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Sacramento Family Law Blog

What are my options after being served with divorce papers?

Californians might be under the impression that a divorce stems from a slow and incrementally worsening series of issues that culminates in the decision to part ways. In many cases, that is true. Sometimes, however, being served divorce papers comes as something of a shock. Regardless, most situations have one spouse filing a petition on the other. The spouse who receives the petition and a summons is the respondent. It is important to understand that there are several alternatives after being served. To handle the case in the manner best suited to the individual, legal advice is key.

The petition specifies what the petitioner wants. In the summons, there will be information as to the respondent's rights and how the process of divorce works. There are standard facts like what can be done with assets, property and other items. The petitioner and the respondent are prohibited from moving out of California with children from the union or from seeking a new passport or renewing an existing one without first receiving consent.

Custody concerns when your ex has an addiction

Divorcing a spouse with a substance abuse problem can involve complex emotions. You certainly feel some anger and resentment, but you may also understand the overpowering control an addiction can have over your spouse. These matters can be even more complicated if you have children.

If your spouse was able to demonstrate to the court that he or she could control the addiction, the court may have ordered some form of shared custody or visitation. While this may have worked for a while, if you are noticing signs that your ex has returned to drugs or alcohol, you have justifiable reasons for concern over the safety and wellbeing of your children.

Can a child have a say in child custody decisions in California?

There are many factors that are considered when there is a child custody case in California. The best interests of the child are paramount and various considerations toward that end will be part of the process. In many cases, the parents will make their argument to have custody, visitation rights will be determined and the child has little say in the matter. However, in some instances, the child will be granted the right to express his or her preferences regarding custody. Understanding what the law says about the child's capacity to be heard is an important part of a case.

The child's age and maturity will be critical factors in deciding whether their preferences should be given weight. If the child is deemed to be sufficiently mature and able to understand the consequences of the case, then the court will take the child's preferences into account. When a child is examined as a witness in the case, the court will have strict control over how it is done to serve the child's best interests. A child who is at least 14-years-old who wants to address the court about the case can do so except in cases where the court decides it will not be in the child's best interests. The court will give its reasons if it does not allow the child to speak.

Finding hidden assets in a California divorce

The divorce laws in California are predicated on the assumption that both spouses will provide a complete and accurate financial disclosure to the other spouse. This assumption cannot always be trusted if the divorce involves a high-asset couple. Humans being humans, some may find that the instinct to hide assets from the other spouse to avoid sharing those assets is strong. This instinct can lead one or both parties to wrongfully attempt to hide significant assets from the other party.

The assets most commonly hidden are cash, bonds, mutual fund accounts, cash value in insurance policies, annuities, stocks and bearer municipal bonds. Assets can be hidden in several ways. One of the most common gambits is the transfer of ownership to a third party, such as a foreign bank. Another common method is the creation of a fictional entity to take possession. Repayment of phony or exaggerated debts to family members is another common method. A spouse who is the sole owner of a small business may use such an entity to retain income that is, in fact, a marital asset.

Modifying an order for child support in California

Child support can be one of the most critical issues in a California divorce involving minor children. The court's order requiring one party to pay child support to the other party usually runs through the child's 18th birthday.

In a family with more than one minor child, the order expires for each child separately, a fact that can mean a very long payment period. What happens if during a period that could exceed 15 years the parent who owes the support obligation suffers a disabling illness or loses his or her job? Such events are known as "changed circumstances" and such an event can be the basis for asking the court to modify or alter its original order for support.

Appraising the value of a business in a California divorce

When a divorcing California couple turns to valuing their assets, one of the most difficult issues is the value of a jointly owned business. Many couples start small businesses early in their marriage and devote significant energy to making the business a success. Whether the success is modest or significant, the value of the company can add significant stress to settling property division issues, especially if the couple is looking at a high-asset divorce. One of the most efficient ways of determining the value of a business is to hire an experienced business appraiser.

Many people wonder why an appraiser is necessary in a community property state. After all, isn't the business divided equally between the spouses? The answer in theory is "yes," but businesses often cannot be neatly sliced in half. Some businesses must be sold, either to a third party or to the other spouse. In such transactions, both parties will want to know whether the price is fair.

What will a divorce mean for your retirement savings?

Divorce will bring several significant changes to your life, including your finances. You understand you will have to make significant adjustments to your spending and your plans for the future, including your retirement. In fact, many people have concerns that the end of their marriage will mean the end of their hopes for the future. 

Simply because you are divorcing does not mean that you will have to give up on your retirement plans. You will, however, have to be intentional about protecting your future interests and pursuing a final order that grants you a fair portion of all marital property. There is a lot at stake, and it can be helpful to put temporary emotions to side and focus on what will truly be best long term.

Enforcing an order for child support in another state

People who begin a divorce proceeding often view the entry of the final order by the court as the last step, and they are often unprepared for events that may follow. One of the most common of these unexpected events is the decision of one spouse to move from California to another state. If the couple has no minor children, such a move may have little or no impact. But if the couple has minor children who are the beneficiaries of an order for child support, the move to another state by one spouse or the other may have the potential for disrupting the provisions entered by the divorce court regarding child and spousal support.

This disruption is caused by the joint difficulties of obtaining jurisdiction over the spouse who has moved and then enforcing an order requiring the ex-spouse to make all delinquent payments. California and the other states took a significant precaution against such disruption by enacting the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. This statute, with minor modifications from state to state, establishes uniform procedures by which a spouse entitled to receive child support can commence an action in the state where the former spouse resides to obtain an order compelling the ex-spouse to make all delinquent support payments.

Private divorce courts create dilemma for state court system

Most people in Sacramento who are contemplating beginning a divorce proceeding assume that their case will be heard in the state court system. That assumption carries with it the related assumption that the proceeding could drag on for many months, because the court system lacks enough judges and courtrooms to handle the case load in a timely manner. For some divorcing couples, however, a shadow divorce court system is available to couples can pay for it.

A number of family court judges who have retired are offering their judicial services in a private judicial system to persons willing to pay for those services. The parties agree to pay the judge for presiding on the case and to abide by whatever orders the judge issues. In return, the parties obtain a much faster decision in their case and pay far less in legal fees.

The consequences of failing to pay child support in California

Many non-custodial parents in California who have been ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent often fail to appreciate the consequences of ignoring such orders. Some non-custodial parents often assume that they can defeat the obligation to pay child and spousal support if they move to another state. Both assumptions are wrong.

An order for child support is an order of the court, and those who fail to obey the order are deemed to be in contempt of court. Contempt can be punished by imprisonment in addition to another order directing the payment of past due support. Most custodial parents, however, are not interested in imprisoning their child's other parent; they would much prefer to receive the obligatory payments. A custodial parent who has not received support payments can either seek relief from the court or ask a child support agency for assistance.

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