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San Francisco Family Law Blog

What is the best way to use your child support payments?

When you and your former spouse reach an agreement about how much child support you will receive each month in California, you may immediately begin considering what you will use the money for. One of the most important things to remember is to never count on receiving child support payments when you create your budget. This way, you are not struggling to make ends meet if there is a month when your ex is delinquent on payments. 

When you do receive money to care for your child, you can use it however you would like. According to LiveAbout, even though the courts will not tell you how you have to spend the money, your efforts to spend each payment wisely can minimize the financial stress you experience and help you to provide optimal opportunities for your child to excel and grow despite the changes in your family dynamic. Some of the expenses you may consider putting child support toward include the following:

  • Extracurricular activities that require the use of equipment or supplies, as well as fees to pay for lessons for sports, musical instruments or other activities. 
  • Day-to-day expenses including food, clothing and transportation costs.
  • Medical insurance costs or contributions to a rainy-day fund that can be used if your child is involved in an emergency. 
  • Daycare costs if you have a babysitter for your child while you go to work each day. 

Temporarily modifying your custody agreement

Child custody matters can often become contentious, which can add undue stress to the already stressful situation that you and your children are experiencing. This is why (when possible), we encourage those who come to see us here at the Ruben Law Firm to attempt to work through such issues amicably with their ex-spouse's. No matter the negative feelings you may feel towards your ex-spouse, the reality is that when you have children together, your association will continue. Ensuring that it is at least respectful will help in dealing with emergency custodial situations when they arise. 

Say that either you or your ex-spouse is in a serious accident, develops a grave illness, or is called out-of-town for an extended period of time. Such happenings will no doubt impact your custody arrangement. The two of you can either be left scrambling to try and find other parties to care for the children in order to ensure that your custody agreement remains intact as is, or you can try to work together to come up with a temporary amended agreement. 

California's child support formula

Many in San Francisco may look at cases in which divorced parents are obliged to pay child support and wonder exactly how the court comes up with the amount that is owed each month. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that as recently as 2015, $33.7 billion was owed in child support. Every state has its own method for determining how much of an individual's obligation will contribute to that amount. 

According to Section 4055 of California's Family Code, the court considers the monthly net income of the parent who earns the most (HN), and then the same figure of both parents combined to get a total net monthly income (TN). The court then reviews the percentage of time that the higher-earning parent has physical custody of the kids (H). If that number is less than 50 percent, it is added to one; if it is greater than 50 percent, it is subtracted from two. Whatever that result is, it is then multiplied by the following fraction: 

  • If TN is less than $800: 0.20 + TN/16,000
  • If TN is between $801 and $6,666: 0.25
  • If TN is between $6,667 and $10,000: 0.10 + 1,000/TN
  • If TN is greater than $10,000: 0.12 + 800/TN

Understanding palimony

As a California resident, you already likely know that some spouses can receive spousal support when they divorce. But what if you were never legally married and instead have been living with someone without benefit of marriage? Can you receive spousal support if and when your live-in relationship comes to an end? The answer is yes, under certain circumstances, and the reason is because of California’s unique palimony law.

If you have never heard of palimony, you likely are not alone. The case establishing it in California dates back to the 1970s. In 1971 a woman named Michelle Triola sued famed actor Lee Marvin, her longtime live-in partner, for half of his property, as well as “spousal” support, when their relationship ended.

Managing your mortgage in a divorce

People in California who have known other couples that got divorced may have witnessed these couples selling their homes during the divorce process. It is common for this to happen although selling a home is not a requirement of getting divorced. Understanding the factors involved in the decision about what to do with a home when a marriage ends is important for anyone who may be headed toward divorce.

As explained by Bankrate, spouses should be aware that banks do not look at homes and mortgages as one in the same. They are, in fact, two very separate things. One - the home - is the asset. The other - the mortgage - is the corresponding debt. Both elements must be addressed individually during a divorce.

Social media and premarital agreements

Just a few decades ago, most people in California may have thought that a premarital agreement was only something that celebrities or other people with extensive wealth needed to have. Today, however, more couples who might consider themselves "everyday" people are finding that these contracts can indeed be useful to them.

One of the more recent trends with premarital agreements is the inclusion of clauses that outline what is and what is not acceptable for a spouse to do on social media during and after a divorce. As explained by CNBC, these clauses are sometimes referred to as social media prenups. These clauses have arisen likely out of the fact that some disgruntled husbands or wives have made negative and even slanderous posts about their former partners on social channels. They may even have posted unflattering pictures.

Getting what you want in an uncontested divorce

Divorce can be contentious, no matter how much you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse are willing to cooperate with each other to get it over with. At the Ruben Law Firm, we know that this is a difficult time in your life. We also know that uncontested divorce can benefit many couples. For you and other Californians, an uncontested option may be better than litigation, depending on your situation.

As FindLaw explains, uncontested divorce options, such as mediation and collaborative law, typically have numerous advantages over a litigated divorce. These include the following:

  • Being less costly and time-consuming than going to court
  • The ability to negotiate terms you and your ex can agree upon
  • Reducing conflict for everyone, including children
  • Teaching you communication and negotiation skills
  • Giving you privacy, rather than your divorce details becoming a matter of public record

What are your rights as a grandparent?

One of the greatest gifts that your children can give you are grandchildren. Your love for them can often be equally as strong as that which they share with their parents. The same may often be said about the relationship you establish with them in San Francisco. Is it fair, then, that your rights to have access to your grandkids change when familial circumstances shift? 

According to California law, the answer to that question is no. You (as a grandparent) have the right to request visitation with your grandchildren if and when their parents divorce. To qualify, however, you must be able to show to the court that you have "engendered a bond" with them. Such a bond is assumed to be present if it is proven that severing your ties with your grandkids could cause them serious emotional harm and distress. When considering this, the court must also determine whether or not your continual presence in your grandchildren's lives might serve to undermine their parents' authority. 

How to talk to your kids about custody

Going through a divorce is never easy, but it is often even more difficult when you and your ex have children together. While separation is often the best decision for giving kids a healthy home, it can be complicated to explain this to children in a way that does not add further stress to the situation. Explaining custody can be particularly difficult, but there are ways to do so effectively.

The following tips are a good place to start with talking to your kids about custody arrangements during a divorce. Rather than approaching the topic with negativity, take a positive stance and use the following suggestions to make the discussion a productive one: 

How can I prepare for a custody hearing?

When it comes to custody decisions in a divorce, California judges base their decision on the child’s best interests. To determine where those interests lie, a judge must ask parents several questions that may make you uncomfortable at first. However, as your attorney can tell you, being open and honest is always best. Your attorney should prepare you for these questions, which require you to go into detail about your financial situation, as well as your ongoing relationship with the other parent.

Verywell Family notes that you should be prepared to discuss what type of custody plan you want and why. Courts are likely to prefer a joint arrangement that allows both parents time to maintain a relationship with the child. If you plan to ask for sole custody, you must be prepared to explain why and give evidence to support your application.

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