Dear Brent Kendell, Esq:

I need the best kind of legal advice… FREE legal advice! Here’s my situation. My cheating husband served me with divorce papers. We’ve been married over twenty years with two young kids and a house in Hollywood. He has a Corvette restoration business. I’m a porn actress/stripper and he’s going to marry his teenage secretary. What are the current laws in California with respect to marriage and how do I protect myself?

Sexy Sadie

Good Question! California, like most western states, are community property (CP) states. CP laws were established to protect the wife. In a typical scenario the husband will build a business while his wife stays home to bring up the children. After so many years, the husband marries his secretary, takes the cars and the business and leaves his X wife with nothing. CP laws gives the wife half of everything no matter who earned the income, the way it should be!

For the last 20 years everything earned by either you or your husband is yours! Even if it was titled in his name. Your first step is to kick him out of the house (if he hasn’t left yet), pull all the money out of your joint account and take his best Corvette and lock it in the garage.

So far, you have the upper hand! Don’t hire a lawyer, yet, if at all! A lawyer’s job is to string you along, antagonize the situation and hope the divorce goes to court, where he can make more money! The lawyer is not your friend! What good is a divorce if the lawyer gets all the money?

At this point you have the kids, the house, the money, his best restored Corvette and CP laws built to protect you! His lawyer will likely try to make you out as an unfit mother. That’s not likely unless you’ve been to rehabilitation due to a serious drug problem. Even if true, you still have a shot!

Now, I’d suggest you do the unexpected! If your next boyfriend happens to be a lawyer, get free legal advice! Hire a CPA to do a valuation of his business and an accounting of all assets of the marriage. There are two different business valuations formulas used in CA.  The Periera formula, which is used when the growth of the business is the hard work of the spouse and Van Camp formula, used when the growth of the business was the nature of the business.

The court would use Periera and apply a 10% yearly factor to be calculated to determine the value of the business and the amount owed to you. The restored cars can be valued easily. Pull up Jackson Barrett auto auction and get the value of the cars instantly. Once you have a complete valuation of the assets divide by ½ and make an offer to your husband to settle.

Convince him he’d be better off giving you half of everything than giving it to the lawyers! If played right, you should get the house, his restored Corvette, child support, spousal support and a new better-looking lawyer boyfriend!  

Don’t go to court, if possible! The judge is on the side of the lawyers and unlike criminal court, the judge doesn’t have to follow typical legal guidelines. If you “have” to go to court, do not look sexy! The court will grant you more if you look like you have little, to no, earning potential. Have your pro bono lawyer paint him as a cheating dirt bag, who left you and his kids and has years of earning potential.

On last thing to consider. Make sure your CPA is involved so you husband doesn’t leave you with the low basis assets, which in turn, leaves you with a large tax debt. Lawyers don’t know tax law. Again, I can help being a CPA and a tax attorney. Your best move? Make legal friends who have no interest in making money by giving you advice. Find someone you can trust and have the “balls” or the “ovaries” to go it alone, with pro bono legal advice! The CP laws were enacted to protect someone in your situation and punish someone in his situation.

As a wise man once said (Okay, it was me!) “Divorces are expensive because they are worth it!”

Brent Lee Kendell, JD, CPA

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