Special Guest: Katie Clunen


Jon Dabach (00:01.323)
Katie Clunen, welcome to the Relationship Revival Show. Thanks so much for being here. How are you doing today?

Katie Clunen (00:07.302)
Oh, thank you for having me. I’m doing really well. How are you today, Dr. John?

Jon Dabach (00:11.679)
I’m good. I’m good. Thank you. Yeah. The viewers don’t know I was on, I was on your, uh, on your show and, and, uh, the doctor things a little inside joke. So thanks for referring. Uh, it’s, it’s, it’s still kind of weird when people call me Dr. John, cause in my head, it growing up, it was always a medical doctor, but you know, it’s, cause I think a lot of people have that kind of idea. I think if you introduce yourself that way, it’s like, Oh, what kind of medicine do you practice? I’m like, ah, okay.

Katie Clunen (00:20.932)
Thank you.

Katie Clunen (00:30.05)

Katie Clunen (00:39.282)
Exactly. Yeah, there’s been a recent article going around about lawyers and why we’re not called doctorates, even though we have a jurist doctorate. So it’s inside joke with the lawyers as well.

Jon Dabach (00:47.591)
Yeah. That’s really funny. I never thought of that. Yeah. The, I mean, you hear JD all the time and you see it all the time, but yeah. And I think that the quick answer is because it’s confusing, right? Yeah. Um, so Katie, you are a family law attorney in California and, um, I, you know, what, what do you think is the, if someone is unfortunately going to get separated, what do you feel are?

Katie Clunen (00:53.961)

Katie Clunen (00:59.275)
Yes, right.

Jon Dabach (01:16.523)
the qualities that people should look for and the attorney they choose to work with.

Katie Clunen (01:21.546)
Yes, so there’s so many different lawyers out there and we all have different personalities and the way we handle cases. So it’s really important to interview a few different lawyers to see who you fit best with because you could be with that lawyer for a year or if it’s a contentious case, a couple of years. So you really wanna find someone that you’re comfortable talking to and sharing details with.

Jon Dabach (01:35.767)
Thank you.

Katie Clunen (01:49.482)
But you’re also going to want to ask questions about how they handle cases. Are they going to start off being aggressive and start doing discovery, which is sending out a request to the other side? Are they going to run to the courthouse for every little thing? Because all of that adds up. And going to the courthouse, you’re paying for that lawyer sitting there, possibly all day, waiting for your case to be called.

Katie Clunen (02:18.51)
So you just want to be mindful of how expensive it can be. I like to start off and tell people, you know, I’m not aggressive unless I really need to be. I’m more the type, let’s try to work things out of court. I want to try to save people money because I’m taking money away from them and their kids if they have kids. So let’s see what we can work out. If we can avoid court, let’s do it. Going to court is no fun. The courthouse is not a fun place to be.

Jon Dabach (02:19.223)
Thank you.

Jon Dabach (02:22.769)
Thank you. Good night.

Katie Clunen (02:47.254)
emotions are high, I’ve seen fights in the hallway. And it just, it takes a long time. So it’s really important to ask a potential lawyer what their strategy is in the case and how they see things going. And those are good questions to ask when you interview a lawyer.

Jon Dabach (03:06.675)
Now, when you say you’re not as aggressive, I’ve luckily, and knock on wood, I hope to never have a divorce. Where do things get aggressive as an attorney? And what does that mean? What does that look like?

Katie Clunen (03:19.15)
Sure, so it’s more like advocating for your clients. So if the other side is taking a position that may not be backed up by the law or cases, to be a little bit more aggressive and just come out and say, hey, where is your authority for that? I don’t see it anywhere. And it’s okay to say that, you can even say that in court, your honor, I don’t know where the authority they’re using for this. And so that’s a kind of aggressiveness. Or if the other side’s refusing to give over information,

Katie Clunen (03:47.03)
we might have to take in that tactic to subpoena records, do depositions, things that people may see as being a little bit more aggressive. But if that’s the only way we can get documents, we need to get those documents, and that’s a way that the law provides to get the documents if the other person’s not gonna be truthful and forthcoming with information.

Jon Dabach (04:08.191)
Yeah. So you’re, I would I be correct in assuming then like when there are issues, you would try a phone call first, just the amicable way to kind of get things that are an email and then like if that doesn’t work, okay, well you’re forcing my hand into a subpoena, right? Is that kind of the mentality? Okay. That makes a lot of sense.

Katie Clunen (04:15.234)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Katie Clunen (04:22.846)
Definitely. Yeah, definitely the phone call first followed up by an email and saying, hey, you’ve given me no choice. I have to go spend money now and do these subpoenas, set this deposition, take you to court. But then you can tell the judge, look at all these steps I took. You can back it up with the phone calls and the letters and emails and say, I tried, I tried everything.

Jon Dabach (04:30.675)
Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Jon Dabach (04:47.623)
Yeah. What, what are some kind of rookie mistakes that you see happen again and again and again when a family is dissolving or just a marriage where you’re like, if, if my clients never did this, my life would be easier.

Katie Clunen (05:04.006)
Oh, I don’t know. There’s so many things. Let me think of some examples. You know, one is, it would be so helpful if some clients had a therapist to talk to. So they can talk about their emotional issues with a therapist who’s trained. Because although I’m a lawyer and a counsel, I can counsel people, but I have no real therapy training at all.

Jon Dabach (05:16.296)
I’m going to go to bed.

Katie Clunen (05:33.09)
So, you know, I feel like some people, they can spend their money better and get better results talking to a therapist and figuring out what they then wanna come tell me as their divorce lawyer. I think that would be a better way to spend money and then they can get better results because they’re actually getting help in a therapy setting. Another thing is to take really good documents. For example, if somebody’s using a credit card, try to get statements.

Katie Clunen (06:01.718)
before they leave the house. If they’re leaving the house, try to get as much financial documents you can from that house and take anything from the house that you may not be able to get. Because unfortunately, I’ve seen it where somebody moves out and then wants to get that special picture. And the other side’s refusing to give it to them and they can’t get it back in the house to get it. So just little things, I think, like that would be really helpful for people to know before they start the divorce process.

Jon Dabach (06:32.399)
Yeah, I, and, and selfishly I’m going to ask some questions because once in a while I have clients where they’re, you know, either they started filing or they call me cause there’s some infidelity and they have one foot out the door and I asked them what’s going on and I always it’s like, well, if it’s going to go down that path and there’s no stopping it. I always want to say like.

Jon Dabach (06:58.463)
Here’s some financial advice, take it or leave it. Like don’t start getting some information now. Like don’t leave it to the 25th hour. What other advice? Cause I think I speak to clients. I’d love to know what to give them as if things are going south. And even if you’re trying to reconcile, what can you do to kind of protect yourself, make sure you have your ducks in a row in the event that you can’t save the marriage so that when you do walk away, you’re in a better position.

Katie Clunen (07:02.638)

Katie Clunen (07:28.77)
So one thing I recommend is having your own bank account that’s not even at the same bank as your joint account. And maybe even having a credit card that’s only in your name because I see it so many times when the lesser earnings spouse leaves, sometimes they get cut off from a credit card or bank account. So it’s always nice to be able to say, oh, I have my own account here. I can survive for a little bit until I can get some spousal and child support.

Katie Clunen (07:58.286)
So that’s one thing. Once a divorce case has been filed, people can’t change beneficiaries of life insurance policies, bank accounts, they can’t close accounts, change insurances. So it’s also important to review documents to see if there’s anything you can or want to change before filing for divorce. If there is a power of attorney,

Katie Clunen (08:27.818)
either healthcare or financial, and those can be changed during a divorce, and those always should be looked at because you may not want your divorcing spouse to be your power of attorney anymore for healthcare or financial. So that’s always a good thing to look at. And then like you said, get your documents in a row. If there’s an office, the filing cabinet, and you think you may be leaving the house, go and start taking pictures.

Jon Dabach (08:40.518)

Katie Clunen (08:53.83)
start making copies of tax returns, mortgage statements, 401k statements, anything that could be divided into divorce. All that stuff is just really helpful to get at the start of it.

Jon Dabach (09:07.323)
Okay. I had, I had a question and I, and I said, look, I’m not, this was years ago and I, and I said, look, I’m not an attorney. I don’t know how to answer you. Um, but it, I’m always kind of curious if it came up again. So in a contentious marriage where there hasn’t been any domestic violence, but maybe there’s been a lot of yelling, bordering on verbal abuse or something like that. The one, the woman kind of asked me, should I,

Jon Dabach (09:33.963)
have a police present while I, you know, try to get him out of the house or like is, does that help my case? Does it like do, does papering the file with a police officer? Is it a good idea? And, and I saw both ways. I’m like, on one hand, I kind of see the strength of having documents. On the other hand, that’s just setting up for a highly contentious separation right from the start.

Katie Clunen (09:57.714)
Yeah, definitely. If there’s any domestic violence issues, police should be called and a police report should be taken because that can that can determine even custody issues. So if there’s any, you know, feelings that there could be an escalation or violence, definitely police. If it’s just having a police there maybe to keep the peace. I’ve seen that happen. And you know, for people collecting this stuff, and it’s fine. I mean,

Katie Clunen (10:27.142)
it can escalate and as long as the things don’t escalate and maybe the person that calls it then gets in not in trouble but gets gets report taken against them so like backfires. But I would only use the go to that resource if it’s really needed otherwise maybe have a friend, or not use it at all I wouldn’t use it as a tactic to get what to pay for the file.

Jon Dabach (10:27.639)
It doesn’t really hurt or help. Yeah. Okay.

Jon Dabach (10:52.343)
Gotcha. Gotcha. I think that’s solid advice. Um, in addition to being somebody’s attorney, are there other ways that you work with people? Is there like a consultant kind of role that you could play? Should somebody be talking to an attorney like you before they think of leaving? I mean, what’s, you know, where, where is like the way you could start with somebody?

Katie Clunen (11:16.158)
Yes, so I do. I am also a consultant. And so it’s in the background. So somebody can call me up. I offer a free 30 minute consultation. Usually they’re done on the phone. And a lot of times it is before somebody files for divorce because they want to know their options. What am I getting myself into? What is the California law regarding support? And so I think it’s really helpful for somebody to talk to a lawyer even before they decide to file for divorce.

Jon Dabach (11:17.802)
Thank you very much.

Katie Clunen (11:46.282)
As a consultant, we call it off limited scope, that I can help on certain things. So somebody that may be able to fill out the paperwork, but just wants me to look at it to make sure boxes are checked the correct way they find the right spot. And that is something I can do in the background and my name wouldn’t have to go on any of the paperwork. So people like that when they are divorcing because they can say, oh, we decided not to use lawyers, right.

Jon Dabach (11:47.06)
Thank you.

Katie Clunen (12:12.61)
But then they have me in the background and they never have to tell the other person because they my name doesn’t go on anywhere but I’m I’m helping them review documents I can even get them filed at the courthouse. I can help them find somebody to serve the paperwork paperwork and then I can give them advice be like okay well we we did this first step let’s move on to the second step, which are financial disclosures here’s the document here I. let’s go with them together here’s what you need to put in and then after that step is the settlement agreement.

Katie Clunen (12:41.618)
and then I walk them through what needs to be in a settlement agreement and I can help draft those documents as well. So this can keep the cost down because the other side doesn’t know there’s a lawyer working and what maybe won’t paper them, you know, you mentioned that term with with things or phone calls and I’m just there, whatever help is needed, call me up, email me and I’m happy to help.

Katie Clunen (13:04.79)
It’s a lower retainer, it’s the same hourly rate, but lower retainer because I’m not on the hook for everything and you’re just using me as you need me. So, that’s another good question to ask when you interview a lawyer is, oh, do you offer limited scope services? If I can do some of the work myself, can you just be there to answer questions? Help me make sure I fill out my forms right. And some lawyers do and some lawyers say, no, I only do the full representation.

Jon Dabach (13:16.439)
Thank you.

Jon Dabach (13:29.445)
Yeah. So depending on what your goals and needs are, it might, that’s another way to kind of filter out who might be a perfect fit for you.

Katie Clunen (13:36.275)
Definitely, yeah.

Jon Dabach (13:38.159)
Okay. And your, your office is in Ventura County. How did you, how did you kind of land there?

Katie Clunen (13:42.786)
Ventura County.

Katie Clunen (13:46.754)
So I grew up in Simi Valley. I went to college at Cal Poly Slow, came back home to Simi, went to law school in downtown LA at Southwestern, and I decided that I wanted to work back in Ventura County where all my family and friends are. So we have an office in Thousand Oaks, and then we also have an office in Ventura. So it’s great for those clients that are on the Inventura. I can meet them there as well as having the office in Thousand Oaks.

Jon Dabach (13:51.757)
So, let me see.

Katie Clunen (14:16.462)
So I concentrate on cases in Ventura County and LA County. I can help in other counties, but I’m just not familiar with the judges. And so if it is, you know, something I can do consulting or limited scope services, but I don’t want to charge clients having to drive to, you know, Kern County or Orange County, if they can find the local council there.

Jon Dabach (14:42.059)
Right, right. And with your kind of focus on staying out of the court as much as possible, that kind of makes sense that you can do that remote work when, you know. And I assume you’d be able to work throughout the entire state in that capacity, right?

Katie Clunen (14:51.646)

Katie Clunen (14:58.07)
Definitely, yes. So I have my bar license in California, if I can work anywhere in the state. And funny story is that I was referred a case in Orange County and they said, oh, it’s a settlement case, I think you can settle it. And unfortunately we weren’t able to and it’s been going on now, I think two years since I’ve been involved, actually maybe three now. And we’re set for trial in the fall. So I’ll be down in Orange County.

Jon Dabach (15:06.135)
Thanks for watching. Bye.

Katie Clunen (15:26.978)
So, you know, it happens and I just go with the flow and I learned Orange County law, not law, but you know the Orange County procedures, which is different from Ventura in LA.

Jon Dabach (15:36.457)
A system, right? Yeah, two years. What’s the average length? A separation takes? I mean, is it all over the map?

Katie Clunen (15:46.738)
It is. Yeah, in California, it’s at least six months. There’s a six month awaiting period from after somebody is served. You know, I’ve seen a case get resolved in maybe two or three months, and then it just sits on the judge’s desk to sign off in six months. But usually, I think it’s about a year. If it’s contentious, it’s longer because the courts are so backed up, John. Right now, if we were to file for a custody motion, it’s probably not even going to be set for mediation, custody mediation until the fall.

Jon Dabach (15:50.999)
Thank you.

Jon Dabach (16:02.447)
Thank you.

Katie Clunen (16:16.478)
it’s just really backed up at the courthouses. I set something for trial. I needed a one-day trial and that’s October as well. So unfortunately, these cases are taking a little bit longer because the courts are still backed up from COVID and they just don’t have enough judges and staff to get paperwork done and courtrooms open.

Jon Dabach (16:42.754)
Before COVID, were the turn times drastically different?

Katie Clunen (16:47.422)
Yes, yeah, they were. We were able to get in mediation maybe three months, two months, and trials not, at least in family law and Ventura, it was, we had a better turnaround. And, you know, part of it is because divorces have increased since COVID, you know, being stuck together with somebody during that time period, it really changed a lot of people, and we did see an increase of filings after the courts reopened, after some of the…

Katie Clunen (17:15.618)
the stays were lifted, we saw an influx of divorce cases.

Jon Dabach (17:21.387)
Yeah, that’s a bottleneck, right? So you have a backlog and a higher volume. So I can only imagine, it doesn’t sound like it’s gonna slow down anytime soon. It’s gonna play a little bit of a long game of catch-up there. How did it work during COVID? Was like divorce on freeze? I mean, how did that, if the courts are closed, is it just not possible to get divorced? I didn’t even think of that.

Katie Clunen (17:25.151)

Katie Clunen (17:29.29)

Katie Clunen (17:48.022)
Yeah, so when the courts were closed for those two months, we couldn’t do anything. It had to be a real, real emergency to even get in front of a judge, like real. So if it’s a financial emergency. No, I mean, they don’t really see financial issues as emergencies. It had to be a child custody or domestic violence issue to get in front of a judge. They are very, judges are very picky on what they consider an emergency, especially for finances. They don’t really consider finance issues.

Katie Clunen (18:17.13)
an emergency. So we were kind of on hold, we could still do the paperwork and do parts of the financial disclosures, we don’t need the court for it. We can do that step and then do the settlement agreement, we just couldn’t file anything until the clerk’s office reopened. So when they reopen, we all went down, you know, with stacks of papers that had to get had to get filed. But we couldn’t file new cases, we could start the paperwork for a new case and just say, okay, we have to hold on to it until they’re accepting new cases. So

Katie Clunen (18:46.762)
It was a very interesting time.

Jon Dabach (18:49.213)
Yeah, and in terms of like process servers and stuff, was that also not able to be done?

Katie Clunen (18:57.226)
Um, well, yeah, I don’t think so. I don’t, I didn’t have to use anybody because I couldn’t get anything filed to get, to get personally served. I didn’t have that issue. Right. But, um, yeah, it was tough.

Jon Dabach (18:59.327)

Jon Dabach (19:05.891)
Oh, right. Sure. Yeah, makes sense.

Jon Dabach (19:11.211)
Um, moving, moving forward, uh, through your marriage, uh, what, when do you see the most common times for people to really start thinking of divorce? Is it two years into a marriage? Seven is a 20 or do you not see a typical answer across your practice?

Katie Clunen (19:37.078)
No, it all depends. I’ve seen it all. In California, a long term marriage is 10 years. So some people like to wait for that 10 years, especially if they’re the lower income earner. Because once you hit that 10 year mark, you hit this called permanent spousal support, which means they possibly could get spousal support until they die, remarry or further court order. So some people are trying to get to that 10 year.

Katie Clunen (20:06.898)
mark to get that. And there’s also some social security benefits and stuff like that, that play out as well to get to that 10-year mark. But if you’re the higher income earner and you know that, they’re trying to file right underneath that 10-year mark to get in so they don’t have to pay. Under 10 years, it’s called the short-term marriage. And spouse and support is usually half the length of the marriage at that time. So right now I’m seeing all different types of

Katie Clunen (20:35.266)
years, you know, there was a short term, just a couple years, but then there’s a longer where they waited till the kids got out of high school. I see that a lot wait till the kids get out of high school. And then and then I’ll file. And then you know, I see that when people may be going through a midlife crisis, just be like, I still love the person. I just can’t see myself with them for the next 50 years. I want to go do something else. So I see it all California is a no fault state.

Jon Dabach (21:00.703)
Yeah. And I’ve been, I was born and raised in California and I recently had a client in. What was it? I think it was Connecticut or somewhere, somewhere in that region of the country where it wasn’t a no false state. What does that mean? Cause that was, it was kind of threw my head for a whirlwind.

Katie Clunen (21:03.99)
So it doesn’t matter what the reason is for divorce. Nobody, the judges don’t care. You can tell me.

Katie Clunen (21:24.386)

Katie Clunen (21:29.366)
You know, I don’t know, I’ve always practiced here, I’ve always lived here, but I believe, I believe that if there was any like infidelity, there may not be like a spousal support or outweigh or alimony maybe awarded to that person. That’s, that’s my understanding, but I would definitely have to look at Google for that.

Jon Dabach (21:32.141)
Okay, gotcha.

Jon Dabach (21:46.527)
Okay, so but no fault in California means you can get divorced for any reason. That’s basically what it what the idea is.

Katie Clunen (21:52.198)
Yes. So, you know, it’s hard if there was infidelity, then somebody says, well, they cheated on me. Why do I have to pay them spells of support? You know, that is a tough question, right? And I think in the other fault states, that’s an easier thing to be like, okay, they cheated on you, there’s proof, then maybe you don’t have to pay. But again, I have to Google to see what faults and what they get from proving there was infidelity or whatever fault.

Jon Dabach (22:17.259)
Sure, sure. Okay. But so in California, I mean, I guess what no fault means is it doesn’t matter the higher earner pays the spousal support and that’s just or whatever you guys can negotiate and that’s just kind of it.

Katie Clunen (22:31.466)
Yep. Yeah. So I know some people don’t like it.

Jon Dabach (22:34.111)
So it pays, sometimes it pays to be, I have a question. So if you’re, if you’re someone who has a career that kind of goes up and down and maybe you had like a really good 10 years and then COVID puts you out of business, let’s say, and now your spouse is now the main bread earner. How does the court decide who’s the higher earner? Is it, does it have to be that they’ve been the higher earner for a certain time threshold?

Katie Clunen (23:02.606)
So the court’s looking at the marital standard of living throughout the marriage and maybe they’ll look, sometimes they’ll say, okay, I wanna see tax returns from the three years prior to your date of separation just to see who was earning what and what kind of standard of living is expected. So the courts, when they’re determining support, they’re looking at what the current income is and then also what the standard of living was during the marriage. Because judges are aware that when there’s divorce, maybe a person

Katie Clunen (23:32.058)
isn’t working as hard because they know if they work harder, they have to pay more support. And so they are taking a decrease of income. But they also realize that maybe somebody needs changes jobs to change jobs. Their job, you know, making a lot of money was too stressful and they need to, they want to do a career change. So it’s a lot of factors the court has to look into to determine the spouse of support. So it’s a tough one because

Katie Clunen (23:59.486)
And there’s a saying that somebody never earned as less as they did right before they filed for divorce or going through a divorce.

Jon Dabach (24:06.535)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Does it, does it ever happen that they’ll look beyond the last three years in tax returns? Yeah.

Katie Clunen (24:15.166)
Yeah, definitely. They can go back further. That case in one of my cases, we’re going to go back a few more years than three, just to bring into a spreadsheet to show what the up and down was for the income and what the highest was and what the lowest was. Just to show the judge that it does really fluctuate and they should Yeah, what number to use now for this permanent support. So we’re going to go back, I think, 10 years.

Jon Dabach (24:44.411)
So it’s really whatever you have to use to argue. I mean, that’s the whole point of the case. Is that right? Yeah. Sure.

Katie Clunen (24:49.823)
Yeah, the other side’s not going to go back that far. They’re only going to go back probably three years. And then I’m going to have to come in and say, oh, we have to go back this far to really give a clear picture with the marital standard of living is. So there’s going to be two different sides. And this is the case that’s going to trial. So yeah.

Jon Dabach (25:06.367)
Right. And the judge has to make a ruling there. That’s so fascinating. Um, okay. Well, how, how, what’s the best way for someone to reach out if they, if they, if they’re in California and they feel like you’re the perfect fit, which I’m sure a lot of people listening probably will. Um, is it, is it your website? Is that the easiest way?

Katie Clunen (25:21.262)
That’d be great.

Katie Clunen (25:26.714)
Yes, cleaninokmanlaw.com and our phone number is on there. We also text from that phone number as well, which makes it really helpful for those that like to text rather than call. Email is on there as well. So drop us a line, call us up, and we will schedule a free 30-minute consultation. If it’s for somebody out of California and they want to know maybe do I know

Katie Clunen (25:51.486)
a family law attorney in Nevada or something like that. I do have a lot of connections. I was really involved with the American Law Association and met lawyers from all over across the United States. So I have a pretty good network and I’m happy to help somebody find a lawyer instead of just looking maybe online. It’s always good to get some kind of personal referral if they can.

Jon Dabach (26:12.467)
Yeah, great tip. I’ll put your links and info in the show notes for everybody, but in case you’re listening in your car, uh, and you want to just kind of have a mental note, Clunin and Oakman.com it’s C L U N E N and spelled out A N D and Oakman is O A K M N.com.

Katie Clunen (26:33.41)
Yes, so my partner Karen Oakman, she also does some criminal defense work in restraining orders. So she always has some good stories out there too.

Jon Dabach (26:42.323)
Oh fun. I might have to come by you guys lunch and just take notes. It sounds like it sounds like fun stories. All right. Well, Katie, thank you so much for being here and kind of sharing your wisdom. I really appreciate it.

Katie Clunen (26:46.123)
Oh yeah.

Katie Clunen (26:54.222)
Well, thank you so much for inviting me. I had a great time and I hope I was able to provide some info to your listeners. And if anybody has any questions, I’m just happy to talk to them.



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