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Preventing Your Spouse From Hiding Assets During a Divorce

Preventing Your Spouse From Hiding Assets During a Divorce

For as long as there are divorce proceedings in California, there will be spouses trying to hide assets from the other spouse for any of the following reasons, among others: To avoid having to share community property 50/50 with the other spouse To prevent the other spouse from having cherished pieces of property, e.g. family heirlooms or jointly-acquired property with sentimental value To make the spouse look less wealthy in an attempt to lower the amount of spousal support or child support to be paid or to increase the amount he or she can demand To simply drive the other spouse crazy through the emotional process of divorce Family court judges are tasked with requiring both parties to be truthful in their filings with the court so as to make fair determinations, but they only have so much power they can wield in investigating the accuracy of filings, meaning such matters often come down to “he said, she said.” Or, worse yet, “he hid tons of assets, and she never found out about them, and neither did the court.” Thus, the responsibility of preventing a spouse from hiding assets during the divorce lies on the shoulders of the other spouse. Here are a few tips to help in that process. Gather All Financial Records Before You File Perhaps the most important thing you should do is make sure you have current copies of all financial records between the two of you (tax returns, savings and retirement account statements, credit card statements). In addition, you should get access to all accounts, regardless of whose name they are in, keeping in... read more
Going Through a Divorce? Be Careful What You Post on Facebook

Going Through a Divorce? Be Careful What You Post on Facebook

People going through a divorce can often rapidly change their relationship with social media. On one extreme, a person may not want anyone (including a soon-to-be ex-spouse or nosy third parties) snooping in on their business, or they may just not have the bandwidth for seeing other people’s highlight-reel family photos while going through their own personal battles. Other people may see sites like Facebook as the place where they vent, get things off their chest about their spouses, find solace, and maybe even get reacquainted with old friends who may have fallen by the wayside during the marriage (or meet new friends now that their relationship status is heading towards single). But posting on Facebook during a divorce comes with some significant risks that you should keep in mind. Certainly, you probably do not need to avoid social media altogether during a divorce (although a divorce attorney may tell you differently for your specific situation), but here a few things to keep in mind. What You Post May Reflect On Your Fitness as a Parent Although many states, including California, do not consider fault (e.g. adultery, cheating, etc.) when granting a divorce, the courts will conduct a deep examination of the character of both parents when making decisions regarding custody and visitation matters. Pictures on Facebook or references to you partying all night long, having extremist views, or being on the arm of a dubious significant other prior to your divorce can raise questions as to your ability to provide a stable home life for your child and encourage contact with the other parent, issues a court will... read more
Does Abuse During Marriage Affect Alimony Payments in CA?

Does Abuse During Marriage Affect Alimony Payments in CA?

Domestic abuse is an epidemic in the U.S., affecting marriages across all types of demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds. Furthermore, domestic abuse often plays a role in many divorces, as partners seek to remove themselves and their children from an abusive and dangerous environment. While divorce in California is granted without proving fault by either spouse (meaning it is not necessary for either spouse to present the court with a reason such as abuse for why a divorce should be granted), a history of domestic abuse can affect spousal support, also called “alimony,” decisions. The Presumption Against Awarding Alimony to Convicted Abusers Not all forms of domestic abuse necessarily meet the standard for a criminal conviction in California – and many instances of domestic violence go unreported – but, under California Family Code Section 4325, there is a rebuttable presumption against awarding spousal support payments to a spouse who has been convicted of domestic violence perpetrated against the other spouse within the past five years. Thus, if a husband was convicted of domestic violence perpetrated against his wife in the past five years, there is a presumption that he should not receive a temporary or permanent spousal support award from her. This presumption, however, may be rebutted if the husband presents evidence to the court that he in fact was also a victim of domestic violence perpetrated by the wife, as well as any other evidence a court deems just and equitable to be heard. Domestic Abuse Without a Conviction Will Also Be Considered Even if there was no conviction for domestic abuse, a California court determining a final spousal... read more
Can We Create a Settlement Agreement Without a Lawyer in a CA Divorce?

Can We Create a Settlement Agreement Without a Lawyer in a CA Divorce?

When two spouses decide they no longer want to be married to one another, a flood of emotions usually ensues. While some spouses deal with anger and suspicion of one another that might send them into a battlefield mentality, other spouses want to avoid any further drama and do everything they can to move on from the marriage with as little argument and expense as possible. In these latter situations, it is often the case that spouses consider the possibility of creating their own settlement agreement without the assistance of an attorney under the impression that doing so will be mutually beneficial. While it is possible to create a settlement agreement without a lawyer, doing so can easily backfire, causing more drama and expense in the long run. Furthermore, many California family law attorneys are more than happy to work with spouses who seek a collaborative, drama-free divorce and can help them facilitate just that. “No Lawyers” Does Not Mean “No Drama” First off, it is important to understand that, even if you create your own settlement agreement, you will still need to follow all of the court procedures for obtaining a divorce, which includes multiple court filings by both parties which contain comprehensive financial information (among other information), and a state court judge will need to review your settlement agreement and will only approve it if is fair with respect to issues of property distribution, spousal support, and any issues relating to children.   For many couples, obtaining a divorce in California without legal counsel is a far more complex and challenging process than first contemplated. Attempting to... read more
What You Should Do After You Have Been Served With Divorce Papers

What You Should Do After You Have Been Served With Divorce Papers

If you have recently been served with divorce papers, you are no doubt not having your best day ever. Whether you were more or less expecting this moment to come or whether it was the last thing you expected, the critical thing to understand at this point is that, apart from whatever personal and relational concerns you are feeling right now, the courts are now involved. This is not like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and, even if you think you can salvage the relationship (or if your personal feelings toward your spouse veer in the opposite extreme), your primary concern at this moment needs to be properly responding to the legal action to which you are now officially a party, putting your economic future (and potentially your relationship with your children) at stake. Regardless of whether you want to repair the relationship or erase your spouse from your memory, now is the time to take cool, level-headed steps to protect your interests without incurring further damage to yourself. Be Careful What You Say to Your Spouse Your first impulse may be to call up or confront your spouse and give him or her a piece of your mind about what you really think about the marriage and all their shortcomings, much less what type of future they can imagine for themselves in response for serving you with divorce papers. In short, you should resist that temptation, as it is unlikely to help you and will probably only hurt you. Divorces take a number of months at a minimum to finalize, so at the very least there... read more
How Long Do You Have To Be Married in California to Recieve Alimony?

How Long Do You Have To Be Married in California to Recieve Alimony?

If you are considering a divorce in California (or your spouse is considering divorce), one of your chief concerns to think about from the very beginning of the proceedings is alimony, or “spousal support” as it is referred to by California state law. Few areas of family law are subject to more confusion and misinformation than alimony. For starters, there is no minimum time requirement for the marriage to have lasted before spousal support is available to one spouse or the other, but the duration of the marriage will however come into play into determining what spousal support awards are made. Below, we cover a few of the basics with regard to spousal support and length of the marriage. Spousal Support May Be Requested in All Divorces… Again, California law does not lay out a specific time requirement for a couple to have been married in order for one spouse to request spousal support from the other. In general, California is more liberal in making spousal support awards than other states, as state law places more of an emphasis on maintaining the standard of living among the spouses and providing a smooth transition following a divorce rather than requiring one spouse to prove he or she absolutely needs spousal support to meet basic living expenses, as is the case in some other states. …But a Shorter Marriage May Mean a Smaller Award That said, duration of the marriage is one of the key factors that a court will look at in making a final spousal support award following a divorce. Other factors that a court will consider include the... read more
Can My Spouse Give Away Assets Before or During a Divorce?

Can My Spouse Give Away Assets Before or During a Divorce?

One of the most common type of scenarios that family law attorneys see during a divorce process is one spouse “giving” away assets both prior to and during the divorce. There may be any number of reasons that this could occur. For example, divorce generally means one or both spouses is going to move out of the home they shared and there is a natural jettisoning of property that often occurs with a move. Or a spouse might just want a fresh start and not be burdened with assets that they either no longer have a need for (the fondue set received as a wedding gift and never used) or which carry unwanted memories (the camping gear the couple used for a month-long road trip). But giving away assets is also used as a way to keep assets hidden during a divorce, or to openly spite the other spouse (giving a husband’s favorite recliner to Goodwill). In all cases, the property should not be given away if it is community property unless both spouses consent, and giving it away without consent can create problems during the divorce. Why Community Property Cannot Be Unilaterally Given Away Before understanding why spouses are restricted in how they can handle community property, it is of course critical to understand what community property is. In California and other states that incorporate a community property regime, community property generally includes all property that is either earned or acquired during a marriage by either party, regardless of which spouse “earned” it. Such property legally belongs to both spouses. On the other hand, separate property is the... read more
Can a Parent of Adopted Children Be Required to Pay Child Support?

Can a Parent of Adopted Children Be Required to Pay Child Support?

When most people think of child support, they think of the legal obligation of a biological parent to financially support the child at least until the child is 18. That is generally true regardless of whether the parents had been married for decades or the parents had a one-night stand and never spoke again. But what about a situation in which the child was adopted by a stepparent or domestic partner, or even through an agency? And what are the legal obligations of the biological parent who is now out of the picture in a situation where an adoptive stepparent and biological parent later divorce? The rules as they apply in California are described below. By Adopting a Child, a Parent Assumes the Obligation to Support the Child Again, biological parents of a child both have a legal obligation to financially support that child until the child is an adult, and this is true even if the parents were never married. When a new person marries a custodial parent of a child (the parent with whom the child lives), that person does not automatically assume the legal obligation to financially support the child. Of course, many stepparents assume that obligation voluntarily as part of starting a family but it is not an obligation that can be legally enforced either during the marriage or after a divorce. Thus, if a stepparent and a biological parent divorce, the biological parent cannot seek child support from the stepparent if the stepparent did not adopt the child. But if the stepparent does adopt the child through a stepparent adoption, the stepparent does assume... read more
Do I Need an Attorney to Serve Divorce Papers in California?

Do I Need an Attorney to Serve Divorce Papers in California?

Many couples entering into the divorce process – or at least one spouse in the relationship who wants a divorce even if the other does not – have the goal of getting the divorce over with as quickly, painlessly, and cheaply as possible. Which are all understandable goals, but in many cases, achieving all three of those goals simultaneously proves to be a challenge, especially when a person tries to litigate a divorce without the help of an attorney. The first moment this usually comes up in a California divorce is in filing and serving the initial divorce papers on the other spouse. Although you do not need an attorney to serve divorce papers on another spouse, there are a couple of critical issues you will want to consider before doing so. How Service is Accomplished in California Every civil action requires that the person filing the action (called a “petitioner” or “plaintiff”) properly serve certain documents on the other party to the lawsuit. In a divorce, the plaintiff must file a petition to terminate the marriage, and this petition must be served on the other spouse as well as a summons. Once this is accomplished, a document evidencing the fact that both the petition and summons were properly served must be filed with the court.   In California, any person 18 or over may personally serve the other spouse with these papers, so long as that person is not the spouse filing the petition. People often hire a process server or request that a sheriff serve the documents, but, again, another adult can serve the documents, which essentially... read more
Is an Engagement Ring Considered Separate Property in California?

Is an Engagement Ring Considered Separate Property in California?

When couples divorce in California, one of the first things they start thinking through is who should receive what property when they part ways. For many couples, especially those on the younger side, an engagement ring might be one of the more valuable items in the household. Which raises the question of whether the recipient of the engagement ring gets to keep it or whether the value should be shared between the spouses, which comes down to determining whether the engagement ring is separate property or community property. Most Engagement Rings Will Stay With the Recipient Separate property includes all the property owned by each spouse before the marriage, or which was given specifically to one spouse by a third party during the marriage. Such property stays with that spouse after the divorce. Community property is everything else: basically all money and property earned or acquired with earnings during the marriage by either party. Community property is split 50/50 in a divorce. Because an engagement ring is typically given by one spouse to the other before the marriage, the ring will be considered separate property belonging to the recipient, meaning that spouse gets to keep it and can do whatever he or she wants with it. But separate property can be converted into community property through the process of transmutation, which is a written document by which the spouses agree to treat the property listed as community property. A court will uphold such an agreement. Rings and Other Jewelry Given After the Wedding It is not unheard of for a couple to delay buying a proper engagement ring until... read more