Resident attorney Deborah E. Jurgensen is a general practitioner, with an emphasis in Family Law. Family Law is a broad term that encompasses primarily dissolution of marriage (formerly known as divorce), child custody and support and spousal support.
California has “no fault” divorce – meaning a married couple can end their marriage based on what they term'irreconcilable differences.'
California is a community property state – one of only eight of our fifty states with this kind of marital property scheme. Community property is all property acquired by a husband or wife, while married and living in California, that is not separate property. (See Family Code Section 760)
Separate property is property either party owned before marriage, or received during marriage through inheritance. Thus, community property is pretty all encompassing. If one spouse works outside the home for wages, and the other stays home with children, for example, any wages earned by the spouse outside the home are considered community wages, including any pensions earned. One spouse may not shield their income the other spouse by putting it in their own name, or transferring it to someone else (with some exceptions such as income derived from property owned before marriage). The injured spouse can set these kinds of transfers aside.
In addition, if there are children, both parents are presumed to be fit for custody and control of the minor children.
Parents are responsible for the care and support of their children until they reach the age of majority, which is l8 in California, or up to age 22 if the child stays in school.
Each parent must contribute to the care and support and courts look to the income level of each parent before determining child support obligations.
Spousal support can also be awarded in dissolution cases (formerly termed “alimony”) – but it is not automatic.
Dissolution is nosy business. Parties will have to provide the court with income and expense declarations, and further intimate information if there is a custody dispute. A modern trend in family law is “Collaborative Family Law” - a process where the parties and their attorneys agree to work details out with as little stress as possible – a kindler, gentler approach. If parties can set aside any bitterness, grudges and history, the collaborative approach is terrific– especially when there are children involved. No matter what kind of split parties with children may have, the advice best taken is DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE SPLIT IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN. EVER!
In fact, many courts will order the parties to refrain from such behavior – it is uncertain how many obey. It seems some folks are simply addicted to the fight. Again, don’t talk about it front of your children – it tears them apart. They love both parents – kids see things through their eyes, not the eyes of their parents. If you love and care about your kids, remember to keep quiet about the other spouse in front of them. If you have any questions or concerns about your dissolution, or custody and support issues, contact an attorney who handles family law matters.
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