Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Orange County Family Law Blog

Post-divorce modifications in California

There are many people in Orange County who may be divorced or legally separated and begin to realize that their agreement or divorce order is no longer workable, for whatever reason. In some cases, they may even discover that their order is unfair or was based on bad information.

The good news is that if these orders pertain to child custody or child support, then orders are relatively easy to change. Court look upon orders regarding child custody, parenting time or child support as changeable because the best interest of a child can change, and the goal is always to look out for the best interest of the child.

Requirements for California prenuptial agreements

As is the case in other states, Orange County, California, couples are allowed under California law to enter in to prenuptial agreements. Not only can these types of agreements head off divorce problems down the road, they can also help even happily married couples who may have children from a prior relationship or who just want additional clarity about what happens when either they or their spouse dies.

Although the best course of action is to have an experienced family law attorney help with the drafting of a prenuptial agreement, there are a few guiding principles in California law that are helpful for couples to keep in mind. After all, not adhering to these basic principles could mean that a couple's prenuptial agreement winds up getting voided by a court hearing a later dispute.

More on how college expenses work in terms of child support

A previous post on this blog explained that child support in California ends when a child turns 18 or until either he or she graduates or until age 19. In other words, there is no legal authority for a judge, no matter how much he or she might want to, to order a parent to pay for his or her child's college education.

Absent some other factor, whether to finance all or part of a child's college education, or even whether to continue offering some basic support while the child is attending college, is a personal decision each parent gets to make.

Assistance in child custody cases

A previous post on this blog discussed how, in the vast majority of case, law enforcement authorities are not going to be able to help a parent who is in the midst of an ugly child custody or parenting dispute and who now needs legal help just to be able to see their child when they are supposed to.

Generally speaking, an Orange County parent faced with these unfortunate circumstances is going to have to return to court and get assistance from the California courts, which can use the power of contempt to compel a non-cooperative parent to obey custody and parenting time orders.

Why can't I just have the police help enforce parenting time?

It is unfortunate reality that many couples, for many different reasons, have ongoing conflict after they separate. This conflict may spill over in to issues about their children and, in the worst cases, the end result could be a parent taking matters in to their own hands by depriving the other parent their rightful custody and visitation.

The first instinct another parent may have is simply to contact the local authorities to see what they can do to get their custody or visitation rights restored. Indeed, California criminal law prohibits parents from violating custody and parenting time orders, meaning that if a parent chooses to ignore a court's orders, he or she could have a criminal conviction to deal with.

Am I able to adopt without the parent's consent?

Ordinarily, California law requires that a person wishing to adopt a child get the consent of the child's biological parents, unless of course it is a stepparent adoption, in which case only one biological parent really needs to give consent.

However, California law recognizes that sometimes, it can be impossible to locate a child's parent in order to get his or her consent to an adoption. On other occasions, the parent may be around but, out of malice or some other selfish reason, simply refuses to consent to an adoption even if that parent has not been involved in a child's life.

When will my child support obligation end?

As its name implies, in California, child support is for the benefit of minor children who still need financial help from their parents. This means that when a child reaches the age of adulthood, he or she in theory no longer needs support and thus neither parent has any further obligation to pay.

In practice, however, the parent who is actually writing the check every week or month is the one who notices the benefit. Still, they have the option of asking for relief from a child support order for each child as the child hits his or her 18th birthday. If the child has opted to stay in high school in order to graduate, the duty to support will continue until the child turns 19.

California's Declaration of Paternity form

California law gives unmarried mothers and all dads the right to sign a Declaration of Paternity form. By signing this form, unmarried couples who are parents of a child can skip the process of going to court, getting DNA testing and obtaining a legal order establishing paternity; the Declaration itself makes the man who signed it the legal father of the child.

While this might sound convenient, Orange County parents, but men in particular, need to be aware of the consequences of signing this form, as not being so aware can lead to serious family law problems down the road.

Current and future tax consequences of alimony

As it stands right now, an Orange County, California, resident who pays alimony is able to take those payments as a tax deduction, while the spouse who receives the alimony, and who usually makes less money, will have to include those payments as income.

Currently, there are certain restrictions on this rule. For example, a former couple cannot file a joint return if one party wants to deduct alimony, nor can they be living together under the same roof. Moreover, if a person's legal separation agreement or divorce decree says that the payments are for some purpose other than alimony, then they will not be tax deductible. It also has to be clear that the payments are not child support payments, as child support is not tax deductible.

When can I modify child custody and parenting time?

It is both good news and bad news for Orange County parents that there is really no such thing as a permanent child custody and parenting time arrangement.

Because they understand that the best interests of a child can change over time along with the circumstances, California courts have a limited open door policy when it comes to parents who want to change their custody and parenting time orders, even if those orders were originally agreed to by both parents.

Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Orange, CA 92868
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