FAQ ‘s: Here I have compiled a list of questions that people often ask me.
Remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question. If you don’t know something, ask!
I update this list frequently, so if you have a question, please submit it here. I guarantee someone out there has the same question.
Remember, any information on my website or blog in NO WAY should be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please schedule a consult.
In addition, you may find information on my frequently updated BLOG helpful.
Divorce - Top 5 Questions
Mediation - Top 10 Questions
Congratulations for wanting to resolve your divorce in a peaceful manner. Mediation is the best way to handle your divorce. However, if Kelly is your mediator, she cannot give you individual legal advice. Your mediator, though they may be A lawyer, is not YOUR lawyer. They do not represent you, in court or otherwise.
If you want legal advice while your mediation with another mediator is pending, Kelly can serve as your consulting attorney, or representative attorney. But Kelly cannot be both your attorney and the mediator.
For me to serve as your mediator, BOTH of you must agree to hire her as your mediator. Kelly is a neutral and she cannot give either of you individual advice. In our experience, mediations often fail because one party perceives that there is a mediator bias for one party.
To avoid this, we strictly adhere to 3 office policies to maintain our neutrality:
The Mediation Orientation is the first contact Kelly has with both parties.
Any previous contact with our office is with staff regarding protocol or pricing. It is important for both parties to understand Kelly’s capacity as a mediator, and trust that she did not previously give legal advice to either party, or favor one party over the other.
Both parties must attend the initial Mediation Orientation.
In order for mediation work, the parties must choose this option. If Kelly gives legal advice to one side, she is automatically conflicted out from representing the other side; as well as mediator. If only one party attends, the orientation becomes a legal consultation, which costs $500.
Kelly does not communicate with either party in between sessions.
There are no secret phone calls or emails. Both parties are copied on all emails. Calls to the office are answered by staff regarding procedure, pricing or scheduling.
My husband is being difficult and refuses to mediate. He already hired a lawyer. I want to hire you to mediate for me.
This is a tough situation to be in. Mediation only works if both of you are in agreement to mediate. Read this article if your spouse is refusing to mediate.
If the other side has hired a lawyer, there is an imbalance of power. In this situation, you can still mediate if he agrees. But here is how this would work: Kelly would be a neutral mediator. Your husband/wife would have a lawyer. And you would represent yourself.
Thus, in this situation where your husband/wife has already hired a lawyer, we recommend that you also hire a lawyer. The case can still settle, but Kelly would not be a mediator in your case. You can hire Kelly to be your attorney – the first step is to book a legal consultation.
Once you have confirmed your mediation session with your deposit, Kelly will send a detailed email explaining Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures.
In California, prior to entry of Judgment, the law requires both of you to exchange complete financial information on forms such as the Income and Expense Declaration and Schedule of Assets and Debts.
Kelly will email you the forms and explain how to prepare a draft for your upcoming mediation.
The Disclosures will be finalized and exchanged during your session with her.
Prenuptial Agreements - Top 5 Questions
Because California already has one for you. Whether or not you and your fiance/fiancee think community property law is fair, it APPLIES the moment you get married.
You can read more about prenuptial agreements on our blog.
I recommend familiarizing yourself with California Family Code 1615. There is a mention of 7 days in there. What does this mean? Several interpretations, but basically, you need to make sure your fiancee is reprsented by independent counsel and has sufficient time to understand the law. Personally, I think alloting 3 months before your wedding date is the bare minimum. Most people spend over a year planning a wedding – why spend any less on a legal document?
Working with Us - Top 6 Questions
It depends on who you are. Are you two in agreement as to the all the issues of your separation? Are you a dependable DIY person?
If so, definitely. There is a wealth of information on the internet (and on our site!), and if you are in agreement, it is entirely possible to reach a settlement agreement, draft it up and submit to the court. We can also prepare these documents for you for a flat fee, listed here.
If you two disagree on many things, but at least are in agreement that mediation is the best, I recommend that you call our office and schedule the free mediation orientation. I promise you that discussing your problems with a mediator in the privacy of my office will be far more cost-effective (and productive) than immediately lawyering up!
If you have a contested divorce (especially issues regarding custody or property division), I would recommend that you seek a Certified Family Law Specialist attorney to advise you on your options regarding the divorce. There are several options, and you can read about it here.
Kelly Chang Rickert is a CFLS. Being a Specialist means more than just “specializing” in an area of law.
California Certified Family Law Specialists have passed a written exam in Family Law, demonstrated a high level of experience in their field, fulfilled practice requirements and ongoing Continuing Legal Education Requirements, and are evaluated by other Judges and Attorneys in Family Law.
Currently, there are only approximately 350 Certified Family Law Specialists in Los Angeles County. Attached is a list of all the CFLS’s in Los Angeles County.
For UNCONTESTED matters and mediations, our fees are listed here. For contested cases, it depends on how many issues there are, and how long it takes to resolve the issues, and how many court appearances. There is good article here which may help you estimate costs.
For all cases, we require an upfront retainer, and we deduct our hourly fees (billed in quarter of hour increments) from it. Our fees vary from $350 – $750 per hour, depending on which attorneys are used in your case.