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Orange County Family Law Blog

Pay attention to medical child support during divorce

Divorce in California is often a lengthy and complicated affair, making it difficult to focus appropriate time and energy to every area that deserves your attention. Unfortunately, this means that some areas may slip under the radar in the divorce process, especially when the divorce involves child support and custody issues.

As a parent, you certainly want your child to have the best quality of life that you can provide. However, it is not always simple to raise a child in cooperation with your ex-spouse, especially if your split is contentious. It is absolutely crucial to ensure that your child support and parenting agreements properly address the matter of ongoing medical child support, as well as how you and your other parent plan to resolve any existing or future conflicts surrounding the child's medical care.

Tax reform may make divorce a bigger financial challenge

California residents will likely be aware of the proposed bill that would cause a substantial change to the tax regulations of alimony. This will primarily impact those who are considering divorce. If the bill is passed, those making alimony payments will no longer be allowed to deduct those payments on their tax returns, and it will be income tax-free for the recipients of alimony. The change will affect any divorces that are finalized after Dec. 31, 2017.

Currently, alimony expenses may be deducted from the federal income taxes of the payors, and, for the ex-spouses who receive alimony payments, it is treated as taxable income on which they must pay taxes. Such a change will end the benefits both spouses enjoyed up to now, provided by their different tax brackets. Because the paying spouse is typically in a higher tax bracket, the receiving former-spouse usually gets significantly more than what the other party pays.

Divorce: What to take into account when considering a prenup

California couples who are planning their weddings may have questions about the need for prenuptial agreements. Some people feel that discussing a marriage agreement is like preparing for a divorce, and although it protects the interests of both spouses in the event of a divorce, it offers a whole lot more. Couples who start their marriages with limited assets may believe a prenup to be unnecessary, and they will have the option to sign post-nuptial agreements after the date of their marriages if their circumstances change later.

A prenuptial agreement can serve a useful purpose if one or both parties own complex trusts or significant family assets. It also offers protection if one spouse is involved in a family business and whose remuneration includes equity along with salary. California is a community property state, and it may be wise to keep that in mind when drafting a prenuptial agreement.

How do California courts determine custody in a divorce?

When you're headed toward a divorce, the necessity of that process may be the only thing you and your spouse can agree on. You may both have different expectations for the asset division process and different desires for the parenting or custody arrangements for your children. If you're both seeking primary physical custody, the courts will end up making key decisions about parenting.

There are a lot of questions parents have when headed toward a contentious custody battle with a spouse. One of the most common and most important is, "How do the courts determine custody arrangements?" While every family and divorce is unique, there are certain rules and standards that can help you predict the most likely outcome to your pending divorce.

Understand a father’s medical child support obligations

As a father, you may face a number of child support obligations if you divorce your child's mother. Beyond child support and possible alimony obligations, you will have some portion of responsibility for any medical expenses that the child incurs.

Unfortunately, many fathers do not understand the terms of their own parenting and custody agreements appropriately, and find themselves unpleasantly surprised by medical bills. It is crucial to the best interests of the child for both parents to understand their respective responsibilities for the medical care of the child.

With careful planning the divorce process can be made easier

When a marriage ends in California, each party has to consider the practicality and the financial consequences of the split. Unraveling every aspect that has been intertwined takes time, and moving through the process of divorce requires careful planning. A person can avoid being set back by a divorce by making calculated and informed decisions.

If the relationship of the divorcing spouses allows, the best divorce option might be mediation because, apart from the many benefits it offers, the financial advantages are two-fold. It costs significantly less than litigation, and fair distribution of assets can be controlled by the major players -- the two spouses. Another matter to address during planning is a post-divorce budget to trim down a previous budget to one that will be based on a single income. Furthermore, all joint accounts such as credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts and mutual funds will need to be closed, and separate accounts to be opened.

Family law: How can establishing paternity benefit the child?

When a child is born to a married couple in California, paternity is automatically established. However, a child of an unmarried couple may be at a significant disadvantage if the name of his or her father is not registered. California family law allows unmarried parents to sign a Declaration of Paternity to establish legal fatherhood voluntarily upon the child's birth in the hospital. It may also be done after they have left the hospital.

Hospitals and clinics with facilities to handle childbirth across California and neighboring states have a partnership to help fathers create legal links with their biological children through the Paternity Opportunity Program. The program started in 1995 and now also includes some county welfare offices, prenatal clinics, vital records offices and courts. Failing to register paternity in this way leaves only DNA testing as an alternative method to establish legal fatherhood.

Issues to address in divorce settlement negotiations

When a marriage ends in California, it is only natural for both parties to consider their post-divorce financial security and what to do to make the best of a difficult situation. For this reason, much more than the division of assets needs consideration during divorce settlement negotiations. One issue not to take for granted is Social Security benefits because, depending on the age of the divorcing spouses and the number of years they were married, it may be many years before he or she may be able to draw from Social Security. However, they can explore the options when they do future financial planning.

Health insurance is particularly important if there are children involved. If one parent has health insurance, the court might require him or her to have the children covered. However, if neither parent has access to health insurance, it might be wise for the custodial parent to request health insurance costs to be included in child support. While on the subject of children, college tuition and related expenses must also be considered -- even if the children are still young. This could avoid having to go to court to have child support modified at a later stage.

Child custody should never be a verbal agreement

Parents in California who are considering divorce may believe that they can come to agreements and work out a settlement rather than litigate their divorce in court; however, they are only partially right. Without the support and guidance of their respective attorneys, couples may wind up in costly litigation, particularly when child custody is only a verbal agreement. Either party could potentially disregard any agreement that is not authorized by the court in years to come, even if it is an uncontested divorce.

As an example, take a mother who trusted her husband to handle the divorce because they had agreed on child custody and all other issues. He then filed for an uncontested divorce, somehow managing not to get a court-ordered custody ruling. Their child was still young, and the father seemed more interested in his new wife than his child. He relocated and made a new home with the new love of his life. However, the mother was concerned that her son would never know his father who now lived 2,000 miles away, and she sent him to visit for six weeks in the summer.

Divorce in California: What is a summary dissolution?

The process of ending a marriage in California need not be traumatic. California is a no-fault state, which means that there's no need to prove fault to obtain a divorce; it's enough to state that the parties have irreconcilable differences. Furthermore, for couples who meet certain criteria, the option of a summary dissolution is available as a less expensive and less time-consuming way to divorce.

To qualify for a summary dissolution, the marriage must have lasted no longer than five years. The couple must not have children together, and neither party can own any interest in buildings or land. Their current residential lease must not be a rent-to-own agreement, and cannot extend beyond the period of one year from the date of the dissolution filing. Neither spouse may have any other lease on property.

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