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Divorce is not always easy because there are so many legalities involved in the process. Child custody, property settlements and parental responsibilities are some of the legal issues that come into the picture when getting a divorce. It can be mentally and emotionally taxing and the last thing you want to do is struggle with the process. A divorce lawyer comes in handy during this trying phase of your life. The divorce attorney represents and guides you through the process, making it easier for you to handle. But to enjoy a smooth process, you must find yourself a reliable attorney.

1. Talk to friends and relatives

2. Know what your needs are

3. Do your research

4. Create a budget

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The Urban Legend of the 50% Divorce Rate

Most of us have heard the often repeated statement that 50% of all marriages end up in divorce. This "fact" gets passed from one media "source" to another without anyone ever checking its original source. So we decided to check with the final authority on all things demographic: The Unite States Census Bureau.

Typical of statements often repeated in the media, the 50% number is an oversimplification that does not begin to tell the important story about divorce rates. There are much more interesting figures that tell us how the divorce rate has changed over the decades and suggest the reasons for their changes. But first, to understand the issues around divorce rates we need to answer this question:

Just What is a Divorce Rate?

What does it mean to say that some percent of marriages "end up" in divorce?

People stay married for many decades. Some get divorced at one year, five years, fifteen years or even sixty years after the marriage. And some die married. Therefore, we only know the rate at which marriages end up in divorce for people who married far back enough in the past for all of them to have already died.

But we can also start with a more recent cohort of people who married on the same year and estimate the divorce rate of the remaining marriages on the last available year of their data. The more recent the cohort of marriages, the longer and less reliable is the estimated period.

Or we can state divorce rates as of a given wedding anniversary, such as "35% by the 25th anniversary". This allows us to compare divorce rates between people who married on different years by the same standard.

A divorce rate alone, without:

  1. stating the year of the marriages,
  2. qualifying it by the anniversary when the divorce rate was calculated and
  3. mentioning whether it is an actual or estimated rate

is a meaningless number

Is the Divorce Rate Rising or Falling?

It would be foolish to expect that divorce rates have been at the same 50% for many decades. Few things having to do with human behavior stays the same for very long. So we need to do our best to understand whether the divorce rate has been rising or falling during the last few decades.

The following article published by the Census Bureau sheds some light on the direction of the divorce rates:

Rose M. Kreider and Renee Ellis, "Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 2009, Household Economic Studies, May 2011", Current Population Reports.

The data for this Census Bureau article was based on a survey of over 39,000 households given in 2009 to 55,597 adults that were married at some time in their lives. What follows summarizes some important facts from this article:

Perhaps that more recent gradual drop in the 10-year divorce rate is a sign that married couples have managed to improve how they cope with women working outside the home. This may be related to the postponement of the age of marriage, leading to marriages of more mature people. Or it could be happening because the most likely people to divorce are the ones whose marriage rates have dropped the most.

In addition, we have to consider that we should expect the increase in the divorce rate due to rising female independence to stop at some point. This is because this increase in the divorce rate only affects the percent of wives who are dissatisfied with their husbands and their rising income removed the dependency obstacle to divorce. At some point, all wives dissatisfied with their husbands earn enough income to be able to get a divorce and the divorce rate stops rising.

Consequences of the Increase in the Divorce Rates

Some would argue that it is good that women should not have to be tied to a husband they dislike any more than men to a wife they dislike. Women's improved employment opportunities removed the economic obstacle to break up an undesirable marriage, an obstacle that very few men did not have to face.

Others would object to anything that increases the divorce rate, particularly when the couple has children, due to the harm that divorce can do to them. Even with no children involved, divorce has a very traumatic effect on the divorcing couples. And some people have religious or moral objections to any type of divorce.

Whether the long-term increase in the divorce rates is an acceptable price to pay for equal opportunities and higher employment rates for women is something we will let the readers decide for themselves.

Graphs and References Link,

Graphs of the Data From the Census Articles and Tables: divorceratesgraphs.weebly.com

References Links to the Census Articles and Tables:

http://www.census.gov/

On the search rectangle on the upper right hand corner of this page:

For the Kreider and Ellis article enter "Number, Timing" and click on Go, then click on the article's name at the top of the page.

For the Census Bureau table on labor force participation rates, enter "Table 597", click on Go, then click on the table's name at the top of the page.

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Online incorporation services tout easy, fast, and cheap online incorporation and limited liability company (LLC) formation services. Examples include LegalZoom.com, MyCorporation.com, and IncorporateTime.com. Storefront and virtual paralegal services such as We the People and those found in the legal services section of your local craigslist also offer similar services. Their web sites and radio and TV sales pitches indicate that forming a corporation or LLC is as quick, easy, and inexpensive as filling out an online questionnaire and paying a fee of $100-150 for the completion of the paperwork and the filing of the documents with the secretary of state (plus the filing fees charged by the state). This article reviews the advantages and disadvantages of these services overall - for specific reviews of a particular provider, you should look elsewhere (and preferably to those with direct experience using the service, as well as at least a year of business operations thereafter).

No legal advice

In the fine print, many document preparation services state they are not law firms, cannot provide legal advice, and recommend that you consult an attorney for legal advice. Here's a word for word example from one web site: "This site is not a substitute for legal counsel.... You should consult legal counsel to determine applicable law for your situation." And from another: "[Our document preparation service] is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm." Only licensed attorneys can practice law and provide legal advice to clients, so these firms are wisely protecting themselves by making it clear that they are not in the business of providing legal advice; they are in the business of preparing whatever forms or filing you tell them to. Thus, the computer programmer's old adage, Garbage In, Garbage Out, applies. If you tell them to form a Nevada LLC, when you really need a California S corporation, they will in all likelihood produce a technically sufficient LLC, but it won't meet your actual business legal needs. Likewise, if you choose not to elect S-corporation status, and end up paying higher taxes as a C-corporation, this is not their fault; they are counting on you to know what you need, or to have consulted a lawyer and/or tax accountant before coming to them.

Many incorporation services would apparently seem to remedy this situation with lengthy FAQs and learning centers, but, frankly, a few minutes or even a few hours of research is not a substitute for a lawyer's college degree, three years of law school, and additional on-the-job training and annual continuing legal education. Any paralegal or incorporation service whose employees do provide legal advice is engaged in the unethical practice of law without a license, a crime in most jurisdictions, and their legal advice, for more reasons than one, should be taken with a grain of salt. Better yet, terminate your relationship with any such person immediately.

The other 'remedy' is to portray incorporation as a one size fits all, cookie cutter purchase, rather than explaining the reality that can be summed up the quote sometimes heard in law school, "The general rule applies to no one in particular." In other words, your circumstances and needs are not those of your friends, neighbors, or other online entity formation customers.

Other Legal Issues

Attorneys will focus not just on forming an entity you have ordered them to, but in taking a step back, assessing your overall business plan and goals, and making sure the legal structure takes into account your particular circumstances, rather than assuming you and your business are exactly the same as the next guy and his business. They will also at least point out, and suggest options for best addressing, legal issues that arise tangentially to forming a corporation or LLC. Such issues that the average incorporation service customer may be blissfully unaware of include securities laws compliance, promissory notes, trademark and service mark issues, and employee and independent contractor law. (Tax issues are also inherent in incorporating, so working with a CPA or accountant is something I always recommend to clients before and after incorporating.) Agreements typical of new corporations or existing business which are growing and have decided to incorporate include employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, supplier agreements, web site terms of use and privacy policies, and shareholder buy-sell agreements. All of these should be customized to your needs, not fill in the blank forms, just as corporate bylaws and LLC operating agreements should be customized, not one size fits all.

But aren't you, as a California incorporation lawyer, biased?

That's certainly a legitimate question, and I obviously have a strong opinion on the matters discussed. It's up to you to take to heart or disregard the opinions and advice in this article, but I would answer it this way: Because I am a business attorney, I have seen the result of using these services in a way most lay people would not, and as a result cannot recommend that most people use an incorporation service. And although incorporation legal services is part of my business law practice, I would encourage most readers to use an attorney of their choosing, in their state - it need not be me and obviously I don't benefit from you using another attorney any more than I benefit from you using an incorporation service. In fact, incorporation services are probably in the long run good for my practice; they provide a steady stream of repair work and dispute resolution for me, that typically cost $1000s more than my flat fee incorporation services.

Summary and Conclusion

In short, comparing incorporation services to a business lawyer is an apples to oranges comparison. One option provides more services and costs more; one provides less and costs less. Neither is a "rip-off" or the definitive solution for everyone. You are more likely to get things right by choosing either than choosing neither and going it alone. The lawyer is licensed by the state to provide legal advice, is subject to numerous ethical rules, forms an attorney-client relationship with his clients, and keeps up to date on changes in the law through mandatory continuing legal education. The incorporation service simply executes on your instructions, no advice, no hand-holding, no legal review of your situation or legal needs. If your instructions do not comport with what's best for your situation, then your result will be less than optimal.

There may be a small group of people who know what they need, and how to do it, but just lack the time, and who are thus well served by incorporation services. (Ironically, most of these people probably realize the value of an attorney's input and would generally hire one to take care of their legal needs, while spending their own time on what they do best, improving their business. This explains why I have business entity formation clients who are attorneys and law firms!). Or who have been advised by their accountant to form a particular type of simple entity (simple being defined as an entity to be formed in their home state jurisdiction and with only one owner). But, in my opinion, the vast majority of potential incorporation service customers would be better served by investing an additional $500 or so to have their entity selected, formed, and set up correctly, with all of their questions answered along the way, with due attention to related legal issues, and to establish a relationship with an attorney for ongoing or future legal services.


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