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San Francisco Family Law Blog

How can I co-parent with my ex?

If you are the parent of a minor child in California and you and your spouse have chosen to separate or get divorced, you'll need to figure out how to work with your former partner to raise your child. The fact that you are not married to your kid's other parent does not negate the reality that both adults likely want the best for your child. Now it is up to you to find a way to put that wish into action.

Today's Parent recommends that separated or divorced moms and dads think of each other like colleagues. Approaching communications and interactions with a professional demeanor may go a long way toward rounding the edges and avoiding unpleasant interactions.

Debt, divorce and bankruptcy

Spouses in California who are experiencing significant financial challenges and who are also contemplating ending their marriages may need to carefully assess their options for how to manage their debt before making any decisions. Some people might need to consider filing for bankruptcy but they should understand some of the ramifications of doing this before or after they file for divorce.

As explained by Money Management, credit card debt is one common reason that many consumers end up seeking relief via a bankruptcy. Credit card debt is also something that needs to be divided or allocated during divorce negotiations. The way this is done may vary in part based on the assets the couple has and who will receive what portion of those.

Consider a postmarital agreement

The infatuation and passion you feel during your engagement in San Francisco may make considering the possibility of divorce the last thing you want to think about. For this reason, you (like many others) likely give little thought to entering into a premarital agreement with your spouse. Yet many will often come to us here at the Ruben Law Firm regretting this decision. If you also come to share the same regret, you will be happy to know that you may still have the chance to enter into a similar agreement with your spouse. 

Section 1500 of the California Family Code states that premarital agreements (or any form of marital agreement) can override the property rights of spouses prescribed by the state's statutes. The inclusion of "other marital property agreement" in the language of this statute opens the door to the possibility of a postmarital agreement. Like a premarital agreement, one created after you are married can redefine what constitutes marital property and income, thus protected any assets you may own (or acquire during your marriage) from becoming subject to property division should you choose to divorce. 

Can children choose which parent they live with?

Child custody cases are difficult to predict due to the number of variables. No two cases are exactly alike, primarily because no two situations are the same. There are times when you might hear that the children will get to choose what parent to reside with during and after a divorce, but is this true in every case?

While the court may weigh the wishes of the children when determining physical custody in California, do not count on a judge always granting those requests.

Understanding the UCCJEA

Divorce proceedings in San Francisco can easily become emotionally charged, prompting those going through the process to want to distance themselves from each other as much as possible. Your ex-spouse wanting to move away may not be unexpected, yet also hoping to take the kids with them can complicate matters. Parental relocation immediately brings up the issue of jurisdiction. Many that come to us here at the Ruben Law Firm are concerned that their exes' decisions to relocate are motivated by which states they believe offer them the best shot at a favorable custody ruling. This prompts the question of how concerned should you be if your ex-spouse seems to to be shopping for a preferred custodial jurisdiction? 

You will be glad to hear that states typically no longer compete over custodial jurisdiction. A federal law exists known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act that is meant to deter parents from moving away when they believe another state might favor their claims to custody. According to the website for the Judicial Branch of California, all 50 states recognize the authority of the UCCJEA. 

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.

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