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Bay Area Family Law Blog

Joint custody: Parenting together after your divorce is final

Divorce is often most difficult for the young children in the family. California parents know that their kids will have to deal with the ramifications of the end of their marriage, but there are ways that they can minimize the negative impact of this decision. In some cases, parents may be able to resolve to work together to parent their children jointly.

Joint custody is often a beneficial choice for families who wish to allow their children to have a strong relationship with both parents long after the divorce process is final. Children benefit when they can still have regular access to both parents, and joint custody could be what is best for you and your kids. Before you make any important decisions regarding your family's post-divorce future, you would be wise to carefully consider all options.

How does legal custody differ from physical custody?

California parents often worry about their children. Even if their kids are well-adjusted, successful in school and thriving in their activities, their parents may have concerns about their health, happiness and well-being. It is natural for parents to want what is best for their children and to want to do whatever they can to provide love and support for their offspring.

During a divorce, though, a parent's focus may shift from the best interests of their kids to their own interests in ending their marriage. This is not to say that a parent will forget about their child. It is only to note that a parent's attention may be directed to the legal process of divorce rather than the minute details of their children's existence.

We are available to help during your mediation

When parties agree to participate in the mediation process, as an alternative to the litigation process, they are not giving up their right to legal representation and/or support.  Some of the objectives of mediation are to hear the concerns of each of the parties and reach a resolution that addresses those concerns.  The mediator has no authority to resolve issues.  The skilled mediator uses a process that is designed to assist the parties in reaching their own agreement. 

The mediator is not representing either party.  When participating in mediation, many people use the services of attorneys.  Some people prefer to participate in mediation with attorneys being present.  Others prefer to have an attorney with whom they can consult during the mediation process.  The attorney will usually be called upon to review any proposed agreements and pleadings that will be presented to the court.  

What costs may be paid by child support payments?

When a San Francisco parent is ordered to pay child support, they are required to provide financial support that will benefit the needs of the recipient child. The state of California uses a set of guidelines that generally determine how much support a parent must pay for their child or children; these guidelines can be set aside if circumstances require the parent to pay more or if the parents establish a payment schedule that their presiding court agrees serves the best interests of their children.

Child support payments can be used to cover a variety of child rearing costs. They may be used to pay the rent or mortgage for the home in which the child resides. They may go toward groceries or clothing purchases that keep the child fed and in appropriate attire. Depending upon the arrangements the parents have made, child support money may be used to cover a child's medical needs.

Tips for dividing real estate in a California divorce

Let's say that you and your spouse have decided to divorce. One of the significant steps that you will have to take is dividing your property between the two of you. This process can be simple or complex, depending on each individual case. But there is one type of property that can raise complications much more frequently than other assets: Real estate.

Dividing real estate in a divorce, particularly if one property is the marital home, is rarely easy. California's laws regarding division of real estate can be bewildering. California is a community property state, meaning that property in a divorce is considered equally owned by both spouses and must be divided equally. That means that there are several important tips to remember if you are thinking about how to share property in a divorce.

Fairness is foundation of collaborative divorce process

Not every couple that decides to end its marriage will be able to succeed in the collaborative divorce process. In fact, only California couples that are committed to working together may find the path useful, while others who struggle to find common ground with their soon-to-be ex-partners may prefer to utilize traditional divorce proceedings through the courts.

This is because collaborative divorce requires that the parties use good faith and fairness in their negotiations and agreements that are related to their divorce. Good faith and fairness are not complicated concepts, but they do require individuals to treat each other respectfully, listen to one another's questions and concerns, actively seek resolution to matters of disagreement and provide honest and open communication with each other.

Property rights in a community property state

California is a community property state. As such, all community assets and all community debts are divided equally. California is also referred to as a no-fault state. This means that all that is required to get a divorce is a declaration that irreconcilable differences have arisen which have led to the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. Who did what to cause the breakdown has nothing to do with how the property is divided.

What happens if divorce mediation does not work for me?

Divorce mediation is an alternative process to a traditional courtroom divorce. It involves the divorcing parties coming together, discussing their expectations for their divorce and reaching durable, mutual agreements about how their lives will proceed once their marriage is over. In California, divorce mediation does not involve a judge or other third-party decision-maker; everything must be agreed between the parties. It is up to the spouses, with the help of their mediator, to move the process forward to a conclusion.  

When the divorcing couple is able to compromise their differences aside and seek creative solutions to property division, parenting and support arangements, the divorce mediation can be a successful undertaking.  Mediation is not just for spouses who agree on everything - it is not uncommon for disagreements and conflict to arise in mediation.  What makes mediation different is the way in which the parties, with their mediation, address and resolve those conflicts on terms that work for their family, and which don't require costly litigation.  

What is a parenting plan?

Under California law, the term "parenting plan" is used to inform how physical and legal custody will be shared. The Court is empowered to determine a parenting plan that is in your children's best interests. The Court can order joint physical custody, sole physical custody to one parent and visitation to the other, joint legal custody or sole legal custody.

What are the penalties for failing to pay child support?

Child support is the payment of money from one parent to the other for the benefit of their shared children. In California, the duty to financially support children is considered a parent's first priority, above other financial obligations and, in some cases, even above a parent's responsibility to phycially care for a child.

In California, child support is set according to a stautory formula, called the "guideline."  The formula considers only three factors: the parent's income form all sources; the actually income tax due on that income (after accounting for all tax deductions and credits) and the amount of time a cbhild spends under each parent's roof.  Patents can agree to set child support at a figure differenf from the guideline amount, but the authoirty of a judge to do so in limited.  Agreements and orders for child support may alsways be modified if there is a chnage in circumstances.  However, no change of circumstances is required to increase child support up to the guideline amount if the current order is for less than the guideline amount.

Failing to abide by the terms of a child support agreement or order can result in the imposition of significant penalties on California parents. Like all court orders, a non-complying parent can be held in contempt of court, which can involve fines or even jail time.

Financial penalties can also attach to the failure of a parent to maintain their child support obligation.  Unpaid child suport accrues statutory interest at the rate of 10% per year.  Interest begins to accrue 30 days after the supoirt payment was due. 

If the other parent has to take you to court to enfoce the payment of child support, they are presumptively entited to an award of attorneys fees from non-complying parent.

A parent may also see their profesisonal or drivers licenses suspended if they fall into arrears on their child support obligation.  A parent may also have their application for a passport denied if they are behind on their payments for their kids.

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NACHLIS & FINK

Nachlis & Fink
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