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Karen, a friend of a former client, was referred to my office recently. Her friend described her as "fabulous, smart and high spirited, not to mention very educated and composed".

The description didn't fit the fragile looking woman sitting in front of me the following week with what seemed to be tears in her eyes.

She began her story by explaining that she was an au pair when she came to this country 15 years ago from Ireland. She worked hard during the day and went to school at night to earn her AA degree. Maintaining a high GPA allowed her to finish a U.S. university and get a scholarship to a very reputable law school.

She took the BAR exam and passed with flying colors. At her first job she met a wonderful man. Michael was an accomplished developer. He was also tall, dark and handsome. After several months, Karen became pregnant. Michael, who was 45 at the time and not yet a father, welcomed the opportunity and convinced Karen to have the baby. Michael owned a beautiful house and the couple moved in together to build their family.  

Derek was born 9 months later and Michael convinced Karen that she should take time off and be a "proper stay-at-home" mother for their baby. Acquiescing to Michael's pressure, Karen quit her six-figure paying job to stay home with their baby. Karen and Michael did not marry, as "they did not need the piece of paper to be committed to each other".  

The couple stayed together for 4 years while Michael continued developing his business, and Karen stayed home and took care of their son, Derek. Unfortunately, Michael met Susan and decided to end their relationship.

divorce

Sitting in my office, Karen was lost and distraught.

Such a scenario presents itself often in my practice. Unfortunately, most of the time, individuals consult with attorneys only after a relationship has ended. Instead, people in relationships should consult with attorneys when first forming a relationship or while in a happy and stable relationship.  

Had Karen sought a family law attorney's advice while she was still pregnant with Derek or when she first moved in with Michael, a "Cohabitation Agreement" would have been suggested to her. Such an Agreement would have included provisions regarding assets, debts, and financial support. It would have also had a provision regarding Michael's financial obligations to Karen in the event their relationship ended. Such an agreement would have definitely protected Karen in the event of a break-up, especially considering that she quit a very-well paying job to stay home and raise the couple's child. The Cohabitation Agreement could have also included a provision about Michael's home and the appreciation of the home during the relationship.

Without such an Agreement, Karen will likely be able to receive only child support from Michael, and no other financial assistance. She will also not be entitled to any portion of Michael's residence, despite the appreciation of the home during their relationship. This is a very unfortunate situation, given the fact that Karen gave up a great job and that it will take her several years to get back on track with her career. She should be financially compensated for this fact, but will not be because she was not married to Michael and did not have a Cohabitation Agreement in place before the break-up. Given that this will now be a Parentage Action, she will be entitled only to child support, which will not be enough for her and the child's expenses while she gets her career back on track.  

While I will absolutely help Karen by obtaining the best possible child support order for her, it is nothing compared to what I could have done for her had she come to me at the beginning of the relationship. Women should understand that entering into a relationship with a man is much like entering into a business relationship. Would anyone enter into a business relationship with someone without a written contract in place? I would hope not. The same applies to entering into a relationship with a man! A contract should be in place, at least when a Marriage Certificate is not obtained.  

If you are interested in receiving legal advice, feel free to contact us at (323) 653-1600 or  [Link Removed]   

The above information is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.


Kvlaw, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.



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