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San Francisco Family Law Blog

Holiday stress can negatively affect your marriage

If you are like many of your friends and family members, you look forward to the holiday season. After all, Christmas, Hanukkah and other holidays provide an excellent opportunity to build lifelong memories. Unfortunately, though, holidays can also be stressful. 

In a recent study, nearly 40% of individuals reported increased stress during the holidays. If you do not manage stress successfully, you may experience a variety of consequences. Significantly, holiday stress may negatively affect your marriage. 

Premarital agreements can make divorce negotiations easier

California's community property laws require marital property to be divided equally even when divorcing spouses have only been married briefly, which is one of the reasons why premarital agreements are common in the Golden State. Prenuptial agreements allow couples to make their own decisions about how their assets will be divided should they choose to divorce, and the agreements may also include provisions that address other potentially contentious issues like spousal support.

Prenuptial agreements can be particularly useful when separate property becomes commingled during a marriage. The assets that spouses own prior to getting married are considered separate property, and some assets acquired during a marriage are not subject to division in a divorce. Gifts from third parties and inheritances are treated as separate property in a divorce. However, matters become more complicated when separate property becomes entwined with marital property.

How a parent can keep in touch with children after moving away

Living long-distance from their children can be challenging for some California parents who have gotten a divorce. However, they can still keep in touch through social media, text messages or email even if they only see their children infrequently. Regular postcards with positive messages let children know they are on their parents' minds, and parents can also make phone calls outside of the times scheduled. Parents may want to talk to their children about what their preferred method of staying in contact is.

Children may also have preferences about visiting their parents versus having their parents visit them. Parents should try to stay involved in their children's lives by getting to know their friends and their friends' parents. Friends can be invited on outings or even on vacations, but parents should also make sure they have plenty of time alone with their children. This applies even if the parent has a new partner, and it is usually best to only introduce new partners once the relationship is serious.

Is withdrawing your portion of a 401k a good idea?

Your divorce is almost certain to bring with it a good deal of uncertainty. If your ex-spouse was the primary wage earner in your home, then you may be faced with the prospect of needing to find employment or even new housing. You might feel much more secure in confronting these new challenges if you are on a firm financial footing. You may be entitled to alimony, yet a more immediate source of funds could be your portion of the contributions made to your ex-spouse's 401k. 

Such contributions are classified as marital assets due to the fact that they are made from marital income. You may have heard that if you were to withdraw funds early from a tax-deferred retirement account, you may be forced to pay a hefty penalty. That is true in most cases (indeed, the penalty may be as much as 10 percent of the total withdrawal). According to information shared by, however, divorce is one of the rare instances where no early withdrawal penalty is incurred. 

Domestic assault in Orange County lands man in jail

far too many people in San Francisco may currently be suffering from abuse at the hands of their spouses. For those hearing details of an abusive marriage from the outside, the solution to ending said abuse seems simple: the domestic violence victim simply needs to leave. Yet domestic abusers often exercise a great deal of control over their victims (especially when they are married). They may control the couple's finances and their other resources, leaving their victims completely dependent on them. As if control is not enough, many may also use fear as a method of ensuring that their spouses never leave. 

Those that are struggling with mustering the courage to leave their abusive spouses should know that there resources out there to protect. A recent update to a divorce case involving a Chinese woman and her American husband (who happened to make their marital home in Orange County) demonstrates this point. The woman claims that her ex-husband tried to compel her to satisfy his sexual desires, even going so far as to threaten her with deportation if she did not. Their tumultuous time together came to a conclusion when he reportedly broke two beer bottles and stabbed her in the shoulder with them. She pressed charges and he was subsequently convicted of assault. While he was able to avoid the five-year prison sentence he initially faced, he was forced to spend 180 days in jail, during which time she was able to leave him and return to China. 

What happens to home equity when you divorce?

When you and your ex decided to purchase a home together, you probably did so under the assumption that you two would stay together in that home for the foreseeable future. In many instances, though, marriages come to an end. If yours is among them, you need to figure out what to do with your shared asset.

If the value of your home has increased since you purchased it, you will have at least some amount of equity in it. You have several options available to you when it comes to how to divide it.

Do I need a forensic accountant?

If you and your spouse in California are getting a divorce, you know that dividing your assets and your debts will be something you need to do. Finding a way to agree on the value of different assets is an important part of this process and must be done before you make a final decision about who will receive what assets or who will be responsible for which debts. There are some situations in which the determination of asset value can be anything but straightforward. These are times when the use of a forensic accountant may be useful to you.

As explained by the Forensic CPA Society, a forensic accountant brings three distinct competencies to the table for you in your divorce. These include their accounting expertise, their audit capabilities and their ability to investigate sometimes complex financial matters or transactions.

Funding kids' college after a divorce

Residents in California who are getting a divorce while their kids are still in elementary, middle or high school should add funding higher education to the list of topics they must address as part of their divorce negotiations. Even parents with very young children should focus on this, despite how far away college may feel at the time of their divorce. There may be no legal way to require a former spouse to contribute to this effort without it being documented in a divorce decree.

CNBC recommends that moms and dads identify their savings plan for college, such as any 529 plans. These funds could be specified as the first source of funding with parental input to follow. It is equally important that any agreements made do not focus on tuition alone as this is just one of many costs associated with going to a college or university. Parents should acknowledge that living expenses, travel costs, fees, books and even discretionary spending money will all be required by the student.

Getting divorced with student loans

California residents probably know that they live in a community property state. This means that marital property is divided equally when a couple gets divorced. There may be some exceptions to this, such as when a prenuptial agreement outlines other provisions. Student loan debt may also raise unique situations and might or might not fall under the need to be equally split.

As explained by, one of the big factors that a divorcing couple will need to identify in when the student loan debt was incurred relative to when the couple got married. In many situations, it is likely that debt incurred prior to the marriage remains the separate property of the person in whose name the loan was taken. If, however, loans were taken out after the date of the marriage, the debt might be deemed marital property.

Gray divorce and your financial wellness

If you are one of the many people in California who is getting or has gotten a divorce after the age of 50, you might just have more to be concerned about than your younger divorced counterparts. It has long been known that divorce can be an emotionally grueling experience. Some research has even identified a higher level of depression in divorced people than in those who have been widowed.

Now, new research is finding that divorce - especially divorce after 50 - can wreak havoc with your financial health. Bloomberg reported on the results of studies conducted at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research that shows a person's wealth can drop by as much as 50% after a gray divorce. Women take the biggest hit as their standard of living declines by more than double that of men.

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