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Sacramento Family Law Blog

Child support can still be acquired years later

Divorced parents have a lot going on in their lives after the separation. Some move to a different house or state, some have to search for a new job and plenty of them have to help their children cope with the stressful situation. That stress can get amplified in a state like California, which has drastically different costs and living conditions than the rest of the nation.

As a custodial parent, there might be times where you are too preoccupied to notice that your ex is not following the court’s orders on child support. Depending on the amount of money you have at first, it might not seem like that big of an issue. However, demanding costs from both you and your child’s futures might change your perspective on the matter. Thankfully, even after your child turns 18 and your ex’s child support period supposedly ends, you can still pursue them in court for the money they didn’t give to you before.

A closer look at child custody in California

When a California couple with minor children decide to end their marriage, one of their first concerns is who will have custody of the children. Many couples are able to resolve this issue without turning to the court, but some couples need the judge to help them out. In such cases, child custody becomes more complicated than the simple question of "Who gets the kids?" A review of common child custody questions can be useful to someone about to commence divorce proceedings.

California law recognizes two kinds of child custody:

  • Legal custody in which one or both parents will have the right to make important decisions for the child on issues such as education, health care, general welfare and the like;
  • Physical custody which means with which parent or parents the child will reside.

Using a premarital agreement to ensure marital harmony

The last few weeks and days before a wedding are usually filled with much joyous anticipation, even for persons entering a second or third marriage. California couples who are marrying for the second or third time may face an uncommon threat to their joint happiness: concern about disposing of substantial assets in a high asset divorce.

Individuals entering a second or third marriage may have accumulated significant wealth that they wish to pass to their children and not share with the new spouse in the event of a divorce. California's community property laws may interfere with this plan if the couple has not addressed the issue before they marry. Another problem is created when one member of the couple has far greater wealth than the other member. A person who has been successful in business or in a professional career may be reluctant to share the fruits of those labors with the new spouse. The solution to both difficulties is a premarital agreement.

Drafting a joint parenting plan for a California divorce

For Sacramento couples contemplating a divorce, no issue portends greater stress or heartache than the issues of which parent will be the custodian of the children. One method for alleviating some of the stress and heartache in resolving child custody issues is the preparation of a joint parenting plan. A parenting plan, sometimes called a "custody and visitation agreement," is a written agreement prepared by the parents that governs the time that children will spend with each parent and how the parents will make decisions concerning the child's health, education and general welfare. Once the plan is signed by both parents and presented to the court, the judge's approval of the plan gives it the force of a judicial order.

In approaching the preparation of a joint parenting plan, the parents should ensure that the plan helps them provide for the child's basic needs for love, protection and guidance, a healthy diet, adequate medical care and sufficient rest. Parents should consider the unique personalities and needs of their children. If the plan provides a visitation schedule, it should be clear and predictable. It should make allowance for visitation by each parent, where the child will spend particular holidays, and how vacations will be handled. The schedule should give the children a sense of security and predictable routine.

Challenging a California prenuptial agreement

Most divorce attorneys in Sacramento and elsewhere in California strongly support the use of prenuptial agreements to settle issues of property division, child custody and other issues that often lend unnecessary acrimony in a divorce. Despite this advice, more than a few people facing a divorce in California realize that they have signed a prenuptial agreement that is grossly unfair, fraudulent or otherwise counter to their best interests. Can anything be done about such an agreement? Will the courts provide relief if the agreement was obtained by fraud or undue duress? The answer can by "yes," but any challenge must be limited to a violation of the rules that make such agreements enforceable in the first place.

A prenuptial agreement must be written and signed by both parties before the wedding. Any deviation from this rule will invalidate the agreement. A prenuptial agreement that is signed after the wedding is ipso facto void. Despite the clarity of these rules, some prenuptial agreements are invalid, even if they were executed before the couple wed.

Protecting corporate shares with a prenuptial agreement

For some people in California entering their first marriage, the concept of a prenuptial agreement carries a negative stigma. Not everyone at that stage in their lives can understand why they should elevate financial concerns above the romantic notions of marriage and living happily ever after. Some people are fortunate in never needing to face the answer to that question. However, other people will understand the answer after they have endured at least one divorce.

Prenuptial agreements are intended to remove the enormous uncertainty that is otherwise known as the "future." These agreements serve many useful purposes, but one of the most critical is protecting a spouse's interest in a close corporation or limited liability company. People entering into a second or third marriage may have invested a significant portion of their lives into making a particular business endeavor successful. Without a prenuptial agreement, they could lose a large portion of that success.

Why mediation may not be the best option for high-asset divorces

Mediation is often encouraged for spouses that want to divorce as quickly and painlessly as possible. It does work for numerous individuals as they end up coming to an agreement with their ex-spouses and the mediators on what the settlement should be before they begin the newest chapter in their lives without as much drama or money loss as a court case would be.

Unfortunately, the process doesn’t work for everyone. Couples that can’t stand to be in the same room as each other would just be wasting their time and money if they know they cannot come to an agreement so easily. However, if you and your spouse have a significant amount of property to divide, mediation might not be the best divorce process to take even if you two get along with each other. As you are determining how you want to go about the separation process, you should know what disadvantages high-asset couples have in divorce mediation.

California changes pet custody in divorce

Pets are an important part of families but were traditionally a minor legal matter when couples ended their marriage. California has changed this by enacting a new law ensuring that pet care is considered when a divorce is underway and after the decree is issued.

Pets were legally considered as property that had to allocated like other assets. In California, any pet acquired during marriage had to be awarded to one of the spouses. But, visitation rights were often granted.

Understanding prenuptial agreements in California

A common question faced by Sacramento residents who are contemplating marriage or re-marriage is whether to sign a prenuptial agreement that has been requested by the other party. This question is especially common in second marriages where one or both parties have significant assets.

Prenuptial agreements may seem antithetical to the emotions of deep affection and trust that ordinarily accompany the decision to marry, but prenuptial agreements can often have effects that will ensure the long term survival of those intense feelings. Although prenuptial agreements usually look ahead to how assets will be divided by the couple in the event of a divorce, the agreements may give one or both couples peace of mind about what happens to their assets.

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O'Brien Family Law, PC 

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