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When to protect assets with a premarital agreement

For many Californians, getting married requires that they decide if they should consider a premarital agreement. Understanding the value of these agreements before entering a marriage can be critical. In some situations, considering a prenup might be a reasonable question. In others, it is a key strategy to protect assets accrued before the marriage.

With a premarital agreement, the circumstances will dictate its importance. If a person is approaching their second marriage and children are involved, a premarital agreement can avoid complications. Blended families can spark confusion regarding how property is divided. For example, the new spouse could be named as the beneficiary of assets if the former spouse dies.

3 steps for stopping parental alienation

A divorce can take a tremendous toll on anyone. Put simply, not only must you deal with the emotional weight of ending a marriage, but you may also face an uncertain future. If you have kids, though, you can focus on being a good parent. Unfortunately, for any number of reasons, your ex-spouse may try to sabotage the relationship you have with your kids.

Parental alienation occurs when one parent works to damage the other’s parent-child relationship. Many child psychologists consider it to be mental or emotional manipulation. Others call parental alienation a form of child abuse. Regardless, you must act quickly to stop parental alienation before it causes long-term harm to your kids. Here are three steps for doing so: 

Tips for splitting an IRA in a divorce

Divorce is on the decline overall, but among older adults, it is rising. This so-called "gray divorce" can lead to some possible complications in dividing property. For example, people who have not yet reached the age of 59 1/2 may have begun taking 72(t) distributions from an IRA under certain limited circumstances that do not incur a 10% penalty. However, this could have implications if the IRA is divided.

According to IRS regulations, if there is a modification to the account, this penalty will be retroactively assessed. As a modification is defined, it appears that splitting the account in a divorce could trigger this penalty for the distributions the person has received. Some people have sought clarification from the IRS in a private letter ruling.

How no-fault divorces have benefited some people

It is likely that some people in California have heard the month of January referred to as "Divorce Month." After surviving the holidays and wanting a fresh start in the new year, many individuals initiate divorce proceedings during the month of January.

While most associate divorce with nasty fights and emotional wreckage, it seems that there also may be some financial benefits to ending a marriage. In states where couples are able to file a no-fault divorce, it seems that women are able to increase their economic power in the marriage. Statistics reveal that among couples in no-fault states, it is 8% more likely that both spouses work outside of the home full time. In the same states, it is 5% likelier for the wife to be in the labor force.

Why and how to create a premarital agreement

Couples may want to sign premarital agreements before their weddings that detail how they will divide any property in case of divorce. Some might even want to consider a cohabitation agreement, which can set out expectations if a couple is moving in together instead of marrying. However, it is important that both parties participate in the creation of these agreements and that they are happy with the division of property specified.

This was not the case for a woman whose boyfriend gave her a cohabitation agreement that included provisions she disagreed with. The home they were moving into belonged to him, and his mother had cosigned for it and paid half of the down payment. The couple had already agreed that his name would stay on the mortgage and the woman would pay a small amount of rent.

Ways fathers can counteract possible child custody discrimination

Traditional views that long upheld mothers as the only appropriate caregivers for children have left fathers with deep concerns when they pursue child custody. The court decisions made by previous generations in California frequently discounted the parenting abilities of men. Attitudes toward fathers have changed in recent years, and family law recognizes their parental rights. Fathers can and do gain full or shared custody of their children, but judges with old-fashioned beliefs still exist. To prepare for the potential of parental discrimination, fathers should gather as much evidence as possible to support their bids for child custody.

A strong case for child custody might show that the father can communicate with the mother. A judge will want to see that the parents can cooperate for the benefit of their children. Drafting a parenting plan that spells out parental duties and schedules could present evidence that the father has already invested time and energy in planning for child care. Proof that the father and children have a positive relationship might also persuade a judge to approve full or shared custody for the father.

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 CNBC.com, however, divorce is one of the rare instances where no early withdrawal penalty is incurred. 

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