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Marin County Family Law Blog

What does a guardian ad litem do in a custody case?

In California, a court may elect to appoint a guardian ad litem, or GAL, who in a child custody case. Properly speaking, a GAL is called a "child custody evaluator" in this state. Although some residents of Tiburon and the greater Bay Area may have some idea of what a GAL does, many might not be familiar with the term or the role they play in child custody disputes.

While a court might appoint a GAL for any number of reasons, they tend to do so more often in cases where it seems like a child could use a spokesperson in court, or someone who is going to fairly and objectively represent the child's best interests to the judge. Thus, in addition to high conflict cases, GALs are used when the child has some special needs or when there are allegations of domestic violence in play.

'Tis the season to review your custody agreement

For a lot of families in California, December holidays mean travelling to see loved ones all over the state, country or sometimes the world. While these journeys may be relatively easy for most families, separated, divorced and blended families often have to be a little more cautious and meticulous about making travel plans so as not to conflict with carefully laid child custody arrangements.

If this is your situation, then now is perhaps the best time to dust off your custody arrangement, re-familiarize yourself with the terms of the agreement and decide if you and your ex need to make alternate arrangements this holiday season.

The difference between a divorce and a legal separation

Couples in the Bay Area have an alternative other than divorce should they decide that they need to live in separate households. Specifically, California couples can get legal separations from each other.

Although legal separations are a preferred tool of couples that realize they need to live apart but have moral objections to divorce, they have other benefits as well. The biggest benefit is that, with a legal separation, one need not meet the state's requirement that, before divorcing, one of the parties has to have lived in California for at least 6 months.

Assistance with issues with prenuptial agreements

A previous post on this blog discussed how a couple can create a prenuptial agreement that will be recognized as valid and enforceable under California law. As that post stated, one of the important things each person who is signing the agreement needs to remember is that both parties really need to be represented by their own attorney when negotiating a prenuptial agreement.

One of the services our law office offers is the drafting and review of prenuptial agreements. When it comes to drafting the agreement, aside from making sure it is legal, we also work hard to ensure that it is both complete and clear.

How to create a valid prenuptial agreement in California

Like other states, California law expressly allows a couple, as long as certain conditions are met, to make an enforceable agreement before they get married spelling out how their property will be divided or disposed of when their marriage ends. While these prenuptial agreements are helpful in the event the couple later divorces, they also serve other purposes, including some related to estate planning.

There are several requirements a couple in Tiburon and other parts of the Bay Area must meet in order to create a prenuptial agreement that California's courts will enforce. The easiest requirement to understand is that a person must have a week to look over the agreement before signing it.

What counts as income for child support purposes?

Like other states, California has a set formula that courts in the San Francisco area and throughout the state are supposed to use in order to set consistent child support orders across the state. While these child support guidelines might seem relatively straightforward, they can also be the cause of considerable controversy, particularly when it comes to determining what each parent's income is.

The way California law works, the higher a person's income is, the more child support he or she will be expected to provide. For California parents who work a job that provides a weekly paycheck, determining income might be a matter of just averaging several paychecks out over the course of several weeks and using that average as a parent's income.

Should you treat your ex like a colleague?

Divorce-related issues like child custody, property division and alimony have a tremendous impact on our families and emotional well-being. As such, disputes involving these matters often become bitter and contentious.

While it is not realistic to take all strong feelings out of these situations, there may be opportunities to minimize the toll that divorce-related emotions take by choosing how you resolve them. One way to do this might be to interact with your ex as you would interact with a co-worker in a few different scenarios.

Review of rules that apply when a parent has to move

Previous posts have discussed what happens when a parent has to move with his or her child after a judge has entered a custody or parenting time order. Especially since moving is a fact of life for many people, it may still be helpful for parents in the San Francisco area to be aware of California's requirements in these sorts of situations. Knowing the rules can help prevent or at least head off many post-divorce disputes and other time-consuming and stressful family law issues.

To review, there are two basic rules a parent has to follow when it comes to moving. First, in many cases, the court will order that if a parent wishes to move for more than 30 days with his or her child, then he or she must provide 45 days' notice to the other parent so the parent can have the opportunity to negotiate or take legal action to prevent the move.

What can child support be used for?

When parents in California and elsewhere decide to end their marriage, it is clear to them that their relationship with their child and the dynamic of that relationship will be impacted. While child custody is an important factor to establish during dissolution, it is also imperative that parents take the time to ensure the financial wellbeing of a child. Because of that, some divorcing parents request child support payments.

What can child support be used for? While many are under the impression that child support payments are used to only cover the bare necessities for a child, this support obligation can cover much more than food and clothing. In fact, child support is designed to cover a broad range of expenses, which tend to includes medical, educational fees, entertainment and extracurricular activities.

Enforcing child support in California

Divorcing with children is anything but easy. This is not only a major life-changing event for the parents, but it is likely to alter the entire life dynamics of the children as well. Because a child is used to living in a single home with both parents, the transition to living in two home could take much time to get used to. In addition to establishing where and when a child will be with each parent, divorcing parents need to also address any financial concern regarding their child or children. This means developing a child support agreement.

Just because divorced parents in California and elsewhere come to terms with a child support order, this does not mean this obligation will continually be met. Life can bring many changes and difficulties, sometimes making it impossible to meet the terms of a child support agreement. However, substantial changes in circumstances are not the only reason why child support obligations are not met. In some cases, a payer parent fails to fulfill their obligations simply because they do not believe they should pay that amount.

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