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Alameda County Family Law Blog

Understanding Social Security benefits and divorce

Many older couples who get divorced in California worry about dividing up financial assets and other large marital property, such as the family home. These soon-to-be exes want to make sure they have enough resources going into their later years. For those who are retired and eligible to receive social security benefits, understanding how the system works in regard to divorce can be extremely important.

If a marriage lasted for at least a decade, the ex may be eligible to seek spousal benefits. This is a major part of Social Security. Even if the former spouse has low earnings or has never worked, he or she could still be eligible to collect up to half of the other ex's full benefits. However, it is important to note that there are other conditions that must be met for a person to be eligible. For example, the former spouse must be unmarried, be at least 62, have an ex-spouse who is entitled to Social Security payments and have benefits that are less than that of the ex-spouse.

3 ways to handle a business in divorce

You and your spouse run a successful business in Pleasanton. Business has always been good, but recently, it's been better than ever. That's why you were in such shock when your spouse decided to file for divorce. You thought everything was going well, but it turned out that they were not happy, regardless of the business's success.

Now, you have a serious concern: What will happen to your business? The good news is that there are a few ways to handle your business during divorce. Your attorney can give you more information about the following possibilities.

Buying the family home after a marriage ends

Because a home is often the most significant asset acquired during a marriage for California couples, it's also a common source of contention when a marriage ends. Any spouse wishing to keep the marital home is typically advised to find out whether or not sole ownership is financially feasible. There are several steps that can be taken to make this determination.

The first one is for the home-buying spouse to determine how much equity they have in the family home by finding out how much it's worth. This information can be provided by a neutral, third-party appraiser. A faster and less expensive option is a broker price opinion (BPO) executed by a real-estate agent, appraiser, or broker. A comparative market analysis provides home value details based on prices of comparable homes in the area. Property tax assessments tend to be less reliable. Equity value is then determined by subtracting related debts, like an outstanding mortgage balance.

Factors considered in calculating child support, alimony

When people in California get a divorce, courts may take several factors into account when calculating support. Signing and performance bonuses, investment dividends and various employment perks might all be considered. Courts might also consider whether a person is capable of earning more based on education, training and past salary. If the family lived a lifestyle that was not supported by the reported income, the court may look for the source and how children can continue to have a similar lifestyle following the divorce.

A court will generally look at several years of income, and it is best to not try to manipulate these figures. However, people may want to consider timing when filing for divorce and may want to do so more quickly if they anticipate a particularly lucrative year ahead. There may be other steps they can take to offset support payments as well. For example, some people may want to give the other person more assets and reduce the amount of support owed. However, it is important to remember that while support payments may be modified in some circumstances, decisions on property division cannot.

With a divorce in the works, handle stress with these tips

When your divorce is in process, it can be complicated and conflicted. You may feel horrible about having to go through a divorce, or you might simply be tired and frustrated.

Many people have been through what you're going through now, but no two people have the same experience. Still, there are some tips you can use to reduce the emotional impact of the divorce on your mind and body. Here are three things you can do to stay refreshed, so you're better able to handle your divorce in Pleasanton when the time comes.

Difficulties that may arise in coparenting

Some California parents may struggle with co-parenting after a divorce. They may feel they are failing their children if they are unable to co-parent successfully, but there are circumstances that can make it difficult or impossible to do so.

After a divorce, the same tendencies that made parents unable to cooperate in marriage could mean they cannot do so in a divorce either. In other cases, one parent may be too controlling or may try to turn the child against the other parent. A parent could be mentally or emotionally abusive toward the other or still too angry about the divorce to cooperate as a co-parent. There are other situations that can make a child unsafe with the other parent. This includes cases in which the parent is violent or neglectful. In some cases, there may even be a restraining order. Practical considerations, such as one parent's incarceration, may make it impossible in other situations. Some parents move frequently and simply have lives that are too unstable to parent responsibly.

Don't hide your assets if you want to protect your reputation

One thing that some people make the mistake of doing is hiding their assets during divorce. They may think that they're going to come out on top by doing this, but if the judge finds out that you've lied, you could be in deep trouble and have your reputation ruined.

It is illegal to hide assets during a divorce. In California, all marital assets are to be divided equally among spouses. If you get caught, you could face fines and other penalties for violating the law.

Protecting retirement during divorce

When people in California get a divorce, each may be entitled to a part of the other's retirement account. This can have a significant effect on a person's retirement plans whether it is in a few years or further away. It is important to not become overwhelmed by emotion during these negotiations since they can be important for a person's future financial stability.

Some people may want to consider keeping a retirement account in exchange for other assets. If this is the case, they should ensure that they are aware of taxes and penalties associated with the account. For example, there are penalties for withdrawal from an IRA before the age of 59.5. If the couple decides to split a pension plan or a 401(k), they will need a qualified domestic relations order. This is a complex document that permits division of these plans in case of divorce.

Things that need to be done after a divorce

There is a sense of relief that accompanies the finalization of a divorce. Many California residents who have gone through this process feel ready to start their new life. While the divorce may be finalized, there are still things that need to be done.

An end of a marriage means that phone calls need to be made, paperwork needs to be filled out, and other steps need to be taken to divide assets, open separate accounts, and make other changes that signify that two people are no longer living their lives together. Medical insurance needs to be taken into consideration. For an individual who is on their ex-spouse's insurance, they will need to secure their own insurance. This applies to medical insurance as well as insurance for vehicles and other assets. An individual who holds insurance for both spouses will need to be sure that their ex-spouse is no longer on their policy.

More courts are encouraging shared parenting duties

For the better part of the last century, dads in California and other states hoping for a generous custody arrangement were pretty much out of luck. According to one study, mothers were awarded sole custody about 80 percent of the time in 1980. That percentage was nearly cut in half by 2008. These finding reflect a shift in thinking by the courts and a greater awareness of the role of fathers in children's lives after a marriage ends.

While joint custody still isn't the norm, many courts are now encouraging mutual agreements of shared parental custody. Equal splits are more likely with joint legal custody. Physical custody, which refers to where a child sleeps at night, still favors mothers primarily because of issues with logistics, such as proximity to a child's school. Still, there has been a consistent and steady increase in instances of both equal and unequal shared custody.

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