May 2013 Archives

Ex-spouse's Remarriage Usually Doesn't Impact Child Support Obligation

support modification after remarriageIs it possible to go after my ex-husband's new wife's income in order to increase his child support obligation? This question probably comes across a divorcée's mind more often than not. Unfortunately, if your ex-husband remarries, you will most likely be unsuccessful in pursuing his new wife's income as family law courts have proven to be quite reluctant to include a new spouse's income for purposes of calculating child support. The court's logic behind this is that the payment of child support should be the parent's obligation rather than that of the new spouse.

Prior to 1994, courts had authority and discretion to consider a subsequent spouse's income when setting a child support award. However, as San Diego divorce attorneys know, when an ex-spouse remarries, child support adjustments are now governed by Family Code Section 4057.5. This statute prohibits courts from considering a subsequent spouse's income unless the exclusion of the subsequent spouse's income would cause the child to suffer extreme and severe hardship. In other words, if you are the parent seeking to modify the child support order after your ex-husband has remarried, then you should attempt to prove that the child would suffer an extreme and severe hardship if the earnings of your ex-husband's new wife were excluded in considering an award for child support. Thus, courts look exclusively to the needs of the child.

remarriage effecting support modificationPursuant to Family Code Section 4057.5 (b), an extraordinary situation that might constitute an "extreme and severe hardship" is where the ex-spouse voluntarily or intentionally quits working or intentionally remains unemployed or underemployed and relies on his subsequent spouse's income. Such a situation would warrant consideration of all of the community property of ex-husband and his subsequent spouse in modifying the ex-husband's child support obligation.

Read more about child and spousal support

As an aside, seeking to modify child support by attempting to include the subsequent spouse's income, might in fact backfire and actually reduce the child support award instead. For instance, if your ex-husband remarries and his new wife makes a considerable amount of money, then he will likely be in a higher tax bracket (if married filing jointly), thereby reducing the amount of his disposable income. In turn, this will then likely reduce the amount of child support that your ex-husband has to pay. However, it is likely that such a decrease would only be a minimal amount each month, depending on how much his subsequent spouse makes. Nevertheless, the subsequent spouse's income certainly won't increase your husband's child support obligation unless the "extreme and severe hardship" exception is met.

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California Family Law - Latest Charlie Sheen Custody Battle

Charlie Sheen, a regular news-maker in California family law, has four children from his two prior marriages. Two twin boys with ex-wife Brooke Mueller and two girls with ex-wife Denise Richards. After all the dust settled from his two divorces, Sheen's twin boys ended up in the custody of Denise Richards. This unusual custody arrangement worked well for all of the parties. Richards was happy to care for Mueller and Sheen's children because it gave her girls a chance to grow up with their half siblings. Mueller agreed to the arrangement because she has been struggling with addiction and is unable to properly care for the twins. Recently Mueller changed her mind about the current custody arrangement and her family lawyers sought a modification from the family court.

Charlie Sheen child custody modification

On Wednesday May 15th, Mueller, Sheen and Richards appeared before a family court judge to litigate Mueller's request to modify custody. Mueller proposed the children be removed from Richards's custody and placed with her brother. When Richards and her family lawyers opposed the request, Mueller accused her of caring for the children for her own financial benefit. If Mueller or her brother had custody of the twins, Mueller would be entitled to $55,000 per month in child support from Sheen. According to her declaration signed under penalty of perjury, Richards refused any money from Sheen to support the twins. She also stated that she did not want any money in the future to help her care for the boys. In light of this evidence, Mueller's argument lost all of its bite and the judge flatly refused her request.

In any California custody case the paramount concern for the Court is the best interest of the child. As a stable lifestyle is usually in the child's best interest, family court judges will always carefully consider any request to uproot young children. Mueller and her attorneys requested her four-year-old twins be removed from their home where they live with their siblings and be placed in the custody of a different caretaker. This traumatic change would likely take a great emotional toll on the children. Unless there is good cause to do so, judges will make an effort not to uproot children from a stable environment.

Although it is not realistic to expect all parents to come to an agreement regarding custody and visitation, it is typically in the best interest of the children if the parents can work together to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to their custody disputes. Throughout San Diego there are plenty of private and public custody mediators available to parents who need help cooperating for the benefit of their children.

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Property Division and Divorce - Dividing Household Items Without a Judge

Dividing furniture in divorceIn a divorce, personal property (such as furniture, furnishings, art, family photos, pets, and other general property) is treated no differently than the division of other assets. Parties to a divorce can spend a significant amount of money fighting over silverware and lamps by placing a dollar figure on each item and dealing with them as part of the general division of assets and debts. If there is a dispute over which furniture or furnishing each party wants, the personal property will usually be appraised and then the appraiser will make a list of all of the personal property and assign dollar values to everything. As divorce attorneys will advise their clients, at that point the judge will make a determination as to how everything will be divided.

Or, instead of litigating the division of personal property, a better (i.e. less expensive) way to deal with the division might just be for the parties to agree on who takes what piece of furniture/dishes/artwork, etc. There are several ways that divorce attorneys approach an equitable division of furniture and furnishings, including, but not limited to the following methods:

  • Alternate Pick Method - personal property is divided by alternating picks after the flip of a coin to determine which party to the divorce will pick first.
  • Alternate Pick Method by Room - together the parties itemize everything in each room and then the parties alternate picks for the contents of the entire room.
  • Sale and Split - sell everything and split the proceeds between the parties upon divorce.
  • List and Choose - One person prepares two lists placing everything to be split in the divorce on one list or the other; then the other person picks which list he or she wants.
  • Bidding - each person submits a sealed bid as to what they think the item is worth and then the person with the higher bid gets the item at that value (i.e. at a charge).
  • Appraisal - Hire an appraiser and then divide everything based on the appraiser's values. This usually requires the use of one of the above ways to divide the property once it is valued.

Division of family photos in divorceAlthough there are a variety of methods of dividing household items in a divorce, family photos generally fall under their own category of division. Typically, the parties agree for family photos to be given to one party and the other party to have the option to make copies of all of the photos. Courts usually do not like to get into disputes over family photos since there is really no way to assign a financial value to original photos.

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How a Later Date of Separation in a San Diego Divorce May Weigh In Your Favor

Divorce Date of SeparationIn a San Diego divorce, a party's date of separation is the first date when either party subjectively (mentally) decided the marriage was over, finished, and not salvageable. The parties' overt actions usually demonstrate that subjective frame of mind. For instance, there can't be ongoing marriage counseling to save the marriage after the date of separation. The date of separation of the parties to a divorce can be a hotly contested issue. Sometimes, when parties do not agree on the date that they separated, the court must step in to help.

In fact, it is quite common for divorcing spouses to disagree about when their date of separation is. These disagreements are usually financially motivated since California is a community property state. This means that in California, community property rights only accrue from the date of marriage until the date of separation. Thus, the date of separation can significantly affect the size of the divisible community estate during a divorce. Some legal, financial, and other practical considerations for the parties to keep in mind when considering divorce and arriving at a date of separation (by way of agreement or decided by the Court) include the following:

  • Stock options: Divorce attorneys will advise their clients that a later date of separation will usually give the community more interest in a stock option.
  • Post-separation bonuses: A later date of separation will give the community a greater interest in a post-separation bonus upon divorce.
  • Pensions: A later date of separation in a divorce will give the community more interest in a pension.
  • Spousal support: A later date of separation from your spouse may provide for more spousal support. The duration of the marriage is one of the twelve factors a California court will weigh in determining the amount and duration of permanent spousal support.
  • Value of a business: A later date of separation in a San Diego divorce will value a sole practitioner's business at a later date.
  • Pereira or Van Kamp considerations: If the separate property business was brought into the marriage, the community's interest would stop growing at the date of separation.

Later Date of Separation San Diego divorceThe implications of the date of separation in a divorce can be quite significant. With the above considerations in mind, if for example Husband is the primary breadwinner and Wife is a stay-at-home mom, Wife may want to establish a later date of separation in order to maximize the community estate. Husband, on the other hand, may want to establish an earlier date of separation for the divorce so that his income, bonuses, commissions, etc. earned after the date of separation will be characterized as his separate property instead of community property. Clearly, selecting the date of separation can be a complicated matter that may require the advice of an experienced divorce attorney.

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California Family Code Failed to Protect Mother Ordered to Support Daughter's Abuser

San Diego Spousal Support BlogSpousal support is an issue commonly litigated in a divorce in San Diego. Carol Abar filed for divorce after sixteen years of marriage, when she learned that her husband had sexually assaulted her daughter. In a hearing on spousal support (commonly referred to as alimony in San Diego), a California family court ordered Ms. Abar to pay $1,300 per month in support to her daughter's abuser. Although Ms. Abar presented evidence to the court that her husband molested her daughter for years, the court determined that an award of spousal support was appropriate in the divorce case based on the parties' relative income.

In 2012, Ms. Abar's ex-husband, Ed Abar, plead guilty to the rape of her daughter and was sentenced to approximately one year in jail. At that time, Ms. Abar had paid about $22,000 in spousal support. While Mr. Abar served his sentence, the family court temporarily stopped payment of support. Recently, Mr. Abar was released and is now requesting $33,000 in arrears. Mr. Abar is also requesting the court to order Ms. Abar to resume support payments.

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It is clear that such a spousal support award is an outrageous miscarriage of justice. In order to tighten the gaps in the California Family Code which may allow perpetrators of domestic violence to collect spousal support, Governor Jerry Brown signed more stringent legislation last year. As divorce attorneys in San Diego are aware, if at the end of a case either party has requested spousal support, the court will weigh 14 factors which are listed in Family Code §4320. Upon consideration of these factors, the court will determine how much spousal support to award in a divorce case, if any. Family Court judges were always required to consider documented history of domestic violence between the parties to the divorce, and were also required to consider criminal conviction of an abusive spouse in making a decision. However, the new legislation added a different twist to those old provisions.

Newly enacted Family Code §4324.5 states that "in any dissolution of marriage where there is a criminal conviction for a violent sexual award of spousal support to the convicted spouse from the injured spouse is prohibited". This code section applies as long as the divorce is filed within 5 years of the conviction, time served, end of probation or end of parole. Now, a San Diego family court judge will have no discretion to make an award of spousal support in a divorce matter where the supporting spouse was a victim of a violent sexual felony perpetrated by his or her spouse.

Read more about spousal support from the divorce attorneys at the firm

Despite this added layer of protection for spouses, currently there is no family code provision preventing child abusers from receiving spousal support. The family code has evolved since the first support order was made in the Abar divorce case, but it seems that it will not be able to offer Ms. Abar any relief from her obligation to support her ex-husband.

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Celebrity Divorce - Jason Aldean Divorcing Wife Based on Irreconcilable Differences

Jason Aldean Celebrity DivorceBack in September 2012, Jason Aldean was caught kissing previous American Idol contestant, turned NBA-cheerleader, Brittany Kerr. However, this kiss turned into quite the smooching scandal considering Aldean has been married for over 11 years to teenage-sweetheart, Jessica Ussery. Not surprisingly, Aldean recently filed for divorce in Tennessee. TMZ reports that the couple cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split.

As San Diego attorneys know, one of the only two grounds for divorce here in California is "irreconcilable differences (see website page entitled "Grounds for Divorce or Legal Separation" for more details on both "irreconcilable differences" and "incurable insanity"). It is quite common for divorcing couples to cite "irreconcilable differences" as their reason for their divorce, but what really constitutes an "irreconcilable difference"? Is it more than just one spouse cheating on the other?

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Although infidelity alone may seem like a pretty good reason for divorce, such infidelity must lead to "irreconcilable differences" between the couple since California is a no-fault state. (See website page entitled "Grounds for Divorce or Legal Separation" for more details on "no-fault"). In general, "irreconcilable differences means that the spouses can no longer agree on basic, fundamental issues involving the marriage and that they will never agree, such that there is no chance of reconciliation. Thus, when a divorce is based on "irreconcilable differences," any past cheating scandal by one spouse doesn't matter, what matters is that one or both spouses agree that the marriage won't work any longer and that it's clear to a judge that there is no chance that the marriage can be saved.

Learn the answers to frequently asked questions about divorce in San Diego

There is no black-letter list of what constitutes "irreconcilable differences." Rather, it is a quite vague standard and San Diego Family Courts often broadly interpret "irreconcilable differences". Some of factors that San Diego courts may look at to determine if there has been a marriage breakdown may include: 1) difference of interests; 2) long physical separation; 3) antagonistic feelings that are irreversible; 4) resentment; 5) distrust; 6) financial difficulties affecting the marriage; 7) conflict of personality; and 8) lack of mutual concern for emotional needs of each other.

Divorce Irreconcilable differencesAlthough Aldean has urged everyone not to cast judgment on his recent filing for divorce, one can only assume that Aldean's smooching scandal with Kerr likely led to distrust, resentment and irreversible antagonistic feelings between Aldean and Ussery, thus leading to what a court will likely interpret to constitute "irreconcilable differences".

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Divorce and Alimony - Is it the beginning of the end?

Permanent Alimony Bill VetoedAlthough we are located in California, and primarily represent clients in divorce in San Diego, sometimes family law decisions made in other states are noteworthy. Recently, Florida lawmakers discussed putting a stop to spousal support awards extending beyond half the length of the marriage, even for long term marriages. There was a divorce law before Governor Rick Scott which would have generally prohibited payments from lasting beyond half of the length of the marriage. The proposed bill also gave family courts power to adjust current spousal support orders or agreements extending beyond the specified limits. In addition to containing provisions regarding support, the Florida law would have also imposed different custody and visitation laws which would have required the court to award equal custody in most cases.

As San Diego divorce attorneys are aware, there are two types of spousal support: temporary and permanent. In California, spousal support is commonly referred to as alimony. Spousal support is called "temporary" if it is awarded at any time before the final resolution of a case by agreement or trial. Spousal support is called "permanent" if it is awarded at the end of the case pursuant to a judgment. The length of the paying spouse's permanent support obligation following divorce depends on a number of factors, particularly the length of the marriage. Thus, "permanent" spousal support is a misnomer that divorce lawyers frequently are asked to clarify, because it can be set with an expiration date or be terminated.

Learn more about divorce and spousal support from the lawyers at the firm

Although San Diego family court judges are far from predictable, generally if a marriage is "short term", the paying spouse will only be obligated to make spousal support payments for half of the length of the marriage. In divorce, usually any marriage under ten years is considered a "short term" marriage and any marriage over ten years is considered a "long term" marriage. There is no limit currently in place pursuant to California family law that limits the length of a spousal support obligation arising out of a long term marriage. In some cases, a spouse may pay spousal support for the same duration of the marriage or longer.

San Diego DowntownAlthough Florida's Governor vetoed the bill on May 1, it is not the only state considering eliminating any true "permanent" alimony. Currently, Massachusetts has adopted a similar bill and twenty other states are also in the process of drafting their own. If California were to pass such a law, spouses currently paying support past the "half of the length of the marriage" mark may consider consulting with a divorce attorney, and may head back to court to terminate their current obligation. Those opposed to this alimony reform argue that it flies against the best interest of children and families. Some believe that the law is "anti-woman" as men are ordered to pay spousal support more often than women under traditional stereotypes.

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Divorce in California - Will Dodger Divorce Settlement be Tossed Aside?

Dodger divorce reopenedThe U.S. peered into the private lives of Jamie and Frank McCourt, owners of the Dodgers, as they publicly litigated their contentious divorce in California. The former couple's dispute over ownership of the California baseball team resulted in what is rumored to be one of the world's most expensive divorces. After substantial attorney fees and costs were racked up throughout the proceeding, the McCourt's reached a divorce settlement in October 2011.

In consideration for relinquishing any rights to the Dodgers, Ms. McCourt received $131 million tax-free in addition to several expensive pieces of real property. Despite receiving what seems like an enormous amount of money, Ms. McCourt and her divorce attorney now want the settlement thrown out as the Dodgers were later sold for $2 billion. Assuming the Dodgers were a community property asset, Ms. McCourt settled for $770 million less than she would have received if the proceeds of the sale were divided equally.

Read more about property division and divorce in California

The basis of Ms. McCourt's request to set aside the Marital Settlement Agreement is fraud. She argues that her former husband deliberately misled her regarding the true value of the Dodgers. At a recent court hearing, Mr. McCourt's divorce lawyers argued that Ms. McCourt is not entitled to set aside the settlement because she willingly agreed its terms and her recent claims are baseless. If the judge agrees with Ms. McCourt and sets aside the judgment, the parties and their attorneys will re-litigate all issues related to the Dodgers. The court will have to determine, under California family law provisions, whether the Dodgers were community property or the separate property of Mr. McCourt. Prior to settlement, the court determined that the parties' post-marital agreement giving Mr. McCourt full ownership of the Dodgers was invalid.

San Diego Family Law Declaration of DisclosureAs divorce attorneys will advise their clients, under the California Family Code, the commission of perjury on the Final Declaration of Disclosure is a legal basis to set aside a judgment. At the end of each divorce case in San Diego, the parties are required to complete a Final Declaration of Disclosure, unless a proper waiver is effectuated. The Final Declaration of Disclosure is a series of forms, which are signed under the penalty of perjury, on which the parties list the value of all assets.

Learn more about fiduciary duty in divorce

Ms. McCourt's attorney argues that she relied on the most recent figures presented to her in accepting the settlement. If Mr. McCourt in fact lied on those forms, Ms. McCourt may be able to set aside their judgment subject to statute of limitation requirements. The court has the ability to limit the set aside only to those portions of the agreement which were materially affected by the nondisclosure. In this case, only the portions related to the Dodgers would be addressed.

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Divorce & Remarriage in San Diego - Considerations for the Blended Family

Considerations for Your Second Marriage and New Blended Family

Blended Family Remarriage After Divorce.jpgThe United States, especially California, has a bad reputation for its "high" divorce rate. However, along with the high rate of divorce is also a high rate of remarriage. Considering the amount of marriages and remarriages, it is not surprising to family law attorneys that 65% of remarriages involve blended families. "Blended family" is the term used by divorce attorneys to describe families including children from a previous marriage of one or both spouses. Blended families will face some unique challenges. With proper planning and awareness, individuals who intend to remarry after divorce in Del Mar can give their marriage a better chance.


One of the issues that can arise when two families come together after experiencing divorce is finance. Each family may be accustomed to a particular lifestyle that will have to change when the two families combine. Financial planners and family law attorneys recommend that blended families keep three separate bank accounts if both spouses earn income.

If this approach is followed, each spouse maintains his or her own bank account in which his or her income is deposited and both spouses share one joint account. Each month both spouses deposit a percentage of their income or a fixed amount into the joint account from which all household bills and expenses are paid. Using this method, the blended family can avoid conflict and resentment regarding how much money the spouses spend on their own children. Additionally, maintaining separate accounts can protect both spouses from the other's debts including child support and spousal support obligations from a prior marriage.

Read more about divorce and finances from the lawyers at the firm

Real Property

Many times after a divorce, one spouse will continue to live in the marital residence. If both spouses in a blended family own a home from a prior marriage, they will be faced with the emotional and complicated decision of where to live together. All children will likely not want to leave their home after a divorce but neither spouse may feel comfortable living in the home of his or her new spouse's ex. One possible solution is to sell both homes and to purchase a new home together that fits the needs of the blended family. However, both parties should be aware of possible tax consequences of selling their home.

Premarital Agreements

After experiencing a painful and expensive divorce, couples can be a little hesitant to jump into a new marriage to try again. After a divorce, many Del Mar couples opt to sign a premarital agreement (commonly referred to as a "prenup") or a postnuptial agreement (if they are already married) to provide a bit of comfort when entering a new marriage. Formal agreements allow the parties to clarify ownership of assets and protect savings that may have been set aside for the children's future. If new issues arise after the parties have entered into prenup or postnuptial agreement, the parties can consult with an attorney to amend their current agreement or draft a new one.

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Divorce - How Long is TOO Long for the Waiting Period?

San Diego Divorce Waiting PeriodThe National Network to End Domestic Violence recently spoke out against proposed Senate Bill 518, "The Healthy Marriages Act," which would extend the waiting period for a divorce in North Carolina to two years and require the couple to complete courses on communication skills and conflict resolution. Further, if there are children the bill proposes that the couple complete a four hour course on the impact of divorce on children. While this may seem like a good idea, the women's group mentioned above argued that the bill, filed by Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba, would increase the danger of abuse for women because "the most dangerous time for a battered woman is after she takes steps to leave the relationship."

North Carolina's current one year waiting period is one of the longest waiting periods in the nation. In San Diego, however, no couple can become divorced quicker than in six months. California Family Code Section 2339 sets forth the mandatory six-month waiting period until a divorce can actually become finalized by the court. The waiting period does not begin until the divorce petition is filed and the other party is properly served. This essentially means that the court cannot restore "single person" status until this six-month waiting period has lapsed. Thus, neither the person filing for divorce (Petitioner) nor the party being served with the petition (Respondent) can remarry or file taxes separately until such time as the court has granted the individual's request to have his/her status restored as a single person.

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The purpose of this waiting period, whether it be two years (as proposed in Senate Bill 518) or 6 months (in San Diego), is to give spouses the opportunity to make sure that they do not change their mind about going through the divorce process. During the waiting period, the spouses are not allowed to enter into another marriage, which provides the spouses with the potential for reconciliation. Furthermore, the waiting period is meant to give the parties and their attorneys time to prepare for a divorce settlement or trial. Family lawyers will advise their clients to begin gathering financial documents, and will begin to investigate important issues related to the parenting of children, if applicable.

But how long is too long for a divorce waiting period? Some San Diego divorce attorneys may agree with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and would argue that if California's waiting period were to be extended to a year, or even two years, it might unjustifiably increase the danger of abuse for women. This is especially the case where Husband and Wife remain living together pending divorce. As family lawyers are all too aware, in these economic time it may take some time for the marital residence to be sold, and often times there is not enough money to maintain two households. If such a bill were to be proposed here in California, perhaps it should include an exception clause for cases involving domestic violence or abuse. Luckily for those seeking divorce in San Diego, this is not an issue as of yet. The six-month waiting period remains in effect for the time being.

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