Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Orange County Family Law Blog

How is child support enforced in California?

As we have stressed many times before, the courts want to protect the best interests of the children when making all decisions related to a divorce. This includes both child custody decisions as well as child support.

The courts want to make certain that changes in a child's life are kept to a minimum and that the child or children from the marriage still receive all the necessary care needed. While many non-custodial parents who owe child support make certain to adhere to the decisions of the courts with regards to child support and will make all necessary payments, there are also many, for various reasons, who do not fulfill their obligation.

Understanding your commitment with adoption

One of the most enduring decisions a California married couple could make is the decision to adopt a child. While such a decision is indeed admirable, and one that will certainly help the life of a child who will receive a loving household, it is still important to understand that the commitment to adopt a child is not one that should be taken lightly.

Before you choose to adopt, there are several questions you should ask yourself. Legally adopting and taking a child is the same thing as if you gave birth to the child. You are now responsible for all aspects of the child's well-being until the child reaches adulthood. Are you truly ready for this commitment? Consider worst case scenarios in your family. Would that have a negative impact on the child? Would you be able to adapt and make certain that the child is not harmed? Would you regret having adopted the child?

Understanding the 'best interests of the child' philosophy

While parents involved in a divorce can understand how difficult the time may be for them, sometimes the effects of a divorce on a child or children involved in the divorce could be overlooked or not properly addressed. Throughout the United States, including the Orange County, California, area, the courts recognize the potential trauma that could be involved in a divorce from the perspective of the children.

This is why, when looking at children involved in a divorce, the courts put a primary focus on protecting the well-being and best interests of the children. All decision-making will keep this perspective in mind, and much of the analysis of the information they gather before making their decisions will be based on that philosophy.

Addressing retirement plans in divorce

A complex divorce in California poses many challenges on dividing the house, car, household furnishings and bank accounts. Spouses should not, however, neglect retirement plans, such as a 401(k).

A 401(k) and other retirement plans are company plans offered to its workers. This asset is not jointly owned by the spouses and is a benefit an employer offers only to the spouse who is their employee.

Health savings accounts and divorce

Health savings accounts (HSA) have existed for only 13 years. These are now becoming a new and large asset, sometimes, over $100,000 that must be divided in a California divorce.

A HSA is a custodial account that is exempt from taxes, which must be used for a high deductible and qualified health insurance plan. A person may continuously withdraw from a HSA to pay for qualified medical expenses, even after being ineligible to make contributions.

Prenuptial agreements and what they should cover

A prenuptial agreement (pre-nup) that sets forth the division of assets, debts and lifestyle agreements may eliminate many family law problems following a California divorce. It can help protect a spouse's assets and eliminate a dispute, if the relationship ends.

A pre-nup allows a couple to agree on finances and family matters, instead of a court imposing its ruling during divorce. Prenuptial planning should start as a general discussion of finances, and then evolve into specific topics, such as division of wealth, spousal support and debt. It may also serve as a means for a couple to engage in meaningful financial planning and disclose their assets and liabilities.

How does military service affect custody?

Activation to military service usually does not constitute grounds for modification of a child custody order in California. However, an order may be modified when an assignment requires a parent with sole or joint physical custody to move from their home, or when it has a significant impact on the parent's custody or visitation rights.

This modification is considered a temporary order that a judge may reconsider once the parent returns from the deployment. It is presumed that the original order will be reinstated unless reinstatement is not in the best interests of the child. If a temporary order is issued, the judge will take appropriate measures to assure that the parent can contact with the child.

Shared parenting after divorce

California families undergo many emotions during divorce and while resolving child custody and visitation issues. Recent and numerous studies of joint physical custody have shown that children who spend at least 35 percent of their time with each parent, instead of residing with one parent and visiting the other, have better relationships with each parent. They also perform better socially, psychologically and in school.

Until the end of the last century, divorce decrees usually granted custody to the mother while the children were offered visits every other weekend. These short visits may have been enjoyable, but did not reflect an authentic parent-child relationship.

What are the tax consequences of divorce?

A Californian spouse's divorce problems do not end with the entry of a decree. Child support and alimony have federal tax consequences, and spouses should plan for this while negotiating a settlement or pursuing litigation.

A spouse who pays spousal support may claim it as a deduction and lower their tax liability. However, the spouse must meet several requirements.

Supreme Court rules on military divorce benefits

One of the most complex family law matters is dividing assets in a military divorce, which falls under Federal and California law. The Supreme Court ruled this month that states cannot raise a former spouse's retirement pay to compensate for losing benefits caused by waving disability payments.

The Arizona couple divorced in 1991, and they agreed that the wife was entitled to half of the former husband's military retirement pay, when it took effect. He started receiving retirement pay two years later after he left the Air force.

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