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Offering divorce and family law options to fit
your needs, and focused on reducing the emotional
and financial toll to your family.

Bay Area & Sacramento Area Family Law Blog

"Southern Charm" star files for custody modification

California fans of reality TV stars Kathryn Dennis and Thomas Ravenel may have heard that Ravenel was taken into custody on Sept. 25. He is facing charges of second-degree assault and battery, and according to one source, they are related to the sexual assault allegations of a former nanny.

In response, Dennis has filed for a modification of their child custody and visitation agreement. The two share custody of their 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son although at one point, Dennis lost custody because of drug use. In 2016, she entered rehab, and she was able to get custody again after two years of passing random drug tests.

Addressing custody or support issues dads may face post-divorce

Dads in California tend to have a harder time getting a fair shake during the divorce process than their female counterparts. Officially, laws in most states do not favor one parent over the other. However, there are still instances where judges instinctively side with the mother unless there are unique circumstances involved. Eighty percent of custodial parents in the United States are mothers. Yet there are some ways dads may be able to effectively deal with issues they may face concerniing custody or support.

If child custody involves payments, it's often the dad who ends up paying if they do not have full or joint custody. In some situations, a father may honestly have valid reasons for not being able to make court-ordered payments. Support payments can't be automatically reduced without court intervention, but a dad may be able to request an appropriate modification of an existing child support agreement. In some cases, it may be possible for the paying spouse to work out arrangements with the custodial parent to catch up on payments.

Financial tips for divorcing couples in California

"Gray divorce" is a term used to describe senior couples who are separating. Since the 1990s, the divorce rate for those aged 65 and over has roughly doubled. Older Americans facing divorce may have more assets to split, including 401(k) plans and IRAs. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that after spousal support, disputes over retirement monies come in second on the list of issues divorcing couples argue about.

Federal law supports couples agreeing to split employer-based retirement plan monies by allowing them to get a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). The order comes about as a court ruling that lays down exactly how workplace retirement funds will be split. A QDRO is not necessary to divide IRA accounts. While taxes will be assessed on dispersed retirement funds, rolling funds over into an IRA will put off the associated tax bill until the money is withdrawn.

Child visitation issues can be resolved

Family counselors and therapists agree that children cope better with a divorce when they maintain a strong, loving relationship with both parents. California family court judges favor such arrangements and typically incorporate ample visitation for the non-custodial parent as they apply the 'best interest of the child" standard in establishing final orders. However, there may come a time when one parent questions whether the court-ordered visitation plan has to be followed.

Legal experts emphasize that the welfare of the children is always paramount. Therefore, if there is a real danger in maintaining the prearranged schedule, it can be abandoned. Under circumstances of physical or sexual abuse from the other parent or from someone who the kids come in contact with during visitation, the other parent should suspend visitation and get into court as soon as possible to seek a modification of the order.

Steps parents can take if visitation rights are denied

There are several reasons a parent in California might be denied visitation rights by a court or the other parent. Courts will rarely deny visitation altogether unless the child's safety is in question because of an issue like abuse. In some cases, the parent might only be permitted supervised visitation in which another person is present. The parent might be ordered to take actions such as attending parenting classes or a substance abuse program. As a step toward restoring visitation rights, the parent should comply with any court orders.

The court will generally not block access because of unpaid child support and a parent should not either. However, a parent could deny the other parent visitation for any number of valid or invalid reasons ranging from concerns for the child's safety to anger at the other parent.

Courts have wide discretion regarding alimony

The way alimony is determined in California is different than the way child support is determined. In deciding on the specifics of spousal support, the court has wide discretion. Courts might consider factors like the emotional state, financial condition, physical condition or age of the parties as well as the length of time they were married and their marital standard of living.

Courts might also consider an ex's ability to make payments or the amount of time the spouse receiving alimony will need for training or education in order to earn enough money without alimony. The length of time that alimony payments continue varies from case to case. If the divorce decree does not include a date on which payments will cease, then they continue until an order terminating payments is entered by the court.

About collaborative divorces

California couples who are considering ending their marriage and who want to avoid the antagonism and anxiety that can result from litigation may consider a collaborative divorce. In collaborative divorces, a couple with works with one another, along their respective attorneys, to obtain resolutions to divorce legal issues in a manner that focuses on getting results in a positive way. Both parties can agree on settlement terms and never have to step inside of a courtroom.

An attorney who handles collaborative divorces can only assist clients in a divorce setting geared toward collaboration. In situations in which a couple refuses to compromise or listen or has become contentious in such a manner that it is obvious that they are unable to work with one another in a productive way, the collaborative attorneys are required to recuse themselves, and it will be necessary for attorneys who handle conventional divorces to begin representing the divorcing spouses. If a collaborative divorce breaks down to the point that it is necessary for the other set of attorneys, the divorcing parties have to examine their roles in why the collaborative process was not working and whether they have the ability and desire to attempt the collaborative process again.

Handling custody orders in a different state

parents may choose to live as far apart as possible after their marriages end. For instance, one person could live in California while the other lives in New York. However, parents are still allowed to see their children regardless of where they live. Generally speaking, a custody agreement is enforceable even if the custodial parent moves to another state. This is because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

When parents live in different states, it is necessary to determine which is the child's home state. The home state is the one in which a custody ruling and future custody decisions will usually be made. A state is the home state if it is the one where the child has lived with a parent for the last six months. It may also where a child would have lived if a parent hadn't moved him or her.

How child support delinquencies affect home loans

Some California non-custodial parents might wonder whether they can get approved for a home loan if they have fallen behind in child support. While this depends on several factors, including the type of loan, it is possible in some circumstances. The first step for people should be to check their credit report since it may not even be on there.

A Fannie Mae mortgage looks only at debt-to-income ratio, down payment and credit score. Although there are several so-called "derogatory events" that can affect a person's eligibility, being in arrears on child support is not one. People who owe child support may be unable get government-backed loans, which includes USDA, FHA and VA loans. Getting these loans in spite of being behind on child support depends upon whether state child support enforcement has placed the parent in a federal administrative offset program. This may happen if the parent is more than 30 days past due on an amount of $25 or more, but the parent will be notified when this happens.

Getting back child custody

Parents in California who lose custody of their children are likely to find it to be a very difficult experience. However, the loss of custody does not have to last forever. Many parents are able to regain their custody rights.

In order to get back custody of their children, parents should first understand why the family court judge determined that their children would be better off with someone else. The judge is required to render decisions regarding children based on what is in the best interests of the children. Understanding the reason behind the custody decision can help guide parents regarding what has to be done to reverse the decision.

Contra Costa County | Bar Association The State Bar of California Placer County Bar Association Collaborative practice california IACP Certified Family Law Mediator
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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