How Can I Get the Costs of Private School Included in Child Support Payments?

Parents always want what's best for their children. This is an admirable sentiment, but it's subject to change when a family is going through a dissolution or a legal separation. That sounds a bit extreme, but it sometimes happens when one parent insists that the other parent pay their child's private school costs. California's family codes don't automatically include private school expenses as a factor in support calculations. As a parent, you have two ways to have those costs included in your child support payments.

  • Establish a private school payment agreement with your spouse.
  • Present evidence seeking a court order in favor of your private school payment request.
Parents simplify the process when they agree that one or both parents should share their child's private school costs. In some situations, financial concerns become a cooperation stumbling block, but you still have options. Even if an estranged spouse doesn't willingly agree to the added expenses, the court has the discretion to designate tuition as a reasonable child support expense. Of course, you must present evidence to substantiate your request.

A Certified Specialist in Family Law

Attorney Steven M. Bishop has helped many families resolve their child support issues before they become insurmountable. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop has helped couples negotiate support arrangements for private schooling and other additional costs. When necessary, he prepares and presents your supporting evidence in Family Court. Attorney Bishop provides compassionate guidance and assistance as he works to resolve your most pressing issues.

How Much Does Private School Cost in California?

California has a history of litigation over child support and private school tuition. Parents rarely object to their child receiving a better quality education. Disagreements usually focus on cost. Tuition is the primary reason why joint or non-custodial parents rebel against paying for private school. Of course, it's in the best interests of the child, but it's usually a high-dollar child support add-on. The website Private School Review documents 2020/21 school year tuition costs throughout the state. They receive regular updates from schools that confirm their tuition costs. The current average annual cost for private school education in California is $14,718 per year. Tuition varies widely depending on the school and the grade.
  • Preschool: Ranges from a high of $47,000 to a low of $1,011
  • Elementary school: Average cost per year, $11,569 (Highest, $61,000, Lowest, $1,200)
  • High School: Average cost per year, $20,000 (Highest, $66,900, Lowest, $1,200)

What Does Child Support Pay For California?

California Family Law establishes specific child support goals under Statewide Uniform Guideline, §4050 - 4076. The provisions establish child support requirements that meet a child's need for housing, food, clothing, extracurricular activities, and other expenses. The guidelines also ensure that children receive financial support that's consistent with the state's high standard of living and high child-raising costs. The law presumes that the parent with the most physical responsibility devotes a substantial amount of their resources to raising their child. The guidelines include several additional child support standards.
  • A parent's primary obligation is to support their children "...according to the parent's circumstances and station in life."
  • Both parents are "mutually responsible" for support.
  • Support considers each parent's income and responsibility for the child.
  • Each parent should pay according to his/her ability.
  • The child's interests are the state's top priority.
  • Children should share both parents' standard of living.
  • Families should rely on private financial resources to meet their child's needs.
Under §4062, family courts have discretion in issuing orders that may include these and other additional items.
  • Child care costs while a parent works or enters a training or educational program to develop new employment skills
  • Reasonable uninsured health care costs
  • Costs for educational or special needs
  • Visitation travel expenses
This discretion opens the door for a parent to receive child support that includes private school tuition costs. As with many court cases, the party requesting consideration has the burden of proving the need.

Presenting a Case for Private School Support

Many parents feel that private school is a choice, not a requirement. If you can't convince your estranged spouse through sincere negotiation, you must persuade the court to find in your favor. You have several ways to plead your case. Your child's school administrators and teachers should be able to provide evidence to help you substantiate your claims.
  • Educational Stability: If your child is already in private school, transferring him or her to public school could have an adverse impact on their education. When a child switches schools, they lose touch with their friends and teachers. Considering the variation in learning standards and class offerings, a transfer could erase a child's educational and social progress.
  • Religious or Cultural Expectations: When your children attend a religious or culture-based school, it reinforces principles, traditions, and social behaviors they won't learn in other schools. It can also be a requirement of certain religions.
  • Special or Gifted Learning Needs: In a traditional public school, your gifted or special-needs child won't usually get the attention they require based on their learning capacity.
  • Your Active Involvement: As a parent, you interact with your child's teachers. You take on special duties, and you attend school functions. You are actively involved in your child's education. A move to a new school would alter that dynamic for both you and your child.
  • Family Tradition: If your older children had the benefit of attending a private school, a change in household status shouldn't change that tradition. It could affect your younger child's overall education as well as college prospects and future career possibilities.
  • Financial Means: When the other parent has the financial capability to pay private school costs, private school tuition won't cause undue economic strain. This complies with child support guidelines which mandate that "Children should share in the standard of living of both parents."
When you present a strong case, the court should accept your view that private school is a genuine obligation to your child. As both parents must share in the child's support, the court may issue an order for one or both spouses to share the additional costs.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

If private schooling provides the best education for your child, you might be able to work out an agreement with your spouse. If you can't agree, the court will consider your evidence and make a decision. Either way, you should have a legal professional working on your behalf. Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a Certified Specialist in Family Law. He's helped clients resolve child support issues during negotiations and in court. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

Continue reading How Can I Get the Costs of Private School Included in Child Support Payments?...

If I Remarry will it Affect my Alimony in California?

Spousal support is often a thorny issue both during and after a legal separation or dissolution process. Explained simply, it takes money from one spouse and gives it to the other. California Family law established spousal support as a solution to meet a temporary need. As a supported spouse, when you remarry, your financial need changes. Your supporting spouse no longer owes support because the courts and the law assume that you no longer need it.

Spousal Support Helps Maintain Your Lifestyle

The ultimate goal for spousal support is to allow both parties to live the same lifestyle they shared during their marriage. Support also addresses the financial setbacks that often occur when spouses establish new households and take on additional responsibilities. The law and the courts grant support based on a complex assessment of need and ability to pay. Spouses often require support both during the pendency period and after the court issues its final judgment. Family Courts have wide discretion in granting and terminating support, but it's always based on documented evidence. Remarriage is one of the legally designated contingencies that automatically triggers a support termination.

Should You Consult With a Certified Specialist in Family Law?

Spousal support issues are often complicated. While California courts allow you to handle them on your own, you need to make sure you get it right the first time. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Steven M. Bishop has helped many San Diego families work through complicated spousal support issues. Attorney Bishop understands your concerns, and he knows how to protect your legal rights. He has helped clients negotiate flexible support agreements. When necessary, he has presented compelling evidence, encouraging the court to support his client's position. Attorney Bishop always provides the compassionate guidance and dedicated assistance his clients need.

How do Courts Assess Your Need for Spousal Support?

Spousal support is never automatic. The court hears evidence and decides if one spouse should make payments to the other. To reach an equitable decision, the court examines the presented evidence and considers each party's financial and personal circumstances. As the spousal support remarriage termination is a Family Law statute, the court doesn't necessarily have to include it in a final order. Some couples negotiate their own support agreements. When you negotiate an agreement with your spouse, you have an opportunity to establish guidelines the court might not consider. While the court has a duty to comply with statutory guidelines, you may add your own stipulations. The court still has final approval over any agreement.

In reaching a support agreement, the court considers many relevant factors:

  • Impairments to a spouse's earning capacity due to household duties
  • Contributions one spouse makes to the other spouse's career
  • Needs established during the marriage
  • Assets and liabilities
  • Capacity to pay support
  • Length of the marriage
  • Custody and care of dependent children
  • Age and health issues
  • History of domestic violence
  • Potential tax consequences

How Is Spousal Support Supposed to Work?

In most situations, California Family Law allows spousal support as a temporary measure only. It helps a lower-earning spouse maintain his or her lifestyle while building a new life. Both the law and the court encourage the supported spouse to gain skills and upgrade his or her ability to support themselves. When a couple has a longstanding marriage, if they are older, or if one spouse is ill, the court also considers these factors in deciding support awards and termination provisions. When the court awards support, it usually anticipates that the supported spouse will improve their financial standing. Considering this expectation, the court sometimes sets a calendar deadline for support termination. Either a judge or a negotiated agreement may set additional termination contingencies. A contingency is a specific situation or life-event that changes the supporting spouse's obligation to pay. Remarriage is a statutory contingency. California Family Code, Division 9, Part 3, Chapter 3, §4337 outlines the remarriage guideline in one simple sentence. It explains that unless the parties agree otherwise, the supporting spouse no longer has an obligation to pay when the supported spouse dies or remarries. The law and the courts naturally presume that your new spouse will comply with his or her legal obligation to help support your household. Your remarriage should also provide additional resources that reduce your need for financial support. Terminating support after remarriage is consistent with these traditional expectations. The law recognizes this by eliminating your spouse's legal obligation to support you.

How Long Does Spousal Support Continue After a Remarriage?

Based on California Family Law, the supporting spouse's obligation to pay support ends upon "...the remarriage of the other party…" The wording is clear in its intent to immediately release the supporting spouse from future payment obligations. When spouses negotiate their own support agreement, they may add a provision that extends support beyond remarriage.

Do You Need to Take Action?

If you are a supported spouse who has remarried, a family law professional can assist you in complying with your duty to report your remarriage. Your attorney can also advise you if you must reimburse any support overpayments. As remarriage is a legal termination point for support obligations, your supporting spouse may take action if you don't. He or she may file a motion to end your support. If the court is deducting support from his or her earnings, your ex may also seek to reduce the deduction order to zero.

San Diego Certified Specialist in Family Law

When you or your former spouse remarries, you need legal assistance to protect your rights. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Steven M. Bishop helps San Diego families understand their changing legal rights and obligations. He recognizes that economic issues are often challenging for families experiencing legal separation or dissolution. He provides compassionate guidance and comprehensive legal assistance when you need it most. You may reach Attorney Steven M. Bishop at (619) 299-9780 or leave a message on our Contact Page.

Continue reading If I Remarry will it Affect my Alimony in California?...

Can I Get Spousal Support While My Divorce is Pending?

Divorce is never pleasant under the best of circumstances. As spouses begin the transition to separate households, one household often undergoes more financial hardships than the other. California's Family Code allows the courts to address this inequity. Division 9, Chapter 4, §3600 gives the court discretion to order one spouse to pay support to the other.  When one spouse proves the need for support, the court can require the other spouse to pay while the dissolution or legal separation is still pending. The court's support order follows the same guidelines as an order issued at a final trial.

A Certified Specialist in Family Law

Contact Attorney Steven M. Bishop if you have concerns about paying or receiving spousal support. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop helps clients understand their legal rights in California. He realizes that financial issues are common for couples and families going through a dissolution or legal separation. They disrupt your peace of mind as you work to build your new life. They continue long after your dissolution or legal separation is final. Attorney Bishop provides compassionate guidance and assistance, and he works hard to resolve his clients' support concerns.

Why Does Family Court Grant Spousal Support?

When a family dissolves a marriage or initiates a legal separation, they often undergo an immediate economic shift. Suddenly, both parties must handle the cost of separate living arrangements. The transition to independence is often financially challenging, but even more so for the spouse with inadequate income. If he or she also has primary custody of the children, it magnifies the income shortfall. Household expenses, food, utilities, and other costs often become unmanageable. Custodial parents also struggle with additional financial challenges, even if they receive consistent child support payments. They often pay recreation expenses, extracurricular fees, and other costs that child support payments don't always cover.  When appropriate, the court issues an order that legally commits the higher-earning spouse to provide spousal support to bridge the financial gap.

When Does the Court Grant Spousal Support?

A Family Court doesn't automatically grant spousal support. Before rendering a decision the court examines a couple's financial situations and many other factors. The primary goal is to allow the supported spouse to maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage. The court assesses the need and determines the spousal support amount by evaluating evidence that provides answers to relevant questions.

Marketable Skills

Does the supported spouse have any marketable skills? What is the market for these skills? Does the spouse need additional training?

Impaired Earning Capacity

Did periods of unemployment "...due to domestic duties..." impair the spouse's current and future ability to earn a living?

Contribution to Spouse's Career

Did the spouse seeking support contribute to the other spouse's education, training, career, etc?

Capacity to Pay Support

Does the supporting spouse have enough income and assets to pay spousal support?

Needs Established During The Marriage

What was the couple's standard of living during the marriage?

Assets and Liabilities

What separate obligations and assets does each spouse have?

Marriage Duration

How long did the marriage last?

Dependent Children

Can a custodial parent seeking spousal support earn a living without "...interfering with the interests of dependent children...?"

Personal Circumstances

How old are both spouses? Does either have any health issues?

Domestic Violence Issues

Was there any history of domestic violence during the marriage? Was a spouse ever convicted of domestic violence?

Tax Consequences

Will spousal support cause "...immediate and specific..." tax issues. Before reaching a decision, the court has the discretion to consider these and any additional factors it deems just and equitable.

Does One Spouse Always Receive Support?

Unlike child support, one spouse is not automatically responsible for paying spousal support to another. As with any issue that goes before a court, the person in need of support must produce evidence that verifies their position. As the above parameters indicate, the court attempts to make reasonable decisions based on the spouse's lifestyle, income, and financial need. The goal is to keep both spouses living as they are accustomed. Also, it's not always a matter of a male spouse supporting a female spouse. California Family Code clearly avoids male and female references. It uses the term, "spouse" instead of husband or wife. It refers to the involved parties as the "supported party" and the "supporting party."  The wording makes it clear that either a man or a woman may be responsible for paying spousal support to the party with limited financial assets.

Is a Spousal Support Order Permanent?

Spousal support is meant to provide transitional assistance as an ex-spouse settles into his or her new life. This is true for temporary support while a divorce is pending as well as the judgment issued when the dissolution or legal separation is final. The laws include a clear expectation that the supported spouse must make an effort to improve their financial situation. It further concludes that a supported spouse must be able to support him or herself within a reasonable period of time. The court defines a reasonable period as one-half the length of the marriage. This timeframe is subject to the court's discretion. The expectations are more flexible when a supported spouse has health issues or a couple is dissolving a longstanding marriage. The court can modify or terminate a spousal support order under certain circumstances.
  • The supporting spouse shows good cause that a support order should be modified or terminated.
  • The order is unenforceable during any period where the divorcing parties have reconciled.
  • The supported party has separate assets or enough income to support themselves.
  • The supported party is living with someone in a non-marital relationship.
  • The court awards custody of the children to the supporting party
During a hearing or trial where the court considers spousal support, it sometimes admonishes the person seeking support that they should make a reasonable effort to support their own needs. Before formalizing a dissolution or legal separation, a court may have a vocation training counselor evaluate the supported spouse's employment skills and abilities.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

If you need assistance with a spousal support order, Attorney Steven M. Bishop can provide the guidance and legal assistance you need. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, he always puts your needs first. Attorney Bishop has helped many clients work through complicated dissolutions and legal separations. He wants to determine if he can help you. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

Continue reading Can I Get Spousal Support While My Divorce is Pending?...

How a Business is Valued in a California Divorce

When you're going through a divorce, it feels as though you're deconstructing your life one piece at a time. It's even more complicated when you and your spouse run a business together. A mutual enterprise quickly becomes one more asset to inspect, evaluate, and sometimes dismantle. Like everything else spouses buy, build, or acquire during a marriage, businesses are community property. As with other property you share, someone you don't know could make important decisions about your business.  As joint owners, you and your spouse must produce evidence to address your business's value, community property interests, income, and other key financial data. Of course, some businesses are more complex than others. Even if you own a small, uncomplicated, Mom & Pop operation, you need a business valuation expert to answer and address relevant issues.  

A Certified Specialist in Family Law

Attorney Steven M. Bishop understands that family businesses often add layers of complexity to an already complicated situation. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Bishop has helped clients resolve community property disputes. He recognizes the importance of involving an experienced business valuation professional. They provide a clear, unbiased value assessment that can help you manage your community property challenges. 

Why do You Need a Business Valuation?

In distributing community assets and liabilities, the court has the final say about what is fair. As a divorcing couple, you retain control over the decisions if you work out an agreement ahead of your trial. Whether you hammer out a distribution agreement for your business or you let the court decide, a professional business valuator helps both you and the court make an informed decision.  Of course, you know your business intimately. When you're involved every day, you have a feel for how your business is doing and where it's going. You track your cash flow, sales, payables, and receivables through timely bookkeeping. Financial reports provide organized data to help you monitor your progress. Annual tax filings require that you review your overall financial picture. A business valuation provides another critical piece of financial data you might not have considered before. It tells you how much your business is worth. A valuation assigns a cash value that makes it easier when dividing community property

Choosing Your Expert

As joint business owners, both spouses should exercise some control over your business valuation. You must manage it in a way that allows you to feel confident in the process. You can hire a single expert to represent both your spouse and you, but each party has the right to hire an expert of their own. Evaluating your business is an in-depth process. It ultimately affects the fairness of your property distribution. It's essential that both parties feel comfortable with their choice of experts.  Based on California Family Code, Division of Property, §2552, the court considers your assets and liabilities " near as practicable to the time of trial…" The court may allow an earlier valuation date. You or your spouse must make a request and show good cause that an alternate valuation date would better accomplish an equitable division. In addition to your business's value, the court reviews these factors.
  • Each spouse's part in developing or operating the business. 
  • Day-to-day control 
  • Ownership status
  • Whether the business is a separate asset
  • Increases or decreases in the business's value since the separation

The Business Valuation Process

A business valuation is a complex process. All valuation experts review your financial records and rely on varying approaches and methods to reach a final figure. Whatever expert you chose and however your expert performs their appraisal, they review key pieces of financial information. 
  • Current debts and liabilities
  • Fixed assets and values
  • Accounts receivables, payables, and tangible assets
  • Reputation, goodwill, and other intangibles

Valuation Approaches and Methods

In evaluating your business, an expert chooses an approach and a method. 

Asset Approach

Several methods allow value analysis based on the cost to buy a similar business. 
  • Adjusted Net Asset: Determining the fair market value of equipment and other business assets as of the required valuation date
  • Liquidation: Determining a value based on the outcome of liquidating the assets of a closed or closing business 
  • Book Value: Considers asset values as determined by financial accounting (technically lower due to allowable depreciation) 
  • Excess Earnings: Considers higher than reasonable earnings produced by a business's standing or goodwill

Income Approach

Using this approach, a business valuation expert determines the present value of projected business potential. 
  • Capitalization of Earnings: Considers your business's net present value and the expected return on investment (capitalization rate).
  • Discounted Earnings: Assesses value based on projected future cash flow discounted it to present value. 

Market Approach

Some experts arrive at a value based on recent sales of comparable businesses. Valuation methods include:
  • Public Company: Based on financial data from publicly traded companies 
  • Company Transactions: Uses values from comparable businesses with similar structures
  • Discretionary Earnings: Based on a multiple of the annual financial benefits from a business (multiplier varies depending on the business type)
  • Gross Revenue: Based on a company's net sales or gross revenue 
The business valuation process is far more complex than these simple descriptions suggest. It becomes even more complicated when the roles are unequal. Problems arise when one spouse owned the business prior to the marriage or one spouse put more effort into building the business. The case, Pereira vs Pereira set the standard for a non-owner spouse seeking to prove that they contributed to the business's success. The case, Van Camp vs Van Camp addresses community property businesses where a business's success wasn't related to a community effort. A business valuation is vital when you own a business jointly with your spouse. Your expert should have the experience to use an evaluation process that best suits your circumstances. Your attorney can help you determine if it's best for you to work out a division agreement with your spouse or wait for a judge's ruling. 

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

Before you hire an expert to review your business, consult with an attorney Steven M. Bishop for recommendations. He provides guidance and assistance in choosing an expert with experience that's relevant to your business. Attorney Bishop has assisted many clients in resolving complex community property issues. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.  

Continue reading How a Business is Valued in a California Divorce...

What Are Contested vs Uncontested Divorces in California

Typically, when we think about a contested divorce, what we immediately believe is the two parties do not agree upon the idea of seeking a divorce. However, since California, like most other jurisdictions, offers no fault divorce, a court is unlikely to deny a final divorce just because one party is unhappy about the possibility. Contested divorces instead occur when the couple is finding it impossible to agree on issues which require settlement. Some of these include:

When the spouses have a disagreement and cannot find common ground regarding the terms of the divorce, the divorce becomes contested. When a couple can agree on the terms of the divorce, the divorce is considered uncontested. In some cases, divorces are easy: When a couple cites irreconcilable differences, has no unpaid debt which are greater than $6,000, have no real estate, and when alimony is not a consideration, a summary dissolution can be used to dissolve a marriage. This is the fastest type of divorce.

The High Dollar and Emotional Costs of Divorce

Couples are emotionally invested in the life they have built together. Whether a couple has been married for five years or five decades, the ending of a relationship is far more challenging than walking away. When emotions run high, it is difficult for a couple to agree on the major issues pertaining to their divorce. Not only do these disagreements wreak a significant emotional cost on the two parties, they can also result in unnecessary financial costs. The fewer issues which need to be decided by the courts, the better off for everyone involved. When a couple can agree on property division, division of debts, child custody and support issues, and visitation issues, the chances are high they will not have to go to court. The couple would draft and sign an agreement and their attorneys can deal with the court filings and approvals.

When Property Division is Contested

California is a community property state. Community property is classified as any assets which the couple came into possession of during their marriage. Exceptions to community property include inheritances, gifts, and settlements from personal injury lawsuits. However, there are cases where community property may not result in assets being equally divided between the spouses including:
  • Property acquired before the marriage — when one partner had an asset coming into the marriage, it is considered sole property. During the marriage, providing they have not given up any rights to the property, it remains sole property.
  • Pension and profit-sharing plans — in some cases, a spouse has a pension or profit-sharing plan as part of a job they held prior to the marriage and continued throughout the marriage. Generally, only the portion of the accounts generated during the marriage would be considered community property.
  • One spouse is member of military — military divorces are subject to "minimum' time a couple is married. In most cases, a divorced spouse is not entitled to benefits such as pension or medical benefits if the marriage has not lasted at least 10 years.

When Child Custody is Contested in California

One of the most difficult issues parents must deal with in a California divorce is that of custody of the children. Contested child custody hearings, occur when one parent files a request for order and the other files a dissent. The courts will generally appoint a third-party to perform an evaluation and report back prior to the hearing. The judge will then decide on legal and physical custody of the children. Here is what this means:
  • Physical Custody — the court may award physical custody of the child to one or both parents. Joint physical custody means the child will split their time between the home of each parent. Generally, this is not a 50/50 division of time. Instead, the court will work with each parent and lay out a schedule for where the child will be.
  • Legal Custody – when a parent is granted legal custody, they are charged with making all decision which will impact the child. These decisions include religious training, education, and health care. Unless there is a valid reason to not pursue it, the court will generally grant both parents legal custody to ensure they come to an agreement on these matters.
When one parent is awarded physical custody of a child, a parenting plan (or visitation plan) must be put into place. Unless there are circumstances which would endanger the child, these plans are designed to ensure the child is developing a relationship with both parents, not just the one they are living with most of the time.

Support Payments for Children and Spouses

Supporting children financially until they reach adulthood is the responsibility of both parents. Generally, if one parent has physical custody, the non-custodial parent will be asked to pay support to the custodial parent. When parents cannot agree on a dollar amount, the court will take various factors into account and set the amount of payment. This amount then becomes part of the final decree and is considered a court ordered payment. Failure to make child support paymentscould result in the non-paying party facing contempt of court charges, losing their professional license, and having their income tax refunds seized for payment. Alimony payments are handled differently than child support. Spousal support is intended to be a temporary bridge until the receiving spouse is able to be self-supporting. Courts will look at various factors including length of marriage, division of assets, earning capacity, and physical health of both spouses before making a determination. When couples cannot agree on small matters, the bigger issues they are facing can become even more complicated. Generally, the more a couple can agree upon before filing for divorce with the family court, the better for both parties. Whether you are dealing with a contested or uncontested divorce in California, contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop at (619) 299-9780 and schedule a free consultation. You will see why our four decades of serving clients matters.

Continue reading What Are Contested vs Uncontested Divorces in California...

What Does the Average Divorce Cost in California?

Divorces are messy, time-consuming, and costly. The state where you file for divorce, the complexity of your marital estate, and how successfully you can work with your soon-to-be ex-spouse resolving issues pertaining to your divorce will play a role in the overall cost of your divorce. The more issues you fail to reach an agreement on, the more likely you are to face higher than average costs.

Hourly Costs of California Divorce Attorneys

Generally speaking, a family law attorney will charge between $300 and $365 per hour in California.  Divorces can be time-consuming, the shortest time is usually eight months while the longest time is generally 20 months. On average, a divorce takes approximately 15 months between the initial filing and the divorce being finalized. This time may be longer or shorter depending on whether some issues can be resolved before going to court. When a couple has children, the overall proceedings may also take longer. Couples should anticipate costs of between $17,000 and $26,000 for the total cost of a California divorce. It is important to review some reasons why divorces can take so much time.

California Divorces and Property Division

One of the first issues a divorcing couple will have to contend with is property division. California is a community property state which means any assets (or debts) accumulated during the marriage are property of both spouses. However, there are some things you should be aware of which can change the "value" of your marital estate including:
  • Sole property - any property which one spouse had prior to the marriage is considered sole property of the spouse who had the property. Additionally, any settlements reached in personal injury cases, inherited assets, or gifts given to one partner remain the sole property of the spouse and are not considered community property.
  • Property covered by pre or post-marital agreements - some couples sign prenuptial agreements, or enter into similar agreements after they are married. Any property which is explicitly mentioned in a valid agreement as belonging to one spouse or the other would be honored by the courts.
  • Commingled property - if one spouse worked in a company prior to marriage and they were earning funds in a pension plan, the amounts deposited prior to the marriage, and after the couple was separated would be considered sole property.
  • Property obtained after separation - any property (or debt) accumulated after the couple is no longer cohabitating would belong to the partner who acquired the property.
As you can see, resolving property disputes is not always straightforward, even with community property laws. Additionally, if one or both spouses have an interest in a business, or they have a very high combined net worth, the process could be even more complicated.

Child Custody and Support Issues Impacting California Divorce Costs

While parents feel they must act in the best interest of their children, in nearly all divorce cases there are disagreements over child custody. These disagreements result in divorces getting delayed and increased costs. Should the issue of child custody need to be decided by the family court, there are a couple of options which the judge has. These include:
  • Legal custody - legal custody impacts the decisions which are made for the child including health care, education, and where the child lives. Legal custody may be awarded to one parent or both. If both parents are awarded legal custody, they will make decisions about important issues after consulting with one another.
  • Physical custody - this impacts where the child will live. Like legal custody, physical custody may be awarded to both parents. This does not always mean the child will spend the exact amount of time with each parent, but there is a mutual agreement on when the child spends their time and the time between parents is divided as equally as possible.
Once custody has been determined, then the matter of child support must be addressed. Legally, both parents are expected to contribute to the financial welfare of a child. Various issues such as the age and health of each parent, earning capacity, and other factors will be taken into consideration when calculating support. When physical custody is awarded solely to one parent, the non-custodial parent generally pays child support to the custodial parent.

Contested Versus Uncontested Divorces

Another factor which will play a significant role in the final cost of a California divorce is whether the divorce is contested. Contesting the "notion" of divorce seldom occurs because the court is unlikely to stop a divorce where one spouse is determined to move forward. Generally, once a spouse has made that decision, there is no turning back. Contested divorce usually means the couple cannot agree on issues including child support, custody arrangements, visitation and parenting plans, or spousal support. When this happens, a judge will make those decisions on behalf of the couple. Keep in mind, if a divorce is contested, versus the couple working out most issues before going to court, nothing is really final. Appeals can be filed if one spouse adamantly disagrees with a specific ruling such as who has legal or physical custody, or the judge orders the marital home to be sold and one party does not want it sold, or a judge orders spousal support and the person ordered to begin paying support contests the ruling.

Divorces Are Fraught With Problems Clouded by Emotions

Divorce is never easy, whether a couple has been married five years or five decades. Regardless of the circumstances, emotions often get the best of the involved parties. The more issues which are contentious, the more complicated, and therefore the more expensive a California divorce proceeding will be. Whether your spouse has just informed you they are filing for divorce, or you are planning to file for divorce, you should seek assistance from a certified specialist in family law in California. Contact a family law attorney who has experience handling all types of divorce cases as soon as possible. Working with an experienced lawyer can help you save money and time, particularly if you can agree with your soon to be ex-spouse on some major issues.

Continue reading What Does the Average Divorce Cost in California?...

Current California Divorce Statistics

Divorce is always a possibility. The number of divorces annually in the United States has declined significantly over the past two decades from an average of 4 per 1,000 people in the population  in 2000 to an average of 2.9 in the same population in 2018 according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). However, these numbers may not tell the entire story for California because for several years, we had a higher percentage of divorces than many other states, in some cases, as much as two times the national average.

California Divorce Rates Show Improvement Over Time

In 2012, Orange County CA was highlighted in an article in the Orange County Register. The article showed that on any given day, 33 people were filing for divorce. This is a staggering number of divorce cases which reflected the overall area could have a divorce rate of as much as 10 times higher than the national average. Most recently, U.S. News published a list of states with the highest and lowest divorce rates. In this study, which was a 1 year American Community Survey where  California ranked among the 10th lowest states for divorces, 6.5 percent for every married woman. By any count, this is still a high number and anyone who is currently married should take the steps needed to protect themselves today in the event their marriage does end in divorce.

Most Common Reasons For Divorce

There are no two couples who are the same, and as a result, divorces occur for any number of reasons. There have been studies in the past which indicated the major contributing factors which led to divorce were  infidelity, conflict, and lack of commitment. However, when these major factors were mixed with domestic violence, or substance abuse, the chances of a divorce occurring were even higher.

Complex Divorce Issues When Couples Cannot Agree

While statistics are fascinating to review, it is important to remember there are people behind the numbers. Every divorce statistic represents at least two people and in many cases, they also represent children of the marriage. Divorce proceedings, despite no fault divorces, are difficult for everyone involved. A divorce requires couples to deal with issues such as child custody, property division, and support issues. Both parties believe they are right, neither wants to give up their grasp on their children, and both are concerned about finances moving forward. A skilled divorce attorney can help you look beyond the statistics and navigate the issues which are common in a divorce proceeding.  Some issues you will have to resolve include:
  • Property Division - California is a community property state which means most assets acquired during the marriage will be divided equally between the spouses at the time of a divorce. This can be complex when there is a large marital estate with more than one home and a business. This is one reason it is important to speak with a family law attorney to help you preserve your interests.
  • Child Custody and Parenting - coming to an agreement about where your children will live and what visitation schedule will be followed is important. For most parents, making this decision together is generally in the best interest of the children. Rather than allow the courts to make this decision on your behalf, it is almost always preferable to attempt to work this out between the parents.
  • Child and Spousal Support - both parents have a moral and legal obligation to ensure their children's financial stability. In California, there is a formula used by the courts to determine who pays child support and how much is paid. Spousal support depends on numerous factors and may be temporary to allow one spouse to return to work. You should speak with your attorney whether you may be a recipient of support, or a payer of support. The determination is generally based on factors spelled out in California's family law code.
Several issues must be resolved between partners or it is left up to the courts to make those decisions on your behalf.

Post Divorce Issues to Be Resolved

Just because a divorce is final does not always mean all issues are resolved. Problems with payment of support, failure of one partner to liquidate assets and provide the other partner with their share, and other issues can occur even after a divorce is finalized. In these cases, it may be necessary to file with the courts to request the non-compliant ex-spouse be held in contempt of court. Partners who have previously created estate plans will also need to consider modifying their plans to reflect their new reality. An estate plan can also help protect your children's future, making it even more important.

The Varying Impact of California Divorce Costs

Every divorce is different and the more you and your soon to be ex-spouse can agree upon, the less costly it will be for everyone both financially and emotionally. Since California is a no-fault divorce state, when the two parties can reach an agreement, the costs associated with a divorce will be lower. Parents must remember they should keep the lines of communication open, particularly when there are children. Parents with children will have to continue to be involved in each other's lives as they make important decisions about their children's health, education, and other life events. Remember, the courts will make decisions on your behalf when you cannot reach an agreement between you and your spouse so it is important to have an attorney advocating on your behalf. The courts seldom, if ever, automatically defer to one parent or another when determining custody issues, instead their goal is to make a decision based on what is best for the children. Divorce is traumatic for everyone and you need someone who can guide you through the process. The Law Office of Steven M. Bishop, CFLS, has the experience necessary to achieve your goals. Let a lawyer who is a Certified Family Law Specialist help you with all issues pertaining to your divorce for the best possible outcome. Call us at 619-724-4547 or contact us online to schedule a no-obligation consultation today. --- Orange County Register: I did not directly link to this because the piece is highlighting a local mediator.

Continue reading Current California Divorce Statistics...

Community Property Rights in California for Unmarried Couples

According to statistics published by the Pew Research Center, nearly 60 percent of adults 18 to 44 have lived with a partner without being married. Reviewing the statistics as they pertain to younger generations, more are opting to live with partners outside of marriage which has become more acceptable over the past few decades. While the percentages of adult who have lived together is still quite low, around seven percent, this still means there are concerns about property rights for many people.

Common Law Marriage: No Longer the "Rule"

Colorado, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas (calls it "informal marriage"), and Utah all fully recognize common law marriage. Other states including Georgia, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have specific "cut-off" dates on when the couple began their live-in relationship. California, however, does not recognize common law marriages in any form, which means community property division rights are not recognized. All other states, some of which had previously established legally recognized common law marriages, have abolished them.

Exceptions to Community Property Rights for Unmarried Couples

As with many legal questions, there are exceptions to community property in California, even when a couple is not married. Some of these include:
  • Jointly held credit accounts — even after a breakup is finalized between couples who are living together, any joint accounts where both parties signed for the debt leaves both parties responsible for such debt.
  • Jointly held real estate — if the parties purchase real estate, or other real property, during the time they are living together, assuming the property ownership documents reflect both names, then both parties are considered owners. The parties would have to agree on how to divide such property.
  • Cohabitation Property Agreements — these agreements are similar in nature to a pre or postnuptial agreement with the exception they are not made between a couple who is contemplating marriage, or already married. These agreements can be extremely beneficial to both parties.

Financial Support After Living Together

There may be specific instances where one partner in a non-marital relationship seeks financial support following a breakup. This support is known by the non-legal term of "palimony" which in effect means non-marital partner support. While one partner may be financially responsible to provide for any child or children born during the relationship through the payment of child support, non-spouse financial support is much more difficult to obtain in California. Some people will recall the legal case Marvin v. Marvin. This case made the argument that unmarried partners may receive the equivalent of spousal support in the event the relationship ends. However, that does not necessarily mean such financial support is automatic, nor is it necessary easy to prove it is warranted. In general, financial support of a non-spouse after a long-term live-in relationship ends involves filing a lawsuit claiming the right to support. The courts will look at the same data they would review in the event a spouse was seeking alimony following a divorce including:
  • Assets and income of both partners
  • Marketable skills of the person requesting support
  • Whether the person required to pay can afford to pay
  • What standard of living the parties enjoyed as a couple
  • How long the relationship lasted
  • Whether the person requesting support helped support the other's career or education
  • The age and health of the involved parties
Keep in mind, there is no absolute right to financial support for a non-spouse partner in California. However, if you believe you may have a case for non-marital support, it is best to speak with a family law attorney who can help you determine if you may have a case for filing a request for support.

Why Cohabiting Agreements Make Sense

Like a pre or postnuptial agreement, many couples are reluctant to enter into any agreement pertaining to finances as they feel it is a signal their relationship will not last. However, this type of agreement can be especially helpful for couples who are living together without the benefit of marriage for numerous reasons. When couples live together, chances are they are both bringing certain assets into the relationship. To ensure the assets remain their sole possessions in the event the relationship deteriorates, it is helpful to have a document which describes such property. These types of agreements can help ensure your personal property remains your own. Additionally, a cohabitation agreement can be helpful for long-term relationships even when the partners do not decide to separate later. For example, if a couple moves in together and they are together for numerous years, and one dies, the remaining partner has no rights as far as the estate of the other partner unless one of two situations exist (a) there is an agreement which the partners entered into or (b) the deceased partner's will specifically bequeaths property to the surviving partner.

Family Law or Estate Planning Firm

When you are involved in a long-term relationship without the legal benefits of marriage, you and your partner should discuss how you wish to deal with financial matters in the event one of you loses your life or if the relationship should deteriorate. This is simply a smart thing to do and a step that protects both parties. Many of the issues you will face, which are similar to those issues faced by married couples, including financial support and property division in the event of a breakup can, and should, be resolved prior to the deterioration of a relationship.  This process will protect both partners in a long-term relationship. If you are entering into a relationship with another person, and you are interested in learning about the ways you can protect yourself either through the use of a cohabitation agreement, or by an estate plan, you should take the time to learn what protections can be obtained under California law. You can learn more about your options by contacting The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop at (619) 299-9780 and setting up an appointment with an attorney who can help you understand your options. For more than four decades, Attorney Bishop has been committed to helping area residents with some of the most complex legal issues they are facing regarding family law and estate planning.

Continue reading Community Property Rights in California for Unmarried Couples...

Will I Get Alimony After My California Divorce?

Despite California being a community property state, there are still disagreements over finances when it comes to dissolution of a marriage. Divorces are messy — they are even more messy when one spouse has dedicated their marriage to raising a family and taking care of the home foregoing the opportunity to pursue a career. Oftentimes, this will result in the working spouse being required to make alimony payments to the non-working spouse.

Who is Entitled to Collect Alimony Under California Laws?

It is important to remember, alimony payments, or spousal support, can be awarded to either spouse, regardless of gender. The courts will take a hard look at a number of factors when considering alimony payments including:
  • Ability to earn a living
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Amount of child support (if any) awarded
  • Assets of both parties
  • Health and age of both parties
  • Length of marriage
While some people believe a marriage of less than 10 years means they will not have to pay alimony, this is a myth. In many cases, the court will order temporary alimony payments with an "expiration" date which is generally less than the term of the marriage. In a long-term marriage, the court may order permanent alimony payments.

Common Misconceptions About California Alimony Payments

One common myth about alimony is that it is meant to be punitive. This is not the case in any way. Regardless of the reasons for your divorce, there will not be an increase in the amount of alimony you can be awarded. Some other misconceptions include:
  • Once alimony is ordered by the court it cannot be altered — this is not true. If you are awarded alimony by the court there are circumstances where you may lose alimony or have the amount increased. Talk to your attorney about this further.
  • If I do not want to work it will not impact alimony — this is also not true. Alimony in California is designed to be a bridge to allow the recipient to transition from being part of a couple to being a single person who is financially self-sufficient. Should the recipient of alimony refuse to seek alternative methods of supporting themselves, the court could reduce or eliminate alimony. There are exceptions to this, particularly in long-term marriages which you should discuss with your family law attorney.
  • Child support has no bearing on alimony — this is also an inaccurate statement. When alimony is calculated, it is done after child support is calculated. This means in many cases, the overall total of alimony awarded is based on a lower income scale because the court's first obligation is to ensure the financial stability of the child or children.
  • Sole assets or assets awarded in divorce will not impact alimony — this is false. If one spouse has sole assetssuch as an inheritance, recovery from a lawsuit, or assets they brought into the marriage, these assets may be considered when a court awards alimony.

Alimony in Short-Term Marriages Versus Long-Term Marriages

Because the length of your marriage does have an impact on alimony, it is important you understand how time factors into alimony awards. In most cases, the courts take the position a marriage which lasted 10 years or less will result in alimony being awarded for one-half of the length of the marriage. This means if your marriage lasted six years, you may be entitled to collect alimony for only three years. For long-term marriages, other factors including health, education, and employability will be more heavily weighted. In marriages where one spouse provided support while another spouse enriched their earning capacity by either working, or caring for children and the home, or otherwise helping their spouse will be considered as well.  In general, the longer the marriage, the longer the duration of alimony — and the more likely alimony will be permanent instead of temporary. To ensure permanent alimony is awarded, the final agreement or judgment must not contain a "Gavron Warning" which is defined as "fair warning to the supported spouse that s/he is expected to become self-supporting." Your family lawyer can explain this to you further, as it may not apply in your case.

What You Should Know About Alimony Modifications

Once an order has been issued for alimony payments, either party may request the court review the order for modification provided there are no stipulations in the agreement which prohibit such a request. Before a modification may be requested however, there must be a material change which warrants the request or the court may simply deny such a request. Material changes may include:
  • Paying spouse lost well-paying job and had to settle for a lesser-paying job
  • Paying spouse has retired from employment
  • Paying spouse has received a substantial increase in wages
  • Receiving spouse is now working
  • Receiving spouse has inherited money/received a windfall (winning lottery, etc.)
  • Receiving spouse is cohabiting or remarried
  • Children of the marriage have reached age of majority and child support is no longer being received by the spouse receiving alimony
Keep in mind, there may be other circumstances which would warrant an increase or decrease in alimony payments and if you believe you should be seeking a modification for additional alimony payments, you should speak with an attorney who has experience handling these types of cases.

Want to Know More About California Alimony Following a Divorce?

As you can see, there are many factors which will be taken into consideration to determine whether you will receive alimony following a California divorce. No single answer is the same for any two people because no two people's circumstances are identical. Instead of trying to determine it on your own, your best answers to your alimony questions can be provided by an experienced lawyer at The Law Office of Steven M. Bishop, CFLS. Your family law attorney will then review the issues specific to your case, advise you of what steps you can take legally, and help you understand what factors may impact whether you will be awarded alimony following a California divorce. You can schedule a free phone consultation at our San Diego office by calling us at 619-304-8417 or send us an email today to learn more.

Continue reading Will I Get Alimony After My California Divorce?...

Guide to Community Property Division in California

When you marry or register a domestic partnership in California, the state's Family Codes determine your legal rights and responsibilities. As a legal couple, the state considers you a single entity. Almost everything you acquire during the relationship becomes jointly-owned community property. Before you finalize a divorce, legal separation, or partnership termination, you must document and divide everything you own. The law provides a legal framework for dividing your assets fairly, but the process is often complicated and challenging. You have an opportunity to work out your own community property division arrangement. If you can't agree, eventually a judge will make decisions on your behalf. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Steven M. Bishop can help you resolve your community property concerns. We understand that the process is often emotional and complicated, so we've created a guide to help you understand the basics.

What is Community Property?

Community property includes all of your real property and personal property. To determine an equitable distribution, the court requires a complete assessment of everything you, your spouse, or your partner earned or acquired during your marriage or domestic partnership. When you legally separate, divorce, or terminate your partnership, your community property is subject to a 50/50 division. If you're like many couples, your assets often include:
  • A residence
  • Household furnishings
  • Shares of a business
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Jewelry
  • Cash
  • Bank accounts
  • Vehicles
  • Pension plans
  • Proceeds from a pending personal injury suit or claim
  • Assets in other jurisdictions
  • Clothing and personal effects
  • Pets

Quasi-Community Property

Quasi-community property is an asset you, your spouse, or partner acquire in another state during your marriage. If you lived in the property's jurisdiction, you and your property could be subject to that state's laws or guidelines. When you're divorcing or terminating your relationship in California, your property is simply treated as community property.

Special "Pet Animal" provisions

Some people see their pets as members of the family. During a divorce or termination, this often triggers an emotional ownership dispute. Recently, California became one of many states to consider a pet's welfare during divorce proceedings. While pets are still considered community property, the law leans toward the idea that they are also sentient beings. In granting sole or joint ownership, a judge must consider "...the care of the pet animal…" It's similar to how a judge would evaluate a child custody situation.

What is Separate Property?

Separate property is income or assets that belong only to the acquiring spouse or partner. One example is a car that one partner purchased with their own money prior to formalizing a domestic partnership. The car is considered separate property. It isn't subject to division as community property if it meets one or more of these conditions.
  • A spouse or partner acquires it before marrying or forming a legal partnership.
  • It was purchased with assets acquired before formalizing the relationship.
  • It's a gift or bequest given only to one partner or spouse during the relationship.
  • It was purchased with money from a gift or a bequest given only to one partner or spouse during the marriage.

What is Commingled Property?

A commingling issue occurs when an asset has both separate and community property aspects. This occurs when one or both partners combine pre-marital income to buy a home or other property during their marriage or partnership. Both parties have a separate interest and a community interest that must be evaluated and negotiated when they dissolve their relationship. The separate and community interests can be difficult to evaluate unless the couple keeps detailed records of their separate contributions.

Who is Responsible For a Couple's Debts?

California's property division guidelines also apply to debts and liabilities. As a couple is legally a single entity, both parties are responsible for debts even if only one spouse or partner agreed to the debt. The 50/50 community disposition does not apply to debt a spouse or partner incurred prior to establishing a formal relationship.

Why Would You Need a Retirement Plan Joinder?

A retirement or pension plan is often a valuable joint asset. A judge will order the appropriate distribution as community property, but the process often requires more than an agreement or approval. Depending on the type of retirement plan, a divorcing spouse or terminating partner must join the retirement plan as a party to the divorce. Only then can a judge order the plan to make payments to the entitled spouse or partner.

Do I Have to Comply With a Premarital Agreement?

When a couple executes a premarital agreement, they have a minimal possibility of disputing its provisions. In drafting an agreement, a couple can choose the applicable law and jurisdiction. They can determine property disposition and limit most traditional post-marital rights and obligations. A spouse or partner has limited grounds for disputing a pre-marital agreement.
  • It violates public policy or a criminal statute.
  • One person coerced the other into signing the agreement.
  • It adversely affects a child's right to support.

The Court Has Final Approval

Property often becomes an obstacle to a final dissolution or termination. That's why the court has discretion in finalizing a couple's assets distribution. If necessary, a judge will decide or refer the case for arbitration. If the assets have a value under $50,000, an arbitrator's decision is non-appealable. Although the court encourages divorcing and terminating parties to create their own community property distribution arrangement, the court must eventually sign off on the details.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

Dividing your assets at the end of a relationship is often an agonizing process. You must concentrate on acquisitions and values at a time when your emotions are too complex to focus. Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a Certified Specialist in Family Law. He has assisted clients with their most complicated property distribution issues. He welcomes the opportunity to do the same for you. If you need assistance resolving any aspect of your dissolution or partnership termination, contact Attorney Bishop to schedule a consultation. Call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

Continue reading Guide to Community Property Division in California...

Contact Us Today


Discuss Your Case With An Experienced Family Law Specialist

To talk to our lawyer about your family law issue in a free telephone consultation, please call our office at 619-299-9780. You may also send us an email. We represent people throughout San Diego County in a host of different family law matters.

Map Location

The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation

591 Camino De La Reina, Suite 700

San Diego, CA 92108

Phone: 619-299-9780

Fax: 619-299-0316

Map & Directions