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.

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Blended Families: How to Protect Your Assets

The legal boundaries that once defined marriage and family have gradually expanded over the years. These changes have made marriage and parenthood more inclusive and also more complicated. Marriage is now an exciting option for any couple who wants a full family life. It's often a challenging option as well. It's not unusual for a new marriage to create a blended family that includes newborns, stepchildren, multiple dads, and more than one mom. With so many shifts in obligations and responsibilities, some couples decide that it makes sense to protect their separately acquired assets rather than combine them.  If you're on the verge of creating a blended family, it probably feels natural to want to share your financial advantages. As you must consider your future, it also makes sense to retain some of your assets and take steps to protect them. It's important to finalize a financial plan before you settle into your new household. You and your future spouse must decide if and how you should protect your assets and what you need to do to ensure your desired outcome.   Attorney‌ ‌Steven‌ ‌M.‌ ‌Bishop‌‌ ‌understands‌ ‌that‌ it's important for couples to address financial issues before they begin a new marriage. As‌ ‌a‌ ‌Certified‌ ‌Specialist‌ ‌in‌ ‌Family‌ ‌Law,‌ he's seen what happens when couples fail to establish financial ground rules. Attorney Bishop believes that if you plan ahead of time, you can address your finances and begin your new family with one less complication. Here are a few things to consider.

1. You Should Consider a Premarital Agreement

In California, premarital agreements help you formalize your financial decisions and protect your assets. As you are entering what you likely anticipate will be a long-term relationship, you should try to make the process as stress-free as possible. California Family Code, Division 4, Part 5, Article 2 establishes the guidelines for premarital agreements. The codes give you a great deal of flexibility to create an agreement that works best for you, your partner, and your family.  Premarital agreements allow you to determine what happens with current and future interests in real and personal property. This includes current and future income and earnings.

2. You Must Be Open and Honest

To create a premarital agreement that accomplishes your goals, you must include financial arrangements that satisfy both parties. This requires openness, sharing, and honest communication about your financial concerns. Before you begin negotiating your agreement, gather all documents that confirm your real property, income, investments, retirement benefits, and other assets. Full disclosure is key to establishing an agreement that satisfies both spouses and holds up in court. Premarital agreements are generally enforceable, but they are revocable under these and other circumstances. 
  • One of the parties didn't execute the agreement voluntarily
  • The agreement was unconscionable, as defined under §1615 
  • One party didn't have full knowledge of the other party's assets

3. You Must Consider Every Member of the Family 

Marriage and family are no longer the narrowly-defined institutions they once were. In determining what ultimately happens with your assets, you must consider everyone within your family circle. California Family Codes give marital relationships and domestics partnerships virtually the same status. A legally married couple can be a man and a woman, two women, or two men. The parent/child relationship has gone through classification changes as well. Adults can become parents through natural childbirth, adoption, guardianship, or assistive reproduction. California's Uniform Parentage Act further expands family options by declaring that a child can have more than two parents. Exes, grandparents, and others gain legal rights and responsibilities based on a person's "presumed" parenthood status  Once you enter a legal partnership, you become bound by California Family Codes. Before you make any family-related decisions about your assets, you must understand and consider the rights and responsibilities of each parent for the children in your new blended household. 

4. You Must Consider The Children's Best Interests

If a family comes before a California Family Court, the court makes decisions based on the child's best interests. California courts accept most premarital agreements as they are written as long as they don't adversely affect a child's right to financial support. 

5. Change the Appropriate Supporting Documents 

As divorce, separation, and remarriage sometimes occur, you can't ignore the possibility of future changes in your blended family. That's why your life insurance policies, wills, trusts, and other accounts and financial instruments must mirror the terms of your premarital agreement. If you plan to insulate accounts and financial instruments from being considered part of your community estate, you must make the appropriate changes. 
  • Change policy and account beneficiaries, where allowed.
  • Consider choosing a neutral, unrelated party as the executor of your will. 
  • Before you acquire real property, consider whether you wish to include your spouse as a joint owner. 
  • Set up a living trust with a trustee to enforce decisions according to your instructions.

6. Complete Your Premarital Agreement and Sign it

Your premarital agreement can't just be a work in progress. You must formalize it in a properly executed format. Your goal should be to complete your agreement and sign it in time to become effective on your wedding day. To make sure your agreement fills all legal requirements, you should have a legal professional create the final version and retain a copy. You can save legal fees if you work together and establish the terms of your agreement ahead of time. 

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

Life gets complicated when you're establishing a household that blends two families. While you're planning a future for your new spouse and children, you must consider every alternative for yourself. Whether you want to finance your ongoing lifestyle or plan for your golden years, protecting your assets is a prudent move.  Attorney Steven M. Bishop has worked with couples experiencing every stage of marriage. He has helped many clients through the legal challenges they encountered during marriage and divorce. He recognizes the benefits of protecting your assets to ensure your future. As you prepare to form your blended family, contact Attorney Bishop if you need more information about protecting your assets. To schedule a consultation, call us at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.  

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How The Length of Your Marriage May Affect Your Divorce in California

Divorces and legal separations are difficult for everyone involved. The idea of transitioning to a new life is usually unimaginable when you're ending a long-term marriage. The process often creates lifestyle changes and financial inequities between the two new households. These changes can be particularly devastating if one spouse stayed home to care for the family while the other built a career. California Family Codes consider the length of a marriage when ruling on divorces and separations. They provide solutions that anticipate how a divorce may leave one spouse with an unstable financial future. The court's overall goal is to ensure that both spouses maintain the standard of living they were used to doing the marriage. When long-term marriages dissolve, the solutions must meet a number of inherent challenges.

A Certified Specialist in Family Law

Attorney Steven M. Bishop understands how the length of your marriage influences spousal support payments and other key legal outcomes. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop helps clients work through these and other difficult issues. He has assisted numerous couples in establishing agreements and working out complex details. He has helped his clients resolve their differences, both inside and outside the courtroom.

Marriages of "Long Duration"

California Family Court "...retains jurisdiction indefinitely…" when it considers a marriage one of long duration. This usually involves unions lasting 10 years or more. Unless divorcing or separating spouses agree to the contrary, the court has the discretion to issue a spousal support order based on perceived need. When ruling on a marriage of long duration, they also have the right to leave the order open-ended.  Final orders don't necessarily include a termination date. The court retains the authority to reassess and reevaluate all spousal support and community property issues in the future. Other than a few exceptions, all assets and liabilities go into a community estate. The court uses its discretion when dividing the estate between spouses. When spouses are exiting a marriage of long duration, the court's extended jurisdiction grants indefinite discretion to reassess or reevaluate any decision. Either spouse may appeal a decision or seek a modification.

Duration-Related Spousal Support Factors

California Family Codes address many of the spousal support factors that arise when a long-term marriage ends. §4320 (f)simply names "The duration of the marriage" as a factor. This brief mention is just one of the items under "Factors to be Considered in Ordering Support." Several of the described issues and circumstances demonstrate the court's need for wide discretion when ruling on a long-term marriage.

Earning Capacity

In awarding spousal support the court evaluates each spouse's ability to earn enough to maintain their previous living standard. The process considers their education, training, and skills in light of the existing job market. One important factor it considers is the effect of a spouse's devotion to "domestic duties." When spouses remain unemployed or underemployed for long periods, they often must retrain to re-enter the job market. Depending on the spouse's age, the available jobs won't necessarily provide a substantial enough income. When a young parent stays at home instead of working, it establishes an early financial gap between spouses. If they continue the roles over an extended period or a lifetime, the gap rarely closes. Typically, it becomes a problem if the couple divorces or separates. A Pew Research Center study of stay-at-home parents shows that the stay-at-home spouse scenario is fairly common. Their most recent study determined that 7% of male parents in the U.S. and 27% of female parents stay home to take care of their children. Some spouses remain in the home to care for aging parents. Whatever the reason for exiting the job market, long bouts of voluntary unemployment or underemployment often affect future employability. As AARP's  Working at 50+ page explains, there are plenty of jobs for people aged 50 and over, but they often require additional training. Over time, stay-at-home spouses age-out of consideration for their preferred careers. If they're degreed or trained for a specific profession, they often lose accreditation for which they previously trained.

Contribution to Spouse's Career

When one spouse excels, it's sometimes because the other spouse sacrificed their money, their emotional well-being, and their own careers. That sacrifice often comes as financial contributions to a college education or sole responsibility for household duties. Some spouses simply fall into a routine of caring for children alone while the other spouse builds a career. A spouse's financial and emotional support help elevate a family's lifestyle. When these arrangements continue over time, they often leave a spouse unqualified to re-enter the job market.

Standard of Living

The court assesses a spouse's need for support based on their established standard of living. This often becomes an issue during a long term marriage. Spouses work together for years building their net worth. Often the standard improves because one spouse performs all the domestic duties while the other earns the income. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement if spouses stay married. When they separate or dissolve their marriage, one spouse often bears the burden of an unexpected lifestyle change.

Age and Health

Age and health often become dual considerations when a couple has remained married for a long time. As couples age, they often deal with multiple illnesses and medical conditions. Because of age-related physical and immune system issues, older people are less able to recover from an illness. They are more likely to require long-term care.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

If you're considering a divorce from a long-term spouse, contact Attorney Steven M. Bishop for comprehensive legal assistance and compassionate advice. Attorney Bishop recognizes that no divorce is easy or simple, so he works closely with clients to provide the help they need. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

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Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Planning to Divorce

When you're going through the planning stages of a divorce, it's a tough transition for everyone. Despite the potential for unimaginable stress, you must still make prudent choices. That's often difficult when you're experiencing so many emotional changes. Still, it's important that you strike a balance between living a normal life and avoiding the mistakes that inevitably make your divorce even more stressful. Attorney Steven M. Bishop understands that divorce is hard, even during the planning stages.  As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, he's often seen consequences when a divorcing couple makes mistakes before seeking legal advice. He created this list of the top 5 divorce planning mistakes to encourage you to think carefully before you act.

1. Including Your Children in Your Conflict

As parents, you must try to keep your children out of the middle of what is essentially an adult conflict. That's often difficult when they're the object of so many critical decisions. California Family Statutes include a helpful standard that should guide your actions before, during, and after your divorce. Their goal is to make decisions based on "the best interests of the child." That must be your goal as well. The Psychology Today article, "Understanding the Effects of High-Conflict Divorce on Kids" discusses how profoundly parental conflict can change a child. Studies have shown that bickering parents cause childhood problems from mental health to self-esteem. You and your future ex-partner or ex-spouse must decide together how to meet this challenge. Here are a few solutions to consider.
  • Provide reasonable age-appropriate answers to your children's questions. They deserve simple facts about what's going on. If they can't get answers from you, they will find them elsewhere.
  • Don't argue in front of the children. The above article suggests communicating via email to avoid emotional interactions.
  • Consider accessing the California Court-recommended website, Families Change. It provides resources to help parents, children, and teens deal with divorce.
  • Work together on a parenting plan that's acceptable to both parents.
  • Establish workable traditions for dealing with future conflicts.

2. Insisting on Your Day in Court

Some spouses and partners want their day in court. They want a judge to hear what they've been going through. They want the court to grant them sole custody of the children. They want spousal and child support. They want to air their dirty laundry, no matter the emotional cost. If you're anticipating this volatile, TV-version of the divorce process, you should probably consider non-court alternatives instead. Collaborative Divorce: You and your spouse or partner work with attorneys who help you negotiate an agreement without going to court. You may seek input from specialists to help you make decisions about child support, community property, and other matters. You can sign a document designating that you agree to resolve your differences outside the courtroom. Mediation: Divorcing parties and their attorneys work with a trained mediator to discuss their divorce issues. It's facilitated negotiation where the mediator encourages the parties to communicate and find solutions. The mediator has no authority to make decisions on your behalf.

3. Going Into More Debt

If shopping is your go-to activity for easing stress, you're not alone. While shopping might be the ideal activity to calm you during your divorce process, it's probably not a good idea. Whether you pay with credit or cash, your purchases will affect your divorce-related financial issues one way or another. Before you plan a shopping trip, you must consider your financial future. You will eventually settle into a new home or apartment. You'll have to pay all the bills you and your spouse or partner once managed together. If you don't have custody of your children, the court will order you to pay child support. If you do have custody of your children, you will likely pay extra expenses that aren't included in the support agreement. You'll owe court costs and legal fees. Also, when you spend money, your spouse could accuse you of depleting community assets.

4. Hiding your assets

Divorce often brings out a natural instinct to protect your property and financial resources. Some divorcing spouses do this by attempting to hide them. You might think up an elaborate plan to retain assets your spouse might not know about. That's something you should never consider for two reasons.
  1. Your spouse will likely find out.
  2. If you lie about your assets during a divorce process, it's perjury.
If your soon-to-be-ex suspects that you're hiding assets, she or he can hire a forensic accountant to confirm or disprove their suspicions. Forensic accountants specialize in criminal matters, but they also provide valuable services for divorcing spouses. It's a fee that spouses gladly pay when they believe their future exes are hiding community property assets. If the Family Court learns about your subterfuge, the judge has the option of referring you for criminal prosecution. When you misrepresent your assets during a court process, you're not simply misleading your spouse. You're lying to the court, and that's perjury. While the court might not choose to refer you for criminal charges, it has the discretion to use that option.

5. Forgetting to Change Your Beneficiaries

Some life insurance policies won't pay if the beneficiary doesn't have an insurable interest in the insured person. Not all financial instruments work that way. If your spouse or partner is a named beneficiary on your will, irrevocable trust, or some other financial instrument, you must make the changes immediately. Retirement plans are a little more complicated. You can't remove an existing spouse's name from an ERISA-governed retirement plan. If your plan doesn't become a part of the community estate, you should change the named beneficiary as soon as you can do it legally.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

As you consider divorce or legal separation, you must know and understand your legal rights and responsibilities. Even if you don't understand the legal ramifications of your actions, the court will still hold you responsible. Contact Attorney Steven M. Bishop to schedule a consultation. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, he can help you from the early planning stages to the final disposition. To schedule your consultation contact Attorney Bishop at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

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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.

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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?...

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...

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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.

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Phone: 619-299-9780

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