Californians may have heard about the court that ordered three children into juvenile detention earlier this summer for their refusal to even have lunch with their father. The children had been estranged from him ever since his divorce with their mother. After staying in detention for a few days, the judge then ordered them to attend summer camp. They then underwent five days of intensive treatment designed to help children suffering from parental alienation syndrome. They are currently living with their father, and have done so since Aug. 15.
At issue in the case is whether the mother took active steps to alienate the children from their father, a real problem in some divorce and child custody cases. The therapy the children received is controversial. Some people worry that it can result in children being placed in homes with an abusive parent.
The man has asked that his ex-wife not be allowed to contact the children for 90 days, as called for by their parental alienation treatment program. The father has also asked that his monthly $1,700 child support payments be abated while the children remain with him. They are scheduled to return to court again in November, when the judge will decide whether the mother’s physical custody of the children should be ended permanently.
Generally, family law courts take the approach that children’s best interests require that they be able to grow up having relationships with both parents, except in cases in which one parent poses a danger to their health, safety or welfare. Judges also look disfavorably on parents who actively try to alienate their children from the other parent. Except in cases of abuse, doing so may be very detrimental to children.
Many individuals and couples in California are concerned about protecting their assets in during and after a divorce. For some of these people, a prenuptial agreement may be a good option. In other cases, there may be other ways for domestic partners to protect their financial health.
There are several things that a person can do to ensure that their pre-marital assets remain with them after a divorce. The first is quite straightforward: Collect and keep financial records from before the marriage, including bank and retirement account statements. Financial records make it easier for attorneys and the courts to determine what an individual brought into a marriage. In case of a dispute, the spouse can more easily show that some assets should be considered marital property.
Another way that people can protect their assets is to keep at least some of them separate during the marriage. For example, while it’s not unusual for couple to have a joint bank account, maintaining additional, separate accounts may be a good preventative measure. Individuals may also want to consider not putting their spouse on the title of a home that they owned prior to the marriage.
Individuals who are planning to get married may benefit from speaking to an experienced family law attorney prior to their wedding day. A lawyer may be able to review a client’s financial situation and make recommendations that can help protect the client’s assets in case the marriage eventually dissolves. The attorney may also be able to review a divorce settlement and recommend a post-divorce modification if there are concerns about the original agreement.
In certain situations, California courts order the payment of spousal support, known as partner support in domestic partnerships. Sometimes referred to as alimony, spousal support payments can be ordered only in certain legal situations with the amount of support determined by the judge.
A request for spousal or partner support can be made as part of a divorce or legal separation or as part of a request for a restraining order against a current or former partner or spouse. A judge may order payment of temporary spousal or partner support during the legal proceedings and may order permanent spousal or partner support as part of a final divorce or separation decree.
The amount of temporary spousal support is generally determined by a formula. The courts in each county have established their own formulas. For permanent spousal or partner support, the judge is required to consider a set of factors listed in state law. These factors include the length of the marriage or domestic partnership, the needs of each individual, the earning capacity of each individual, debts and assets, whether one partner helped support the other partner while working on a degree or professional license and whether the marriage or domestic partnership was affected by domestic violence.
Spousal and partner support is such a complex issue that the California courts recommend that an individual seeking support payments consult a lawyer or a family law facilitator for the particular court. A private attorney or family law facilitator may be able to explain how spousal or partner support is calculated and how long the payments may last. He or she may also be able to help the individual seeking support to complete the forms that are required in order to request spousal or partner support.
California residents who have gone through a divorce may be interested in some of the important reasons not to delay when requesting a spousal support modification. Due to the limited power of a judge to make the change retroactive, these requests should be filed as soon as possible to limit the financial issues they can cause.
For ex-spouses who are paying spousal support, a severe change in circumstances can make the payments difficult. These can include the loss of a job, having their hours cut at work or even being incarcerated. When these income-affecting changes happen, it is important to seek a modification of the spousal support order as soon as possible. This is because if a court allows the modification, that change will only begin on the date that the papers were filed to seek it. The modification will not be backdated to the date of the job loss or other change in circumstance.
This means that any unpaid spousal support during that time will still be owed. While many who are experiencing an income issue believe that it is temporary, this isn’t always so. Because of this, the modification should be sought right away when financial circumstances change. The specific forms that need to be filed can often be found through the California court system’s website.
Understanding which forms need to be filed in order to effect this modification can be made easier with the assistance of divorce counsel. A family law attorney who has experience in these matters can assess a client’s new financial situation and file the order modification request with the court in a timely manner.
One of the most important aspects of divorce is agreeing upon a plan for minor children. The plan should provide consistency and be determined based on the needs of the children. When the details are agreed upon, documented and signed by both parents and the judge, the plan will be filed with the court system to become a court order.
Elements of the parenting plan, or custody and visitation agreement, should include a schedule detailing when the children will be with each parent and specifics regarding how decisions affecting the children will be managed. Routine is a critical component of any parenting plan. Current childcare situations should be considered to avoid unnecessary change, and younger children may need more frequent visitation because their concept of time is generally different from teens’ concept of time.
Parents who are active in their children’s lives and work to agree on custody and visitation make the transitions easier on the children. The courts will put the safety and best interests of the children above all other details. If there are any abuse or addiction issues related to either parent, the plan should have elements in place specifying any limitations as well as any necessary treatments that will benefit the parent-child relationship.
Laws for custody, visitation and child support vary from state to state. Proper documentation and filing are critical to ensure the best possible outcome for the children. California provides a parenting plan outline and additional forms to help parents make the best decisions regarding their children. A family law lawyer can ensure that all necessary documents are completed in the proper manner and that no important details are overlooked.
Some California couples choose to enlarge their family through adoption. Prospective parents are expected to do their due diligence, as the field of adoption is not immune to acts of fraud and misrepresentation.
In fact, there are several red flags that prospective parents should be aware of when working through the process of adopting a child, according to authorities. For example, a facilitator or an agency may push potential adopters to sign documents that the adopters do not comprehend. The agency or facilitators may fail to answer specific questions or fail to return emails and phone calls from adopters. Furthermore, they may refer to the child as already belonging to the prospective adopter before the adoption is actually finalized. In some instances, adopters have reported being defrauded by adoption agencies and facilitators that did not disclose all the necessary information about the child or the process prior to the adoption.
There are also red flags for those seeking to adopt children from birth mothers. For example, a birth mother may refuse to meet with a lawyer or adoption agency, refuse to give out a phone number or fail to show proof that she is pregnant. There are cases in which adopters report being scammed by birth mothers.
Prospective adopters can avoid adoption fraud by identifying these and other red flags. Authorities say that prospective adopters should always research the agency or facilitator with which they plan to work. Moreover, potential adopters may benefit from speaking to an adoption attorney.
In this way, prospective adopters may be apprised of their rights as adoptive parents. In addition, a family law attorney may help ensure that the adoption process is being done legally and without causes for concern.
Grandparents in California might run into a situation where they feel they need to petition a court to mandate visitation with a grandchild. While California law allows grandparents to petition for this, it can only be filed if certain conditions are met.
First, the court needs to determine if the visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild. For this to happen, it must be shown that the grandparents and the grandchild had a pre-existing relationship and that a bond had formed between them. The court also needs to balance the best interest of the child in having visitations with the grandparents and the right of the child’s parents to make decisions affecting their child.
Second, under California family law, a petition for visitation with a grandchild cannot be filed if the grandchild’s parents are married unless the case meets one of five exceptions. These exceptions include a parent joining the grandparents in the petition, the parents living separately, the whereabouts of one parent being unknown for at least a month, a child being adopted by a stepparent and a child who is not living with the parents.
It is usually recommended that families attempt to resolve visitation issues outside of court, even with the help of a mediator. However, if this is not possible, grandparents have two ways under which they can file the petition. One way is to file a petition under an open case related to a child, such as in a divorce, a child custody case, a child support case or even a domestic violence case involving a restraining order. If there is no open case, the grandparents can file to open one. While there are no official state forms to ask for visitations, some of the local courts have created their own forms for this purpose.
When a married couple separates in California, they will need to figure out a way to divide their assets between them. If the parties cannot reach an agreement between themselves, a judge will make that determination as part of the divorce decree. California is a community property state, and thus both spouses are entitled to one-half of all property that was acquired during marriage that is classified as community property. Debts that were incurred during marriage are also considered community property, so long as they were incurred for the common necessities of life for either spouse or for the parties’ children.
All forms of property that were acquired during marriage, regardless of the nature of the tenancy, is presumed to be community property. A party may rebut a presumption of community property by showing proof that the parties entered into a written agreement saying that the property would be the separate property of one of the two spouses. Alternatively, a spouse may show that the deed of the property or other documentary evidence demonstrates that the property is in fact separate.
Although community property entails an equal division of assets, certain assets obviously cannot physically be divided into two equal portions. Thus, a family lawjudge may sometimes award an asset to one party alone if the award is offset by other distributions of the community estate so as to make the division substantially equal.
Judges may also have some leeway to award one spouse additional assets if the judge believes that the other spouse deliberately misappropriated certain assets to the detriment of the first spouse’s interest. Individuals who need help determining which items of property are community and what interest they may have in certain assets may want to consult with a family law attorney.
Couples facing divorce in California may wonder about the rules governing alimony. Often called spousal support in the state, orders regarding payments can begin when the divorce or separation is filed in civil court. In cases where a restraining order is issued, the court may also order spousal support payments.
Generally, the party that earns more pays spousal support to the other person. The court considers several factors when calculating permanent alimony. In addition, while the divorce process is ongoing, a spouse may ask for temporary alimony, which is determined by specific formulas.
The court looks to the amount a spouse receiving alimony needs to duplicate the standard of living during the marriage. The court also examines the financial status and age of both spouses in addition to the duration of the marriage. Other points that judges might consider include the contribution a non-working spouse made to the other spouse’s career or education and the earning potential of a non-working spouse, which depends on the length of time they have been out of the workforce and whether their skills are marketable. In some cases, one party may need training or education, and the court may order rehabilitative alimony, which is provided until the spouse achieves financial independence. Some couples agree to a lump-sum alimony payment or set up spousal support payments that reimburse a spouse for specific expenses.
If circumstances change while spousal support is being paid, the paying party may ask the court to modify the obligation. When spousal support is not paid as ordered, the receiving party may ask the court to enforce the obligation.
A family law attorney may help by offering insight into an individual’s rights and responsibilities when considering alimony. The attorney may also assist in structuring a viable spousal support agreement or help in subsequent modifications.
A family dealing with the need to establish a legal relationship between a parent and child when there isn’t a biological bond must go through the adoption process. The new relationship is deemed to be permanent and equivalent to that between birth parent and child. An adoption may occur in connection with a marriage in which a child’s biological parent has a new partner. Whether by marriage or by registration of the domestic partnership, the parents must demonstrate a legal union. This is one of the simplest and most common adoption scenarios as at least one birth parent is still the child’s parent.
Adoptions can also occur independently or through an agency. An international adoption is also possible when a child born outside of the United States is involved. In each of these cases, a court must end the parental rights of a child’s biological parents before adoption can be completed. This is also the case in a stepparent or domestic adoption as the absent parent’s consent is typically required for termination of the relationship. Although these decisions may be made without a biological parent’s consent, the courts tend to proceed with caution. In cases involving a deceased birth parent, proof of that status may be needed.
Tracking down an absent biological parent may be challenging, but there are resources to consider as this issue is addressed. Options may include searching online or through government agencies such as county recorder offices or the Department of Motor Vehicles. Efforts may be made to track down a child’s parent through family members or by use of last known addresses as well.
Legal representation may be important if a biological parent needs to be located for the adoption process to continue. A lawyer with experience in family law matters may be able to assist in the search for that individual while also managing other details related to the case.