Law Offices of Hannah E. Sims, LL.M.
Oakland Certified Family Law Specialist

Oakland Family Law Blog

Strategic planning can help with post-divorce finances

If there is a possibility of divorce, California couples may want to take precautionary measures to protect their finances. This is especially important when there is a potential disparity of earning potential between spouses. For some couples, the process will involve focusing on re-employment. For others, it will be necessary to gather complete information on marital assets. A few simple strategies can help make sure the playing field is level, even when acrimony ensues between spouses.

If one spouse controls the money and takes care of the bills, the other will be at a disadvantage when assets are divided during a divorce. Getting involved and understanding the state of marital finances is especially critical in contested divorces. Prior to divorce, credit reports should be requested for both spouses. This could expose unknown charge cards and reveal the true state of finances. Knowing the value of investment and retirement accounts is also very important if a fair distribution is the goal. Maintaining an individual bank account makes it easier to save and access funds that might be needed for living and legal expenses.

The approach to co-parenting after divorce is changing

California parents may have more options for child custody arrangements than they did in the past. Traditionally, mothers were often awarded primary custody, and fathers spent alternate weekends and perhaps a week night with their children. However, with research showing that children benefit from more time with their fathers after a divorce even if it causes some disruption in their schedule, parents are making more of an effort to share parenting duties.

This can lead to some creative approaches to co-parenting. For example, some parents have tried taking turns sharing a home where the children live full time. One couple bought a home with two master suites, and the mother kept hers locked when she was not there. Another couple tried this arrangement, but they found that conflict over issues such as the condition the house was left in made it unworkable for them. They changed to a schedule in which they alternated weekends with the child and had him on different days during the week.

Proper decorum in the courtroom is vital in custody cases

If you have an open custody case in the Oakland courts, you may feel like your life is being examined under a microscope. In a way it is, which is why your behavior while in the courtroom will be especially scrutinized.

Below are some tips for demonstrating respect for the court and its proceedings while attending custody hearings.

Custodial interference could qualify for legal action

In most cases, separated parents in California adhere to their child custody schedules. People usually negotiate small temporary changes, such as a parent taking a child on a trip or delaying a transfer because of bad weather, without any trouble. Custodial interference, however, represents purposeful violations of a custody agreement. In those situations, a parent might petition a court to enforce a custody agreement or set up supervised visitation. Reporting a problem to law enforcement could also be necessary in some cases.

When a parent refuses to release a child to the other parent at the scheduled time, custodial interference has occurred. Another example would be when a parent picks up a child from school without the other parent's knowledge or permission. Violations of a custody schedule might only be excused if a parent can show that the child would have been endangered in the care of the other parent.

Accuracy important when dividing retirement funds

Retirement funds can often be the largest single asset at stake in a divorce for couples in California who have decided to end their marriages. Because these accounts are so critical to the financial future and security of both parties, dealing with them can be one of the most contentious issues in divorce negotiations. Indeed, in a 2016 survey, 62 percent of divorce lawyers identified retirement accounts as one of the most difficult issues for their clients to address.

Each type of retirement account must be handled appropriately for the legal and financial rules that govern it, even when it is being distributed as part of a property division settlement in a divorce. If the distribution is not dealt with properly, each spouse could face significant financial losses in terms of taxes, fees and penalties, and the outcome of the distribution could also reflect an inequitable or unequal outcome.

Keeping assets separate in case of divorce

California couples who are getting married might not want to think about the possibility of divorce. However, taking steps for financial self-protection in case of divorce is really no different from any other safety precaution. Couples who are not yet married can specify in a prenuptial agreement what property and debts they want to keep separate if they divorce.

Before the wedding, couples might want to consider getting appraisals for assets such as businesses that can be difficult to valuate. If a couple is already married, they could create a postnuptial agreement that serves much the same purpose as a prenup.

Divorce and a place to live

Settling on a place to live during a divorce and afterwards can be a difficult decision for some California residents who are ending their marriage. The usual options include remaining in the current home, renting a home or purchasing a new place. There are multiple factors to consider before making a final decision about where to live.

The emotional attachment people have to their current home can make it difficult to imagine living elsewhere. One may feel even more inclined to remain in the home if there are minor children involved. Staying in the home can give parents and children a sense that one part of their lives is constant during a time when many other aspects are experiencing an upheaval.

How quasi-community property ownership affects divorces

As you may have learned if you filed for divorce, the community property laws of California (and a handful of other states) can seriously impact the final settlement you receive to start your new life unencumbered.

Those California residents who have valuable property and significant debts should learn all that they can about the community property laws of the state, which also affect the division of debts as well as property. It's also important that those who signed pre- and postnuptial agreements seek guidance before filing their petitions for divorce. This can help avoid common pitfalls that could deprive you of your rightful share of the property from your marriage.

Navigating shared parenting in child custody cases

When California parents of young children go through a divorce, the primary concern is often how to handle child custody. There are many commonly held perceptions about shared parenting and its effect on children that can undermine positive efforts to achieve a workable custody schedule. While decisions about custody are generally framed as being in the best interests of the child, the phrase can be vague and unclear.

Evidence indicates that children who experience the best outcomes are those who have a shared parenting schedule, in which both parents share child custody, including physical presence and legal decision-making. The strong research backing up shared parenting, however, has done little to reassure a number of skeptical parents. In some cases, people believe that children feel insecure or unstable when they move back and forth from one parent's home to another, and being with one parent only is a more stable environment. However, studies show that kids reap far stronger rewards from their closeness with both parents.

Collaboration leads to healther divorce outcomes

California parents headed for divorce court may be able to avoid an ugly fight if both parties are focused and make use of available resources. In the middle of a painful divorce, there could be temptation to extract revenge through the legal system, but doing so often puts children in the middle of a dispute between the two people they love the most. No divorce is pleasant, but keeping focus on the children involved will generally improve the actions and decisions of the parents during even the most unpleasant breakups. Learning to work together with the goal of child welfare allows parents to get past the hurt and work toward a common goal.

Often, the best starting place for negotiations is an even split of parenting time between the parties. Most jurisdictions have adopted the notion of 50/50 parenting rather than clinging to historical gender-based stereotypes. From the starting place, adjustments are almost always in order. Parents must be honest with themselves and each other regarding their ability and motivation for equal parenting. Work schedules and residential logistics sometimes mean that parents are unable to equally split time. If the parties remain focused on the children, they can learn to co-parent in a way that is conducive to emotionally healthy children regardless of parents' differences during the marriage.

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