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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Redwood City, California Family Law Blog

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

How is property divided during divorce in California?

Property division can be a big concern for divorcing couples which is why it is helpful for divorcing couples in California to understand California property division laws. California is a community property state which impacts the division of property and it is important for divorcing couples in California to understand what this means and what it means for them.

When property is divided during a divorce in California, marital property will be divided equally or as equally as possible. That is because according to California property division laws, marital property is shared on a 50-50 basis between the spouses. It may not always be practical to divide an asset in half so the family law court will work to ensure the overall division of property is as equal as possible.

Helping you secure alimony in a divorce

Much like finances play an important role in getting married, finances also play a major role during the dissolution of a marriage. Regardless if a marriage was short or lasted several decades, there are many monetary decisions for couples in Redwood City to make. And for those finding post-divorce life financially challenging, it may be appropriate to seek spousal support.

Although alimony is not awarded in all divorce proceedings, it is something that could be requested in the divorce process. In some cases, courts may find that alimony is necessary in the interests of fairness.

What subjects can a prenuptial agreement cover?

Spring is a popular time for weddings in California. However, while wedding planning can be romantic, there is one task that many couples choose to get done before they walk down the aisle: executing a prenuptial agreement. Prenups may not be very romantic, but they are practical and address the reality that each party should be protected in the event of a divorce.

It is important to understand what subjects a prenup can cover, and what subjects will be unenforceable. In general, prenups address financial issues. This includes which party is to retain which property -- both separate and marital -- in the event of a divorce. It can also address who has control over these assets while the couple is married. For example, the couple might agree that either both or one of them has the right to manage or sell certain assets. Prenups can cover the making of a will or trust that addresses the provisions included in the prenup.

Do grandparents in California have visitation rights?

There is a special bond between grandparents and grandchildren in California. However, a bitter divorce could sever this bond. Grandparents who are being prevented from seeing their grandchildren following a divorce may wonder whether they can pursue visitation rights.

In California, grandparents may be granted reasonable visitation rights under certain circumstances. First, it must be shown that there was such a significant bond between the grandparent and grandchild before the divorce, that granting visitation rights would be in the child's best interests. However, these visitation rights must be balanced with the rights of the child's parents to make decisions regarding the care of their child.

Can comingled funds be unraveled through property division?

In today's day and age, some people in California are waiting to marry so they can focus on building their career. Thus, spouses who marry later in life may have had the opportunity to obtain significant assets on their own before they walk down the aisle. For example, one spouse or the other may already own a house, have savings in a bank account or own a business.

Spouses in such situations may wish to keep the assets they bring into the marriage separate from the marital estate. And, in general, assets a person owns before getting married will remain separate property in the event of a divorce. This means that they will be retained by the spouse who owns them and will not be subjected to the property division process. However, it is possible for such assets to lose their separate nature if they comingle with marital assets.

Meeting the court's standard in your parenting plan

You and your future former spouse made the conscious decision to keep your custody issues out of the courtroom. You don't want to put any additional stress on your children as you go through this transition.

Moreover, you heard that creating your own parenting plan gives you more control over the final result and helps the two of you forge a better relationship as co-parents instead of spouses. However, you also need to obtain approval of your plan from a California court. What do you need to do to make sure that happens?

Visitation time can be set up in a variety of ways

While it may seem like joint physical custody of a child is becoming the norm, there are still many situations in which it is better for one parent to have sole physical custody of their child, while the other parent has visitation rights. There are a variety of ways in which visitation in California can be set up.

One option for visitation is for the child to spend overnights with the noncustodial parent every other weekend. Another option, if the parents reside close enough to one another, is for the child to have one weeknight visit or one overnight visit with the noncustodial parent each week. If the parents live far apart from one another, a longer visit during the summer months when school is not in session, for example a four-week visit in July, may be a good option. Finally, noncustodial parents may have visitation with the child on certain (but not all) holidays and other celebrations.

Permanent alimony may be needed after a long-term marriage

Sometimes, after decades of marriage, a couple in California will decide for one reason or another that their union isn't working, and they are best off divorcing. However, this could lead some couples to experience a significant amount of financial disparity, especially if one spouse had stayed out of the workforce to care for the family. In situations like this, one spouse may want to seek permanent or long-term spousal support.

Oftentimes spousal support -- also known as alimony -- will only last for a defined period of time, generally as long as it will take for the receiving party to obtain the education and employment needed to become financially self-sufficient. However, when a couple has been married for a long time, becoming self-sufficient may be very difficult for one of the parties. When this happens, the spouse who is to receive spousal support can move the court to make such an order permanent. In general, a long-term marriage is one that has lasted 10 years or more.

When is a Californian considered to be a child's legal parent?

When a child is born to a married couple in California, it is presumed that the married couple are the child's legal parents. However, when a child is born to an unmarried couple in California, for a father to have the right to seek custody or visitation with the child, or for the mother to pursue child support from the father, parentage -- also called paternity -- needs to be established. Paternity makes a father the child's legal father, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.

In California, paternity can be established in a couple of ways. The child's parents could sign a voluntary Declaration of Paternity. This can be done at the hospital at the time of the child's birth. If both parents sign, paternity is established, and the child's mother does not need to prove paternity in court. Or, either of the child's parents can pursue a court order establishing paternity, often through a DNA test.