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.

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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.

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Is My Spouse Entitled to Half of My San Diego Business?

California has a divorce rate of 6.7 percent according to U.S. News. While California may not fall into the top tier of divorce rates, everyone understands divorce is not easy and there are always disagreements. One of the primary things spouses typically face challenges with is division of property. Since California is a community property state, making property division even more complicated, you should consult with a family law attorney immediately to ensure what steps you need to preserve your assets. Understanding Community Property as it Pertains to Divorce Community property is defined as "joint ownership of all property acquired during a marriage except property acquired by gift or will". This rule also applies to debt incurred by spouses during marriage. The court  deems any property accumulated during the marriage as community property since the spouses equally shared in the acquisition of the property. This means in general, property and debt are generally divided equally between spouses at the time of their divorce.

Businesses Structured as Partnerships or With Multiple Owners

When a business is formed during a marriage in California in general it is considered community property. Should you form a business as a sole proprietorship, the decision by the court is easy: Your spouse would likely be entitled to half the business. There are other complex issues to deal with however including how the business is structured. Clearly if your spouse is a partner, they are entitled to their portion of the business. However, there may be other partners in the business and there may be specific wording in the corporate documents which indicate each parties rights should they retire, divorce, or die while the business is still operational. In these cases, the family court would likely review the documents in making a determination about the disposition of the business, or the assets of the business.

Spouse Role in a Business May Impact Division

Another consideration which must be part of the discussion about your San Diego business when dealing with a divorce is the role your spouse may have played in the business. However, if your spouse had a part in the day-to-day operations of the business, there is a chance the judge hearing your divorce case may feel they are entitled to a portion of the business. The more involved the spouse, the more likely this is to occur, particularly if you and your spouse cannot agree between yourselves, or if you have an agreement which seems to treat your spouse unfairly.  These are issues you should discuss with your family law attorney when you are talking to them about your divorce and your business.

Exceptions to Community Property Rules

In addition to property which one spouse may inherit or have gifted to them, post and prenuptial agreements have an impact on property division. In the event an agreement specifies the business is considered individual property, then your spouse would not be entitled to half. The other case where property may be considered sole property is assets which were owned prior to the marriage. Keep in mind, if a business owner is divorcing and the business was started prior to the marriage the court may deem the business separate property. When it comes to a business, there may be other complicating factors. For example, if a spouse starts a business using  funds which were bequeathed to them in a will, given as a gift, or which they had prior to the marriage, the rights of the spouse may come down to a determination by the courts. In some cases, the court may determine the business is entirely separate property, and in other cases, they may use other, more complicated calculations.

California Courts and Business Ownership

Family courts in California have specific ways to determine what portion of a business is considered community property. The first method is known as the Pereira method and the other is known as the Van Camp method. Here's how they work:
  • Pereira Method - this calculation involves knowing the value of the business at the time of the marriage and the date of separation. Assuming the growth of the business is due to efforts during the time of the marriage, the increase in value is considered community property.  If one assumes at the time of divorce the business is worth $500,000 and was worth $100,000 at the time of the marriage, the $400,000 would be considered community property subject to equal division.
  • Van Camp Method - this method is used in circumstances where the court cannot determine that you had a substantial role in the businesses' growth. This method is often used in cases of limited partnerships. In general, a spouse would be entitled to half the "usual" salary earned as a limited partner, and not the value of the business. The reasoning behind this is only that amount of money is considered community property.
Divorces are always complicated, and they become more complex when there are business interests at stake. When there is a combination of community property and separate property, division of assets is challenging. You need to work with an attorney who has experience dealing with complex divorce matters to represent you fairly, and to serve as your advocate. In some instances, we may be able to help you preserve more of your business than you might be able to preserve on your own. Because community property laws can be confusing when it comes to a business, you need to discuss these issues with your divorce attorney as quickly as possible. We have also assisted those who fear their spouses may be using their business in an attempt to shield assets from divorce proceedings. We know you have worked hard to grow your business and losing half of your business in a divorce could put your future financial security at risk. When you are concerned about the future of your business because you are going through a divorce contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation at 619-299-9780. We represent people throughout San Diego County in a host of different family law matters.

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How Are Benefits Divided for Divorcing Service Members? 

Divorce is never easy. The process is even more complicated when a spouse is an active military member. As a military couple, your life begins changing when you decide to separate. Active duty assignments often dictate your housing, your children's schools, childcare resources, and many other personal and family circumstances. As with every military-connected concern, very specific guidelines affect your benefits and entitlements, and your divorce process. At The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, we recognize the complexities of navigating a legal system governed by both military and state statutes. We understand that the procedures for dividing military benefits are often complex. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop works to protect your legal and financial rights, and he helps you meet each challenge.

Who Has Jurisdiction Over Your Divorce?

Several federal statutes affect whether a California court has jurisdiction over your divorce and related matters.

Filing Your Divorce Petition

As long as your military spouse doesn't object, you have several filing options. You may file a divorce petition in your state of legal residence, your spouse's state of legal residence, or the state where your spouse is on active duty.

Responding to Your Divorce Petition

A spouse may file a divorce petition against an active military spouse, but the Service Members Civil Relief Act, 50 USC §§ 3901-4043, sometimes prevents the court from taking further action. If a spouse files a divorce petition and the respondent's military duty prevents active participation, the respondent doesn't have to meet the court's timetable. The court also has no right to issue a default judgment. Once a divorce is final, the military will comply with judgments based on a final decree.

Benefits Entitlement

Child Support and Spousal Support

The Defense Finance and Accounting Office will process child support and spousal support payments in compliance with a final divorce decree. The Consumer Credit Protection Act, 15 USC § 1673, limits the amount the DFAO can deduct from an active military member's pay. They will deduct 50 to 65% of a military member's disposable income. The maximum contribution percentage depends on the member's contributions to all dependents, their percentage of a child's overall support, and other factors.

Military Retired Pay Benefit

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses' Protection Act, 10 U.SC., §1408, grants state courts the authority to issue a judgment based on a former spouse's military retired pay. The award must be part of a property settlement and must be included in a final decree. The USFSPA also grants the Department of Justice the means to enforce a state order.

The 10/10 Rule

A divorced spouse may receive a portion of the spouse's military retired pay only if they were married for at least 10 years during a period where the spouse had at least 10 years of military service.

The 20/20/20 Rule

An ex-military spouse is entitled to receive medical benefits and commissary and exchange privileges for life or until he/she remarries. This applies only if the marriage lasted 20 years or more, the spouse has 20+ years of military service, and the couple was married for at least 20-years during which the spouse was active in the military.

Military Service Often Contributes to Marital Discord

Members of the military are our heroes, but their marriages often suffer due to active duty separations and deployment in conflict zones. The Department of Defense examines the most common issues through their "Active Duty Spouses Well Being" surveys. The 2017 results show that 20% of military spouses encountered marital issues with 23% experiencing difficulty after the spouse returned from deployment. Of the spouses interviewed, 51% felt a "high level" of stress and 24% reported unemployment as an issue. Military spouses also reported loneliness, difficulty handling family issues alone, personal and technical problems with spousal communication, childcare complications, and other issues. Sixty percent of responding spouses reported overall satisfaction with military healthcare, income, housing, grocery prices, and community support. Unfortunately, a divorce eliminates or restricts access to these benefits. Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome causes marital problems as well. The Veterans Administration National Center for PTSD cites PTSD as having "...pervasive negative effects on marital adjustment…" Rates for the disorder vary depending on the military mission. Of those involved in recent engagements, the VA estimates that 11 to 20% suffer from PTSD.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

Military divorces are often complicated because they are governed by multiple state and federal guidelines. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop provides compassionate service and helps military spouses work through this complicated process. Reach out to us at (619) 299-9780  or complete our Contact Form to arrange a consultation.

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Can I Relocate My Kids Out of State During Divorce Proceedings in California?

One of the most difficult hurdles during a divorce proceeding every parent will have to deal with is the one pertaining to their children. Unfortunately, while both parents usually agree the well-being and safety is of utmost importance, oftentimes, they disagree on what is required to keep their children safe. In some cases, one parent may be faced with the decision to relocate, often out of state, for job needs, to be closer to immediate family, or for other reasons. However, before you make that decision on your own, it is important to understand your rights, as well as your obligations under California's laws. Relocating a Child During Divorce Proceedings If you have been awarded sole legal custody during a divorce proceeding, you can move with your child to any location deemed safe for the child. However, keeping in mind that the other parent may opt to request the court to intervene, particularly if the custody order under which you have custody is a temporary one. In this case, you should seek guidance from a qualified family lawyer who can help you determine whether your order is temporary or permanent. This could save you legal problems because while you have the right to move out of state, the other parent could dispute that right. Divorce Petitions and Relocation of Children Some parents want to move out of state immediately after being served a divorce petition. This is a bad idea - Chances are, your petition also included a restraining order. These orders are called "automatic temporary restraining orders" and they are in immediate effect and prohibit the removal of a child from the state without written consent from the other parent. If you have physical custody of your child, and the child's other parent has visitation rights and you have a concern they may consider moving the child to another state, you should speak with your attorney immediately. Understanding Divorce and Custody in California The first thing you should do is make sure you have an attorney who understands family law. This is important because you want someone who is going to serve as an advocate for you, and for your children. Child custody in California can be complicated, and orders awarding custody are subject to modification. However, the basics of custody are:

  • Physical custody - this means the child is assigned to live with one parent full time while the other parent typically has visitation rights. Depending on various factors, visitation may be supervised or unsupervised.
  • Sole legal custody - this means one parent makes important decisions for the child. This includes where the child will attend school, makes decisions about religious upbringing and other decisions in the best interest of the child.
  • Joint legal custody - this form of custody allows both parents to have an equal say in important decisions pertaining to the child's upbringing.
  • Joint physical custody - this can be more complicated than it sounds. Joint custody in effect means the child splits their time between both parents. There are some who believe this form of custody has a detrimental effect on the child, but nonetheless, this is often an agreement reached between parents or assigned by a court.
The Court and Relocation Considerations In general, a parent who has sole legal custody of a child has the right to move that child to any location they prefer without consulting with the court or the other parent. However, this does not stop the other parent from requesting a relocation hearing because they do not feel the relocation is in the child's best interest. Some issues the court will take into consideration during these types of hearings include:
  • How far away you intend to move with the child
  • Whether there is potential harm for the child if you were to move
  • What the relationship is between the child and each parent
  • What the child's specific needs are including educational and emotional needs
  • The ability to maintain family relationships after relocation
  • Why the parent is opting for the move (personal relationship, job opportunity, family)
  • The child's overall safety and stability after the move
Understanding Custody Agreements Parents who are considering relocation must have a firm understanding of final custody agreements before making such a move. Even where a parent has sole custody, and therefore the legal right to relocate the child, the court may ask the reasons for the relocation. In some cases, if the court feels the relocation is not in the best interest of the child, they may prevent such a relocation from occurring. Custody, Visitation and Traveling Out of State Parents who share custody, or have visitation agreements also need to understand that either parent who has physical custody of a child at any time is free to cross state lines with the child and go anywhere they choose. The only limitations to this is if a parent has expressed concern about the safety of their child and the court deems that out of state travel would be detrimental to the child. If you believe your child could potentially be in danger traveling out of state, you may be able to seek a modification of your existing agreements pertaining to visitations. Seek guidance from your attorney regarding this issue as soon as you believe it may be a problem. Contact A Certified Specialist in Family Law Family law is a very specific type of legal practice and it is important for you to work with someone who has experience when it comes to issues that pertain to your children, their safety, and their well-being. At the Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation you will find a certified specialist in family law who has experience handling numerous cases pertaining to child custody issues. We understand your concerns and are familiar with California custody laws and can help you understand your legal rights and help you fight to keep your child in the state if you are concerned their other parent is going to move them impacting your relationship with your child. Contact us today at 619-299-9780 and schedule a free consultation and let us help you with your relocation issues and concerns.

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Modifying Child Support Orders Retroactive Due to COVID-19 in California

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Californians conduct every aspect of their lives. These changes have affected all traditional interactions, including those involving the San Diego County Family Court system. In compliance with Governor Newsom’s Executive Orders and Superior Court General Orders, all courthouses and services are temporarily closed to the public. Except for "...certain time-sensitive and essential functions…," affected parties must work within a schedule of court extensions or comply with interim rules. The courts have also suspended e-filings as a document submission alternative. Fortunately, the situation is temporary. As life returns to some semblance of normalcy, the courts will eventually open their doors. That provides little consolation if you are struggling financially because of your current child support arrangement. If you are frustrated with your current support order and need a change, a legal representative can help you decide how best to proceed.

Discuss Your Concerns With an Attorney

Attorney Steven M. Bishop is a certified specialist in family law and a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer. He stays abreast of ongoing changes, so he understands how to navigate legal issues and court challenges.  That is important during these unprecedented times when a pandemic controls our day-to-day activities. Attorney Bishop can provide critical answers to your questions about COVID-19-related support order modifications. With court systems on hold, legal processes are often complicated and tough to manage. Despite temporary court-closings, procedural changes, and delays, he can assist you in initiating a support order modification that takes advantage of a temporary retroactive provision.

Emergency Rules Related to COVID-19

When you need a child support modification order, a temporary delay causes significant hardship. Fortunately, the California Judicial Council recognizes this dilemma. Effective April 20, 2020, they added Rule 13 to its existing list of temporary procedures. Instead of waiting for the court to resume normal operations, you may initiate a child support order modification through an informal process.

Child Support Default: A COVID-19 Legacy

Child support will be a continuing element of concern even after the state's "stay at home" order expires. The temporary business closings that helped minimize the risk of contracting COVID-19 also generated record unemployment numbers. The Employment Development Department reports 99,500 lost non-farm jobs in the state from February through March 12, 2020. The numbers reflect California's fourth-largest job-loss trend on record. It will likely continue when EDD publishes its updated figures on May 22, 2020. Temporary job furloughs have left many workers with no source of regular income. The losses have created a situation where both custodial parents and non-custodial parents are caught up in COVID-19's economic legacy. Some unemployed custodial parents need child support increases to provide food, shelter, and care for their children. Some unemployed parents who must pay child support have difficulty complying with existing agreements. Without some procedural relief, child support accounts will reflect unmanageable delinquencies that may subject non-paying parents to criminal penalties.

Child Support Modification

The San Diego child support system modification process helps ease financial distress for custodial and non-custodial parents. One or both parents may request a child support order modification when a situation changes:
  • Changed income
  • Lost job
  • Incarceration
  • Another child from a different relationship
  • Significant changes in time spent with the non-custodial parent
  • Changes in a child's financial needs
  • Changes in custody calculation factors
As a custodial or non-custodial parent, you must request a child support modification through a formal court process, and it is best to consult an attorney for assistance.

Emergency Rule 13 Makes The Process More Flexible

With courthouse access restricted to emergency situations and e-filings suspended, the courthouse closings and procedure suspensions effectively shut parents out of the modification process. As the court bases modification dates on the date a request was filed, court services suspensions eliminate the potential for timely relief.  When the California Judicial Council issued Emergency Rule 13, it changed modification order effective dates. Parents must still file a formal request, but the emergency rule gives them some degree of flexibility.

Retroactive Support Orders

Child support orders were not considered in the Judicial Council's original emergency rules dated April 6, 2020. The initial 11 procedural changes related to criminal and juvenile delinquency matters, foster care, foreclosures, and a few other issues. The emergency child support modification rule became effective on April 20, 2020. Under the temporary rule, a parent may file a modification request by following Emergency Rule 13 Guidelines. If approved, orders are retroactive to the date you started your modification process. The emergency process allows you to "...start your case now...” and this provision applies only if you cannot file your request "...because of COVID-19..."

Do You Need an Attorney to Assist You With Your Modification Process?

Whether you are sick due to COVID-19 or unemployed because of a layoff, a modification order gives you relief until your financial situation improves. It is an important step. You need a legal professional to make the process go as smoothly as possible.  Attorney Steven M. Bishop, has handled divorce, custody, support, and estate planning challenges for over four decades. He is a Certified Specialist in Family Law who has always dedicated his time and energy to resolving his clients' most pressing issues. Attorney Bishop has assisted his clients with support modification orders and many other important legal processes. You can reach him at 619-304-0418 or by completing our Contact Form.

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Estate Planning During the COVID-19 Crisis in California

This may seem like an unusual time to consider your estate plan. However, if you do not have a Will and/or Trust or if the estate plan you have has not been updated within the last 5 years, it may be the perfect time since you may be at home and following the Governor’s recommendations for remaining safe and healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. Too often, decisions about our estates are put off until there is an actual health emergency. In most cases, that means you may be too late to effectively address the issue. We can help you set up an effective estate plan, even during the crisis which is currently gripping California, the United States, and the rest of the world. The most important reasons to consider an estate plan are to save time and money. Should you pass away without a will or a trust in place, your family could be tied up for months while the court determines the status of your assets and decides the proper way to distribute those assets. This process is known as “probate” and can cost thousands of dollars. This is not necessary and could put your family in serious financial jeopardy, particularly if you are the primary breadwinner. Gathering Your Documentation and Thoughts This is a perfect time to look at your investment portfolio, review your retirement accounts, and consider what assets need to be distributed in the event of your death. This can help avoid problems among family members and loved ones, at a time when they are already mourning your loss. This is also a good time to consider as the right plan for your specific estate planning needs. Whether you have an extensive investment portfolio, multiple pieces of real estate or a very simple estate involving only your home, a few personal treasures and your retirement accounts, your plan must be customized to meet your specific circumstances. What Estate Planning Tools Are Suitable to Meet Your Goals? Before your estate plan is put into place, it is important to understand the tools available to meet your needs. The most common estate planning options include:

  • Wills — for those who have a simple estate, a Last Will and Testament may be all that is necessary. Simply put, a will directs a specific person, known as the executor of your estate, to distribute any non-retirement or life insurance benefits to one or more beneficiaries of your choosing. For retirement plans and life insurance policies, you should check your beneficiary designations and make sure you have the beneficiary you want on file.
  • Trusts — if you have a more complex estate, a Revocable Trust may be more suitable. There are different types of trusts which can be designed to meet your specific needs. For example, if you have a family member who will need financial support after your death and you wish to contribute to that support, a special needs trust can be established. We can discuss your unique situations and help you determine the type of trust right for you and the needs of your family.
  • Powers of Attorney — Most Powers of Attorney lose their authority upon your death. However, prior to your death should you become disabled or incapable of taking care of your own financial or health matters, these documents are extremely important. We can help you make sure these issues are addressed and someone you trust is making decisions on your behalf.
  • Advanced Health Care Directive — you are entitled to make your own health care decisions pertaining to your care. However, if you are incapable of communicating these decisions, you need to make sure they are in writing and someone is aware of your wishes. We can help you craft the appropriate documentation to ensure your wishes are fully executed in the event of your disability or inability to communicate.
  • HIPAA Release — this form is required when you turn over healthcare decisions to a third-party. This release allows your medical team to discuss your health, your medical care, and your prognosis with someone you direct.
Anyone considering an estate plan, regardless of the timing should also be aware there are significant differences in your estate plan whether you choose a will or a trust. While a Will becomes part of the public record after your death because it must be filed with the Probate Court, a Trust keeps all your financial information private. It is also important to note having a trust is almost always a much faster way to settle your estate since it does not need to go through the courts. We have had clients who have opted to use a trust because it is more effective, timelier, and in some cases, much more cost-effective. Another part of an effective estate plan is tax planning. We can work with you to help minimize the amount of taxes which may be part of the distribution of assets from your estate, leaving more to your loved ones. Estate Planning During Lockdown We know this is an unprecedented time. While we normally schedule estate planning sessions in our office, we also understand the importance of remaining safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. We can help you feel safe by discussing your estate plan using modern technology. We can schedule all appointments via teleconference using secure technology. Once we have your full plan in place, we will provide the relevant documents for review and make sure they meet your expectations. We will discuss any changes you wish to make and, if necessary, forward revised drafts, at no additional cost to you. For those documents which require notarization, we will be prepared to have our local notary visit your home (taking proper precautions) and have all documents properly notarized. We are taking all the necessary steps to keep our clients safe Please contact me, Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law and Certified Family Law Specialist, if you would like to get the ball rolling on your estate plan. In addition, you may contact me if you have any questions pertaining to an estate plan and why now is the right time to design a plan which works best for you and your family. Thank you for your consideration.

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Do you believe sole legal custody would be best for your kids?

On behalf of The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation on Friday, March 13, 2020.

Being a parent is one of the most challenging jobs a person can have. Though you love your children more than anything and would do anything for them, making certain decisions regarding their well-being can be difficult. For example, you may feel that seeking sole custody of the children in your divorce would be best for them, but it also means that they would have a weaker relationship with the other parent.

Of course, if you believe the other parent is unfit, you may not think that a weaker relationship with that parent will be detrimental to their overall well-being. Still, you know that seeking sole custody is not easy, especially when you want sole legal custody as well as sole physical custody.

Being the decision-maker

In most cases, even if a parent obtains sole physical custody as the outcome of child custody proceedings, both parents typically maintain legal custody, meaning that both parents can make important decisions for the children. However, if you believe that the other parent has poor decision-making abilities and makes choices that could harm the children or otherwise negatively affect their well-being, you may feel that seeking sole legal custody is in your children's best interests.

This type of arrangement can have its benefits, such as keeping the children safe from dangerous or other unseemly behavior from the other parent. It could also make decision-making easier for you because you would not have to confer with the other parent before making a choice. Having one parent make consistent choices could also help the children maintain a sense of stability.

Double-edged sword

Of course, this type of arrangement can have its downsides too. For example, you may feel overwhelmed having to make all of the important decisions for your children on your own. The children may also experience feelings of strain because they only receive input from one parent and do not receive another perspective. Because the other parent does not have important decision-making abilities for the children, he or she may withdraw from the kids.

If you are considering sole legal custody, you may want to ensure that you thoroughly review this option. If you believe that allowing the other parent to make decisions for your children could put them in danger, you may want to determine your best options for presenting your case for sole legal custody to the court. Having a California family law attorney on your side during this endeavor may prove invaluable.

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Self-care may prevent stress and anxiety during divorce

On behalf of The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation on Saturday, December 14, 2019.

During your marriage, you may have come to put others before yourself. You may have done your best to meet the needs of your spouse and your children, and though you likely took some time for yourself too, your main focus was on your loved ones. However, now that you are going through a divorce, you may need to turn the focus toward yourself.

Certainly, you want to make decisions that will not have negative impacts on your children, but taking care of your own well-being during this time is vital too. Divorce proceedings can quickly become overwhelming, and if you do not practice self-care, you could easily end up stressed out.

What can you do?

Self-care does not have to be anything extravagant. In your case, it may simply involve being conscious of your actions and the way you address your emotions during this time. Some ways you can help combat stress, depression and anxiety as you go through the marriage dissolution process include the following:

  • Eating right: You may be like many other California residents who are stress eaters. However, if you reach for the junk food often during your divorce, you may only feel worse, whereas eating healthy fruits and vegetables could boost your mood.
  • Having support: At times, you will undoubtedly want to talk about how you are feeling about your divorce. It is best to avoid having such discussions with your children, so you may want to reach out to close friends, family or even a therapist to work through your feelings.
  • Thinking about yourself: Because you may have considered your spouse before making many decisions while married, you may still find yourself wondering how he or she is feeling during this time. However, you may want to instead focus on your own feelings and efforts to move on.
  • Exercising: Getting physical exercise has numerous health benefits, including helping you feeling happier, and giving you a reason to get together with friends or to take a class to make new friends.

At first, focusing on yourself may seem foreign, but with time, you can find ways to help yourself through your divorce in a healthy way. Of course, in addition to having emotional support, you may also want to ensure that you have legal support as your case moves forward. Consulting with an attorney can allow you to better understand what you may face in the near future.

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Gray divorce and the financial future of older divorcees

On behalf of The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation on Saturday, September 14, 2019.

Divorce will bring significant financial changes for both parties, particularly older adults. Gray divorce, which is divorce between two people age 50 and up, is on the rise, which means more people could be facing an uncertain financial future. Divorce later in life can leave a person with a precarious financial future, but there are ways a person can protect his or her interests.

One of the most critical issues in any gray divorce is the matter of retirement. If you are facing the prospect of ending your marriage while you are also coming upon your golden years, it is in your interests to know how you can still pursue a strong financial future. While your plans may have to change or you may have to adjust expectations, it is still possible to have security and stability long-term.

Important factors to consider

Often, people reach a point where they realize they still have a lot of life left in front of them, the children are grown and out of the house, and they want a fresh start. Longer life expectancy is likely one of the leading reasons why people are choosing gray divorce more often.

It's normal to feel angry, scared and unsure during your divorce. However, allowing those feelings to determine how you make decisions will not lead to a final order that is fair and sustainable. When navigating a gray divorce, it is crucial for a person to consider how his or her choices will impact the future. In addition to your retirement savings, other important financial issues to consider during this time include:

  • Alimony – If you have a rightful claim to spousal support, you may want to make sure you get the full amount you need and deserve. You may also want to consider negotiating a lower amount of support in lieu of retirement savings or for another beneficial arrangement.
  • Property division – In addition to your retirement savings, you and your spouse will also have to decide what to do with the family home, assets, other accounts and a range of personal property.
  • Social security – It may also be possible to claim Social Security benefits from your spouse's earnings. This will depend on how long you were married and other qualifications. 

The financial issues of a gray divorce are complicated. In order to secure terms that ensure your security and stability in the future, you may want to work with an experienced San Diego attorney who will advocate for your rights and interests.

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