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San Francisco Family Law Blog

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 NitroCollege.com, 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.

Divorcing reality TV stars feud over spousal support

A common perception of divorce cases in San Francisco may be that those involved look to dig their heels in and hold out for as long as is necessary in order for them to secure the settlement terms that they want. Yet often this "winner-take-all" attitude misses the general purpose of divorce proceedings, which is to formally end a marriage with both sides leaving in similar financial positions. While that might include one spouse paying their other alimony, such assistance is not meant to serve as punishment against that spouse, but rather a temporary means for the other to support themselves until they are able to secure gainful employment. 

Unfortunately, this may not be understood by all who are going through a divorce. Such is the impression some may have after learning the demands made by a former reality television star of his soon-to-be ex-wife (who is also a reality TV celebrity). She filed for divorce earlier this year, then attempted to reconcile. Her attempts apparently proved to be futile as she re-filed a month later. Yet she claims that he is intentionally holding up the proceedings by refusing to sign the divorce paperwork until his demand of receiving spousal support (along with 40 percent of her assets) is met. 

Tips for new stepparents

When you marry someone with kids, you get the wonderful opportunity to be a stepparent. While this prospect may be exciting, it can also be challenging. Learning how to provide love without crossing boundaries can be difficult at times. 

It may take some time and effort in order to determine your role as a stepparent. You may encounter some conflict with your spouse, stepchildren and any ex-partners. But the journey is worth it. Here are some suggestions on how to adapt to being a stepparent. 

How can I prepare for an adoption home study?

Adoptive and foster parents must go through many steps before they can welcome children into their homes. The home study is a crucial part of the process, as you and your spouse will be rigorously vetted to ensure you're fully prepared to take on child-rearing responsibilities. Because the process can be a bit intimidating, AdoptUSKids.org offers the following information to help you prepare. 

You and your spouse will be asked for certain documents during the home study. Documents detailing your health and wellness are necessary to ensure you'll be able to provide care to your child for as long as possible. Health issues don't necessarily exclude you from adopting, provided that they're well controlled. More serious illnesses or diseases, meaning those that may cause premature death, could be a cause for concern. In this case, adoptive parents are often asked to establish an estate plan that arranges for the adopted child to be properly cared for in the event the adoptive parent is deceased. 

Custody dispute ends in murder

Domestic abuse is often a sad reality for many in San Francisco. While women are typically viewed as being the targets of such abuse, men and children can also be subject to it. Many might wonder why those suffering from abuse take so long to leave their abusers, yet when children are involved, parents are often concerned that the kids will suffer further harm if their abusive spouses are granted access to them. That concern may even grow into legitimate fear that abuse might escalate into violence against the kids or the parents who try to leave with them. 

A recent homicide case in Texas may serve to confirm such fears. A couple discovered the body of a man lying in a ditch near their home. The man turned out to be a local Air Force recruiter. He had been involved in a bitter custody dispute with his estranged wife since last year. When filing for divorce, he requested custody of the child he had with his wife as well as her other children. Stories told by the children detailed potential abuse by the mother, with one son even claiming that she had stabbed his brother with a pencil. The woman had also attempted to force her way into the man's home of separate occasions (in violation of a restraining order he had against her). 

Custody exchange ends in shooting

Sadly, it may not be all that uncommon to see negative feelings become a huge factor in child custody cases in San Francisco. Parents may allow tensions with each other to overwhelm they desire to act in the best interest of their kids. When this happens, seemingly simple things like phone calls, text messages and even brief encounters can devolve in ugly fights. It is for this very reason that parents who share discord for each other be smart in the management of their kids' custody. This may include avoiding situations where they are alone together by making sure any forced interactions (such as custody exchanges) occur in a public place. 

Yet sometimes even that is not enough to avoid trouble. This was clearly evidenced in a fight that broke out in the parking lot of a Walmart in Illinois. Before all was said and done, a man was shot and several others were hit with shattering glass. Thankfully, the man's injuries were not said to be life-threatening. 

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