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Fullerton Family Law Blog

Divorce mediation protects a family’s rights and privacy

Couples who choose to divorce often worry about keeping the matter calm and civil, but also private. While a divorce may remain responsible and civil if a couple chooses, it is not always possible to keep the matter private, especially once it enters a courtroom.

Divorce mediation is an excellent option that provides couples neutral guidance during their divorce while also providing valuable privacy. If you and your spouse hope to keep your divorce as amicable or private as possible, it is wise to consider how divorce mediation may meet your needs.

Child custody cases may hinge on stability

For many parents in California who decide to divorce or end their relationship, dealing with child custody issues can be the most challenging aspect of the process. Both parents want to remain connected to their children and often seek a significant amount of time with their kids. In some cases, parents can work together to agree to joint custody and a shared schedule that reflects the best interests of the children as well as the desires of each parent.

However, in other cases, child custody and visitation matters are difficult or impossible to resolve without active intervention by the family courts. In these cases, the court will make decisions about how the children will live with their parents and how the parents will need to establish a schedule and co-parenting plan. In reaching a child custody decision, a court will consider a number of factors, including financial and emotional stability, the presence of siblings in the home and the relationship of the child with both parents. Courts have a mandate to prioritize the best interests of the children when reaching a custody decision.

Dividing 401(k) plans in divorce requires accuracy

When California couples reach the end of their marriages, dealing with the financial fallout can be some of the most complex and contentious concerns that come with the divorce. In many cases, one or both parties in the divorce may have significant retirement funds, which are frequently some of the largest and most important assets at stake, especially given the importance of these accounts for both spouses' financial futures and security.

There are multiple types of retirement accounts, and they can be handled differently when divided as part of a property distribution settlement in a divorce. When the distribution is not handled according to the rules for that kind of account, both spouses can lose money due to taxes and penalties. In addition, when the division is handled inappropriately, an inequitable division can also result.

Will you need to split your pension with a stay-at-home spouse?

When you start considering divorce, you're usually most concerned about issues related to the division of your marital assets and the custody arrangements for your children, if you have any. One asset that many couples focus on while divorcing is the marital home. That makes sense, since the house is often the biggest investment of your adult life.

However, there is another major asset that couples end up worrying over in divorce. Pensions and retirement accounts, when properly funded, can represent as much capital, if not more than, your home. It's only natural to worry about what will happen with your retirement fund in a California divorce. The truth is that there's no simple answer to help predict the outcome of your divorce.

Early planning saves divorce headaches

California couples headed for the altar may think divorce planning is bad luck, but putting structures in place to protect finances in the event of a marital breakup can also protect them in other ways. Between added protections to protect against unexpected contingencies and the simple truth that a large percentage of marriages end in divorce, it pays to plan for the worst while working toward the best in romance.

Maintaining separate assets is prudent for married couples. Even without divorce, creditors can come after joint accounts if one spouse has unpaid debts subject to collection. Estate planning can also be made easier if some assets are kept apart. In the event of a death, a spouse may trust his or her partner to take care of the kids, but can the partner's next spouse, who may end up with joint assets, may not have the same financial priorities. Couples are advised to have both individual and joint accounts, which are dedicated to specific purposes. Joint assets should be provided for from a joint account.

Misunderstandings can influence child custody decisions

Family law judges in California and around the country base their child custody decisions on what they consider to be in the best interests of the child involved, but the evidence suggests that they may not be relying on the latest scientific research and data. Shared custody arrangements are still seen as the exception rather than the norm despite clear evidence showing that children fare better when they spend time with both of their parents, and some experts say that this is because judges base their decisions on assumptions that are not supported by the data.

Sole physical custody is sometimes ordered to avoid upheaval and minimize the impact of divorce, but polls have revealed that children will happily accept more demanding routines if it means having relationships with both of their parents. Judges may be reluctant to order shared custody when the parents involved have an acrimonious relationship and future conflict is likely, but researchers say that shared parenting nurtures responsible behavior and will generally reduce conflict even when grievances run deep.

How does a court determine appropriate alimony?

Divorce is rarely the same for any two couples, so it is not always easy to anticipate how the various portions of the divorce negotiation will play out. For many years, alimony, or spousal support, was a regular component of divorce, but has grown less prevalent in recent years.

If you face divorce and have concerns about the role alimony may plat in the process, it is wise to understand the broad strokes of the factors that may determine how a court chooses to include alimony or pass over it when the divorce finalizes.

Proposed HHS system would centralize child support collection

When Congress passed the Family Support Act in 1995, lawmakers in California and other states were tasked with putting systems into place to ensure that court-ordered child support obligations are met. However, these efforts have been hampered in many parts of the country by technological challenges and bureaucratic obstacles, and some states have given up after struggling with these issues for years. However, the federal 2017 budget proposal released contains a provision that would relieve states of this burden by setting up a central child support enforcement system.

The White House wants to put $63 million into the Child Support Technology Fund to develop the system, but the budget proposal does not indicate what type of technology will be used or how the information it holds will be kept up to date. A representative from the Department of Health and Human Services did reveal that none of the options being considered were based on a system currently in use.

Choosing where to live during and after divorce

Californians who are ending their marriages will need to make many decisions, including where they will live both during and after their divorces. There are a number of different factors that people should consider in this regard.

People who are getting divorced will need to decide whether they will remain in their current homes, purchase new homes or rent. If people are wanting to stay in their homes, they will need to make a list of all of the associated expenses, including taxes, maintenance costs, liability insurance and mortgage payments. If people will need to assume the mortgages, they should determine whether or not they would have enough income to make the payments and whether they will be able to qualify.

Direct and indirect parenting time interference

Parenting a child with a person you no longer live with is often a very difficult process. Most parents, at one time or another, find that it is not easy to abide by a court-ordered custody plan. When these tensions arise, it is often tempting for one parent or the other to disobey the court order or otherwise attempt to manipulate or obstruct the other parent's time with the child.

While very few parents navigate this difficult terrain with complete success, certain behaviors may constitute parenting time interference, a fairly serious violation in the eyes of the court. If a parent does commit parenting time interference, he or she may lose parenting time or privileges, or, in extreme cases, may even face criminal charges.

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