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Marin County Family Law Blog

What types of custody arrangements are there in California?

Whether you're a parent dissolving your marriage or simply ending a relationship, chances are that the biggest concern on your mind right now is who will maintain custody of your child and what this will mean for the other parent. If so, then you're not alone.

Child custody is often a major concern for separating or divorcing parents. Both parents are typically eager to spend as much time with their child as possible, which leads to concerns about child custody arrangements. As a result, many parents find themselves asking the question we've posed above:

Divorcing in the New Year? Here are a few things to think about

With the New Year comes resolutions and change. For many Californians, this means taking the steps to end their marriage. There are many reasons an individual may seek divorce, but sometimes our emotions get the best of us and we make decisions that work against our best interests. That is not to say that those wanting a divorce should avoid it. Instead, those considering divorce need to ensure that they are approaching the process that protect their and their children's best interests.

For approximately 30 percent of all divorce seekers, after the holidays are over in January is the time for them to seek marriage dissolution. These individuals may want to spare their children the heartache during a time of joy and family gathering, while others may just want to wait until the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over so that they can focus on their divorce. Regardless of the reason for waiting, these individuals need to make sure that they avoid some of the more common mistakes that are made when seeking a divorce.

Is it difficult to divide a pension during divorce?

Whether you know someone who has gone through a divorce or you are currently the one embarking on this life-changing adventure, chances are there were or are concerns about property division, and rightly so. Property division can be a complex part of the divorce process, oftentimes leading to disputes or disagreements that require professional legal help to resolve.

As many high-asset individuals will tell you, perhaps one of the most challenging parts of property division concerns pensions. Often considered incredibly valuable - perhaps even more valuable than the total sum of the community property - pensions create a unique challenge many high-asset individuals only address with help from a lawyer.

Digital communications can be harmful in a divorce

The Internet and social media are playing an ever-increasing role in our lives. For some, it is their primary mode of communication with family and friends. Throw in text messages and you have a massive amount of communication, all seemingly forever engraved in the digital world. Although the digital has made life easier for many of us, for those going through a divorce stored communications and public online postings can make for a messy situation.

When a divorce is hotly contested, one side may dig through the other spouse's email, social media postings, and text messages in hopes of uncovering evidence that can be used against him or her. One spouse may be looking for signs of unfaithfulness, evidence of the existence of additional marital assets, or even admissions with regard to one's relationship with his or her children. Sometimes this digging is illegal, but there are many times when digging for dirt is fair game.

Child custody and relocation

As much as divorce can change one's life, life itself must go on. This need to move on and the legal effects of divorce can often interweave, though, leaving Californians with significant legal questions. Nearly every aspect of family law can be affected by these situations, including property division and spousal support.

Yet, one of the more long-lasting issues is child custody. Parents' behaviors, such as substance abuse and domestic violence, can necessitate the need for a child custody or visitation modification, and noncustodial parents may find themselves wanting to spend more time with their children, again raising the need for modification. Another contested child custody and visitation issue arises when a custodial parent wants to move away from the noncustodial parent, for whatever reason. This is known as parental relocation.

The issues a prenuptial agreement can and can't address

A few weeks ago we discussed common mistakes made when creating a prenuptial agreement. Avoiding these mistakes is critical, as what may seem like a minor slipup could render the agreement void and leaving an individual susceptible to financial losses. When deciding whether a prenuptial agreement is right, an individual should not just keep an eye on common mistakes. Instead, he or she should also consider what can and can't go into such an agreement. By knowing this, a soon-to-be married individual may be able to avoid common mistakes, ensure the agreement is valid, and thereby protect his or her financial interests.

There are many things that a prenuptial agreement can achieve. One of the biggest is that it can distinguish between marital and separate property. This can help protect one's personal assets by placing it outside the realm of property division in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement can also limit debt liability. By doing this, an individual can avoid being on the hook for his or her spouse's debt if death or divorce occurs. Other things that can be achieved through a prenuptial agreement include detailing property division in the event of divorce and define marital financial responsibilities.

Legal help with child custody and child support

Last week on this blog we discussed a case where a non-biological father was ordered to continue paying child support because he had paid it for a significant period of time knowing that he was not the child's biological father. Although family law issues may seem pretty straightforward, they can actually be fraught with complexities. When it comes to child custody and child support, it is crucial that parents understand their legal rights and how best to protect them, as failing to do so could result in unwanted consequences.

With regard to child support, depending on which side of the fence you fall on, you may want to establish payment, enforce an existing order, or seek a modification to a previously made child support agreement. You may need to know about paternity issues, how to utilize the legal system to garnish wages, or demonstrate that changed circumstances have made an existing child support obligation untenable.

Court rules non-biological father must pay child support

Most people in California would agree that a parent must financially support his or her child. However, there are those who likely have different opinions when the child is not the biological child of the parent. A recent out-of-state court has ruled that a man cannot seek relief from child support payments for a child who is not biologically his.

The case involves a set of parents, now divorced. Early in the marriage, the woman became pregnant with a child; her husband was not the child's biological father. However, she and her husband agreed that they would raise the child as their own. They would not seek to establish paternity against the biological father and would not tell anyone of the child's true paternity. When the baby was born, her husband signed the birth certificate.

Strengthen your prenup by avoiding these mistakes.

If you have been following our blog, you are familiar with the practical reasons to draft and sign a prenuptial agreement before walking down the aisle: enforcing social media clauses, protecting a family inheritance or specifying asset distribution. While many may feel that mentioning the topic of a prenup is akin to dooming a marriage before marriage vows are even uttered, this contract can promote peace of mind before the wedding takes place. By establishing guidelines for dissolution of the marriage, individuals can ensure that their interests will be protected should the marriage not last.

Such protection is a reason to be proactive. It should also be a motivation to be particular in how you craft that contract. After having gone through the angst of determining post-marriage provisions, some couples are surprised to find that their prenuptial agreement is not valid. Should the contract be riddled with loopholes or the divorce be contentious, certain conditions established in the prenuptial agreement may be disregarded in divorce court.

Court issues decisions on embryos following divorce

Many couples in California want children. As a result, they began to make plans, sometimes including the creation and storage of embryos. Unfortunately, some couples make the decision that a divorce is in their best interest, leaving them to disagree about the fate of frozen embryos. A former couple in another state has been at odds over the fate of their embryos. Although a state appeals court has recently issued a ruling on the case, the woman in the case has vowed to continue the fight.

The couple created the embryos in 2007. While twin boys were born through in vitro fertilization, two remaining embryos were frozen. Court records indicate that three years later, the man and his wife signed an agreement stating that his wife would receive the embryos in the event of a divorce. They divorced months later, but the man contested the agreement.

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