The Christmas tree is up at the Loews Hotel. The ribbons are out, the holiday songs are being piped onto the Third Street Promenade. And Chanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are right around the corner. This holiday season is upon us, and with it comes the inevitable increase in fights among family members.

It’s the first day of December and already we’re seeing an uptick in the family squabbles that are resulting in emergency protective orders, which are issued by the police and must be followed up with a request for a temporary restraining order.

The first thing to know is that the police have a legal obligation to prevent violence. In a domestic dispute if there are sufficient grounds to believe that violence is about to occur, the police can and will issue an emergency protective order. And frequently when the police are called for domestic violence, they are forced to arrest one party, whether it be the husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. If you are faced with a domestic violence situation depending on whether you are the man or the woman, you should be prepared to leave the home immediately taking with you any children. 

There are 23 shelters in Los Angeles that are available from Artesia to Whittier. Though most of them will not take a man. Sexism is rife throughout the domestic violence protection community as men are vilified as the perpetrators.

 The local hotline in Santa Monica is Sojourn Services for Battered Women and Their Children at (310) 264-6644. They are a clearinghouse for information and services on domestic violence prevention, and they respond to calls from women and men.

When you have a dangerous spouse, the best thing to do is take care of yourself, and that means that you need to be prepared. If the time comes in a relationship for the parties to separate, one partner frequently does not know where all the assets are located. On the flip side, the other partner frequently suffers a huge drop in standard of living because they (usually a he) will be forced out of the house at the business end of a police officer and made to get an apartment.

Most families in crisis already suffer economic hardship that now becomes devastation because they lack the financial resources but must support two households. Understand that your lifestyle is going to go down, it has to, it costs more to run two households than one. 

If you are faced with a pending divorce or family crisis, these are the questions you should ask yourself:

• Where are all the bank accounts? And that includes any company accounts if you run your own business.

• Where are all the stock accounts?

• Where are all the statements for the bank, credit cards, charge accounts, company accounts, pension and 401(k). 

• Where are all the check registers?

• What property do we own?

 Make sure you have a separate set of copies of the bank statements, credit card bills, stock portfolios, taxes for the last five years, and household bills to give your attorney. It is much easier to make copies before you have moved out.

The emotional damage a divorce causes can be extreme. You should have a good support network in place to deal with the inevitable feelings of loss, grief, anger, hurt, and sadness.  

You will change friends and acquaintances, you might live somewhere different, eat in new restaurants and shop in new stores. This could be a good thing if you take this opportunity to grow and change for the better. Talk to your friends, and find a good counselor who can help with your pain.

Divorce is costly. A basic divorce is going to cost between $5,000 and $25,000 if both parties have a lawyer. If there are child or spousal support issues, or if there is property being fought over, the cost of divorce can increase dramatically.

Everyone should have a savings account before starting a divorce. Even though the money in it is community property, everyone needs quick and easy access to cash, to rent an apartment, and meet other expenses.

Be prepared for your attorney to ask for a sizable amount of money for a retainer. Some attorneys require a $10,000 retainer, others as low as $2,500, it simply depends on your case, the amount of property to fight over, and your spouse’s ability to fight.

Remember that anyone can be abused, it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, rich or poor, white, black, Latino, Asian or Martian. It can happen to everyone, but it is not to be tolerated.

           

David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.