Ask a Lawyer – Family Law

Living in California is expensive, and divorce can be even more so when bankruptcy is involved. A divorce can trigger a bankruptcy filing for a multitude of reasons, and it quite often turns into a supreme mess. There is no clear winner ad loser in a divorce case, so all parties should try to achieve a compromise and reach a fair property settlement agreement. In many cases, a bankruptcy can help out both spouses if they joint file.
If an ex-spouse files for bankruptcy, the family court can still hear testimony and decided issues relating to support. However, the court requires stay relief for equitable distribution, which involves the bankruptcy court permitting the divorce case to continue. Basically, the family court won’t split up the family home, divide pensions, or apportion any stocks or mutual funds until it receives permission from the bankruptcy court.

Marriage vs. Domestic Partnership

Question Asked on: April 28th, 2017

Although a registered domestic partnership (RDP) in California grants both parties all the rights, benefits and obligations as parties in a valid marriage, there are still many differences. For example, federal law and many other states do not acknowledge domestic partnerships. Consequently, what are the disadvantages in choosing a domestic partnership over marriage?

  • Because RDPs are not federally recognized, they are unable to take advantage of over 1130 rights and benefits afforded exclusively to married couples.
  • RDPs are frequently looked down upon and do not receive the same honor, respect and privileges as married couples.
  • In an emergency, RDPs may not be permitted to make important medical decisions for their incapable partners.
  • Since the federal government does not recognize RDPs, they would not be provided the same tax benefits as legally married couples.
  • A court order regarding support for a current/former domestic partner is not recognized federally like one for a current/former marriage mate is.

The Law Office of Thomas Hogan is a family law specialist who is prepared to help in your time of need. Feel free to contact us if you are in need of help. Call (209) 492-9335 to speak with our Modesto California Attorneys.

For those who have little or no money for attorney fees, or have run out of funds to pay attorney fees, a solution for the attorneys and the client, where the client has equity in a community residence, a family law attorney’s real property lien (FLARPL).

Pursuant to Family Code 2033, either party may lien his or her interest in community real property to pay reasonable attorney fees. The lien attaches only to the encumbering party’s interest in the community real property and is voidable and unenforceable to the extent it encumbers a nonconsenting spouse’s interest.

parental rights and liabilityWhat attorneys must keep in mind and the client as well, is that in order to enforce the lien certain procedures must be followed. Notice of the lien must be personally served on the other party or his or her attorney of record at least 15 days before recordation of the encumbrance. The notice must contain a full description of the property; the encumbering party’s belief as to fair market value; encumbrances on the property; list of community assets and liabilities (PDD’s); the amount of the family law attorney’s lien.

The other party has a right to object by an ex parte motion. The court may deny the family law attorney’s real property lien based on a finding the encumbrance would likely result in an unequal division of property because it would impair the encumbering party’s ability to meet his or her fair share of the community obligations or would otherwise be unjust under the circumstances.

Contempt in Family Law Court

Question Asked on: February 7th, 2017

Lawyer for Child Custody Sacramento, CAIf child support or spousal support is not paid, parties often ask their attorney to being a Contempt Action. The actions themselves are not as simple as one might think. Often the result is frustrating for the petitioner as the support due is not readily paid by filing a Contempt Action.

In order to be to successful in filing for contempt(s), one must strictly adhere to rule of procedural due process and the set forth the required elements of proof. As such, there must be a valid underlying order which is clear and unambiguous and it must be in writing; the defendant or citee must have knowledge of the court order; the defendant or citee must have the ability to comply with the court order; the citee must have willfully intended to violate the order; declarations must be provided to outline the issues; the Contempt Action once filed must be personally served; the citee must be arraigned; an arraignment and plea are conducted and a trial if held is subject to strict time limitations. Specific findings must be made at trial as to the facts upon which the court finds the citee guilty of contempt. The court must make a finding that the citee had the ability to comply with the underlying order.

What happens more often than not is that the court imposes purge terms as the citee is not able to pay or has limitations on bringing the outstanding support current. This is the frustrating part for those expecting to receive support is that what is collected to due to be collected is a fraction of what is owed. So the take away, is be careful on filing contempts and to be judicious, because one may well be out attorney fees with little to show for the efforts. Family Law court, despite the wishes of one filing the contempts, will not throw a party in jail for failure to comply.

Thomas Hogan is a Family Law specialist who is prepared to help. Feel free to contact us if you are considering filing for contempt in Modesto CA. Our attorney is a Family Law Specialist in Stanislaus County and is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Call (209) 492-9335 to speak with our Modesto California Family Attorneys.

How Domestic Violence Affects Spousal Support?

Question Asked on: February 1st, 2017

spousal support|Thomas Hogan Law OfficeSpouses who are seeking spousal support as well as spouses who become obligated to pay support, must keep in mind issues of domestic violence (ie any history of domestic violence between the parties or against either party’s child) is a factor under Family Code 4320 in determining spousal support.

Under Family Code 4320 a court must consider a variety of specified circumstances in making an order for spousal support. Among these is documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Family Code 6211, between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party’s child.

Under new legislation, even if one pleas out as “no contest”, this is considered and included as documented evidence of domestic violence.

The Law Office of Thomas Hogan in Modesto CA is here to help. Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse or legal separation. Thomas P. Hogan is a Family Law Specialist in Modesto California, don’t settle for anyone when determining your rights. Call (209) 492-9335.

Void or Voidable Marriages: How to get an annulment?

Question Asked on: January 26th, 2017

Marriage Annulment Sacramento, CAWe get many calls about annulment of a marriage. There has been fairly recent case authority on this matter in Ceja V Rudolph & Sletten, Inc (2013) 56 C4th 1113.   So if you want to annul your marriage only the party who believed in good faith that the marriage was valid will be declared a putative spouse, where the court will divide property only on the request of a party who the court has deemed is a putative spouse. On what constitutes a good faith belief in the validity of the marriage, one must present evidence under the subjective standard (ie duration of marriage; children; sharing property and accounts; public communication of marital status; wages of each party used for the benefit of the community).

Mutual Restraining Orders: Should you get one?

Question Asked on: January 26th, 2017

1. Mutual Restraining Orders: Should you get one? Modeto Divorce Attorney

Restraining Orders are so common that when one is served a restraining order by their spouse, the other spouse wants to file one against the protected party (ie mutual restraining orders) as well. While this may be a knee jerk reaction, the legislature has clarified what conditions must be met before a court will grant a mutual restraining order.

Family Code 6305 provides that each party must present written evidence of abuse or domestic violence in an application for relief using judicial council forms, and that a responsive pleading to the initial restraining order does not satisfy the party’s obligation to present written evidence of abuse or domestic violence in an affirmative pleading.

So the take away is, if you want a mutual restraining order and have been served with one, you must take proactive steps using the proper forms, and can not just ask for one in responsive pleadings to what has been served.

The Law Office of Thomas Hogan is here to help. Feel free to contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding domestic violence restraining orders. Thomas P. Hogan is a Family Law Specialist in Stanislaus County who is also a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call (209) 492-9335 in Modesto California.

What is a right of first refusal for childcare?

A right of first refusal, also called a right of first option for child care, is a general term for a child custody order provision which provides that if the custodial parent is unable to be with the child during their scheduled time (be it for work, school, or other engagements) that the other parent is given the option to watch the child before non-parties (like babysitters, nannies, or daycare providers) are called in.  The idea behind these types of provisions is that it is best for the child’s development to be with parents to the maximum extent possible.

The devil in the details of right of first refusal orders

As stated above, the term “right of first refusal” is a general term describing a type of order.  Without specific language regarding the purpose, intention, and limitations of how a right of first refusal should operate, an agreement that the parties “have a right of first refusal” isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Common Considerations:

  1. How frequently are situations where a right of first refusal may apply going to come up?  If a schedule provides one parent with time which they are consistently unable to exercise it may be necessary to consider revising the general parenting schedule to establish a more stable routine.
  2. Is work related childcare included in the right of first refusal? A common reason that one may use childcare is so that they can go to work.  Some parties expressly exclude work related childcare from the right of first refusal so that the child can have a more consistent routine, while others want to include work related childcare needs in a right of first refusal to maximize the time the child is with a parent.  It is important to address this particular need in crafting a right of first refusal.
  3. What minimum amount of time should the custodial parent be unavailable before a right of first refusal kicks in? Viewed legalistically, a general right of first refusal without specific limitations could require one parent to call the other if they have to have someone watch the child for a quick shopping trip, requiring the parties to spend more time coordinating logistics than the amount of time the custodial parent is going to be away.  To avoid such an absurd result the language of a right of first refusal order only comes in to play if the custodial parent has to be away for several hours or more.  The minimum amount of time which is appropriate varies on each individual family and their needs.
  4. What about time with extended family? Even if a parent is unavailable during their parenting time there are a variety of good reasons they may want to have the child spend time with extended family members.  Read legalistically, a right of first refusal could be read to bar this time with extended family unless the custodial parent is present.  It’s a good idea to discuss this issue and determine what exceptions like this may apply to a right of first refusal.

The right of first refusal is such a common part of California child custody orders that the California Judicial Council added form language to an optional child custody order attachment for the courts and family law litigants to use to create a right of first refusal for childcare.  The form language reads as follows:

Right of first option of child care.  In the event either parent requires child care for (specify number) ______ hours or more while the children are in his or her custody, the other parent must be given first opportunity, with as much prior notice as possible, to care for the children before other arrangements are made.  Unless specifically agreed or ordered by the court, this order does not include regular child care needed when a parent is working.”  – FL 341(D) – Optional Additional Provisions – Physical Custody Attachment

While the judicial council form language is good and will work for many parents, it is important to ensure that the considerations above are addressed so that a right of first refusal is right for you and your unique needs.

Who is a right of first refusal good for?

Whether a right of first refusal makes sense for you depends on many factors.  My experience working with a variety of families shows that generally a right of first refusal can be successful in the following situations.

  • If the parents have a good communication skills with each other. The implementation of a right of first refusal requires regular civil communication between parents.  Of course, good communication skills do not happen by accident and can be learned, giving such an order a greater chance of success, but this order should not used for parents who are constantly arguing.
  • If one (or both) parent(s) have variable schedules. If work, school, or other constraints require one or both of the parents to be unavailable for chunks of their parenting time, making it impossible to set an exact workable schedule, a right of first refusal may be the best solution to that problem.
  • Parents who work together with flexibility and cooperation. Like many other parenting issues, being flexible and cooperative with the other parent is good for the productivity of the co-parenting relationship and is good for the children involved.  Parents who do this well in practice (but who may need a little help establishing general guidelines on how to do so) can often benefit from a right of first refusal.

Who is a right of first refusal not good for?

Experience also shows that there are some for which a right of first refusal would not be a good idea and may even make a difficult situation worse.

  • If there is a history of domestic violence between the parties (whether or not a restraining order is in effect) a right of first refusal may cause more harm than good as it requires a high level of communication with the other parent.
  • If one parent’s time is limited to supervised visitation a right of first refusal would not be consistent with the child’s best interests.
  • If the parents do not communicate well a right of first refusal will likely not operate well in practice.
  • If one or both parents are inclined to legalistic behaviors and interpretations of court orders regardless of how that impacts the children, such an order may lead to disputes.
  • If the parents do not live close to each other, for practical reasons.

For assistance in determining whether a right of first refusal is workable for you and your needs please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced child custody attorneys.

Child Support: Termination and continuation beyond age 18

Question Asked on: January 12th, 2016

In the start of a family law case with minor children, the parties often devote much attention to establishing an amount for child support.  In almost all cases when parents separate the court will institute an amount of support payable by one part to the other for the parties’ children.  This ordered support continues until support is modified by the court or terminated by law.  This article addresses those circumstances which give rise to the termination of child support and circumstances which may allow it to continue into adulthood.

Termination of Child Support

As a matter of law there are certain conditions which terminate an obligation to provide support for a child.  Generally child support will end when:

  1. The child dies.
  2. The child is emancipated.
  3. The child gets married.
  4. The child is adopted terminating the parental rights of the supporting parent.
  5. The child reaches the age of 18 and is no longer a full time high school student.
  6. The child reaches age 19 (regardless of whether the child is still in high school or not).

Absent certain exceptional circumstances if one of the terminating conditions listed above occurs, child support terminates as an operation of law.  After such happens the parent receiving support is obligated to notify the parent paying support and is obligated to refund any support paid after support obligation terminates.

Child Support into adulthood

The court can in certain circumstances, as listed below, order that support for a child continues into adulthood.  However, if these circumstances do not exist the court lacks the authority to continue child support.

Support to pay for colleges

While some states have instituted laws that require parents to chip in for their adult child’s college education, California has not done so.  The court cannot order a parent to contribute to an adult child’s college expenses over that parent’s objection.  However, the parents can agree to pay for a child’s college education, whether informally or as a court order, and if made into a court order the court can enforce that agreement according to its terms.  Absent such an agreement, a court order to pay for an adult child’s college education expenses is invalid and is beyond the court’s authority.

Support for adult disabled children

Family code 3910(a) creates an obligation for a parent to support “a child of whatever age who is incapacitated from earning a living and without sufficient means”.  The courts have generally imposed a support obligation under this statute when the facts or circumstances indicate that the child has a physical or mental disability which prevents them from being able to work if they chose to do so.  In cases where a now adult child has such a disability a careful examination of the facts is needed to determine the child’s vocational interests and their ability to work (whether with or without accommodations).   Cases dealing with support for adult children who may be disabled are incredibly complicated and fact specific and should not be undertaken without legal assistance.

If you have any questions regarding child support and its termination please contact our office and set up a time to meet with our attorneys.

Q: Do I need to name a legal guardian for my children?

A: As parents, we would do anything to protect our children. We buy the best and safest car seat, the best strollers, we make sure they attend the best schools and receive the best education possible. But what if something happens to you? Have you done what you need to do to protect your children? Have you made plans to best prepare your children for a future without you? No parent wants to think about not being around to raise their children. I get it. It’s a scary thought. But what is scarier, is NOT thinking about it. If you do not decide proactively what will happen to your children if anything happens to you, a court will decide for you. The problem with that is the court doesn’t know your children. While the judge is obligated to consider the best interests of your child when appointing a legal guardian, the judge won’t know your children like you do.

As a parent, I want to be the one to decide who will raise my children if I cannot. I have worked hard to raise my children a certain way. Naming a legal guardian ensures that your children are raised by the person you want, in the way you want. When you name a legal guardian, you take the control into your own hands. You name the person/couple you trust, love and know would care for your children the way you want your children to be raised. You get to choose the guardian with whom your children have a close relationship, a guardian who has a similar parenting philosophy, similar moral and values, similar religious beliefs and a similar discipline style as you.

I have clients who tell me they know exactly what would happen to their children… “My sister (mother, brother, etc.) would raise my kids.” However, they do not have legal documentation in place to ensure their sister (mother, brother, etc.) would become their children’s legal guardian. The truth is, unless you have legal documentation in place, you don’t know who would raise your children if anything happens to you. That is why, if you have minor children at home, you need to have legal documentation in place naming a legal guardian to raise your children if anything happens to you.

Naming a guardian for your children can also help alleviate unnecessary confusion and conflict that could result if more than one family member petitions the court to become guardian of your children.

This is not an uncommon issue. This is what happened to the Barber Family. The Barbers were a young family from Southern California with three sons. The Barbers took their family on a road trip to Arizona and were involved in a fatal car accident. The parents passed away and all three children survived. They were placed in foster care until a relative came to get them. What happened next could have been avoided if the Barbers had taken the time to name a legal guardian for their children. More than one family member petitioned the court for guardianship of the boys. The family fought for months over what the parents would have wanted for their boys. Accusations were made, nine attorneys were retained and many thousands of dollars were spent fighting in court. In the end, the court made a decision to place the boys with one family member. However, by this time, damage had already been done, relationships were strained and the boys missed out on relationships with their extended family.

While the court did make a decision, we still don’t know what the parents would have wanted because they did not name guardians for their boys. What I can imagine is that the Barbers did not want their familial relationships torn apart fighting over who would be named legal guardian for their boys. This is one of the biggest personal risks we face when we do not take the time to name legal guardians for our children.

If you have minor children at home, it is imperative you take the time to legally document who you would want to be the guardian of your minor children if anything happens to you. If you cannot decide who you would choose, we can walk you through a series of steps that will help you reach the best decision for you and your children. It is not easy to make these decisions and they should not be made on your own. It is important to have good legal guidance. Contact an attorney in our office to help guide you through the process, answer all of your questions, help you consider all of your options and to help avoid harm in the future.

Parties who are filing or responding to a petition for dissolution of marriage will quickly come across a section for them to state their “date of separation” on the court’s pleading forms.  The question for almost all parties then immediately becomes, when did we separate? And why does the court need to know?  Why does this matter?

Why does date of separation matter?

The date of separation is important in California divorces for two main reasons:

  1. Property Division:  California law provides that generally property which is acquired by either spouse after the date of separation is the separate property of that spouse, which is 100% theirs.  This can include salaries, real property, personal property, accumulation of retirement benefits, as well as other property items.  While there are major complications which can arise in determining whether an item was received fully from a party’s separate property, in general the date of separation can have a significant impact on how the parties’ property is divided.
  2. Spousal Support: One of the biggest factors that the court considers in setting the duration and amount of spousal support is the length of the parties’ marriage.  Generally, the longer the parties are married the longer the spousal support will last (and potentially the higher it will be).  So, a choice between two different dates of separation can have a major impact on the support rights and obligations of the parties.

How does the court determine our date of separation?

Determining the exact dates that parties did in fact separate is a question that has perplexed the courts throughout the years and has led to inconsistent decisions.  For some parties there is no dispute and the separation is clear.  For example, if a husband and wife decide to live in separate residences on January 1st and the husband moves out that same day to his own apartment with the wife staying the marital home, January 1st is their separation date.  For other couples with multiple move-ins and move-outs, ongoing financial ties, and other ongoing joint activities the question of a date of separation can be even more complicated.  A third common category of couples may live under the same roof but separate their finances, schedules, and activities and live together as “roommates”.   What is the court looking for in deciding when the parties separated?  Is it about parties emotional connection? Physical intimacy?  Their living situation?

In 2015 the California Supreme Court weighed in on the issue of the parties’ date of separation for the first time.  In the case In Re Marriage of Davis the Supreme Court established that for parties to be separated they must be living in separate residences.  In essence, parties are not separated until they no longer live under the same roof.  However, the court also recognized the reality that parties may live in the same household and still be separated in certain exceptional circumstances, but did not elaborate on what those circumstances could be.   This caveat, buried in a footnote in the court’s opinion, leaves the door open for this rule to change in the future.  As it stands now though, parties must first and foremost be living in separate residences to establish their separation.

Other older cases make clear that parties can still be married (unseparated) even though they do not live in the same residence.  In essence it is not enough for the parties to live in different residences; the parties’ conduct and the circumstances of their marriage may refute a finding that they are separated.  The best example of this comes from the case Marriage of Baragry, where the husband lived with his girlfriend/employee in his own apartment, but often went home to his wife and children to enjoy her home cooked meals, have her do his laundry, and otherwise maintained ongoing ties with his wife while living with his girlfriend.  The court refused to allow the husband to claim that they separated when he first moved out in light of the benefits husband continued to receive due to his ongoing relationship with his wife, even though he didn’t actually “live” there.  Essentially, the court will not allow parties to have it both ways.

The cases on date of separation are complicated and at times contradictory.  As discussed above, this issue can be critical and can have a substantial impact on the rights of the parties.  If you have questions about the date of separation in your case and the best approach to take, it is important that you contact one of our attorneys to guide you through this process.

For many divorcing couples, what will happen with a house after the divorce is a critical concern for both spouses.   These concerns only increase when title to the house is only in one of the spouse’s name.  For the spouse who is not on the deed, it is important to take steps to protect their interest in the house to prevent the other spouse from borrowing against, selling, or losing the house to foreclosure prior to a final Judgment.

One of the best tools a spouse can use to protect their interests in a house that titled in the other spouses’ name is to file and record a “Notice of Pendency of Action” against the house.  This document becomes a public record, which when properly drafted and recorded gives notice to the other spouse, and anyone else that there are pending court proceedings regarding this house.  With this notice, the other spouse will not be able to effectively sell the house to a third party.  This notice will come up on any title search and will be flagged to the attention of any buyer of a house or any bank who might lend funds to purchase the house.  It also provides a mechanism for you to be notified about important occurrences with the house, such as default and foreclosure, allowing you to step in and take other actions to protect your interests.  Also, this Notice of Pendency of Action may work to prevent a party from borrowing against the equity in their house during the divorce, either through a home equity line of credit or a Family Law Attorney’s Real Property Lien.

The Notice of Pendency of Action is a tool which can be used in conjunction with the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders to prevent one spouse from taking actions to unilaterally undermine the other spouse’s interest in a property item away during a pending family law proceeding.   Use of the notice of pendency of action gives additional “teeth” to the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders and allows for additional remedies which you may not have been able to use otherwise.

The Notice of Pendency of Action is a valuable tool and should be used carefully and properly.  This document puts a “cloud” on title and once the family law proceeding is finished needs to be removed to avoid future hardship for both parties.  Further, there are circumstances when the court can remove the Notice of Pendency of Action from the house.

A final related note, it is important to remember that in California community property law that whose name is on a house is not the final determinative issue in deciding who gets the asset and whether the other spouse has to be “bought out” from the house.  Rather, there are multiple ways in which the spouse not on title can claim an interest, including seeking a determination that the asset is community property in spite of its title, seeking a percentage of the house under a Moore/Marsden theory, or requesting reimbursement for expenses paid towards another spouse’s separate property home.   Therefore, it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney to discuss the use of this tool and what interest, if any, you may have in a house in the other spouse’s name.

One of the most pressing concerns for any parent going through a divorce, legal separation, or break up is what will happen with the children.  Even in the most amicable of breakups numerous new challenges arise, including changes in housing, finances, scheduling, work, and many other areas of life, all of which must be considered and addressed to create a parenting plan in the children’s best interest.  In more contentious breakups there may be additional serious issues present such as neglect, abuse, addiction, as well as other serious concerns.

California Family Code §3170 requires that in any contested custody case that the parties first participate in mediation to attempt to resolve custody disputes with an agreement before the issues are tried in front of a judge.   This requirement is imposed under the belief that an agreement which the parties come up with themselves for their children is usually better and will be more successful in the long term than one imposed by the courts.  To assist the parties in working through these various difficult issues the mediation is conducted with the assistance of highly trained therapists who are familiar with the common issues that need to be addressed in custody disputes.

In some counties, commonly referred to as “recommending” counties the mediator has an additional role when the parties are unable to reach an agreement.  In these counties the mediator will present a written recommendation to the court regarding a parenting plan for the minor children.  In these counties the mediation process has increased significance as the mediator’s recommendations are often adopted in whole or in large part by the court.  Many local counties, including Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties are recommending counties.  In other counties, the mediation process is entirely confidential and the mediator does not make recommendations to the judge if the parties are unable to reach an agreement.

All courts in California have an office called Family Court Services to provide mediation services to the parties in contested custody cases.  Most custody mediation is handled through these court offices that provide their mediation services at no cost to the parties.   As an alternative parties may request (either with an agreement or without) that the parties be referred to private Child Custody Recommending Counseling (CCRC) to assist parties in resolving contested custody issues and if needed, to investigate and prepare a recommendation to the court regarding custody.   This counseling is done by an experienced therapist within special training dealing with contested custody issues.  The expense of the private CCRC is paid by the parties, usually with the party who requested it advancing or paying 100% of the cost upfront with the court reserving the ability to divide the cost between the parties at a later date.  Due to limited resources in the office of Family Court Services, most mediation sessions last between 15 minutes to one hour, whereas when the case is set for private CCRC the parties will spend multiple hours with the counselor who will also invest time outside of these meetings investigating and preparing recommendations.  While it is not necessary or affordable for parties in all cases, private CCRC provides a valuable service to resolve difficult custody disputes.

If you are facing decisions regarding custody issues it is important that you contact an experience family law attorney who can advise you regarding your options and strategies to obtain a custody order in your children’s best interests.

The fundamental purpose of child support in California is to ensure that the needs of children are provided for.  Under California law each parent has an obligation to financially support their children (Family Code §4053(b)).  Practically, the state has adopted a uniform guideline formula to calculate the amount of support that should be paid keeping in mind each parent’s obligation to support their child.  Simply speaking, the guideline formula calculates support based upon each parent’s income and the amount of time each parent has with her child.

To ensure that a child is supported, in the appropriate case the court may count a new spouse’s income in calculating support.  However, under the law a new spouses’ income should not be considered except in an extraordinary case (Family Code §4057.5(a)(1)).  The family code lists examples of these extraordinary cases, including when a parent “voluntarily or intentionally quits work or reduces income” or when a parent “intentionally remains unemployed or underemployed and relies on a subsequent spouse’s income” (Family Code §4057.5(b)).  The law recognizes that in this case it is appropriate to use a new spouse’s income to calculate support so that the entire burden for supporting a child does not fall on the parent who is still working.  (Marriage of Paulin (1996) 46 Cal.App.4th 1378, 1384, fn. 5).

It is important that if you are facing these issues that you contact an experienced family law attorney to ensure that child support is set in an amount that is fair and proper.

On October 4, 2013 Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 274 which enacted new statutory amendments to clarify that a child may have more than two parents in the appropriate circumstance.  This means that in certain circumstances more than two parties can have the rights to custody and visitation of a minor child, and that more than two parents may have the obligation to support a child.

The new law provides that a child may be found to have more than two parents if it would be detrimental to the child to recognize only two parents.  To determine whether there would be detriment to a child in this circumstance the court is called to consider various factors including whether a proposed third parent has met the physical needs of that child, whether they have met the psychological needs of a child for care and affection, and how long they have assumed that role, among other factors.

In addition to showing that there would be detriment to the child if there are only two parents, one of several existing statutory grounds to establish paternity will have to be proven as to the non-biological parent.  Some examples of these methods of establishing paternity are (1) being married to the mother of the child, (2) attempting to marry the mother of the child before or after the child’s birth, (3) or receiving that child into their home and holding it out as their own.

Demonstrating to a court that these facts exist can be complicated and may require expert testimony from child psychologists or other child custody professionals and will often have to be resolved with a trial or evidentiary hearing.  It is important if you are facing these complicated issues that you consult with a family law attorney right away to assist you in navigating these very tricky claims.

In the State of California, the courts may be able to impute minimum wage earning capacity to a parent, and it is up to that parent to prove why he/she may not be able to earn or get a minimum wage job. For example, if he/she has a disability, or lacks in education or skills, medical condition, etc. The reason for this is that both parents are required to give support to their children, regardless of whether one is acting as the primary caregiver or not. Read the full answer…

Yes, you need to be present at the hearing, even if you didn’t request for it, to make sure that you can defend your side on why there should be no modification on the support. Although it is not mandatory to be represented by an attorney, it is often a good idea to have an expert in family law on your side to make sure that your argument will be presented well, in a way that could best convince the court. Read the full answer…

Even if a parent has the right to spend time with their children, no parent is allowed to deprive the other of their chance to be with their children if either of them are entitled to custody.

In custody issues, the courts always put the child’s best interest before anything else. If your ex has been proven to have a history of domestic violence, it may work against him in a custody battle, especially if it has been proven that the violence has negatively affected the children. Read the full answer…

You can make an estimate of what is a fair amount of alimony and child support depending on you and your children’s needs. Whatever you and your soon-to-be-ex-husband may agree on will be part of the final judgment. Whether it is fair or not will depend on your needs and expectations. But you really have to be careful and consult with a divorce lawyer before agreeing to any amount of support. Read the full answer…

Assuming that your case was “dismissed without prejudice,” then you may refile for divorce. You and your ex may use services of the same attorney since there is no dispute on property, support, etc. The attorney’s fees vary, so it is best to speak with one personally and discuss your case. Read the full answer…

If your mother did not execute a power of attorney or any document for that matter prior to the onset of her dementia, then one possible way for you to rent out, or maybe even sell the house, is by applying for conservatorship of her estate. Read the full answer…

You can transfer your property directly to your parents’ living trust through a grant deed by putting your parents’ trust as the grantee in the deed. But it is advisable to consult with a lawyer first before proceeding with the transfer to make sure that the transfer happens without problems. Read the full answer…

Usually, establishing paternity would require the signature of both parents. However, since the father is deceased, then you need to go to court and then the court will decide whether or not there is the existence of relationship between the child and your daughter’s fiance. Read the full answer…

Where you file for modification depends on where the judgment was made. But California may have jurisdiction especially if your daughter has lived in this state and goes to school, essentially making California her home state. You may fill out the Request for Order Form (FL-300), Read the full answer…

You can file for divorce in the same manner as if your spouse is not in prison, as long as you can make sure that the summons is served to him personally through the prison authorities and you have a valid proof of that. Getting full custody of your children will be up to the court to decide, taking into consideration the children’s best interest. Read the full answer…

If your are filing for legal separation, you may ask for spousal support as part of your settlement. Your husband will also be required to pay for child support. Provided that custody will be granted to you, he is obliged to pay for his share of the expenses for your child’s needs. And if you want to go back to Germany with your son, you may need to file for an international move-away permission from the court. Read the full answer…

Yes you can. Just like in divorce or annulment cases, a spouse may petition for support in a legal separation. The court will grant the amount of support upon their discretion, based on the standard of living during marriage, the length of marriage, the capacity of either spouse to provide or find a source of income, etc. Read the full answer…

The court may appoint counsel to represent the best interest of a child on the court’s own motion or if requested to do so by a party, the attorney for a party, the child or any relative of the child, a mediator, a custody evaluator, a court-appointed guardian ad litem or special advocate or any other person who the court deems appropriate. The court will appoint a counsel for the child if it finds that it is for his best interest, and one of those factors include whether the dispute involves allegations of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of the child. Read the full answer…

Since the custody was determined in AZ, that court has original jurisdiction and California courts cannot modify the custody order except in certain cases. However, there are exceptions wherein you may be able to file for a custody modification in California should you meet certain conditions. For example, if AZ court determines it no longer has exclusive and continuing jurisdiction, or if a California court would be a more convenient forum. Read the full answer…

Since he is the father of the child, he could get visitation rights if he brings the action to court. But there is a great chance that you will be granted full custody if the court finds that it is for the child’s best interest to stay with his mother. Just to make it clear, even if you have full custody, he may still get visitation rights if the court grants it. Read the full answer…

Yes. Non-payment of child support by an obligor, who is otherwise capable of paying but chooses not to, has serious consequences. If he still doesn’t pay the support after the involvement of the local child support agency, the court could hold him in contempt and he could face jail time if proven guilty of evading child support payment. Read the full answer…

Common law marriage has long been abolished in California. So generally, unless an unmarried couple who lived together register as domestic partners, they acquire no rights that are granted to married couples or registered domestic partners. However, the partner may have remedy in an ordinary civil action, instead of the family court, if they would want to stake claim at properties owned by the deceased. Read the full answer…

They won’t grant emancipation simply because you want to see your boyfriend. To be granted emancipation, you must meet ALL of the requirements: you must be 14 years or older, you don’t want to live with your parents and your parents don’t mind if you move out, you have your own way to legally make money, Read the full answer…

Getting non-parent custody would require proving that it is in the child’s best interest to be under the care of a person other than his/her parent. It is already complex as it is with the help of an experienced lawyer, and it would be at least doubly challenging without one. Read the full answer…

It is the statutory duty of the parents, to the extent of the parent’s ability, to support an adult child who is lacks the capacity to support themselves. If you are able to pay for the support for your child, then you are obligated to do so. The SSI benefits are for those who have no other financial source, or whose income is not enough to meet their basic needs. Read the full answer…

If you are registered domestic partners, then there is no going around declaring your income as would other married couples because that would be tax evasion or fraud. However, if you are not registered as domestic partners, then you need not factor in your partner’s income in filing your tax return because you are still single and unmarried under the law. Read the full answer…

No. Your husband was ordered to pay support probably because he was the “default” father of the child. Even a DNA test proving that he is actually not the biological father would not reverse the court’s decision ordering him to pay, and he may not get reimbursement for the child support. Read the full answer…

Generally, property acquired during marriage is considered as community property. But if it is a separate property of the wife, then you do not have any right to it. There are not a lot of details here to give more opinion on the actual nature of the home and the situation surrounding your case. It would be better to personally get in touch and consult with an attorney who is an expert in Family Law for advice. Read the full answer…

If there is a risk that your ex may take the child to another state or country, you may file for a “move-away” restraining order. However, the restraining order against you may only be suspended or stopped upon the determination of the court that the child is not going to be at risk of being abused. Until then, the custody of the child will not be given to you. Read the full answer…

A power of attorney requires the express permission of the person granting that power; and since your mother is already incapacitated to grant that, the best recourse for your father to be able to better manage the properties is to apply to the court for conservatorship. Read the full answer…

Parents are obliged to support all their minor children’s needs according to each parent’s capacity (Fam C. 3900). But when the child reaches adulthood (18 years) before he/she finishes high school, this statutory obligation continues for parents to support the child who is a full-time high school student, unmarried and not fully self-supporting until he/she graduates from high school or until the child reaches 19 years, Read the full answer…

The best and the only way of legally changing or stopping the payment of court-ordered spousal support is through the court. The court may modify or terminate support orders anytime, as it deems necessary [Fam. C. 3651(a)]. Sometimes the court may consider the supported spouse’s cohabitation with a person of the opposite sex as a considerable change in circumstances that Read the full answer…

The duration for the payment of spousal support is stipulated on the final judgment in a dissolution case. When the court decides to award alimony upon dissolution, it is upon the court’s discretion as to the amount and the duration of the support. This decision is based on the facts at the time of the support hearing and the spousal support factors stipulated in Fam.C. § 4320. Read the full answer…

Payment of spousal support after the dissolution of marriage is upon the court’s discretion, taking into strict consideration the mandatory provisions set by Fam. C. 4320 such as, but not limited to, the earning capacity of each party and “the ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment.” Read the full answer…

A parent who wants to change a final court decision on child custody bears the burden of proving that there is a substantial change in circumstances that would affect the child, and that a modification on custody would be for the child’s best interest. Read the full answer…

With some exceptions, the child of a woman who is married to a man who is not impotent or sterile is generally conclusively that man’s child (Fam.C. § 7540). However, if there is a dispute on the paternity of the child, or if there is a civil case where paternity is a related issue, Read the full answer…

The unmarried partner of a deceased may still have a right to claim from the property of the deceased, and their case may be seen as a Marvin claim, based on the Marvin v. Marvin (1976) case, where the Supreme Court addressed the issue of “the property rights of a nonmarital partner in the absence of an express contract.” Read the full answer…

Child support and custody/visitation are separate issues. The court could decide that one may be granted without the other. The court order for child support is guided by strict rules and computation according to the needs of the child based on a State-wide Uniform Guideline (Family Code § 4050 et seq.), Read the full answer…

It is the state’s policy to ensure the child’s welfare when granting custody (Fam. C. § 3020), and it is safe to assume that the court issues “an order for the custody of a child during minority that seems necessary or proper” (Fam. C. § 3022). Read the full answer…

What do I do if I have more questions?

Question Asked on: April 3rd, 2013

The best thing to do is to contact a military legal assistance attorney or a private attorney. A private lawyer who is an expert in family law and divorce would be able to give much clearer information on issues involving property settlements and support.

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No. On the contrary, he may even end up getting more by waiving part of his pension. For example, the husband H has a total retired pay of $2000, and the court awards 50% to his wife W. That means that each of them would be getting $1000. But if H gets a disability rating and chooses to receive the VA disability pay of let’s say $800, then this means he waives $800 from his retirement pay. Read the full answer…


That is not allowed in most states. If the ex-spouse changes an order without the court’s permission, the courts may order the member to indemnify the non-member for the community property share of the military retirement benefits that was lost as a result of the member’s postjudgment receipt of disability pay and concurrent waiver of retired pay. Read the full answer…

VA benefits may be considered as income in awarding child or spousal support. As stated in Rose vs. Rose (1987), the Supreme Court views VA disability benefits as not solely for the disabled veteran, but as well as to “provide reasonable and adequate compensation for disabled veterans and their families,” especially that the veteran’s only source of satisfying his support obligations is through the VA disability pay.

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VA benefits may be garnished for child support or alimony if the person receiving VA benefits has waived military retired pay to get VA payments, as stated in 42 USC § 659 – Consent by United States to income withholding, garnishment, and similar proceedings for enforcement of child support and alimony obligations:

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As a rule, federal laws are superior over state laws. However, there may be situations wherein the state laws are upheld and not the laws of the U.S., especially when it concerns domestic issues as expressed by the Supreme Court in In Re Barrus 136 U.S. 586 (10 S.Ct. 850, 34 L.Ed. 500) that “(t)he whole subject of the domestic relations of husband and wife, parent and child, belongs to the laws of the states, and not to the laws of the United States.”

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Although federal disability benefits are exempt from claims of ordinary creditors, the law provides for the use of these benefits to fulfil the “legal obligation of the individual to provide child support or alimony, as stated in 42 USC § 659 which is entitled “Consent by United States to income withholding, garnishment, and similar proceedings for enforcement of child support and alimony obligations.” In 42 USC § 659(a), it states that:

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Federal disability benefits awarded to veterans are exempt from creditors’ claims. But this exemption does not apply to the extent of that portion of the benefits that is subject to child and spousal support enforcement under 42 USC § 659(h)(1)(A)(ii)(V), as expressed in California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § 483.013: Read the full answer…

The California Family Code has provisions for a minor child’s grandparent(s) who seek to obtain visitation rights. Such rights may be granted if the courts find that it is for the best interest of the child, balanced against the custodial parent’s rights, and if there has been a pre-existing relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild [Fam. C. § 3104 (a)]. Read the full answer…

When the custodial parent denies or frustrates the other parent’s visitation rights, California case law have ruled that there may be “several appropriate sanctions” that may be given, “when the custodial parent acts with an intent to frustrate or destroy visitation rights. These include holding the parent in contempt, terminating or reducing spousal support, and requiring a bond to assure compliance with the visitation order” [Moffat v. Moffat (1980)]. Read the full answer…

If the custody order does not provide for parent visitation rights but does not expressly withhold such rights, the noncustodial parent has an implicit right to “reasonable visitation” [Feist v. Feist (1965)]. The courts have a broad discretion on determining what is “reasonable,” but putting into paramount consideration the best interest of the child [Fam.C. § 3100(a)]. Read the full answer…

Generally, if a child has a presumed father, he/she may not be adopted unless both parents consent to it [Fam.C. § 8604(a)]. However, there are instances when a child could be given up for adoption if one birth parent has been awarded custody by judicial order, or has custody by agreement of both parents, and the other birth parent for a period of one year willfully fails to communicate with and to pay for the care, support, and education of the child when able to do so [Fam.C. § 8604(b)]. Read the full answer…

Alimony, or spousal support, is generally not mandatory in divorce proceedings. The courts have discretion (within statutory parameters) to deny spousal support altogether or to limit it in an amount and duration that reflects the ability of both parties to provide for their own needs [Marriage of Pendleton & Fireman (2000)]. Read the full answer…

Parents who have been granted custody of the child(ren) generally have the presumptive right to change the residence of  the child. And as in every case involving children, the children’s welfare are always taken into paramount consideration [California Family Code § 7501(a)]. Read the full answer…

Usually, a party to a civil case may only be granted attorney’s fees if the court could find that such party has no ability to pay for a retainer. The court maintains the standard of “disparity in access and ability to pay” in determining whether it is just for one party to shoulder both parties’ litigation expenses. Read the full answer…

In divorce cases, sometimes one party may not have the financial ability to retain an attorney. Such party may request that the court order the other party if they have the means “to pay a reasonable amount to allow the unrepresented party to retain an attorney…” Read the full answer…

In the state of California, the courts are given the discretion to grant “reasonable visitation” rights to nonparents who have interest in the welfare of the child [Fam.C. § 3100(a)]. Therefore they may grant visitation rights to any other person who have such interest, including siblings, if the court finds it best for the child. Read the full answer…

In the State of California, the courts may be able to impute minimum wage earning capacity to a parent, and it is up to that parent to prove why he/she may not be able to earn or get a minimum wage job. For example, if he/she has a disability, or lacks in education or skills, medical condition, etc. The reason for this is that both parents are required to give support to their children, regardless of whether one is acting as the primary caregiver or not. Read the full answer…

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