beyond the life of the supporting spouse. Such a policy can be owned and paid for by the supporting spouse or the supported spouse, or a combination of both. It can be court-ordered, or voluntary.

With regard to child support, a custodial parent may get an order from the court that the supporting spouse maintain a life insurance policy covering at least the amount remaining to be paid in child support up to the time that child reaches the age of majority (which in California is 18). If such a policy is not in force at the time of death of the party ordered to pay the premiums, then the intended beneficiary will have a claim against the estate.

If no such order can be had, the custodial parent or even the non-custodial parent might wish to pay for and own such a policy to cover the circumstance where the other parent dies prematurely and either the custodial parent has no ability to maintain the marital lifestyle or the non-custodial parent is suddenly unable to pay for the additional child care costs.
Transferring ownership and/or beneficiaries on an existing policy is an option if purchasing a new policy is financially out of the question. Sometimes payment of life insurance premiums are added as additional child or spousal support which gives a tax break to certain payors. It is important to include provisions in the judgment that the payee spouse receive ongoing proof of payment of the premiums and named beneficiaries.

Some pitfalls of obtaining life insurance include naming minors as beneficiaries (creating the need for the court to establish a guardianship) and/or naming a trust as beneficiary, in which case the insurance proceeds are generally withheld until the conclusion of the probate process (sometimes more than a year or two).

529 Plans

In the next few days, I will be writing little blogs about various ideas to do with college savings plans. Today, I want to discuss expanding the list of potential beneficiaries. Did you know that, due to recent tax reforms, the pool from which you can choose beneficiaries now includes cousins? That means that if you are a grandparent with multiple grandchildren, you can set up a 529 plan for your first grandchild and if that grandchild chooses to delay higher education, you can transfer the plan to another grandchild.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to the Future

I had a fantastic time last night visiting with some old friends from high school and some friends I have known since fourth grade. Although we had a 40th year reunion two years ago, we all got together again at the home of a classmate's parents in Beverly Hills to renew old bonds and talk about the present and the future and learn more in depth what has kept our collective hearts beating these past 40+ years. Deaths, births, grandchildren, jobs won and lost, heartaches, happiness, sharing of favorite memories, sharing of great wine and great ideas. Introducing spouses brave enough to attend their spouse's reunion. Spouses forming reunions of their own and finding people they knew in their pre-marriage lives. No one caring what anyone is wearing, whether a few more pounds and a few less hairs adorn our souls, people who never would have a conversation with you willingly in high school genuinely interested in what you are doing, how you are feeling and eager to share the most intimate details of their lives with you. I hope sincerely that, although the group was much smaller than our 40th, we keep getting together to reenforce what is really important in life and make us smile and enjoy the present for the blessings that we all have received.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spousal support may not be reduced just because the supported spouse starts to receive retirement benefits.

In the recent case of In re Marriage of Dietz, 2009 Cal. App. LEXIS 1282, the court of appeal held that that the distribution to wife of her share of husband’s retirement plans and her eligibility to begin drawing from them does not constitute a change of circumstances for support modification purposes. Please be aware of this when you consider options for settlement of spousal support during your divorce.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Well, after many phone calls, and calling in favors from friends in high places, we finally got someone from Animal Control to come by to see what to do about the doe that had been living in our backyard for the past 7 days and she was great. She helped Avery cut our chain link fence so she could pass through and threw grass all over the area so she would be interested in moving out of our yard. All day long on Saturday, she just stared at us from a corner. Finally, some time during the night she went on to find her family. Meanwhile, all my beautiful flowers have been eaten and the trees and grass on the hillside have been nicely trimmed. She was about 6 months old!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Oh Deer!

We have been entertaining a doe in our back yard the past week. Animal control has tried & failed to get it to leave us. All my beautiful plants have been eaten and she is enjoying our pool more than we are. Poor thing is so scared!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Welcome to Cooper-Gordon LLP Blog

Welcome to the First Posting of the CG LLP Blog. If you have any questions related to our practice of Family Law, Probate and/or Trusts and Estates creation, administration and litigation, please type your message in the comment box.