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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Redwood City, California Family Law Blog

Children's needs come first during divorce in California

When wedding bells are ringing in California, the idea of dissolving a marriage is likely far from a couple's minds. However, over time, the two spouses may realize that divorce is unavoidable since they simply cannot resolve their differences. Being prepared for the financial aspect of a divorce is paramount in California.

The process of getting divorced can feel like a financial and emotional roller coaster. The emotional aspect of divorce can be especially challenging for the children to navigate. Unfortunately, the rate of divorce is around 50 percent for today's first marriages and nearly 60 percent of second marriages.

What should I do once my divorce is finalized?

Many people mistakenly believe that the work is done once their divorce is finalized. However, this is not always the case. There are many things you should make sure you take care of after the final divorce decree is filed, if you have not already taken care of them.

First, you want to make sure that your life insurance policy is updated to reflect who you want as your beneficiary. If you and your spouse had joint credit cards, you will need to close those accounts and open new, individual accounts. If you and your spouse jointly owned a vehicle and the final divorce degree grants the vehicle to only one of you, you will need to file a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability form with the DMV. This will put the title of the vehicle in the respective spouse's name.

Preparation may ease anxiety before child custody hearing

You may have read of celebrities who are shining examples of co-parenting. Gossip magazines show them attending school functions side by side, taking the child on vacations together and even continuing to live in the same house for the sake of the child. It is not that way in reality. You are living proof that breaking up a marriage and co-parenting is difficult and painful.

While you know the best solution would be sitting down with your ex-spouse and working out the details of a shared parenting arrangement, it hasn't worked out. Maybe you have suggested it or tried it, but in the end, you both resign to the fact that the court will make the decisions for you. Now you may be feeling anxious about the custody hearing and wondering what to expect.

What are the "best interests of a child" in a child custody case?

If you have children, you may hear the phrase "best interests of the child" while you are filing for divorce and determining child custody arrangements. What does this phrase means? Generally speaking, family courts in California are focused on the wellbeing of the child when handling child custody and support issues. The courts will consider the child's wellbeing when deciding who they should live with and how much time the other spouse will get to have with them, as well as child support payment amounts.

The goal is to make sure that all of the child's physical, emotional and financial needs are met in a stable home. The child must live in a safe, nurturing environment where they receive shelter, food, clothing, proper schooling and medical care, and all other basic necessities. In addition to their basic needs, courts will also consider the wishes of the child if he or she is old enough to have a logical opinion on the subject.

How to deal with delinquent child support payments

When a couple with children separates, child support is essential to make sure the children are taken care of even if their parents are no longer together. A court order will detail all child custody and support issues and specify how much the non-custodial parent needs to pay every month to provide for the child's basic needs. Typically, a parent has to pay child support until the child turns 18-years-old, unless otherwise noted in the child support order.

Unfortunately, many parents in California fail to make their payments on time and in full, for a number of reasons. Some parents refuse to pay to "get back" at their ex-spouse, while others simply cannot afford the payments. However, failure to pay child support is against the law. First, the non-custodial parent will receive a Child Support Warning Notice to let them know that they have an arrears balance. Failure to take action after being notified of delinquent payments can result in significant financial penalties, license suspension, passport holds and even jail time.

When a spouse dies before the divorce is final

It’s hard to pin down life in a single definition. Family structures are complex and unpredictable. One never knows what’s going to happen – but the law is set up assuming you have a traditional arrangement. It doesn’t happen often, but if a partner dies before a divorce is finalized, it creates an unusual situation where the soon-to-be ex-spouse instead becomes a widow.

Social norms are defined by terms and situations. When survivors don’t know what to call themselves, it leads to what social workers call “disassociated grief,” not knowing where to place one’s emotions after an incident. Besides the uncomfortable questions, there are implications from the awkward legal status.

How can my ex-spouse and I divide our assets when we divorce?

You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse have decided to end your marriage. Now, the difficult part begins as you ask yourselves, "Who gets what?" Property division can be one of the most complicated parts of a divorce and requires patience and a thorough understanding of the process.

California is a "community property" state, meaning that any property acquired during the marriage that is not a gift or inheritance will be divided equally between you and your spouse when you divorce. To determine whether something is considered community property, consider the money used to buy it. If the money was earned during the marriage, it belongs to you and your spouse. The debt you have accumulated as a couple will also be divided, even if only one of you incurred the debt. You and your spouse will each be responsible for one-half of the debt upon divorce.

How can I recover alimony from my soon-to-be ex-spouse?

Many spouses in Redwood City choose not to work outside the home for a number of reasons. Some decide to focus on taking care of their family, while others choose to focus on school or hobbies before finding a job.

If you were a stay-at-home spouse during your marriage, it may be hard to support yourself financially if the marriage ends. Entering the workforce for the first time or going back into the workforce after so many years out of it can be difficult. Fortunately, alimony is often available to a spouse who earns less of an income in order to help them gain financial independence after the divorce.

The rules surrounding relocation with a child after divorce

You probably don’t need to be told just how high the cost of living is in this area. After a divorce, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to be unable to continue to reside here.

The high cost of living may not be the only reason you’re considering relocation. A new job, a desire to live closer to your family or other life events may dictate that it’s in your best interest to move. The question many parents have is whether their child will be able to make the move with them.

Paul Anka awarded custody of son after long battle with ex-wife

When parents make the painful decision to go their separate ways, their children often feel the effects of the decision for years afterwards. Legendary singer Paul Anka recently won sole custody of his 11-year-old son after a long child custody and support battle with his ex-wife, former Miss Sweden, Anna Berg. The court also ruled that Berg is not permitted to contact her child.

In child custody cases involving older children, the child may be permitted to testify regarding their custody preferences. They are typically asked to describe their relationship with both of their parents and explain which parent they would like to live with and why. In Anka's case, his son expressed a deep dislike for his mother, which encouraged the California court to grant custody to his father.