Limited Scope Representation

With an unexpected divorce can come unexpected costs. The traditional way people hire a divorce attorney is by hiring the attorney to represent them from the beginning of the process through the end. For those who cannot afford to do so, there are still options:

Limited Scope Representation

Family law litigants can hire attorneys on a limited scope basis. That means if they have an upcoming hearing, that attorney will only represent them for that hearing. The benefit is that you don’t have to pay for an attorney for your entire case, but can still get help for the tough parts of your case.

Paperwork and Consultation

You can handle your divorce case by yourself but still get help from an attorney on preparing the paperwork and advice on the process. An uncontested divorce can be divided into these major sections for paperwork:

  • Petition/Response: these are the papers needed to start the divorce process. If divorce papers are filed against you, you have the option of filing a response.
  • Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure: the divorcing couple are required to exchange their financial information with each other.
  • Final Declaration of Disclosure: a second set of financial disclosures are required towards the end of the divorce unless the divorce couple agrees to waive the disclosure.
  • Marital Settlement Agreement: divorces will eventually go to trial unless the divorcing couple reaches an agreement on the issues.
  • Judgment: this is the final paperwork to complete the divorce.

Contact my office about flat fee rates for these services.

New Office Location

The Law Office of Anthony Seto is pleased to announce that it is moving to a new office location.

 

Old Office:

1959 Huntington Dr, Ste B, Alhambra, CA 91801

 

New Office:

1901 S Atlantic Blvd, Ste E, Monterey Park, CA 91754

Divorce: Custody of Pets

When couples with pets get divorced, what happens to the pets? The New York Times recently featured an article on this.

In California, pets are generally treated as personal property during a divorce. As such, the usual property rules apply. If a spouse was the owner of the pet before the marriage, the court will presume that pet is that spouse’s separate property. If the spouses became owners of the pet during the marriage, then the pet would be presumed community property. Custody of pets is not treated the same way as children, where custody is awarded based on the best interests of the child.

However, there are special rules about protecting pets. Under Family Code section 6320, a spouse can ask the court for a restraining order against the other spouse that orders him or her to stay away from the pet if that spouse poses a harm to the animal.

Couples looking to marry might consider addressing pets in their premarital agreement if they have a particular attachment to their animals. Many times this attachment is seen in couples with little or no children and could be a potential source of emotional contention. With an agreement in place, couples could reduce the need for long and expensive legal battles over pet custody in the event of a divorce.

Immigration: Designating Someone to Care for Your Children if Something Happens

As the new administration takes an aggressive approach against undocumented immigrants, you may be concerned with what may happen to your children in the event you are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or deported from the U.S. What you might consider is having a family preparedness plan to handle such a situation. There are three components:

  • Making a child care plan so that a trusted adult can care for your children.
  • Finding out about your immigration options.
  • And knowing your rights when you are confronted by ICE or the police.

Child Care Plan

You can choose someone to care for your children with a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. This is a form that allows a caregiver to enroll your children into school and to authorize medical treatment for your children. How it works is that you fill out, sign, and date the form and then provide it to your children’s school and healthcare providers. The Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit does not take away your rights as a parent – you still have legal custody over your children.

Another option is to designate a caregiver with a power of attorney. A power of attorney can do much more than a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. Not only can an agent be designated to care for and make decisions for your children, but also to oversee your financial affairs while you are unavailable. A power of attorney does not take away your rights as a parent. You will still have legal custody over your children.

You will also want to talk to your children about your plan and to let them know that someone will be there to care for them if anything were to happen to you.

Further, you should make sure your designated caregiver is listed as an emergency contact. Be sure to write down any medical conditions or allergies your children have, their medications, and doctor and health insurance information. This information should be provided to your children’s designated caregiver. Let your children know where to find this information as well.

More Information

There are many immigration advocacy groups and nonprofit legal services that offer workshops, information sessions, and handouts on dealing with the elevated risk of arrest and deportation. Here is a list of nearby organizations.

Cal-Access to be Updated in Modernization Project

On September 29, 2016, Governor Brown signed SB No. 1349 into law, beginning a project to modernize Cal-Access, the state’s online campaign finance disclosure system. This amendment to the Political Reform Act is part of the longstanding effort to address the appearance of corruption in regards to political contributions and expenditures. The thought was that reporting requirements could be used to make campaign finance transparent to the public. This in turn would expose and deter violations, and ensure that the voters were fully informed.

The existing Cal-Access system allows the public to search by candidate, committee number, contributor, and a variety of other ways. But this system, created in 1999, is aging, unreliable, and subject to frequent slowdowns. In 2011, the system went down for most of December.

The highlights of SB No. 1349 are as follows:

  • Filed data will be made available in a user-friendly, easy to understand format that is searchable online and downloadable, and can be represented in graphs and maps
  • Late contribution and independent expenditure reports will be made available for viewing within 24 hours of filing.
  • Public will be able to track contributions from a single large contributor.

The law requires the new system to be available by February 1, 2019, though this can be delayed to December 31, 2019. In the meantime, the Secretary of State is soliciting public feedback on the modernization project. Public hearings will be held on the following times and locations:

February 3, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Ronald Reagan Building
Auditorium
300 S Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA  90013
February 9, 2017
10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Secretary of State
Auditorium
1500 11th Street
Sacramento, CA  95814

 

More information is available here: http://www.fppc.ca.gov/media/press-releases/2017-news-releases/advisory-feb-2017.html

The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 5: Advertising Disclaimers

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

We will now cover the legal requirements regarding advertising. Many types of advertising are required to have a disclaimer. In general, disclaimers will say “paid for by [committee name]” and include the committee I.D. number as well. There are additional requirements as to the font size of the disclaimer or whether the disclaimer should go at the beginning or end of a television ad. The general idea is that disclaimers should be readable and understandable.

disclaimer-example

So what kind of advertisements are covered by these disclaimer requirements? It covers traditional advertising such as mass mailings, newspaper ads, television ads, radio ads, yard signs, door hangers, flyers, and business cards. As for telephone calls, disclaimers apply to paid callers and robo calls, but not to volunteer callers or calls by the candidate his/herself.

We do live in a digital age and the disclaimer requirements apply to electronic communications as well. E-mails are required to have disclaimers. But candidates should also consider adding disclaimers to other communications such as banner ads, text messages, blog posts, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Instagram posts, Google adwords, and smartphone apps. The list goes on as technology and trends rapidly change.

While a candidate can put a disclaimer on just about everything to bulletproof themselves, there are fortunately exceptions that apply to items too small to have a disclaimer. This includes campaign buttons, bumper stickers, pins, or magnets. You might also give away promotion items like pens and mugs. These too do not require disclaimers.

For more information such as requirements broken down by category, consult the applicable FPPC campaign disclosure manual.

The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 4: Spending Campaign Funds

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

In Parts 1 through 3, we focused on various forms to be completed and deadlines to be met, as well as the significance of the public examination period. In this blog post, we’ll focus on the laws regarding how candidates can spend their campaign funds.

Limits on Spending

The rule is that expenditures must be reasonably related to a political, legislative, or government purpose.

Generally, legitimate expenditures involve typical campaign expenses such as consultants, filing fees, campaign literature and mailings.  Campaign funds may also be used to make donations to political committees and to pay for attorney expenses that are campaign related like suing for defamation (as opposed to paying for your divorce).

The opposite are expenses for personal purposes. Personal purposes might include purchase of your clothes, paying for a wedding, or buying that Lamborghini that you’ve always wanted. Candidates should generally avoid using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses.

The FPPC has created a code system that can serve as a great way to spot red flag expenses. An expense that has a code, for example “FND” (or fundraising events), is likely to comply with the spending rules. An expense that does not fit into a code should be given special attention. It does not mean that the expense is necessarily prohibited, but it does require you to specifically identify how it is reasonably related to a political, legislative, or government purpose.

Sometimes it is unclear if an expense is legitimate. It is not unusual for treasurers to ask for advice from the FPPC before any campaign funds are paid. The FPPC will respond with an opinion letter expressing their opinion on the expense. This can be a way to protect yourself if you get in trouble for the expenditure later on.

A Requirement to Report

In addition to these limits, you’ll have to report how much you spend and what you spent it on. Hence, the existence of the code system mentioned earlier. Expenditure reporting goes on the semi-annual statement you’ll have to file that was mentioned in Part 3. Not all expenditures have to be reported in detail. For expenditures of less than $100, you only have to add them all and report the total amount.

As such, it is important to keep detail records of your payments. At the very least, make sure you have the date of the payment, name and address of the payee, the committee I.D. number if applicable, and the amount of the payment. Be aware that there are additional records to maintain when you make contributions or independent expenditures through your committee.

The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 3: Committee Responsibilities

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

This blog article expands on the discussion in Part 1 about candidates that spend or raise $2,000 or more in a calendar year.

If you spend less than that threshold, recall that you should file a Candidate Intention Statement and Officeholder Candidate Campaign Statement. You should also maintain detailed records of the contributions you receive and the expenditures that you make.

But if you do spend or raise $2,000 or more, you’ll be considered a committee. Committees have various legal responsibilities. A failure to meet these responsibilities, i.e. failing to file on time, could result in a FPPC enforcement action and fines. In short, committees have to:

  • File a Candidate Intention Statement.
  • File a Statement of Organization (thereby designating a treasurer).
  • Establish a bank account.
  • File Preelection Statements.
  • File 24-hour Contribution Reports.
  • File Semi-Annual Reports.
  • Keep detailed records.

Each of these responsibilities are further discussed below:

Candidate Intention Statement

You’ll need to file this statement with the Secretary of State to initiate nearly any financial activity for your campaign. You cannot solicit or receive contributions, or make expenditures until you file this statement. Because of this limitation, some candidates will file the Candidate Intention Statement before they even pull nomination papers in order to get started with fundraising and campaigning.

Statement of Organization

This is filed with the Secretary of State and your local filing officer (if applicable). Since this registers you as a committee, you are issued a committee identification number.

The Statement of Organization has you designate a treasurer. The treasurer is the person legally responsible for keeping detailed records, ensuring compliance, and verifying statements. Regardless of whether you designate yourself or another individual, it is important that a treasurer understands their duties because they can later be held responsible and fined for violations of campaign finance rules.

Establishing a Bank Account

A committee must establish a separate bank account in a bank located in California. The key thing is that nearly all campaign funds must go into the bank account and cannot be mixed with a candidate’s personal funds.

Preelection Statements

A candidate will have to file two preelection statements in the two months before the election. For the March 7, 2017 election, the first preelection statement is due January 26, 2017 and covers the period of January 1-21, 2017. The second preelection statement is due February 23, 2017 and covers the period of February 22-18, 2017.

24-hour Contribution Reports

In the 90 days before the election, candidates will have to watch out for large donations. Beginning December 7, 2016 until election day, a candidate who receives $1,000 or more from a single source will have to file a 24-hour Contribution Report. The same applies if the candidate makes a contribution of $1,000 or more. In either case, the amount must be reported within 24 hours or receiving or making the contribution.

Semi-Annual Statements

A committee has to file semi-annual statements. These statements are due twice a year on January 31 and July 31, respectively. They generally cover the first half of the calendar year and the last half of the calendar year. A reporting period is shorted accordingly if a committee has filed preelection statement that year.

Recordkeeping

You are required to follow certain practices to maintain detailed records of your committee’s financial activity. This includes not only maintaining bank statements for a period of four years but also keeping your own independent financial records. One requirement to highlight is the need to collect information from contributors. Depending on the amount of the contribution, this may include:

  • Date of contribution.
  • Contributor’s full name and address.
  • Total amount received from that contributor for that year.
  • Contributor’s occupation and employer.

The easiest way to meet this requirement and keep your money (you’ll have to refund the contribution if you omit collecting needed information) is to simply collect everything listed above regardless of the amount.

Closing Remarks

These are the committee obligations in a nutshell. It involves a fair amount of recordkeeping and filing statements in the interest of public transparency. Meeting these obligations will require you to sit down to review and understand the rules as well as calendaring deadlines. This can be tricky in the fury of campaigning while holding a full-time job (as many candidates do), but can be alleviated with an effective treasurer to keep you on top of things.

The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 2: Public Examination Period and Litigation

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

In my last blog post, I covered candidate eligibility requirements and the steps (aka paperwork) needed to get on the March 7, 2017 ballot. This article will discuss the public examination period that occurs immediately after the filing period for nomination documents.

December 10-19, 2016 is the Public Examination Period for Candidate Statements, Candidate Names, and Ballot Designations. Recall that your submitted nomination documents include your name, and optionally a candidate statement and ballot designation. During the examination period, those materials will be open for public viewing.

The purpose of this is to allow voters in the relevant district to challenge impermissible content. Examples could include an inaccurate name or a misleading ballot designation (i.e. claiming you a medical doctor when it fact you’ve never even been to medical school). It could also include false or misleading statements in the candidate statement. State law also imposes limitations as to form and subject matter:

  • Candidate statements generally cannot exceed 200 words.
  • Statements cannot include the candidate’s party affiliation, nor their membership or activity in a partisan political organization.
  • Statements cannot not refer to opposing candidates.

So how does a voter challenge a candidate statement? A voter can ask a court to issue an order directing the elections official to delete or change the statement accordingly. This order may come in the form of a writ of mandate or an injunction.

For a candidate, this process could be a legal tool to take recourse against an opposing candidate who is being deceptive about him/herself in official ballot materials. At the same time, this could be used against you to gut your ballot statement or to cast doubt about your name or occupation.

The important thing to note is how things can unfold very fast and sudden during the examination period. You only have 10 days from the time you can first read your opponent’s materials to file a petition for a deletion or change. Fail to act and objectionable materials can make it to the voter pamphlet. When the court process is initiated, it is much faster than other court processes. The court tries to reach a decision before the materials are printed on the voter pamphlet, so the challenge is resolved well before the election.

At the same time, in a less contentious election, the examination period can go by very quietly, as it often does. Nevertheless, it serves a candidate well to be aware of the nature of the public examination period lest they be caught off guard when they are suddenly served with court papers.

My next few posts will be focused on candidates who plan or anticipate on raising or spending over $2,000. Part 3 will discuss treasurers and bank accounts. Part 4 will discuss campaign finance disclosures that will need to be filed prior to the election.

The Road to the March 7, 2017 Election – Part 1: Getting Started

This series will provide a cursory overview of the steps needed to run for local office in Los Angeles County. The information provided is not intended to be legal advice. Readers should be cognizant that other local rules may apply in addition to state law.

Resources

If you are running for local office (i.e. city council or school board) it is likely that your county administers the election. As such, counties provide information about running for office:

Regardless of county, you should be aware that you may be subject to campaign finance reporting requirements and conflicts of interest rules. You should get a hold of this handbook from the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Many more handbooks will be inundated upon you as you initiate your candidacy.

Initiating Your Candidacy

Eligibility

Before running for office, the first legal question on your mind should be whether you are eligible for that office. Municipalities tend to have residency requirements, requiring a candidate to have resided in the city or district for a certain amount of time. Some districts take it a step further and require candidates to be a registered voter of that district. There may also be a citizenship requirement, as it is for the California Legislature.

Applying for Your Nominating Documents

If you are eligible for office, then you can start your candidacy. Your candidacy starts when you file your nomination documents with your county’s registrar of voters. In Los Angeles County, the filing period for the March 7, 2017 election is from November 14, 2016 to December 9, 2016.

But before you can file your nominating documents, you will have to apply for them first. A candidate must first fill out a Candidate Registration and Qualification form. Information from that form is used in the Application for Nomination Documents.

Nomination Documents

When you execute your Application for Nomination Documents, you can then file your nomination documents. This includes:

  • Declaration of Candidacy (declares your candidacy, provides your ballot designation, and has you take a loyalty oath).
  • Ballot Designation (allows you to put a title underneath your name on the ballot, such as your profession or current elective office).
  • Candidate Statement Form (allows you to submit a candidate statements for the voters to read on their ballot).
  • Candidate Campaign Statement Forms (these are your initial campaign finance registration and disclosures required under the Political Reform Act).

What must be included in the Candidate Campaign Statement Forms varies from candidate-to-candidate, which unfortunately makes this following section somewhat complex.

Candidate Campaign Statement Forms

Most candidates will have to file a Statement of Economic Interests form (state law provides a list of categories designating who must file). It exists because state law seeks to restrict elected officials from using their power to benefit their own financial interests. As such, candidates may be required to disclose their financial interests in this form.

Other filings will depend on how much money you plan to raise or spend. If you plan on raising or spending less than $2,000, at the very minimum, you should a file:

  • Candidate Intention Statement (informs the Secretary of State of your intention to be a candidate).
  • Officeholder and Candidate Campaign Statement – Short Form (this discloses committees that you know are raising and spending money on behalf of your candidacy).

Note that if you later end up raising or spending money in the amount of $2,000 or over, you will have to file additional documents. This brings us to the situation where candidates raise or spend $2,000 or more. In that situation, you should file:

  • Candidate Intention Statement.
  • Statement of Organization (your level of financial activity now requires you to register as a committee).

Be aware that the Statement of Organization registers you as a “committee.” Committees have various responsibilities, including maintaining a separate bank account, designating a treasurer, maintaining detailed records, and making disclosures. These responsibilities will be discussed in further detail later in this series.

This completes your packet. Once submitted, you will be placed on the ballot and officially become a candidate in the March 7, 2017 election. But what comes next? The next article in this series will discuss the public examination period for candidate statements, candidate names, and ballot designations. It occurs after the deadline for filing nomination documents, from December 10-19, 2016.


Photo credit: Elliot Stallion