Successful Case Examples for Irvine Divorce Lawyer Brian Mullen
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Successful Case Examples for Managing Attorney Brian Mullen
Most recent cases:
Non-Parent Awarded Custody
In November 2017, Attorney Brian Mullen obtained custody for his client, the former stepfather of an 11-year old child. At the time of Brian’s initial involvement, the child’s biological parents had an open custody case in Orange County. However, because the child’s former stepfather was not a party to the case, Brian filed a motion to join his client as well as a motion for custody. The court granted the motion for joinder and set the custody motion for trial. The court also inquired whether the parties would be participating in a child custody evaluation where a recommendation for child custody would result. Brian believed that his client would perform well in such an evaluation. The parties stipulated to the investigation.
Prior to the meeting with the investigator, Brian and his team provided his client with ample documentation in support of his request. According to his client, upon receiving these documents, the investigator noted the high quality of work that Brian and his office put into his case. After meeting with all parties, the custody investigator enthusiastically recommended Brian’s client to have joint legal custody with the child’s mother and sole physical custody. When the biological father saw the recommendations, he decided that he could not prevail and stipulated to the recommendations.
The client and child are happy and doing well.
Client Awarded Community Interest in Other Party’s 401(k) Prior to Trial
In October 2017, Brian’s client, a mother of 4 children, succeeded in a motion for an early division of her husband’s 401(k). Typically, the court does not divide assets until trial, but Brian’s client could not wait that long. At the motion hearing Brian persuaded the court that his client was a special case for this early distribution. Most notably, his client received no child support and exhausted all of her pay on her children’s expenses. The father vociferously opposed the motion because he wanted the money saved for payment of the parties’ debt. However, the court was convinced by Brian’s showing of his client’s desperate need for money in the short term and granted the motion. The court ordered Brian’s client to receive a substantial share of the 401(k) prior to trial so she could pay her bills in the coming months.
Without the early distribution of funds, Brian’s client and her four children would have had to move and go to less desirable school district.
Court appoints Receiver to Collect Client’s Spousal Support and Community Funds Due in Judgment.
In a recent case, Brian was successful in convincing the Court to appoint a receiver to enforce certain provisions in a Judgment of Dissolution. For a period of six months, Brian’s client had not received her monthly spousal support, nor had she received her interest in many of the community assets ordered in the parties’ 2001 Judgment. The other party is a CPA who owns an accounting business and was able to avoid collection via wage garnishments, bank levies and Sheriff’s keepers. Seeing that no other remedy would suffice, pursuant to Family Code 290, Brian filed a motion to appoint a receiver to collect monies due to his client. A receiver is an officer of the court to receive, care for, administer and dispose of property under orders of the Court. The Court granted the motion and awarded substantial attorney’s fees to Brian’s client. In fact, the judicial officer who granted the motion stated that it was the first time in 12 years of being on the bench that he had granted a motion to appoint a receiver. Since the receiver has been appointed, the other party has complied with all of the orders.
Courts are generally reluctant to appoint a receiver in a family law matter. Ordinarily the appointment of a receiver is a last resort when other methods of enforcement have failed.
Court Reduces Client’s Monthly Support By Half, Awards Family Code 271 Sanctions to Client
In a November 2015 Ruling the Court granted Brian’s client’s motion to modify child and spousal support and for Family Code 271 sanctions. Prior to trial, Brian, who represented the Father of the parties’ 11-year-old daughter, subpoenaed records for the Mother’s bank accounts, her recent application for a car lease and the last 12 months of her credit card statements. The bank statements revealed that Mother was receiving recurring electronic payments of $4,400 per month from her parents. Mother failed to report those monies on her Income and Expense Declarations. At trial the Court imputed $4,400 per month to Mother based on these recurring monetary gifts pursuant to the case In re Marriage of Alter, a case that gives the court discretion to impute income to parties based on regular, recurring monetary gifts. The result was that Brian’s client’s combined child and spousal support payment was reduced in half, retroactive to the date of filing the motion. Because Brian’s client was current on the ordered support, the Father was entitled to a substantial credit against prospective support.
The car lease application was also admitted into evidence. The application contained Mother’s statement that she was employed despite the fact that she had told the Court she was unemployed for months. Because of Mother’s dishonesty, the Court awarded over $26,000 in Family Code 271 sanctions to Brian’s client for conduct thwarting the policy to promote settlement of litigation.
Finally, Mother’s request for need-based attorney’s fees under Family Code 2030 was denied because Mother’s credit card statements evidenced that she went on a spending spree shortly after the date of separation. Mother charged and paid over $30,000 in cosmetics, vacations and presents for her boyfriend in a matter of four months. Thus, the Court found no need for Brian’s client to contribute to Mother’s attorney’s fees.
Sample of Successes and Cases Involving Child Custody and Visitation:
Mr. Mullen was lead counsel in a paternity case wherein he represented the father of a newborn baby. When Mother became pregnant she advised Father that she would be placing the child up for adoption against the Father’s wishes. Prior to giving birth, Mother selected the prospective adoptive parents and ceased all contact with Father. Just after the birth of the child, Mother placed the child with the prospective adoptive parents. Shortly thereafter, Father hired Mr. Mullen, who appeared ex parte to request genetic testing to confirm the paternity of the child. When the genetic testing confirmed Father’s paternity, he went ex parte to secure sole legal and custody of the child. Successful at the ex parte, Father picked up his child from the home of the prospective adoptive parents that day and continues to be the child’s primary custodian.
Sample of Successes and Cases Involving Divorce:
Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP handles cases where the validity of a marriage is contested. In one such case, Mr. Mullen represented Wife in a case where Husband argued that the marriage should be nullified because Wife allegedly refused to have sexual relations with him and decided to live in a separate home throughout most of the marriage. Wife and Husband e-mailed each other on a daily basis during the marriage. Wife preserved all of these e-mails, and Mr. Mullen offered many of them at the time of trial to show Wife’s commitment to the marriage. The Court admitted several of these e-mails, which evidenced the parties’ vacation plans as well as their frequent conversations about fixing the house and running their business. The Court concluded that the parties’ marriage was valid and that it was unlikely that given the context of these e-mails, the parties never had sexual relations. Due to the validity of the marriage, Wife was able to secure spousal support and attorney’s fees, neither of which would have been unavailable had the nullity been granted.
In another nullity case, Mr. Mullen represented a husband who never saw his wife after his wedding day. Once the parties married, Wife moved away and only communicated sporadically with Husband. When Wife received her green card, she disappeared entirely. When Husband hired Mr. Mullen to nullify the marriage, Wife was nowhere to be found. Wife was served by publication in a local newspaper. At the time of trial, the court found that the circumstances evidence that Wife defrauded Husband into marriage by choosing not to cohabitate with him and by ceasing communication after she received her green card.
Often an issue that must be resolved early in a divorce case is the date of separation. Recently Mr. Mullen represented Wife in a divorce case where the date of separation was at issue. Wife contended that the date of separation coincided with Husband’s permanent departure to a foreign country. Husband argued that the date of separation was several months later. Shortly after moving, Husband transferred approximately $160,000 to a foreign account and ran up $180,000 in credit card debt. Husband alleged that Wife endorsed all of these transactions in conversations that took place after he moved. The Court held a date of separation trial where Mr. Mullen offered e-mails written by Husband to his girlfriend talking about “their new life together.” Additionally, on cross examination, Mr. Mullen was able to elicit Father’s testimony that he conceived a child with another woman after he moved. The Court sided with Wife’s date of separation claim and found that Husband’s testimony was not credible.
Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP handles cases involving prevention of child abduction. Mr. Mullen represented Husband in a divorce case wherein the other parent requested that she be allowed to take the children to visit her relatives in a foreign country. The country was not a member of the Hague Convention and had a terrible reputation of returning children to their native country after they have been abducted. Further, the country just had a regime change and was in a constant state of upheaval. At trial, Mr. Mullen submitted evidence that Mother did not have substantial ties to the USA (part-time job, did not belong to social clubs, no relatives here, stated her desire to move to the foreign country) as well as the foreign country’s history of refusing to return abducted children and her financial resources in the foreign country. The Court concluded that Mother was a flight-risk and ordered that before she travels out of the USA with the children she has to put up a $150,000 bond, register the custody orders with the embassy of the country to which she was travelling, contact law enforcement of the country to which she was traveling and pay for a round-trip open-ticket for Father’s use in case she did not return the children. The Court also forbade her from taking the children to the foreign country
Sample of Successes and Cases Involving Post-Judgment Matters:
Sometimes the parties do not have litigation issues until after their Judgment of Dissolution is filed. In a case where the parties had a Stipulated Marital Settlement Agreement ordering his client to pay $4,200 per month in child support, Mr. Mullen was successful in convincing the Court to reduce the child support order to zero. The Court was receptive to Mr. Mullen’s argument that the Court should impute income to the other party based on a job she left a year prior to the court hearing. Additionally, the Court found that the other party was receiving recurring gifts from her church to support herself. Under the 2009 Alter case, the Court has discretion to consider recurring gifts as income available for child support.
Sample of Successes and Cases Involving Mediation or Settlement:
Mr. Mullen successfully negotiated a stipulated change of custody from Mother to Father. Mother was granted sole physical custody of the parties’ 15 year old daughter pursuant to their Judgment of Dissolution. After the Judgment was entered, Mother moved to an unsanitary apartment despite the fact that Father consistently paid above-guideline child support to her. Mother frequently sent the child disparaging texts containing extreme profanity about the Father. Father lived out of county, but was willing to re-arrange his life to become the primary caretaker of the child. Shorty after Father hired Mr. Mullen, Father filed a motion to change custody. When Mother was served with the motion, which included examples of her incendiary text messages, Mother agreed to change custody to the Father so long as the child remains in her current school. Father drives 50 miles a day so that the child does not have to change schools and is now her primary caretaker.
Sample of Successes and Cases Involving Support (Child and/or Spousal):
In December 2013 Mr. Mullen persuaded the court to order an 80% reduction in Father’s monthly child support obligation. Approximately six months prior to the modified order, the court ordered Father to pay approximately $450 per month. This order was based on a timeshare that was much lower than Father actually had, but because Father did not have the attorney at that hearing, he was not able to prove that fact to the court. Mr. Mullen was able to convince the court that Father’s timeshare was actually much higher and that the court should include Father’s travel expenses for visitation as part of the order. As a result, Father’s child support was reduced from $500 per month to $65 per month.
Sample of Successes Involving Move Away Cases:
Move-away cases involve one parent’s request to move with the children out of Orange County. These cases are often the most emotional and heart-wrenching a family law jurist will see because the result will likely mean that one of the parents will have much less visitation with the child. The Court’s task is even more difficult when the parents have approximately equal time parenting the children. One of these cases involved Mr. Mullen’s client, a mother of a 5-year old. The father was the primary parent because Mother had already moved to Oklahoma with her new husband. After reaching Oklahoma, Mother requested custody and for the son to move to Oklahoma. In order to showcase the benefits of raising a child in a small Midwestern town, Mr. Mullen arranged for the parties to enter into a full custody evaluation with a home study of each party’s residence. After the evaluator recommended primary custody for the Mother, Mr. Mullen persuaded the court to grant the same to his client. The home visit was a major factor in the evaluator recommending Mother to have custody because the area was a much better place for the child to be raised. Additionally, the evaluator assessed the strong bond between the child and his relatives, all of whom resided in Oklahoma. The balance of the evidence supported a move to Oklahoma would be in the child’s best interest.
In any contested custody case, the parties may need to weigh whether a full custody evaluation will assist them in presenting their case. In making this decision, the parties should balance the costs, time and benefit of such an undertake Since a full custody evaluation can take several months to complete, a parent planning to move may have his or her plans delayed. It is advisable to consult with a skilled family law attorney before any motion to move-away has been filed for a better understanding of the move-away process.
Sample of Successes and Cases Involving Domestic Violence:
Mr. Mullen represented Husband in a domestic violence matter wherein Wife accused Husband of physical abuse and forcing her to eat junk food. Wife alleged that Husband smacked her after an argument about money. She also alleged that Husband kept her as a prisoner in her own home by forbidding her to leave the residence while he was at work, controlling her finances and fixing meals that had no nutritional value. At trial Mr. Mullen offered evidence of Wife’s active gym membership, recent pictures of the parties at amusements parks and restaurants and various pictures of the family enjoying sumptuous meals consisting of salads, fruit, poultry, potatoes and grilled vegetables. Further, Wife had no evidence that Husband abused her. Mr. Mullen was able to convince the court that “He said, she said” evidence is not enough to secure a permanent restraining order. The Court found that the evidence Father submitted contradicted Mother’s claims of abuse. As a result, the Court denied Wife’s request for a permanent restraining order.
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*Of course, successes in past cases does not guarantee success in any other case.