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Offering divorce and family law options to fit
your needs, and focused on reducing the emotional
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Bay Area & Sacramento Area Family Law Blog

The unique aspects of divorce for the super-wealthy

Even in a state like California where it's not unusual to find couples with sizable assets, it's hard not to be impressed by the considerable wealth Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has accumulated over the years. Up until early 2019, he jointly shared that wealth with his wife of 25 years. But now that the couple has announced plans to split, the unique aspects of a divorce involving the super-wealthy are now in the spotlight.

The biggest difference with a divorce of his magnitude is the way assets are assessed and valued. Property division among affluent people can become complicated if the couple's assets include highly lucrative stock options, rare collector's items, or bank accounts maintained in remote island destinations for tax purposes. Asset division will also depend on a couple's state of residence. In this case, they reside in a state that has community property laws - which typically means a 50/50 split, although the exact way assets are divvied up could depend on factors such as the role each spouse played in accumulating their joint fortune.

Solving child custody issues in California

Experts agree that children grow up happier when their separated or divorced parents cooperate with each other about major concerns like custody and visitation rights. While it can be difficult for loving parents who are at odds to agree on important child-raising decisions, the best plan is to create an amicable custody agreement. There are ways to help make that happen.

Mediation is one tool that can help parents who cannot seem to come up with a mutual agreement on their own. A custody mediator might offer unbiased advice and lead sessions in a practical and productive manner. The idea is that parents and children are satisfied with the results. Another plus is that mediation is typically less costly than hiring an attorney to take child custody disputes all the way to a court hearing.

Requesting a child support modification

California parents who are owed child support payments should be aware of how and when they can ask for a modification. Under some circumstances, child support can indeed be modified. These circumstances include a change in the non-custodial parent's income and a change in the child's need, such as education or medical expenses. Requests can be filed through the Child Support Enforcement Office in the state where the original order was granted.

However, some states have placed limits on how often a parent can request a child support modification. They may only review requests every 24 months, for example, which can pose a problem for parents whose financial situations have frequent fluctuations. In states that limit requests, the courts will not be willing to make exceptions even if there is a significant reason to request a modification.

New California law considers pets' feelings during divorce

A new California law will soon give pets more rights during divorce proceedings. Thanks to AB 2274, which goes into effect on New Year's Day, judges will have the power to consider the best interests of dogs, cats and other pet animals when overseeing divorce cases.

How support orders account for medical expenses

Parents in California who are no longer together must generally provide financially for their children. If a custodial parent incurs medical bills that are not covered or reimbursed, the noncustodial parent may have to cover a portion of those expenses. In some cases, this is true when the amount reaches a certain percentage of their original child support payment. Parents may also be ordered to cover these costs as a percentage of their monthly income.

How a child support order handles medical expenses may depend on what type of expense is being incurred. For instance, if the expense is non-recurring, the amount each parent must pay will be based on each person's income. When an expense is incurred, custodial parents may need to request that the noncustodial parent then contributes his or her share of the cost. Payment may be made directly to the custodial parent or to the health care provider.

Child support tops list of reasons for wage garnishment

Wage garnishment can be a source of stress for both employers and employees in California. Nationwide, about 7 percent of U.S. workers have their regular paychecks garnished according to data compiled by a leading research institute. Of the four types of garnishment studied, which were child support, tax levies, bankruptcy and other, it was child support that topped the list as the most common reason for wage garnishment. Middle-aged workers 35 to 55 years of age account for more than 60 percent of earnings-related garnishments, and employees in manufacturing occupations in the Midwest are affected most.

Women are more likely to have their wages garnished because of student or consumer debt. However, men typically have part of their wages withheld due to child support delinquencies. On a national level, workers with wage garnishments have an average of 1.4 obligations each, a figure that's lower in the Northeast and highest in Virginia. Goods-producing companies tend to have more employees with their wages automatically reduced than those running service-oriented businesses. Midwest and Southern states usually have more manufacturing jobs, which possibly accounts for the higher wage garnishment rates in these areas.

The basics of DNA testing, paternity, and child support

Many divorce cases in California involving disputes over paternity end up being settled with DNA testing. And if child support is a factor, it's not unusual for this type of testing to be required. This is because DNA analysis has now reached a point where results are nearly 100 percent accurate. It's also a step that may be necessary if a child was conceived when parents weren't married since the father is not automatically considered the legal dad in situations like this - he's typically referred to as the "alleged father."

Oftentimes, conclusive DNA results are all that's required for a court to order a confirmed father to pay child support. On the other hand, a man who is currently making support payments may be relieved of this burden if results show he is not a child's biological father. DNA test results can also be reason enough for a court to grant a confirmed dad visitation rights and/or custody of a child. Additionally, some fathers identified with DNA testing step up and assume their role, even if there is no significant relationship with the other parent.

Child custody decisions and parents' living situations

Parents in California who are getting a divorce might wonder how a judge will make a determination about custody and visitation. A judge will be concerned about the living accommodations available to children, but this does not mean there are definite rules. A judge will assess each situation on its individual merits, and decisions may vary from judge to judge.

The judge will consider the gender and age of children as well as how many children there are in deciding whether there is adequate space for them. Older children may want at least a modicum of privacy, so parents might be required to have separate rooms for their children. However, a judge will also take into account that in some cases, it may not be financially possible for parents to offer as much space as would be ideal. Judges also recognize that children benefit from being with both parents, so parents should not worry that they will not have access to their children because the other parent is wealthier.

Protecting a marriage from financial strife

California couples should be aware of ways they can financially divorce-proof their marriages. Financial strife is a major factor in why couples divorce. A survey suggests that 59 percent of divorced couples at least partially blame financial issues for their divorces. Another 20 percent claim that financial issues were a major factor in why they divorced.

The dating phase is the best time to hash out financial issues and plan for the future. Being on the same page from the start can help significantly down the line when the couple is married and may be struggling with finances. Couples are also recommended to reach out for financial advice by contacting a certified financial planner or a therapist. Involving a third party who will offer unbiased advice can make a big difference when it comes to planning a future.

Parallel parenting offers stability for children after divorce

Disagreements are common between divorced parents in California. When exes with children simply can't get along, the best solution may be parallel parenting. This is a parenting structure where both parents agree to share custody of children without interfering in one another's day-to-day decisions. While parallel parenting can be beneficial for estranged parents, it can also give children peace of mind.

According to proponents, the main advantage to parallel parenting is that it protects children from the emotional distress that comes from seeing parents fighting. When parents fight in front of their kids, the emotional damage may be long lasting. In order to properly engage in parallel parenting, both exes must have a mutual respect for one another and agree to give up control to one another during times of custody.

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Miller & Associates, Attorneys LLP
Miller & Associates, Attorneys LLP
6542 Lonetree Boulevard
Rocklin, CA 95765

Phone: 916-780-0848 
Fax: 916-780-0787
Miller & Associates, Attorneys LLP
2280 E. Bidwell Street, Suite 204
Folsom, CA 95630

Phone: 916-365-4941 
Fax: 916-780-0787

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