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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Redwood City, California Family Law Blog

Should you consider an uncontested divorce?

While divorce is never an easy process, there are times when a California couple can make choices that make it a bit easier and less stressful for everyone. One of these decisions includes the choice to file for an uncontested divorce. This is not the ideal option for everyone, however, and it is beneficial to think carefully about the impact of any divorce choice before moving forward.

An uncontested divorce is exactly what it sounds like -- a divorce for a couple who have no remaining disputes to resolve. When filing for this type of divorce, you and your spouse already agree on everything. This eliminates the need for litigation and continued discussions about the terms of the divorce order. 

Establishing paternity benefits California children and parents

Absent issues of abuse or neglect, it is important that fathers in California are given the chance to bond and care for their child. However, if the child's parents are unmarried and are no longer in a relationship with one another, fathers could face challenges in obtaining the parenting time they need to develop a meaningful relationship with their child. In part, this is because in order for an unmarried father to seek parenting time, paternity must be established.

Sometimes parents will choose to establish paternity voluntarily. Other times a father must go to court to have a DNA test ordered and a decision made. Once a man is deemed to be the child's biological father, he can begin the process of seeking parenting time with his child, if it is in his child's best interests. However, in order to protect his rights, he may want to seek legal advice both in paternity or custody actions and beyond.

Why might California couples choose to mediate their divorce?

When people in California picture going through a divorce, they may assume that all the hurt, anger and animosity felt during the marriage will spill over into the divorce proceedings. However, this is not true for every divorce case. Oftentimes, the parties want to end their relationship with as little conflict as possible, especially if they have children. Divorce mediation may be an attractive choice for these couples.

Through divorce mediation, the parties negotiate their divorce settlement with the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator. A mediator is not a decision-maker. Instead, the mediator assists couples in communicating with one another as they settle their issues, such as child custody, property division and spousal support. This puts the final terms of the settlement solely in the hands of the couple.

Property division and the family business

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that around 3.7 million businesses in the nation are owned by a married couple. Couples in California may put a lot of effort into seeing their family business grow and thrive, but sometimes the same can't be said for their marriage. When that happens, they may decide that they are best off getting a divorce. However, how will a divorce affect the business they own together?

One option that might be available in some situations is to have the business valued, and then one spouse can buy the other spouse out. For example, during the property division process, one spouse's share of the business for can be exchanged for marital property of equal value, or if the spouse retaining the business has the financial resources to do so, they can pay for their ex's share in the business in cash or in installments if appropriate. This may work well if the couple knows they cannot maintain a professional relationship with one another, or if one spouse simply has no interest in remaining a part of the family business once their marriage is over while the other spouse wishes to keep running the business.

You think you are the better parent. Will the court agree?

Many California parents feel a considerable amount of stress and anxiety when it comes to resolving custody matters with a future former spouse. Not everyone is able to amicably reach an agreement when it comes to the children, and that's okay.

If you need to plead your case to be the primary custodial parent of the children, then so be it. You may feel that you are the better parent, but it may take some convincing before the court will agree.

Determining the marital standard of living for alimony

California couples maintain a vast array of marital living situations. Some choose to live in large, expensive homes while others find peace in a reasonable rent apartment. In some marriages one spouse works while the other stays home to take care of the children. In others, both spouses may work high demand jobs with substantial salaries. Regardless of living arrangements, in the event of a divorce, a Judge will take it all into consideration when the topic of alimony arises.

For example, consider a couple who have been married 20 years, with four children. They live in a large home in a gated community, for which they pay a hefty monthly mortgage payment. This lifestyle is all the children have ever known. The husband is a successful real estate agent who works constantly. When his work hours increased, both spouses agreed that it would be best if the wife did not work in order to allow her more time to attentively take care of the children and manage the home. This decision left the family solely dependent upon the husband's income. Three years later, the couple have grown apart and decide to divorce and go their separate ways. However, the wife has no income of her own, and no way to support herself. This is where alimony comes in and the marital standard of living matters. One spouse cannot simply be "tossed out" without means of support. In addition, the standard of living for children should be maintained as closely as possible so as to avoid disruption.

The New Year will herald in tax changes affecting divorce

Many Californians who find themselves in an unhappy marriage may eager to end their union as quickly as possible. However, changes in U.S. tax laws that will become effective January 1, 2019, may make finalizing one's divorce before the New Year especially attractive. The following is a brief overview of some of these changes.

One change in tax laws will have a significant impact on spousal support. Currently, if a person pays spousal support, they can deduct these payments on their federal income taxes, and those who receive spousal support must count it as income for income tax purposes. However, starting in January, those who pay spousal support will not be able to deduct these payments on their federal income taxes, and those who receive spousal support no longer must count it as taxable income. A divorced finalized by December 31, 2018 will continue to be subjected to the pre-2019 spousal support tax laws, so some may find it appealing to finalize their divorce by the end of the year.

How is child support calculated in California?

Children deserve the support of both of their parents -- both emotional support and financial support. For this reason, if a child's parents are divorced, one parent will usually be ordered to pay child support to the other parent. These payments are very important, as they are meant to help with the child's many financial needs, from everyday expenses, to school fees, to health care expenses and more.

The state of California has a formula for calculating how much child support is owed. Referred to as a "guideline," this formula is what a judge will use to determine how much child support to award a parent. The guideline takes into account numerous factors to determine how much child support is appropriate.

Modifying spousal support when life circumstances change

When a couple in California divorces, one spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support to the other spouse. However, life is not static and sometimes changes take place that affect a paying spouse's ability to pay his or her obligation. On the flip side, life changes may change a receiving spouse's need for support. Therefore, sometimes a spouse might seek to have the amount of support modified.

To seek a modification of a spousal support award, there must be a significant change in circumstances in the life of one or both parties since the original award was established. For example, the paying spouse might experience a significant decrease in income, thereby affecting his or her ability to pay support at the current amount due. Or, the spouse receiving support might not be making a good faith attempt to become financially independent, or he or she may remarry. This latter situation may justify a decrease in alimony.

Take care when dividing debt in a California divorce

When a couple in California divorces, they may be concerned about who gets to keep the family home, furniture, electronics, and automobiles. What they may not initially consider, however, is that it's not just their assets that are divided in their divorce -- their debts must be divided too. And, there are certain points couples should keep in mind when it comes to dividing debt in a divorce.

Some couples may think that dividing debt is relatively simple -- everyone gets one-half of it. So, for example, if a couple has a credit card balance that is the same amount as their auto loan, one party can take the auto loan while the other party takes the credit card debt. That way, everything is even.