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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Redwood City, California Family Law Blog

Can the child have a say in determining the custodial parent?

In a California family law case, there are many considerations when child custody and support is determined. This process can be contentious and lead to acrimony between the parties. The court will factor in many issues when deciding on the custodial parent and assessing how visitation should be allocated. One part of a case that is the foundation for dispute is if the child can have a say in the custody arrangement or if the child can speak up and be heard when there is a request for an agreement modification. For those who are involved in this type of situation, understanding the law is a must.

The court will decide if the child is of sufficient age and maturity to provide testimony regarding preferences in custody and visitation. Once the child has been deemed mature enough and old enough, then the child's wishes will be considered. If the child will be put under examination in the case, the court will control it to coincide with the child's best interests. For children 14 or older wishing to speak out about custody or visitation, it will be allowed except in cases in which the court decides that it does not fit in with the child's best interests. The court will give its reasons for making that determination.

How might a vocational counselor factor in with alimony?

In California, when a couple decides to divorce, a key factor in the settlement or court decision is spousal support, also referred to as alimony. The goal is for the supported spouse to maintain the standard of living that he or she had during the marriage. The spouse who is receiving support also bears certain responsibilities. A contribution or self-support is expected after a certain time-period and it is important for the court to understand how soon this can begin and what level of self-reliance the person can achieve.

If the court needs more information as to the supported spouse's capabilities, an examination conducted by a vocational training counselor might be ordered. In this examination, the person will be assessed to determine the ability to gain employment. Factors will include their skills, work history, age, health and how available employment is at the time. The main idea is to gauge whether the person can get employment so the marital standard of living can be maintained.

Separate bank accounts don't make property division easier

Many people who go through a divorce get an unpleasant surprise when they find out that, just because their name is on the house deed doesn't mean they get to keep the house. Similarly, the car may be registered to their name alone, but that doesn't necessarily mean they get to keep it clear from the property division process.

Under California law, all property acquired during the marriage is considered community property, belonging to both spouses. People going through a divorce must list all their assets, divide any premarital property from community property and then negotiate a way to divide the community property in accordance with California law.

Is your future ex-spouse saying your prenup is invalid?

Before you got married, you and your spouse entered into a prenuptial agreement that you hoped you would never need. Over the years, you may have forgotten all about it, that is, until recently.

When you realized that your marital relationship was deteriorating, you probably pulled out the document to review it. Once you made up your mind to divorce, you made sure to attach it to the divorce petition in order to avoid a time-consuming and potentially costly battle over the division of your marital property. That's when the trouble began because your future former spouse is asking the court to invalidate your prenuptial agreement.

How courts decide on child custody

Child custody is one of the most difficult issues to resolve in many divorces. The parents must find a way to balance their parental rights with the best interests of their children. What's more, they have to negotiate a parenting plan with their ex, often while they're still in the midst of arguing about property division and other issues. If they can't reach agreement, a court will make a decision for them.

California courts recognize two types of child custody, physical and legal. Physical custody refers to where the child lives most of the time. Legal custody refers to a parent's rights to make decisions about the child's health, education and general welfare.

Child support enforcement and modification

The theory underlying California's child support system is easy enough to understand: Parents have a legal responsibility to care for their child. This legal duty applies whether the parent lives with the child or not. The state maintains a child support system in the interest of making sure children get the support they need.

In practice, child support can be a lot more complicated. For many paying parents, it can be difficult to come up with the cash every month to comply with a child support order, especially if they have suffered a job loss or other financial setback. For receiving parents, child support can be a source of worry, especially when they aren't getting the resources they need to properly care for their child.

How is an annulment different from a divorce?

The most common way to dissolve a marriage in California is through divorce. While the process is not easy, California's makes it legally straightforward.

However, some people choose to go through a slightly different process known as annulment. Practically speaking, divorces and annulments are very similar under California law, but there are some significant differences.

Negotiating spousal support

When we discuss the basics of alimony on this blog, we often talk about it as though alimony is always ordered by a court. In theory, this is how alimony is handled under California law. In practice however, an alimony order usually has its origins in an agreement signed by the parties as part of their divorce settlement.

While some issues and some divorces can only be resolved by going to court, it's much more common for the parties to reach an agreement on their own. By settling their issues out of court, they avoid a lot of costs and delay, and generally enjoy a greater sense of control over their outcome. However, even in relatively amicable divorces, it's not easy for the parties to negotiate issues like property division and child custody. For a lot of people, alimony is an especially difficult subject to talk about.

Custody issues can continue after divorce is final

California parents may continue to deal with hard feelings and other issues that can make custody difficult long after a divorce is final. Sometimes, these complex issues begin to affect the logistics of the parenting plan, and one parent may wonder if he or she is experiencing parental interference. This is a serious issue that can affect a parent's rights. 

If you believe you are experiencing parenting time interference, you have the right to seek a legal resolution to your concerns. It may be appropriate to seek legal recourse to make the interfering behavior stop and restore your parental rights. Your relationship with your children is worth protecting, and you have the right to seek enforcement of your custody order and parenting plan.

Mandatory mediation and child custody recommending counseling

Child custody is a tricky issue in the law, and California courts are cautious when deciding child custody disputes. The court decides on child custody and parental obligations if the parties can't agree on their own.

Courts make these decisions based on what they determine to be the best interests of the child, but