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Bay Area Family Law Blog

Does moving out of state end a parent's child support obligation?

In this ever-changing world, Californians often move to different cities, states and countries. While some relocations are undertaken for work or relationships, others are done simply to experience new and different places. In some cases, people may choose to move to avoid being reminded of bad experiences or events. Relocation can serve as a new beginning for a person looking to make changes in their life.

However, one thing that a person cannot leave behind if they choose to move out is their child support obligation. If a parent has been ordered by a court to provide their child or children with financial support, then that obligation does not cease simply because they no longer live near their kids.

When does child support end in California?

Raising a child can be an expensive undertaking, particularly here in the Bay Area. From child care costs to clothing, food to fun activities, a parent can spend a chunk of their paycheck on making sure that their child has everything they need. When a child's parents are not married, the adults may work out a child support agreement or have a court issue a child support order that dictates how much each parent must pay for the maintenance of their child.

Past posts on this blog have discussed what sources of income and what types of expenses can go into a child support determination. However, many parents go into child support wanting to know exactly when they will be done paying their monthly obligation. While the information in this post will not apply in all cases and should not be read as legal advice, there are some general guidelines that determine when child support may end.

When do I need a premarital (or prenuptial) agreement?

Premarital or prenuptial agreements are contracts that individuals can make prior to getting married, which are intended to define the financial relationship between the spouses both during the marriage, and when the marriage ends, whether by death or by divorce.  If a couple doesn't have a premarital agreement, the terms of their financial "partnership" will be defined by the laws of the state or country where they live.  Different states have different rules about what happens with respect to divison of property, and financial support, in the event the marriage ends by death or divorce.  Without an agreement,  the rules can change just by moving to a different state or country. 

It is always a good idea when contemplating marriage to have frank discussions with your soon-to-be-spouse about how you expect to handle finances after marriage.  Couples often have different expectations, which may be informed by observing their parents, or what they themselves have experienced. Making sure that both of you are on the same page about money is key to a long and successful marriage.  Couples who don't talk about money before marriage can discover in the course of the marriage that they don't like the way their spouse handles finances.  If the differences are severe enough, this can lead to divorce. 

In a case where a couple's desired terms of agreement are consistent with California law, no premarital agreement may be necessary, at least so long as the family continues to reside in California at the time the marriage ends.  However, if it is anticpated that there may be relocation away from California during the marriage, having a premarital agreement can ensure that the rules that you and your spouse have chosen will not change if you move.

How to help your children adapt to a post-divorce lifestyle

Parenting is often a rewarding, adventurous experience although, in most cases, not without its challenges. Various life circumstances and extenuating factors may greatly affect your ability to parent well. Like most good parents in California or elsewhere, you always have your kids' best interests in mind. Some situations require special focus and attention, such as breaking the news to your children that you plan to divorce.  

Your divorce doesn't necessarily mean your children's lives will be ruined; however, it helps to have a plan in mind to support them as they come to terms with the situation and move on to a new lifestyle. Speaking with other parents who have navigated similar circumstances in the past can help. It's also a good idea to seek clarification of your rights as a parent and to know where to seek support if a legal problem arises that impedes your ability to parent your children as you see fit.  

Getting through divorce on your terms

Just as every California marriage is different, so too do California divorces proceed down their own unique paths. Depending on a myriad of factors, such as the presence or absence of children in the relationship, the execution of a prenuptial agreement, the ownership of property and other assets and a multitude of additional considerations, one divorce may look different from that of another.

While most California divorces are resolved through settlement, the path of getting to settlement can take look different based on the choices made at the very beginning.  Ideally, all issues cna ulimtaely be resolved by an agreement between the parties.  Where an agreement can't be reached, a decision-maker is required, usually a judge, but sometimes an arbitrator or referee are hired to make the decisions.

If you like the idea of keepping control over the outcome of a divorce, and the terms of the settlement, then using a divorce process whose goal is resolution by agreement may be the best option for your family.  We call such processes "consensual dispute resolution" as all results reuire the agreement of both parties.

My ex and I can't agree on a religion for our child

It is important that parents work to preserve their parental rights if they go through separations or divorces so that they may stay involved in the important decision-making processes that go into raising their children. For example, a California parent who has sole or joint legal custody of their child should be able to voice their preferences and concerns regarding important issues, such as schooling and religion, and have their sentiments acknowledged by the courts. However, when parents simply cannot agree on how these topics should be addressed and courts must make decisions for them, there are a number of factors that must be weighed.

With regard to religion, courts in California will look to the best interests of the children and the rights of the parents when determining which, if any, religion a child should be exposed to by their parents. Additionally, courts will apply an actual or substantial harm standard to the parents' religious preferences, which means that if a parent's religious practices expose the child to actual or substantial harm then the parent's First Amendment right to choose a religion will be limited with regard to their child.

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.

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