“Always has the best advice for you” -AVVO reviewer

Posted October 24, 2016 in Firm News by Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri.


October 24, 2016
“Always has the best advice for you” -AVVO reviewer
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Gina Policastri, partner at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri, has gained a reputation for being a compassionate but strong advocate for her clients. She has worked with clients involved in long and difficult divorces.  One AVVO reviewer recently noted that after a lengthy divorce of 6 years that seemed to be going nowhere, Gina was able to finalize his divorce in only 8 months! As the reviewer stated, “She is extremely organized, a hard worker and always has the best advice for you and knows what is needed to do to move your case forward!”

Gina Policastri is a Certified Family Law Specialist.  She handles all areas of family law including high conflict custody cases, complex business valuation and asset division issues and complicated child and spousal support matters.

For more information or to schedule your free ½ hour consultation, please contact Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri. Please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.



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Smith/Ostler Order: Accounting for Bonus Income’s Impact on Support Payments

Posted October 19, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

When calculating spousal or child support, courts look to a wage earner’s monthly income to determine an appropriate support amount.  However, what if the wage earner spouse or parent receives bonus income in the years after the initial support order is entered?  Support orders can be altered, but the process involves a court room, lawyers, and more legal fees.  In re Marriage of Ostler & Smith offers an alternative answer—the Smith/Ostler order.

A Smith/Ostler order takes into account a spouse or parent’s unearned or prospective income, detailing when and how any future, additional earnings should be incorporated into a support order.  However, because bonus income is prospective only, it may never be realized.  Calculating support based off an unknown and/or unguaranteed dollar amount can underestimate or inflate a support order.  Therefore, to account for the speculative nature of bonus payments, courts deal in percentages.

For example, in the seminal In re Marriage of Ostler & Smith case, the court awarded Wife 15 percent of Husband’s future cash bonuses.  If Husband received a bonus, he would give 15 percent of whatever amount he earned to Wife, but if Husband did not receive any cash bonuses, he would not pay additional support.  Importantly, the original support order would remain intact, and the parties would not need to argue over how much of the bonus income the supported spouse should be paid—the court order took care of those details and created a more easily administered support order.

In addition to cash bonuses, a Smith/Ostler order can account for future stock option income.  For example, in In re Marriage of Kerr, Wife and Husband, while married, improved their standard of living by exercising stock options that had increased in value.  Subsequently, during divorce proceedings, the court award Wife, through a Smith/Ostler order, a percentage of Husband’s income from any future exercise of those same stock options.

However, In re Marriage of Kerr presented an exceptional case where an additional measure besides a percentage amount was necessary to ensure that Husband’s spousal support order was not inflated.  The value of Husband’s stock had increased exponentially after he divorced Wife.  A specified percentage of the stock’s value would have increased Husband’s payments to a point that far exceeded the marital standard of living he shared with Wife.  Thus, the court concluded that under special circumstances, such as the case at hand, use of a Smith/Ostler order is permissible only if the court caps the amount of future income a spouse can receive at a number proportionate to the martial standard of living.

If you are considering a divorce or legal separation and would like more information about how either action may affect your finances, please contact the experienced family law attorneys at Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri.  We can help you understand and manage any spousal or child support issues that may arise.

Lastly, please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.


In re Marriage of Ostler & Smith (1990) 223 Cal.App.3d 33

In re Marriage of Kerr (1999) 77 Cal.App.4th 87



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Mediation: Taking control of your divorce

Posted October 10, 2016 in Family Law by Michael Lonich.

The underuse of the mediation process seems to be largely attributable to the fact that many people are unaware of what a mediation session is and how beneficial it can actually be. In family disputes, mediation can be extremely rewarding, saving parties time, money and sanity.

The rules of mediation: you create them

In mediation, parties are not bound by many of the rules that govern judges’ decision making. As a result, parties can reach solutions that might not otherwise be available from a court. For example, if there is a dispute over child support or child custody, rather than having a judge decide the amount of support or amount of visitation based on guidelines and factors required by statute,  parties are free to negotiate an amount or time deemed reasonable to both.

The outcomes: you decide them

In mediation, you are free to discuss with your spouse what is important to both of you and try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.  It differs from litigation in that parties avoid the uncertainty, time and stress associated with going to trial. Parties are  able to hear and understand the other’s point of view and with the guidance of a mediator, this enables parties to reach a middle ground . Because the mediator does not have the authority to make decisions, it is ultimately the parties making their OWN decisions over their OWN lives.

However, a good mediator should have some family law experience and be able to offer practical guidance to the parties. A mediator with family law experience can offer parties insight as to what might and might not be granted in court, ensuring that no request is unreasonable or disadvantageous to the other spouse. This can make the mediation session much more productive.

Progress: in the mediation room and beyond

Lastly, even if you don’t settle all your divorce issues, chances are you did resolve some. Even having resolved one issue is progress.  Further, the tenants of mediation promote cooperation and communication. Thus because parties are provided the opportunity to resolve their own case, mediation tends to reduce hostility and preserve ongoing relationships.

While divorce mediation works in many situations, it is not always appropriate. Litigation is often the best option in situations where there is domestic violence, one party refuses to cooperate in making required disclosures, or communication between the parties is impossible. If you have any questions about divorce mediation and would like to speak to an attorney, please contact Lonich Patton Erlich Policastri for further information.  Keep in mind that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results.  While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice.  Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.


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