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San Mateo California Family Law Blog

The how, what, and where of California property division

Believe it or not, how you divorce matters, especially when children and property are involved. There are vital differences between a contested and uncontested divorce.

If your divorce proceeds uncontested, civility has won, and you two have come to an agreement on all terms surrounding the divorce. Benefits of an uncontested divorce include no trial and financial savings due to not having to pay court and legal fees.

Don't forget about investments during a high asset divorce

Complex assets such as investments can be difficult to manage during divorce. When a person is in the middle of a high asset divorce, focusing on other matters might be more of an afterthought than a priority. However, since there are already financial implications associated with the divorce process itself, properly managing investments is important.

While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, California investors who are in or even past middle age might have more investments as well as more wealth tied to those investments than younger investors. Between 1990 and 2019, the divorce rate for those over 50 doubled while it tripled for couples over the age of 65. Investments often play a crucial role in financial support during this period of life, so it is important to maintain access to investment accounts. This is an especially good idea for partners who left financial matters up to their spouses. Without access to relevant information, an individual cannot be sure if his or her ex is taking improper actions, such as withdrawing funds.

Understanding property division and family law in California

Family law in California is unique to the state, meaning that precedents or rules that apply elsewhere are not necessarily relevant during divorce. Some rules or procedures might be similar to those in other states, but one area in particular stands out. Unlike most states, California follows the community property concept for property division.

Community property is a fairly simple concept to understand. Any income or property that is acquired by either spouse during their marriage is considered joint property. Joint property -- also known as community property -- is divided equally during divorce. There are a few exceptions, such as inheritances and gifts, but in certain situations these may be considered joint property as well.

High asset divorce can diminish startup founders' wealth

It is an exciting time for tech startups. New technology is being created and developed constantly, and there are many qualified and experienced workers in California who are eager to work in this industry. Tech startup founders who have already achieved a certain level of success in their field likely already know how important it is to have a prenuptial agreement. Founders who are still in the early days or still getting ready to launch may not realize the implications of getting married without a prenup, and then dealing with a high asset divorce later on.

California is a community property state, and as such any property or wealth acquired during marriage is considered marital. This means that all property will be split equally during divorce, even if only one spouse was primarily responsible for creating wealth. This can be a scary prospect for entrepreneurs and even investors who are working in tech, because even a single good idea can launch a startup toward success.

Child custody considerations in California

Rather than being governed by federal law, family law matters in California fall under state law. However, it is not necessarily helpful to consider cases or precedents established elsewhere since family law also varies from state to state. When divorcing parents need to address child custody, they should be certain that they understand California family law and how it applies to their situation.

First and foremost, the court always prioritizes a child's best interests. No two families in California are the same, so figuring out what those best interests are will always be a unique process. For example, a judge may consider a child's family or home situation and whether certain decisions might be detrimental.

How to protect current and future assets from property division

There are many steps that go into planning a wedding, but thinking about divorce usually is not one of them. This could actually be a mistake. California couples may want to look ahead at more than just future jobs or children and, in particular, consider what property division should look like during divorce. This outlook might strike some as distinctly unromantic or pessimistic, but it can actually prove beneficial in the long run.

Financial problems and stress are the second most common cause of divorce. Many people go into marriage either blind about their significant others' finances or only understanding very little. While talking about money will not necessarily prevent fighting over it, having this conversation can minimize tension around finances. Creating a prenuptial agreement is an excellent way to start this conversation, and it also gives both people an opportunity to protect personal assets.

Is mediation appropriate for child custody disputes?

Fighting with an ex over every small detail of a divorce might seem like the normal thing to do, but in fact many divorcing couples do quite the opposite. By using mediation it is possible to have a non-adversarial divorce in which a couple can resolve problems outside of court. Mediation is for more than just property division and alimony, too. Many parents in California have successfully addressed child custody matters during mediation.

Although it is true that some parents struggle to agree on a child custody agreement, many others find that they agree on what the general terms should be. Working with a mediator can be an appropriate choice for the latter. Mediation is generally faster and much less expensive than handling things in court. For example, the process for formally establishing a custody agreement can last months or even years. Mediation is generally over in two weeks or less.

Family law: New parents should consider postnuptial agreements

Prenuptial agreements are an excellent choice for individuals who are eager to protect themselves should marriage not work out. However, many people who have prenups do not realize that they may also need another important family law tool -- a postnuptial agreement. For expecting parents in California, creating a postnup could be one of the most important pre-parenthood duties.

Although a postnuptial agreement generally does not allow parents to specify child support or custody arrangements, it is still an extremely useful tool. So why should parents worry about postnups at all? While a welcome addition to most families, children can be a source of stress that some marriages simply cannot handle. If a couple did not sign a prenuptial agreement, then a postnuptial can still offer protections should they divorce in the future.

How to help your children deal with divorce

Divorce is a stressful event for both you and your children. As a caring parent, you want to do everything in your power to lessen the impact it will have on your kids. They often have trouble expressing themselves which can make it difficult for a parent to help identify exactly how they’re feeling or what is bothering them.

Each child will react to divorce uniquely, and it is impossible how to tell how well they will handle your separation before it happens. Parents should be ready for the unexpected and proceed with love and understanding.

Watch out for retirement during a high asset divorce

Adults spend decades saving money for retirement. It is not uncommon for young adults in California to start their retirement savings very early on in their careers, which can help secure a more financially stable future. Unfortunately, a large retirement account is quite often vulnerable during a high asset divorce.

Take for example an out-of-state woman whose divorce led to a significant drop in retirement savings. She married back in 1997, and the couple moved into the property that she had purchased with her own money before tying the knot. Several years later, the couple refinanced the mortgage so that they could provide financial support to the wife's father, who was seriously ill. The husband's name was added to the deed so that his income would be considered during the refinancing.

California Family Law And Litigation

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