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Oakland CA Divorce Law Blog

Determining who pays for children's activities after divorce

For the children of divorced California parents, reaching for a dream can be very difficult. For example, gymnastics and other sports often have expenses that need to be covered, such as coaching fees, lessons and even equipment. These expenses only rise as a child reaches higher levels. However, the child support guidelines may allow for a portion of the child support award to go towards these costs.

In most child support guidelines, there is a small allowance that is earmarked for "entertainment." The money for basic activity costs may come out of this portion. However, reaching higher levels can mean more costs. For example, a swimmer who is reaching for the Olympics may have several thousand dollars in coaching fees, swimming outfits and travel costs each month. In these cases, the child support guidelines may allow support for "gifted" children.

Determining child support in California

Typically, a child support arrangement is either agreed upon by the parents voluntarily or through alternative dispute resolution proceedings. Child support matters may also be settled by a court order. However, it may be preferable for parents who have a reasonably good relationship with each other to work out their own arrangement. This may be done without legal counsel, but most couples will have their respective lawyers review the agreement.

Parents who are about to end their marriage may also choose to go through mediation or a collaborative law process to resolve child support issues. In such a scenario, each parent will work both together and with their attorneys to come to a child support settlement agreement without the need for a court order.

Know your finances before divorcing

Not all couples in California share the job of managing the finances. In fact, it is not unusual for there to be a division of labor when it comes to managing the household income. One spouse may handle day-to-day spending, like paying for groceries and utilities, while the other may manage long-term financial accounts and products, such as mortgages, retirement funds, and investments.

Unfortunately, ignorance is not always bliss when it comes to financial matters. When a couple divorces, both day-to-day and long-term financial assets and obligations become a matter of consideration. In some cases, the spouse who does not manage major financial accounts may be unaware of the couple's true financial situation. This can make it difficult for that spouse to negotiate an equitable distribution of marital property.

Jeremy Renner accused of failing to pay child support

Californians might be interested in learning that the ex-wife of "Mission Impossible" star Jeremy Renner is claiming that he has refused to pay their daughter's preschool tuition and is behind on his child support payments by $48,000. Renner strongly denies his ex-wife's accusations, calling them completely baseless and erroneous.

According to court documents, Sonni Pacheco, Renner's ex-wife, was to receive $13,000 per month in child support. Renner contends he has always paid what he owes for child support for his daughter, who is 3. He also is arguing that he was never ordered to pay for his daughter's preschool tuition, which is reportedly $1,600 per month.

The child's best interests in custody cases

California parents who are unable to come to an agreement outside of court regarding child custody, visitation and support may need to have a judge make the decision. The first thing the judge will look at in determining who gets primary physical custody is who the child's primary caretaker is. Psychologists feel that this is an important bond that is critical to a child's healthy development and that should not be disrupted if possible.

Several factors are considered in this determination. The judge will look at who took on the bulk of responsibility for things such as school conferences, extracurricular activities, health care, food preparation, clothing and laundry, and leisure activities. If there is no clear primary caretaker, the judge will then take the best interests of the child into account.

Social Security benefits should not be overlooked during divorce

Couples in California who are considering divorce may want to think about their Social Security benefits. If a marriage lasts for at least 10 years, then an ex-spouse could, with a few exceptions, claim ex-spouse Social Security benefits upon reaching retirement age.

To qualify for the benefit, a person will need to present documentation to the Social Security Administration. Crucial documents include the marriage license and divorce decree. The dates on these official documents will determine the exact length of a marriage. If a person has not quite reached 10 years of marriage, financial experts recommend waiting to finalize the divorce until the decade mark has been passed. After meeting the requirements to receive a benefit, a person must wait for two years before claiming the benefits.

Falling behind on child support can damage credit ratings

A job loss or other drop in income for a person in California could result in that person missing child support payments. In addition to the problems that this could cause for the children, the parent will need to consider the possible impact on his or her credit rating.

State or local agencies that oversee child support payments can report any missed payments to credit bureaus. Late payments could also lower a person's credit rating. If the agency sends the person a delinquency letter, the person should read it carefully. A window of opportunity may be open for the person to catch up on payments and prevent the agency from reporting the problem. Usually, only a short amount of time is available for making late payments , and a person should respond quickly.

Bankruptcy court finds that divorce agreement wasn't alimony

When California couples file for divorce and one party is ordered to or agrees to pay alimony, that obligation is not dischargeable if the payer later files for bankruptcy. It is important to note that not every provision in a divorce settlement will be considered to be alimony, however.

In June, a bankruptcy court found that an indemnity provision contained in a divorce property settlement agreement did not constitute alimony and was dischargeable in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. In that case, a couple who married in 2000 later divorced in 2009. The couple reached a property settlement agreement in which the husband received the marital home. He agreed to take on the full responsibility of paying the mortgage and keeping the home in good repair. He also agreed to indemnify his former wife and was to refinance the mortgage in his own name.

A mortgage can complicate a divorce

When a California married couple purchases a house together, both of their names are usually included on the mortgage. If the couple goes through a divorce before the mortgage is paid off, they could be linked by their mortgage document for many years to come, because altering a mortgage can be difficult.

Though divorced spouses may give their property rights away with a quitclaim deed, they won't be removed from their mortgage obligation until it is refinanced. To get the mortgage refinanced with just one person's name on it, the ex-spouse that gets to keep the marital home will have to qualify for a new loan with just a single income.

Divorce rate for older adults on the rise

Young California couples who marry may be less likely to divorce than their older counterparts, but experts say it is still too soon to tell. Baby boomers have kept the divorce rate high. In fact, people over 65 are now getting divorced at three times the rate they did in 1990. Among people 55 to 64, the rate has more than doubled. The overall divorce rate is down, but due to the high rate of baby boomer divorces, just over 50 percent of marriages still end in divorce.

Millennials are marrying later or not marrying at all, and this might contribute to fewer potential divorces in this age group. People are also less likely to remarry, and this may also drive the divorce rate down since second marriages are more likely to end in divorce. However, the median length of first marriages is 12 years, and many of those millennial marriages may not have reached this point yet.