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Oakland CA Divorce Law Blog

How technology is changing child visitation

In an age where communication is increasingly done through instant messaging, email and social media, it is no surprise that child visitation may also be moving into the virtual realm. So-called virtual visitation is defined as any form of child visitation that makes use of an electronic medium such as a phone, email, webcam or social media site. A handful of states have enacted laws pertaining to virtual visitation, and courts in other states including California are beginning to take notice.

It is important to understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of virtual visitation. On the positive side, it creates a new level of flexibility for contact between a noncustodial parent and a child. If face-to-face communication is not possible due to schedule conflicts or distance, then virtual visitation may increase the frequency. It may also allow for more spontaneous, short-term communication such as reading the child a bedtime story or helping with homework. This broader range of possibilities is quite often in the child's best interest.

Pet custody a growing concern in divorce cases

California couples who are facing divorce may have more to think about than issues around support, child custody and the division of community property. Increasingly, couples are negotiating what happens to their pets after a split as well.

While the law traditionally considers pets to be property in the same way that furniture is, many people do not feel this way about their pets, and some courts are changing their views as well. While couples negotiate visitation arrangements regarding pets that resemble those that they might make for children, a 2013 landmark case in New York resulted in a court conducting a one-day hearing to consider the best interests of a couple's dog as well as of the couple in relation to the dog's care.

Courts follow detailed guidelines in setting child support

California courts take several factors into consideration when it comes to setting child support payments for parents who are separating. State guidelines include both financial and non-financial factors.

The factors that are taken into account included how much each parent earns or is capable of earning, as well as how much income from other sources, such as tips and commissions, a parent receives. Other financial factors considered in determining child support include the tax status of each parent, if a parent is supporting children from other relationships, mandatory expenses such as union dues and retirement contributions, and costs of day care and health care, including insurance and non-covered costs. Parents may be required to share costs of transferring the child from one parent to the other when it comes to visitation for the non-custodial parent.

Protecting a business from the possibility of the owner's divorce

Even if their marriages currently seem blissful, wise entrepreneurs might do well to have some safeguards in place in case their unions turn sour down the road. This is especially true in community property states, like California, where assets accumulated during the marriage -- including businesses -- are split down the middle. With the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, it is only good business planning to consider this possibility.

If this business planning occurs before a divorce is even under consideration, a prenuptial agreement or an early postnuptial agreement can designate the business as one individual's property. Alternatively, the business can be placed in a trust to remove it from the marital assets, or a buy-sell agreement can define what happens in certain cases, including divorce. Last, a whole-life insurance policy can help protect the business financially.

Dividing a 401(k) in a divorce settlement

A person who is going through a high asset divorce in California might wonder what will happen to their 401(k) plan. Depending on the details of the divorce settlement that is reached, an individual will likely have to pay out a portion of the assets that they have in their 401(k) plan to their ex-spouse.

When someone is ordered to hand over 401(k) assets in a high asset divorce settlement, the court that made the decision will issue a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. The QDRO will detail what portion of the 401(k) is granted to the ex-spouse as well as when and how the assets should be paid. A QDRO is also used to divide other assets in a divorce settlement that may be used to make alimony or child support payments.

Various uses of child support payments

California state law offers guidelines to judges tasked with awarding child support payments. Parents who have never been through the process might worry that they will only receive financial assistance for their child's basic needs, such as shelter, food and clothing. In actuality, child support often covers much more than those necessities as it aims to maintain a child's standard of living.

There are a wide range of expenses that could be covered by child support beyond the basic. Costs of school supplies, uniforms, textbooks and other fees for a public or private school should be covered. Children's health is also important. Some type of health insurance is often mandatory for children of parents who are no longer married. However, out-of-pocket medical expenses and health care costs not covered by insurance are typically the responsibility of both parents and could be added to child support.

Domestic violence and California restraining orders

Domestic violence is an all-too-real problem for many men and women in California. In many cases, the domestic violence victim may be afraid to leave as they have very real concerns about suffering violence at the hands of their partner. In such cases, obtaining a restraining order against the other person can be a vitally important step to obtain protection.

Domestic violence restraining orders are available to people who have been abused by a current or former partner, not including a roommate, but only people with whom the relationship is or has been intimate. These types of restraining orders are also available to people who have other types of close familial relationships with the abuser, such as parent, child or grandparent.

Divorcing California couples and parenting plans

When California couples with children get divorced, they should have a parenting plan in place that will make their split easier on the kids. This plan should reflect what is in the best interests of the child, not just what is convenient for the parents.

Also known as a custody and visitation agreement, a parenting plan spells out how parents will make decisions about their child's welfare and how the time the child spends with each parent will be divided. It is easier on children when parents are in agreement in these areas, rather than fighting over custody, visitation and decision making.

Divorce and inheritance for California residents

In divorce proceedings in California, the question of what to do with inherited funds may come up. If one spouse's family member leaves assets to that party and if the other spouse was not specifically mentioned, does he or she still retain exclusive rights to those assets? Are they considered a jointly shared item to be split according to the divorce agreement? The answer largely depends on the details of how the assets are held.

By law, inheritance is not considered marital property in high-asset divorce. An inheritance is considered property belonging to whomever received it and may not be divided between parties. However, an inheritance has to be stored or used in some type of account or vehicle. If the account in which an inheritance is stored is a shared or joint bank account, this immunity from marital property is no longer in effect. This is known as "comingling of the inheritance."

High-asset California divorces

Some divorces in California are referred to as high-asset divorces. This term refers to marriages in which a significant amount of assets, property or business interests accumulated. When you are going through a high-asset divorce, determining the appropriate equitable property division in order to protect your interests may be extremely difficult for you.

When you are in a situation in which you are uncertain where all of the assets and accounts are located, it is possible you may need help from a forensic accountant. Such accountants are used by high-asset divorce law firms such as ours in order to locate hidden assets and accounts. You might thus be able to locate offshore accounts, insurance policies, hidden income streams and property interests that your spouse may be attempting to hide from you.