Blog
Thursday, 06 February 2014 00:00

A House Divided: Separate Under One Roof

One of the most important elements in any California divorce is the date of separation.  As a general rule, everything that a person earns from the date they get married to the date of separation is treated as community property.  The date of separation also has an impact on the valuation and division of assets, including pension and retirement plans as well as debts. In California, a community property state, the community estate is divided equally between the parties, and everything that a person earns or accumulates and incurs after the date of separation is usually considered to be their separate property or debt.  Therefore, the date of separation can have a major impact on the valuation and division of the parties’ assets and debts. When the parties disagree about the date of separation, depending on the facts in the case it may be prudent to bifurcate the date of separation issue and have a separate trial on that issue alone. 

The phrase ‘date of separation’ refers to the language of California Family Code Section 771, which is the statute that outlines the general rule described above.  The phrase does not come directly from the statute.  The relevant language in Section 771 is: “while living separate and apart from the other spouse.”  At first glance, this language appears to mean that the date of separation occurs when one of the parties moves out of the family home.  However, California law recognizes that neither real life nor relationships are that simple.  Two people can continue to live in the same home long after their marriage is effectively over.  This seems to have become especially common in recent years, perhaps because of widespread economic difficulties.  Alternatively, a married couple may remain committed to each other even if their jobs or other factors cause them to live in separate homes, or a couple may temporarily live in separate homes during a rough time in their relationship, then get back together. 

On October 4, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation SB 274 allowing children in California to have more than two legal parents.  Governor Brown stated that the legislation addresses the changing family structure – such as situations where same-sex couples have a child with an opposite-sex biological parent.  Such legislation gives the courts the ability to divide custody and financial responsibility among three or more legal parents who are involved in raising the child.

Thursday, 24 October 2013 00:00

Calculating Spousal Support

According to news reports, Clint Eastwood’s wife of 17 years, Dina Eastwood, has filed for divorce.  Ms. Eastwood is seeking spousal support and full custody of their 16 year old daughter.

If you or someone you know is going through the divorce process, you have probably heard discussions about spousal support.  The purpose of spousal support is to provide an ex-spouse with an income for basic needs and to maintain the marital standard of living.  When calculating spousal support, the court considers many factors, some of which include: (1) the earning capacity of each party and its relationship to the standard of living established during the marriage; (2) the extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of education, career training, and licenses of the supporting party; (3) the ability of the supporting party to pay such spousal support; (4) the obligations and assets of each party; (5) the duration of the marriage; (6) the age and health of the parties; and (7) the balance of hardships on each party.[1]

Thursday, 17 October 2013 00:00

Embryo Donations: "Snowflake Babies"

Embryo donations, commonly known as “snowflake babies” or embryo adoptions, are an increasingly common way to facilitate pregnancy.  Embryo donations often involve the donation of frozen embryos remaining from another couple’s previous in vitro fertilization efforts without compensation.  In most situations, the woman donating the embryos has previously had successful pregnancies and no longer needs to retain her frozen embryos.

Thursday, 10 October 2013 00:00

Valuation and Division of Property

One of the most contentious issues during a divorce or legal separation is the division of assets and debts.  When dividing property, the parties must place a value on the property prior to its division.  The “value” of an asset is the highest price on the date of valuation at which a seller would agree to sell and where a ready, willing, and able buyer would buy.[1] 

Several specific assets have a particular valuation method that attorneys, experts and courts use to value property.  Our office has found that the following are some of the most common assets subject to division:

Tuesday, 24 September 2013 00:00

Adult Child Support

Adult child support is often a contentious issue between the mother, father and adult child.  Under California law, parents are obligated to support their child until the child reaches 18 years old or 19 years old, if the child is still in high school.  What happens if the child is incapacitated?  Are parents legally obligated to support an incapacitated son or daughter once the child reaches the age of majority? 

Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00

Landmark Same Sex Marriage Rulings

Two major rulings from the Supreme Court on Tuesday strengthened the movement for same sex marriage equality. One case held that same sex couples were entitled to federal benefits by ruling a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional on equal protection grounds. The Court in the other case declined to hear an appeal from proponents of California’s Proposition 8, which effectively allows same sex marriages here. These rulings create far-reaching changes to same sex couples here in California.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 00:00

The Clash over Spousal Support

 You may have seen a May issue of Time magazine that had an article on alimony, which is called spousal support in California.[1] The article details the growing movements challenging permanent spousal support, the kind that is paid until a spouse dies or the recipient remarries.

There are two sides to this issue. Those in favor of spousal support say the payments are justified because those spouses who may have stayed at home for many years gave up time not pursuing a career, not building marketable skills and not networking. According to the article, on the other side are a growing number of second wives who are seeking spousal support reform, claiming that their husbands may not be able to pay their spousal support.

What’s an independent adoption?

In an independent adoption, the birth parents must personally choose with whom to place their child.[1] The birth parents are entitled to know certain information about the adoptive parents, such as their full names, age, ethnicity, religion, the length of their marriage, the number of times each spouse has been previously married, past criminal convictions, child support obligations, and whether any children were previously removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.[2] In short, an independent adoption allows birth parents to personally select potential adoptive parents and have certain information about adoptive parents provided to them.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 00:00

Age and Gender Trends on Prenups

A recent Forbes article noted changing dynamics of married couples’ finances. A growing number of wives are out-earning their husbands in dual-income households. While this is not the new norm, the occurrence is certainly increasing. High-income earners and high net-worth couples have unique considerations regarding their marriage. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can help address some of these considerations by safeguarding assets and avoiding significant hassle in the event of a divorce.

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