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Bay Area Family Law Blog

A child's best interests should govern custody decisions

Readers of this blog who have kids or who spend time around children may have noticed that despite being similar in age, two children may be very different people. Consider two 5-year-olds and how their personalities and characteristics may diverge. One may be outgoing and loud while the other may be reserved and quiet. One may have strong academic skills and the other may struggle to complete basic tasks. One may have significantly stronger control over their emotions than the other, who may succumb to difficult situations and regress to tears. There are an infinite number of ways that children can differ from each other and those differences make every child unique.

Because kids develop and learn at different speeds and in different environments, the courts recognize that children have different needs as they grow. This means that while one child custody plan may work for one family, it may be a very difficult plan for another. To ensure that a child's unique needs are addressed when handling matters related to their physical and legal custody, courts attempt to use the best interests of the child as their guiding principal.

Dividing cryptocurrency pursuant to a California divorce

Technology is forcing Americans to expand their vocabularies and consider advancements that once may have seemed fanciful to them. One example of a relatively new tech-driven concept is cryptocurrency, better known by its more recognizable brand name: bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are used online by consumers to transact, make purchases and complete deals exclusively through the Internet.

Ownership of cryptocurrency is not something that every Californian will achieve. Values given to a single bitcoin skyrocketed to around $20,000 in the last year, though now one bitcoin has dropped in value to $6,000. Like other forms of assets, though, cryptocurrency can become a point of contention if a married couple decides to divorce and divide their shared wealth.

Living with your partner? You may need a cohabitation agreement.

Not all partners choose to marry, and many California couples cohabitate without entering into a legally binding marriage. If you live with your partner, you could still benefit from a contract that addresses what would happen in the event the relationship ends in the future.

A cohabitation agreement, which some people may call a living together agreement or nonmarital agreement, protects your property rights and your financial interests in case you and your partner choose to no longer live together. It can also allow you to outline the rights and responsibilities of each partner during the course of the relationship. If you are not married but living with a person in a committed relationship, this type of legal contract could be a smart step for you.

Settlement agreements are the goal in collaborative divorces

The traditional divorce that many Californians may be familiar with pits the two parties against each other in a courtroom presided over by a judge. This litigated form of divorce can be contentious, difficult and unpleasant. Additionally, it takes the control of the legal process out of the hands of the parties and places it in the hands of a judge. Although many litigated divorces do end eventually with the parties coming up with their own agreements regarding property division, custody and support, such agreement as usually reached only after both sides have prepared (at significant expense) for a full-on courtroom battle.

Collaborative process (also know as Collaborative divorce), like other consensual dispute resolution models, seeks to maintain control of the outcome by giving the parties the power, insted of a judge, to or arbitrator decide the terms of resolution. In Collaborative divorce, neitehr party can be forced into a settlement.  At the same time, both parties must be willing to compromise enough to reach an agreement if the Collaborative process is to be successful.

Tax change will impact alimony payers, recipients

A major tax reform bill was passed by the federal government that will bring many new changes to the rules Americans must follow to stay current on their income reporting. One of those changes applies to payers and recipients of alimony (called "spousal support" in California). While Californians who have spousal support agreements and orders in place prior to the end of 2018 will not be subject to these changes, anyone whose divorce is finalized after December 31, 2018, will be required to follow the new system.

The system includes the removal of the alimony deduction from a payer's taxable income. Under the old plan, a person who paid spousal support to an ex-spouse could deduct that amount from their taxable income and reduce their overall tax obligation. The recipient of the payments had to pay taxes on that income and, generally, because of their financial situation, their tax bracket level was lower than that of the paying spouse.

Your children deserve financial support from both parents

A parent who receives physical custody of their child may bear significant costs to ensure that their child is properly cared for and has everything that they need to thrive. This can include purchasing food and clothing for the youth, paying a mortgage or rent to keep the child in a safe home, and making payments on a car or other form of transportation to make sure the child gets to school and everywhere else that they must go to fully live their life. When these and other costs are added up, a San Francisco parent may find that their child-rearing expenses are quite high.

Children have the right to be provided for by their parents and when their parents are no longer together the right to receive financial support from their non-custodial parent. The terms of a child support order or agreement will establish how much money the non-custodial parent must pay on behalf of the child and when those payments are due.

Factors that may be considered in an award of spousal support

Spousal support is an obligation set forth by statute to support a spouse.  A court can order that temporary spousal be paid by one spouse to the other following separation and continuing until further order, agreement or judgment.  The duty of support may continue following the termination of the marriage. There are a number of statutory factors that are considered when determining when considering the continuing duty of support as well as the amount and duration of support.  Those factors include the extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage.  The statutes recognize that a party's earning capacity may have been affected circumstances such as periods of unemployment due to domestic responsibilities such as child-rearing.  

Many people have the notion that support is payable for one-half of the period of the marriage.  This incorrect notion comes from the statutory factor that provides that the goal is for the supported spouse to be come self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.  The statute also says that "Except in the case of a marriage of long duration", a reasonable period of time is generally one-half the lenght of the marriage.  The court, however, has discretion to order support for a longer or shorter period of time.  

Covering all possible scenarios when negotiating a parenting plan

No matter how you look at it, the end of a marriage will inevitably bring about change in the lives of everyone involved. As a parent, you may have concerns about how your children will handle the situation and wish to take steps to safeguard their well-being throughout the process.

As you look toward the future, you will likely consider it paramount to reach a child custody agreement with the needs of your kids at heart. However, with a multitude of factors to address during a potentially emotional period, the process could leave you feeling somewhat overwhelmed and in need of guidance.

Changing a child support order in California

If a San Francisco parent wants to change the amount of child support they must pay, then that parent must be able to prove that there has been a change in circumstances. This post will introduce some ways that a change in circumstance may be proven, but the information provided herein is not complete. Family law attorneys should be consulted by those who have legal questions about modifying their support orders and obligations.

One major change in circumstance that may necessitate a parent to seek a support modification is the loss of a job. If a parent no longer earns an income, it may be impossible for them to continue to provide financial support for their children. Additionally, an increase in a parent's income may cause a custodial parent to seek to increase their child's support from the noncustodial parent in the wake of that parent's raise or improved financial situation.

When is sole physical custody appropriate?

Readers of this blog may know that there are two forms of custody that may affect parents' rights and responsibilities to their children: legal custody and physical custody. While legal custody allows a parent to have a voice in the decision-making processes of raising their child, physical custody concerns a parent's right to have their child live with them in their house. Many California parents share physical custody of their kids but, in some cases, sole physical custody is granted to one parent.

Sole physical custody is awarded when it serves the best interests of the child subject to the child custody order. For example, if a parent cannot be responsible for their child's welfare while the child is with them, then sole custody may be appropriate. Instances that may render a parent unfit to care for their child could include medical conditions, addictions or incarceration.

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