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Focused on reducing the emotional and financial toll to your family.

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

How to keep divorce costs to a minimum

California residents who get divorced could spend thousands of dollars on legal fees and other costs. However, there are ways that they can keep costs to a minimum when ending their marriage. For instance, picking the right lawyer can make it easier to get through the process in a timely manner. Choosing to work with a junior attorney or a paralegal instead of a senior partner can also reduce the cost.

Individuals are advised to ask about an attorney's rate prior to signing any retainer agreement. Obtaining key documents and asking questions in groups instead of individually can reduce an attorney's workload and the amount ultimately charged for services rendered. Remaining flexible on key issues and showing a willingness to negotiate can keep a divorce from becoming bogged down over petty details.

Property division during a gray divorce

When older couples in California decide to split up, the divorce can carry some major financial consequences. While child custody and support are generally not issues for seniors, property division can become more complex. Many couples over 50 have accumulated decades of marital property together and often have large retirement funds that will need to be divided as part of the divorce.

Across the country, divorce is on the rise among older Americans. Even though the divorce rate has dropped overall and among young people, it has doubled over the past 20 years for people over age 50. These "gray divorces" require more complicated calculations in order to ensure that investment and retirement funds are properly divided.

Understanding different types of child support cases

Divorced parents in California may be unaware of the varying types of child support cases that exist. The multiple types of cases can be confusing, especially as some individuals make direct payments to the custodial parent while others submit payments to the state in which the order was made. There are four main types of child support cases: IV-D, IV-A, IV-E and non-IV-D. These terms refer to Title IV of the 1975 Social Security Act, which addresses the grants made to states in order to provide aid and services to families with children in need.

IV-D cases refer to situations where a person receives assistance from the Office of Child Support Enforcement, including establishing paternity, finding the noncustodial parent or enforcing an order for child support. IV-A cases are those in which the custodial parent receives public assistance. Even though the noncustodial parent may be fully involved, the OCSE endeavors to recoup public assistance funds. In IV-E cases, a foster parent or relative is providing care for the children.

Establishing paternity in order to obtain rights to a child

California residents may be interested to learn that 40 percent of all children born in the United States are born to unmarried parents. While there are many unmarried fathers who do whatever they can to remain in their child's life, there are a number of children who will grow up without the influence from their fathers. In some cases, this can be due to the fact that many unmarried fathers remain unaware of their rights.

When a child is born to a married couple, it is presumed that the husband is the child's father. If the parents are unmarried, there is no presumption that a particular person is the child's father. As such, this means that the person does not have a right to visitation or custody. The person also does not have the ability to make any decisions when it comes to the child. In order to have legal rights to the child, the person will need to establish paternity.

Child support in joint custody arrangements

One of the arrangements that may be assigned when parents of minor children end their marriage is joint custody. In this type of arrangement, both parents share legal or physical custody, or both. California parents who are awarded joint custody of their children may have questions about the manner in which child support will be handled.

While the Child Support Standards Act regulates child support duties, it does not handle issues related to joint custody child support. Joint custody arrangements are addressed differently by the courts when decisions have to be made about child support. According to the law, the court is mandated to require the parent who is not responsible for the children on a daily basis to pay a portion of child support. The amount of child support will be determined by multiple factors, including the number of children in question and how much the parent earns.

Alimony, child support and bankruptcy

If parents in California are struggling to keep up with child support and alimony payments, they are not permitted to discharge those debts in bankruptcy. The wages of a parent who does not pay child support could be garnished. The parent's credit could also be damaged, and failure to pay child support could even result in jail time.

It is possible for debts that fall under certain types of post-divorce property settlements to be discharged in bankruptcy. Courts will first scrutinize those settlements to see if they were meant to act as stand-ins for either child or spousal support. Some types of property settlements can be discharged in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy but not a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For example, if a spouse has agreed to pay a portion of debts that were used for the family but are in the other spouse's name, that debt may be dischargable in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy. An agreed-upon cash payment to a spouse, such as for equity in a home, could also be discharged in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Inherited IRAs and property division

A California divorce requires the division of marital property, which often includes individual retirement accounts. These vehicles can only have one name on them, but a divorce generally treats retirement savings as marital assets. An IRA inherited by a person, however, could be classified as a nonmarital asset. Despite this status, some splitting couples have been dividing their inherited IRAs within their divorce settlements. Unfortunately, there are no Internal Revenue Code provisions that deal with this issue.

People have been bringing their inherited IRAs into the divorce process because they want to trade them for some other marital asset. The changes coming to the tax treatment of alimony beginning with divorces that are finalized in 2019 also appear to be driving this action because people might need funds without relying on alimony payments.

Tips for sharing parenting duties after a divorce

California parents can take steps during and after a divorce to make the adjustment less difficult for their children. A healthy co-parenting relationship can be a big part of this adjustment. If parents are able to focus on their children and their best interests, they may be able to set aside animosity even after a contentious split.

A parenting schedule that specifies school or another neutral location for pickups and dropoffs can help minimize conflict between parents. Some parents may want to see a therapist in order to work through feelings of anger or other negative emotions. A parent coordinator may also be able to help. This is a professional, sometimes a psychologist or social worker, who can help parents resolve conflict. Parent coordinators may smooth out conflicts over different parenting styles or assist in resolving other disputes.

Options for addressing unpaid child support and job loss

A parent in California who either needs to collect child support or pay it could run into problems as the years go by. When child support goes unpaid, a parent could approach a state agency and request an enforcement action. On the other side of the coin, a parent experiencing financial difficulty, like unemployment, could take steps to limit falling behind on payments by petitioning a court to modify the amount of support owed.

When a parent reports unpaid child support to the state's enforcement office, the agency will contact the noncustodial parent. Sometimes this requires finding the person by searching databases from the Department of Motor Vehicles or the Federal Parent Locator Service. After the agency finds the person, enforcement actions to collect child support arrearages could include garnishing wages or seizing funds from a bank account. If the person's current income cannot be determined, the agency will estimate future payments based on previous work histories.

How to design a co-parenting plan after divorce

Most divorced parents in California are looking to co-parent their children in a healthy, peaceful environment. However, while the parents' motivation might be positive, creating a successful parenting plan is not easy. Even when both parents agree on a schedule, they need to remember that parenting plans are works-in-progress that might need to be revisited as their family's needs change.

Creating a parenting plan means remembering that the kids' best interests and needs should be the focus, not a parent's convenience or their need, perhaps, for getting back at their ex for the issues in the relationship. While feelings run high when a couple splits, those feelings should be put aside when deciding how to raise their children, or at least, the decisions should be not be based on those feelings. Both parents need to go into the negotiations understanding that sacrifices must be made by each party and they will not always know what the other party is sacrificing.

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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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