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San Mateo California Family Law Blog

What is my alternative to monthly alimony payments?

Most people in California are familiar with the concept of spousal support in the form of monthly payments made from one person to a former spouse. While this is a common approach to alimony, there is an alternative. Some people choose to handle alimony as a one-time, lump sum payment. 

There are many reasons why a person might elect to make a lump sum payment. Some people may feel worried about the consequences of missing a payment, while others simply do not like the idea of being financially tethered to an ex for years to come. Recipients may prefer this approach, too. A lump sum payment must be equal to the predicted amount of all future payments, but it often works out to be worth more given their ability to invest some of the money. 

Worried about debt and property division? A prenup can help

Planning for an upcoming wedding is an overwhelming ordeal. California couples spend hours upon hours selecting the right venue, picking the perfect date, sending out invitations and planning every last detail of their perfect day. Few, however, look ahead to something else they may want to plan for -- property division in the event of a divorce down the line. Although prenuptial agreements may feel distinctly unromantic, having one can help couples who must later traverse through the emotionally-fraught divorce process. 

Although there is still some lingering stigma around prenups, surveys indicate that more people are coming to appreciate them for what they are -- a family law planning tool. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 62 percent of attorneys who participated in its study said that more of their clients were seeking help with prenups over the past three years. While experts understand that couples seem to be increasingly interested in prenups, many are still unsure of why this sudden shift in attitude is happening. This trend is especially confusing considering that millennials generally earn less than their parents did at the same age and are marrying far less frequently. 

When is co-parenting necessary for child custody?

Being a parent is not easy, but having to co-parent with an ex might be even more difficult. As more child custody agreements shift toward a focus on shared custody, divorced California parents must figure out how to successfully work together for the benefit of their children. Although this sounds good in theory, it can be a bit harder in real life. 

The move toward shared custody leaves behind historical norms of mom getting custody and dad seeing the kids during visitation. While shared custody might be better for kids, it can be incredibly difficult for divorced parents. Shared custody requires continual and ongoing communication between parents. For two people who were unable to stay married, this is asking a lot. 

Can I use mediation for a high asset divorce?

Ending a marriage is often viewed as an all-out battle in which each side fights to be the winner. In reality, most California couples know that fighting over every detail is not always smart, especially when the stakes are high. Mediation is a more collaborative approach that may be appropriate for those going through a high asset divorce. 

As an alternative dispute resolution, mediation gives divorcing couples the opportunity to negotiate their own settlements and agreements. Couples who choose mediation typically have much greater control over the process than those who choose a more standard approach. If you and your soon-to-be ex are on roughly the same page about things and decided to divorce on relatively good terms, this process can also be quicker and cheaper. 

Can my child participate in my divorce proceedings?

Divorces prove difficult for all parties. Yet when divorces involve child custody, emotions fill the courtroom. It is essential that you keep your child’s best interest in mind when obtaining custodial rights and determining visitation as these decisions have a significant impact on your child’s development.

In California, children can opt in to participating and testifying in court proceedings regarding custody. Due to each child’s differences and sensitivity, the court maintains that a judge will never force a child to participate, but children old enough to understand the depth of their custody arrangement can have their moment in court. Understanding the process and guidelines in your child’s participation during your divorce is essential when separating and deciding their custody arrangements.

Is fighting during a high asset divorce common?

Comfortable, but not quite wealthy -- that is what one family law expert says is the sweet spot for fighting during divorce. For California residents who are embarking on a high asset divorce that involves anywhere between $1 and $5 million in money and assets, the chances of fighting throughout the process are higher than for those who have both more and less. Although this might seem counter-intuitive, there is some evidence to back it up. 

In general, $1 million gives families a sense of financial comfort, at least that is according to the Schwab Center for Financial Research. But what happens to that comfortable $1 million when it gets split up during a divorce, particularly when some of it is allocated for specific payments, like alimony or child support? Suddenly, it is not so comfortable anymore. 

When recovering from drugs, child custody is often at risk

Women who test positive for drugs while pregnant run the risk of their child being born addicted as well. Studies show that mothers who abuse drugs while pregnant and whose newborns test positive may have them removed from their care and taken into child custody. In California, experts claim that removing children from their mothers at any age can be traumatic and cause a lifetime of problems.

Statistics show that since 2011 children being born chemically addicted has quadrupled. The number entering foster care programs after being removed from family homes has also increased. Experts believe the increase is related to parental drug abuse, and social service groups are trying different strategies to reverse these trends.

Other than child custody, what should I be worried about?

California parents have no legal obligation to pay for their children's college education. Still, many choose to help their kids cover the costs anyway. But what about after a divorce? Most people already know that they need to address topics like child custody and support, but not many take the time to come to an agreement about paying for college

If most parents end up helping their kids pay for at least some of their college, what is the point of putting an agreement down on paper? Since there is no legal obligation to pay for higher education, a parent who needs help paying for a child to attend school will probably not have any legal recourse if the other parent is asked and refuses to help. Getting everyone's agreed-upon contributions down in a divorce settlement can ensure that neither the child nor one of the parents will end up in a difficult financial position. 

Proper planning is crucial during property division

A divorce late in life for some seniors means that, after many years together, they have grown apart from their spouses and decided to move on alone. While the split may be amicable, both sides need to understand the importance of property division during the divorce. Older couples in California and other states should consult with an attorney and financial consultant to understand the specific rules for dividing assets.

Older couples with a solid, high-earning history often have acquired multiple income yielding accounts. With multiple 401(k)s, annuities, pensions and IRAs, it can be increasingly difficult to divide everything equally. In some cases, couples may decide to trade off assets to avoid cashing in annuities and losing value. People should avoid the temptation of trying to split accounts 50-50. Some accounts are more complex than others and may require a professional.

Reining in emotions can improve the outcome of a divorce

Divorce is not a game to be won or lost in California. Yet people may go into a divorce thinking that they want to 'get the better deal.' The reality is that there really is no better deal to be had and that both sides will have to make compromises. Regardless of how much is available in the assets column, those resources still have an end point that will have to be considered in divorce proceedings.

There is no denying that going through a divorce is an emotional time in a person's life. Like other situations, acknowledging the emotions and dealing with them can be helpful. There is an acronym for this in divorce, SARA (shock – anger – resentment – acceptance). Recognizing that fact and identifying where one is on that spectrum can assist in dealing with the situation.

California Family Law And Litigation

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