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Oakland CA Divorce Law Blog

The importance of child support

For single or divorced parents, child support can be critical to their financial independence. However, there are many issues to consider when paying or receiving support. For instance, a father may not be required to financially support a child until paternity is established. After that has been done, both parents are required by California law to support the child.

There are many consequences for those who fail to pay their child support. In some cases, penalties may include jail time in addition to paying interest on the amount owed. Wages may be garnished or tax refunds garnished to pay back support. It is also possible to have professional licenses suspended until the past due amount is repaid.

How your spouse might be hiding money in your divorce

For couples going through a divorce, dividing the marital property is one of the most difficult things that they will have to do. Under California law, each spouse is entitled to half of the assets they accumulated during the marriage.

Some spouses may be reluctant to reveal the extent of their finances. They look for ways to deceive the court and subject less of their assets to the divorce process. This post discusses some of the tricks that they may use, and what you can do to prevent this from happening to you. 

Can brainwashing influence child custody cases?

Although a California judge might find child abuse allegations to be quite serious during a custody hearing, this issue can have unexpected results in the context of a messy divorce. Contentious behavior on the part of one or both spouses may be common in proceedings that are handled through litigation, but when allegations bring child abuse into consideration, the accusing parent could see this action backfiring.

Statistics from a study of 240 cases in which parental alienation was a consideration showed that in 80 percent of the situations, the accusing parent lost part or all of their physical custody rights. Parental alienation is the idea that a parent can negatively influence their child's view of the other parent through brainwashing. While there are medical experts that doubt that this is truly a mental disorder, the view of a judge is what matters when custody and visitation decisions are made.

What you should know if your divorce ends up going to court

At our firm, we have a lot of people who come to us looking for assistance with their divorce. While the great majority of these cases are resolved prior to trial, there are instances where it is necessary to head inside the courtroom.

In situations where a trial or hearing will happen, we often will spend time with our clients to prepare them for going to court. We wanted to take a few moments to discuss some of those things with you now, so that you understand more about the divorce process. The more you know, the easier it will be for you as you go through your divorce. 

Custody issues in California

There is a perception that the legal system seems to be slanted towards mothers when dealing with child custody issues. Divorced fathers often face an uphill battle when it comes to seeing their children or making choices related to their upbringing. Many court systems feel that it is important that children stay with their mother, and fathers are often painted as deadbeats or abusive to ensure that the mother is granted custody.

While there are certainly situations where fathers don't care about their children's welfare, many good fathers are kept away from their children by overly controlling mothers. Even if parents are granted joint legal custody, where decisions about a child's life are supposed to be made by both parents, a father may find himself not being told about school events and doctor's appointments.

Man ordered to pay support for estranged wife's child

People in California may be surprised to learn that a man is facing having to pay child support for a 1-year-old child he did not father by a spouse he has not seen since 1999. The man, who lives in Iowa, received a letter and immediately phoned the Child Support Recovery Unit to explain the mistake. However, since he never divorced his wife, he is responsible for the child support. Under state law, a woman's husband is considered the father of any children she may have.

The man said that he offered to take a paternity test, but he was told it would not matter. He is trying to raise money to hire a lawyer in order to get divorced and de-establish paternity.

The effect on children of prolonging a divorce

Some California parents who consider ending their marriage end up prolonging the ultimate decision. While this may make sense in some situations, especially if one or both parties need time to think things through, it can have a detrimental impact on their children.

Taking the time to think about whether or not a divorce is really what a person wants is important. However, once the decision is made and the parents separate, it may be a good idea to go ahead and file the petition rather than letting months or even years pass by.

Deciding to file federal tax returns jointly or separately

A California couple considering divorce might find that filing federal taxes jointly is easier, but this is one situation in which separate filing may be warranted. Married couples, including same-sex couples, may file jointly or separately. Married parties cannot file as singles. Those involved in domestic partnerships and civil unions, however, cannot use either of the designations intended for married individuals. A joint filing tends to be the most sensible financial choice for married couples. However, there are cases in which separate filings are advisable.

A couple is considered to be married if the marriage is still intact on the last day of the tax year in question. However, an in-process divorce might warrant separate tax filings as the parties begin to separate their financial affairs. Whether it is a divorce involving significant assets or a simple situation with few assets, this is a time that can facilitate the move toward handling one's finances apart from the marriage. Another scenario in which separate tax filings might be best is when one spouse's tax practices are questionable or even illegal. A joint filing obligates both parties to handle any fines or penalties related to the return.

Creating a workable parenting plan

California couples who are divorcing may need to co-parent for years to come if they have young children. In fact, cooperating as parents doesn't necessarily end when a child reaches 18. While adult children may no longer need parenting, if they have children themselves, there may still be negotiation ahead. If parents can establish a co-parenting relationship early on, then they might set the stage for a more peaceful lifetime with their children and grandchildren.

A parenting plan has several components. Legal custody is related to decisions about issues such as the child's school and health and is usually shared. Physical custody deals with the actual amount of time the child spends with each parent. A parenting plan may deal with how children will spend vacations and holidays as well as provisions for changes such as one parent moving away.

Shepherd exhausts all legal options in child support dispute

California residents who follow the career of Sherri Shepherd may sympathize with her legal challenges related to a child of her failed marriage to Lamar Sally. The couple contracted through a surrogacy agency to have a woman carry a child on their behalf, but prior to the child's birth, the couple separated. At the time of their divorce, Shepherd sought to have the contract voided, but she was deemed to be the legal mother by a Pennsylvania court in 2015.

Shepherd has since attempted to appeal the decision, which also resulted in a child support order that is to remain in force until the child reaches 13 years of age. The lower court's decision was upheld at both the appellate court level and by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Shepherd is out of options for removing her name from the child's birth certificate and avoiding the support obligation. As a legal parent, however, she could potentially exercise visitation rights or even seek custody.