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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Redwood City, California Family Law Blog

Women need to be prepared for the realities of divorce

Emotions run high in many divorces and that is understandable. But divorce legal issues can have a greater and longer-lasting impact on the lives of the parties than the turmoil of the actual break-up. Of course, each situation is unique, but often, California women fill the role of the primary caregiver for the children and either work part-time or not at all. This situation can lead to women, who typically understand the issues to be resolved before the divorce can be final, not fully grasping the bottom line economic realities.

Property division, child custody, child support, and spousal support or alimony, if appropriate, along with the impact any pre-nuptial agreement the couple entered into are complex matters. According to financial planners, the first issue a woman may be surprised about is the cost of quality legal representation. Each party bears the cost of their own legal team, and the decision regarding counsel is critical in ensuring the individual has adequate resources post-divorce.

Balance your custody agreement with your job

In California, divorced parents face the challenge of maintaining their custody schedule at the same time as they work to earn a living. This is not always an easy thing to do as being responsible for the children involves set requirements and the need for unscheduled leave. Parents need to be realistic, but with the proper planning, they can still have some form of custody and a career.

The main thing is for parents to take a clear-eyed look at what is possible for them when they are in the process of negotiating the custody agreement. They should take care to request the amount of time that they can accommodate. A court will look at the parent's work schedule in deciding how much time to award if the matter is ever litigated.

Is your spouse acting defensive about money before divorce?

When you decided to divorce, you no doubt understood that you would have to resolve certain issues with your spouse in order to achieve a fair settlement. To accomplish such goals, you and your spouse must agree to fully disclose your asset and liability information. The problem is that things don't always work out as you'd hoped. In fact, many California spouses have tried to hide assets, which is not only mean-spirited if the goal is to obtain a fair settlement, it's illegal.

If you suspect your spouse isn't being forthright regarding finances, property or other issues, it's a good idea to further investigate the situation. For instance, if you are certain there was money in an account that you and your spouse jointly own, and you notice a withdrawal you were not aware your spouse was making, it's worth asking him or her about it.

Remember life insurance in a divorce agreement

In a California divorce, there are sometimes details that seem insignificant at first that can actually create problems in the short and long term. One of these areas is life insurance. In cases where one spouse is paying child support or alimony, the parties need to think ahead into the future to figure out the proper arrangement.

While a life insurance premium seems constant, it is not the case. As people get older, their premiums escalate. In addition, their health may change in a way that makes them more expensive to insure based on their condition. This must be factored in when mandating a level of coverage years into the future. This could be too expensive too maintain.

Tips for deciding whether to settle or litigate in a divorce

People in California who are divorcing may prefer to try to negotiate an agreement instead of going to court. However, if one spouse is uncooperative or the two simply cannot reach an agreement about property division and child custody, it may be time to decide whether it is best to agree to a settlement that leaves at least one person unsatisfied or go to litigation.

Litigation can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive. People often do not realize that they may have to drop everything to get information to an attorney quickly, taking them away from work or caring for their children. Litigation can increase tensions between the individuals divorcing and be stressful for children as well. It may further damage the relationship between parents who still need to be able to cooperate with one another after the divorce.

How to create a parenting plan that works

Parents in California may choose to create a custody schedule that sees a child spend a week with one parent and the next week with the other parent. While that may work out well for the adults, it is unlikely that it will work out well for the children. Younger children generally shouldn't go more than two or three days without seeing both of their parents. Otherwise, they could develop separation anxiety or other emotional problems.

There are several other issues to consider before deciding how to allocate parenting time. First, parents will need to look at their work schedules to determine when they will be able to pick the children up from school, drop them off at activities or be there when the children get home. It is also important to consider the child's age when developing a plan. In many cases, older children will be able to look after themselves after school or tolerate spending longer periods of time with one parent.

More people are getting a so-called 'gray" divorce

Divorce can happen at any age in California. People whose lives have changed since they got married, have evolved, are not feeling the same as they once did, or simply want something different might move forward with a divorce. For some demographics, this is becoming more common than others. That is the case with people 50 and older.

These divorces are commonly referred to as a 'gray divorce." According to therapists and other experts in the field, there are two time-frames for which divorce is most frequent: People who are in a relatively new marriage with it ending in divorce within seven years and people who have been married for 20 years or more. Many people involved in a gray divorce reference a disconnect with their partner. They feel they have a limited amount of time left and want to live in a way that makes them happier. Part of that might mean getting a divorce.

How child support works in California

There is no doubt about it -- raising kids is expensive. But covering those costs can get a lot more complicated after divorce, especially for parents who have primary custody or simply earn a lot less than their ex's. Child support is just one way to make sure that both you and your ex are still providing financial stability for your child.

Whether you expect to receive child support or think you will have to pay, it is important to understand how it works. Your only exposure to support orders could be through your friends' or loved ones' situations. This will not give you an accurate idea of what your own child support situation will look like.

Studies find women seek divorce more often than men

A 2015 study by the American Sociological Association found that women are more likely than men to initiate divorce. There may be several reasons this is the case. In general, women in California and around the country may seek a divorce because they are less fulfilled by marriage than men are.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found in a 2019 study that men still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and child care even when they both work. A higher percentage of women report doing housework daily compared to men. Furthermore, when women are successful in their careers, they may not receive support from their husbands. The journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin reported a 2019 study that found many men experienced distress when their wives made more money than they did.

How to help children thrive during a divorce

For most parents, the wellbeing of their children is their primary concern, even when going through a divorce. Though a divorce is often traumatic for the children involved, it doesn't have to be so. Parents in California can ensure their children come through the divorce unscathed by realizing that issues pertaining to the divorce and custody shouldn't be discussed with children.

Children need to know they can still love both of their parents and don't need to be privy to the details of their parents' financial situation, delinquent payments, child custody & support, monthly payments, agreement modification, and everyday expenses. Though the custodial parent may be exasperated with the process, topics like the penalty for failure to pay child support are not something that should be discussed with children. They also need to be reassured that they can share their anger or happiness with their other parent without having to shoulder their parent's emotions as well as their own.