3 Basic Facts You Need to Know about Custody in California

That you love your kids is a given, so if you are considering a divorce, you are probably wondering what will happen to your children and how will the divorce impact your parenting.  This article will discuss three basic facts about custody, which will help you plan for the future.

What is legal custody and what is physical custody?

  • Custody is the legal rights and responsibilities of the parents or caretakers. Visitation is how and when each parent spends time with each child. Either parent can have sole custody of the child, or the parents can share the custody.
  • Legal custody involves the right to make decisions on behalf of your children relating to school, health care, etc.  Physical custody refers to where the kids actually live.
  • It is common for sole physical custody to be granted to one parent and then visitation to the other. For legal custody, the preference if for the parents to share legal custody.  Joint legal custody can be tricky because it means that the parents must share in the making the important decisions for their children.

What are some common schedules?

  • Schedules can vary as per the best interest of the child, but some that are commonly used are as follows:
    • For joint physical custody, common schedules include one week per each parent, 2-2-3 schedules where a parent has Mon/Tues, the other parent has Wed/Thursday and the first parent has Friday, Sat Sun.  
    • For sole custody, weekend visits from Friday-Sunday with one or two weekday visits.

Can the court favor one gender over another?

  • No, the judge cannot favor one gender over another.
  • The standard question in any analysis is what is in the best interest of the children.
  • Judges have discretion, which allows for gray areas and wiggle room.
  • Bonding is an important factor in child custody cases, and goes to the emotional attachment a child and parent have.  

 

5 Best Practices to Help Your Children Cope with Divorce

Divorce doesn’t mean your children have to suffer. You can help your children cope with the changes that inevitably come with divorce. This article will focus on what you can do, independently of the other parent, to help your children navigate the divorce and successfully adjust.

  • Speak respectfully about the other parent.

Although divorce is often an adversarial process with the ex-spouse, your children will be benefited by your protecting them from the battle. Speak respectfully of the other parent. Try to avoid venting to your children about what the other parent is wrong. This can place the child in an uncomfortable position of feeling forced to take sides.

  • Clearly communicate with the other parent and your children.

Clear communication is key to setting expectations. If you are organized, plan things out, and convey meaningful and firm messages then everyone will benefit.  When a parent assumes various schedules, meeting places or other expectations, then the situation is ripe for misunderstandings and inconvenience. Often text or email communication can prevent problems.

  • Express love to your children every day.

Your kids are going through a hard time and need you now more than ever.  Remember to tell them every day that you love them. Try to show them through your actions that they are important to you and you care about them. Be supportive. Listen to their concerns and comfort them when they are sad.

  • Allow your children to grieve.

For some children, losing the one family unit can feel like a death, and they need time and space to grieve the loss.  Understand that they may go through the grief cycle of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Seek to understand the emotions and be supportive.

  • Keep calm and put your children first.

There will likely be many instances of anger, annoyance and frustration with your ex-spouse. Find a friend or a counselor to confide in. Remember that you are always setting an example for your children, so be the person that you want them to become.

The changes in your family can be an opportunity to show your children fortitude, sacrifice, leadership, forgiveness, communication and love.  Many parents who achieve the best outcomes for their children during the divorce process do so because they set goals for how to handle the ex-spouse appropriately and they achieve a reliable, safe space for their children to thrive in.  

Common Questions About Your Divorce in California

This article will examine some of questions that are commonly asked about the divorce process in California.  It will help you get a broad overview of the process and understand what to expect.

Do I have to wait 6 months to get divorced in California?

Yes, although the waiting period can be challenging for couples, six months is the minimum and its common for the divorce process to take longer than six months.

Can I remarry during the waiting period?

No, unfortunately you can’t remarry while you are waiting for the divorce to be finalized.

Why is date of separation important?

The separation date is important in determining what property is community property (must be split) and separate property.

Should I sell or mortgage the house while we are separated?

You’ll want to hold off on making major changes to assets or debts during the separation/divorce process.

Does it matter what state we live in?

Yes, in order to file for divorce in California you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least six months.  You also need to have lived in the county for at least three months.

What are some of the important factors for determining temporary child support?

Important factors in determining child support are each parent’s income and the amount of time each parent takes care of the child.  

Do I need to wait to get spousal support?

Spousal support can be granted with an Order to Show Cause early in the divorce process, so you do not need to wait until the divorce process has progressed for temporary spousal support.

What’s the general timeline of important steps in the divorce process?

  • The first step is a Petition with the Court and serving the Petition on the other spouse.  This marks the beginning of the waiting period.
  • The next step is responding to the Petition and perhaps an order to Show Cause if certain disputes are involved.
  • Hearings or mediation can be scheduled to resolve certain issues.
  • Dividing property is a step that will happen somewhere along the process. As part of this, discovery and disclosure of assets and obligations will be conducted.
  • Settlement Agreements occur where you and your spouse are able to reach an consensus.

While this is not a complete list, it gives an overview of some of the steps in the divorce process and helps you understand important questions relating to your divorce. For answers to specific questions you may have, consult with an attorney who has experience in family law to guide you through the sometimes intricate divorce process.

 

How to Know if Your Assets Are Being Split Fairly In Divorce

Whether you are just considering a divorce, starting the process or right in the middle of it, at some point you are going to wonder if you are getting a fair shake. An attorney can look at your particular assets and debts and tell you the best plan for you, but this article will provide general information about the landscape of asset division in California and educate you to ask the right questions about the facts of your case.

  • Why do I need to care about community property vs. separate property?

In general, California law requires community property to be split between the spouses 50/50, whereas separate property may be retained solely by the spouse who owns the separate property.  

  • What is Community Property?

California Family Code provides the general definition of community property:  “Except as otherwise provided by statute, all property, real or personal, wherever situation, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state is community property.”

  • What is Separate Property?

California Family Code defines separate property in several sections, but the section that is broadest is as follows:  Separate property of a married person includes the following: 1) all property owned by the person before marriage, 2) all property acquired by the person after marriage by gift, bequest, devise or descent, 3) the rents, issues, and profits of the property described in this section.

  • Commingled funds make characterization challenging:

Commingling is where both separate property and community property have been combined in such a way that the character of the property isn’t clearly apparent upon first analysis. For example:

  • Down payment or loan money for the purchase of a home came from a gift to only one spouse, but community property funds have been used to pay mortgage.
  • A premarital bank account from one spouse is used by both spouses after the marriage, so it contains both pre-marriage separate property and community property funds.  

These are just a few examples of the myriad of ways that funds can be commingled. The process of sorting these out through tracing, etc. is beyond the scope of this article, but advice from an experienced family law attorney can assist in identifying and proving the proper character of commingled assets.

  • Determining the value of assets?

A key issue in fair division of assets is assessing the value of an asset. This can be challenging for some assets, but thinking through how the value of each item will be assessed is an important step in making sure you are getting a fair division.  

  • Don’t forget about debts.

The focus of this article has been assets, but don’t forget to calculate in the value of your debts. For example, a mortgage on real property, school loans, and credit card debt should never be left out of the analysis.

This is just the tip of the iceberg to get you thinking through issues relating to identifying community property and assessing its value.  The division of money and time with the children are the two most important issues facing many couples in divorce, so a thorough analysis of these issues by an experienced family law attorney will help you understand the law and achieve a fair resolution.

 

Men:  Who to Turn To If You Can’t Save Your Marriage and Divorce Is Imminent

Men, we know that it can be rough on you when you want to save your marriage, but you feel like there are issues that just can’t be resolved. When you reach that point, you may wonder what you should do to plan for the future.  Who should you turn to? This article will help you navigate the troubles that may come your way soon.

It’s never too early to educate yourself:  Consult an attorney who is experienced in divorce law.

Knowledge is power.  So, whether you’ve made the final decision or whether you are still in the mix of determining what to do, it’s never too early to consult with someone who can give you advice about your exact circumstances and assets. Here are some things you’ll want to discuss:

  • Children: discuss with your attorney how you can plan custody to best accommodate your work schedule and other commitments.
    • For example, what is your work schedule?  What is your spouse’s work schedule or does she primarily take care of the kids? Do you plan to move out of state?
  • Assets: Divorce is expensive for both parties because the assets will be split. Talk with your attorney about the assets you have and your preferred means of managing them in a divorce.
    • For example, do you want to sell the home or keep one spouse in it? Do you have a preference on dividing the cars?  Are there assets that have sentimental value or are meaningful to you in a way that goes beyond their monetary value?
  • Debts:  If you have school loans, car loans, credit card debt, mortgage debt, or any other kinds of debts, you need to plan for the division of these debts with your attorney.
    • Consider in advance any court costs that will be involved in the divorce, mediation fees, and legal fees.

Protect Your Mental Health and Amp up Your Physical Well-Being:  Turn to friends and family and other trusted advisors for encouragement.   

Plan for a tough time ahead. No matter how bad a marriage is, a divorce can still take a toll on both parties because it is a change. Things will be different.

  • Understand and anticipate powerful emotions.  During a divorce you may experience greater emotions of isolation, discouragement, despair, anger or bitterness.  Prepare for this by bolstering your own mental toughness.
    • Reach out to old friends. Go to lunch or the gym. Remember the good times.
    • Although you may not want to tell your family that divorce is imminent, it doesn’t hurt to contact them and renew family bonds so that those relationships are close for when you need the support.
  • Amp up your physical health. It’s common for men to forego their regular exercise or to take on bad eating habits during stressful events in their lives, and a divorce is commonly a stressful event that takes its toll on men’s health.
    • Do what works for you to keep yourself feeling good. Whether that’s setting fitness or nutrition goals, or working out with a buddy, or finding more time to be in nature, or running, etc., you need to do what works best for you personally to maintain good health.

Hard times are an inevitable part of a man’s life, and many guys will confirm that a divorce can be challenging.  If you prepare yourself with knowledge, protect your mental health, and amp up your physical well-being, you will be in a strong position to make the most out of the divorce process.

 

How Do We Divide Our Assets and Debts in Divorce?

Your attorney can help you with a plan for dividing property and debt, but here are three important steps to help you on the path to a successful division of assets and debts:

  1. Write down all property and all debts.

Making a list is the first step of dividing everything fairly. Here’s a list to get you started thinking through your own finances:

  • Real property – your home, land, investment properties
  • Other property – Furniture, jewelry, cash, technology, automobiles, recreational vehicles
  • Wage earnings
  • Investments – stocks in an individual account, Roth IRA, 401K
  • Health Saving Accounts
  • Pensions
  • Mortgage
  • Student Loans
  • Credit Card Debt
  • Automobile Loan
  • Loans from family members
  1. Label each as community property or separate property
  • Community property – assets, income, or debts earned or acquired during the marriage.
  • Separate property – property owned before the marriage, property inherited or gifted to one part during the marriage, money from the rent or sale of a separate property, money earned while legally or physically separated from the spouse, and items given from one spouse to the other with the intention of designating it as separate property.
  • Common question: What do we do with an asset that can’t be divided physically? For example, do we have to sell the house in order to divide the money?  The answer is that each spouse has to get assets equivalent in value, so in lieu of selling the house, one spouse may keep the house and the other would get the value of half of that asset.
  1. Place a value on each asset and debt.

In preparing for a divorce, it may be helpful to see if you and your spouse have the same estimation of the value of assets and debts or if there is a large disparity. For your list, make an estimate of the value of each item.

  • Be aware that some items may have more value than you realize. For example, a pension plan can be very valuable and special rules apply to pension plans. In this situation, consulting with an attorney on the value and division of the pension plan can be important.

5 Questions Almost Everyone Asks About Divorce

Divorces range from simple to complex, but almost everyone who is considering a divorce will ask some basic questions.  This article will walk you through five common questions, and provide the answers you need to start thinking about the best way to approach your divorce.

  1. What are the options for ending a marriage in California?

Divorce, legal separation and annulment are the options for changing a marriage or domestic partnership relationship.

  1. Does the person who gets to the courthouse first have an advantage in a divorce?

Know that the officer will write down everything you say, so don’t admit to wrongful conduct if it’s not true.  At the same time, you do not want to get into a heated debate with the officer.  Express yourself politely.  For example, if an officer asks you if you know you were speeding, you could respond with “No, I did not know that,” or you could say, “Thank you for letting me know why you pulled me over, but I did not believe I was speeding.”  You have a right to remain silent, and it is often the best course of action to avoid talking as much as possible.

  1. Does the other person have to agree to a divorce? Do I have to prove they did something wrong?

California is a “no fault” divorce state, so you do not have to prove that the other person did something wrong. The spouse or partner does not have to agree to the divorce. If that person refuses to participate, you can still get a default judgment which will allow the divorce to be final.

  1. Will a divorce affect my immigration status?

The answer to whether a divorce will affect your immigration status is very case specific.  The short answer is that it may or it may not, so it would be wise to consult with an attorney on the specifics of your situation.

  1. What types of issues typically arise in a divorce?

Each case is different, but these are the issues that often arise in a divorce situation, so you’ll want to discuss these topics with your attorney:

  • Division of your money, real property, investment accounts, etc.
  • Responsibility for paying debts
  • Spousal or partner support
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support

 

 

 

 

How to Go After a Noncustodial Parent for Child Support

We’ve all heard of child support, which is the amount of money a court orders one or both parents to pay to support their children’s living expenses.  A common complaint is that one parent is not fulfilling his or her child support obligations.  This article will explain the procedure for enforcing child support and provide information on free resources to assist in the process.

  1. Get an Order. An Order is a written document by the Court that shows entitlement to child support.  A verbal promise from one spouse to another is not an Order.
  • If you and the other parent agree. If you do not have an Order, but you and the other parent can come to an agreement about the amount, then you memorialize that in writing and then the Judge will approve it if he or she feels it is in the best interest of the child.
  • If you and the other parent do not agree. If you do not have an Order, and you and the other parent cannot come to an agreement, then you will have to file an action for child support.
  1. Motion for Contempt. The next step, once you have the Order in hand, is to file a Motion for Contempt.  You have probably heard of being “in contempt” of court in a criminal matter.  In a civil matter, such as a divorce, a Motion for Contempt basically asserts to the Court that the other party has not obeyed the Court’s order.  If the Judge grants the Motion for Contempt, then the other parent can be ordered to pay fines or serve jail time.
  • Time limit. Timing is very important!  Be sure to file your Motion for Contempt within three years from the payment is due to avoid having the statute of limitations run.
  1. Driver’s License Penalties. If the payment is more than 30 days late on child support, the DMV may refuse to issue or renew a drivers’ license.  If the payment is more than 120 days late for child support, the State of California can revoke the non-paying parent’s license.
  1. Can interest be charged on missed support payments?  Yes, interest accrues at the rate of 10% per year.
  1. Available Resources.
  • If you are looking for other government resources relating to child support, visit childsup.ca.gov. This website is run by the California Department of Child Support Services and may have helpful resources to assist you.

 

3 Things You Need to File For Divorce with the Court in California

If you are ready for a divorce, you may wonder about the essentials needed to get the process rolling and the steps that must be taken to reach your goal.  This article will discuss three essentials for getting a divorce in California.

  1. Time. There is a mandatory waiting period in California that prevents any couple being divorced in less than 6 months. The divorce can take longer, but it can’t take shorter.  The starting point is the date the person officially notifies the spouse or domestic partner about the divorce.  You can get your paperwork in sooner and get the judgment approved, but the divorce will not be final until the waiting period has run.
  • Summary dissolution. You may be wondering if you can avoid the waiting period by obtaining a summary dissolution instead of a divorce.  The answer is no, a summary dissolution does not have a shorter waiting period than a divorce.  Y
  1. You will have to pay a fee to file the divorce papers with the court, unless you qualify for a fee waiver.  You can qualify for a fee waiver if 1) you are receiving public benefits, 2) if you household income before taxes is less than the minimum amounts designated by the court, or 3) if the court finds that you don’t have enough money to pay for your household’s basic needs and the court fees.
  1. Residency in California. A court has to have jurisdiction to hear your case, which is why residency is important.  It would not make sense if you and your spouse both resided in New York, and you asked a judge in California to have jurisdiction over a California divorce.  Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for the last 6 months and the county where you plan to file the divorce for the last 3 months.  If you and your spouse have lived in different counties for the last 3 months, then you can file in either county.  You can still file for a legal separation if you haven’t been in California for the last six months, and then you can file for divorce when the time has expired.

The essentials are fairly straightforward:  time, money and residency.  The details of the divorce can be more complex, so consult with an attorney on your specific facts.

 

3 Things to Know About the Discovery Process for a Divorce Case

If you are going through a divorce, you may hear terms that you don’t understand.  One of the terms that is heard often is “discovery.”  This article will explain the basics of discovery – what is discovery, what types of methods, and what types of information are produced– so that you can understand the procedures and terms that will be used in your divorce.  

1. What is discovery?

  • In legal cases, both parties need information.
  • The process for obtaining this information is called “discovery.”  
  • One question clients often ask is whether you can hide information or lie about it or say that it’s too private to disclose?  
    • In general spouses are under obligation to make a full and accurate disclosure and failure to do so can result in a Motion to Compel and ultimately sanctions.  However, your attorney is in the best position to assists you in properly responding in the discovery process.

2. What are the different means of discovery?  Here is a sample of some of the most used methods of obtaining information in the discovery process for a divorce case:

  • Depositions – interviews with parties or non-parties.
  • Interrogatories – written questions to the other party.
  • Requests for Admission – similar to an interrogatory because it is in writing, but with these you are not asking for information, you are asking for it to be admitted (i.e. confirmed or ratified).
  • Inspection Demand – where a party wants an opportunity to review certain documents or things.
  • Request for an Income and Expense Declaration. If support has been ordered (child, family or spousal support), then one party can use this to obtain production of a current income and expense declaration and income tax returns.

3. What types of information are typically discoverable in a divorce case?  The range of information that can be gleaned from discovery is very large.  In general, it covers any unprivileged information that is relevant to the case. In layman’s terms, it’s relevant if it could be admitted as evidence in the case or if it could lead to relevant evidence in the case.  Here are a few examples of the types of information that could be requested in discovery:

    • Employee payroll information – since this is important to proper division of community property and to determine child support and spousal report, this information is typically part of the discovery process.
    • Business Records or tax returns — If one of the parties has a business, then the information about the value of the business and its assets will be important to determine.
    • Information about where the child is – If one parent does not know the whereabouts of one or all of the children, this information can be obtained in discovery.
    • Domestic violence convictions – This type of conviction impacts the safety of the child.  Often one parent is aware of the history of child abuse or domestic violence of the other parent, but if not, this information could be found out through discovery.