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Prenuptial AgreementWhen a couple makes the decision to get married, divorce generally is not an issue that is on their minds. That is why a prenuptial agreement may seem like a taboo topic for a couple in this position to discuss. However, a couple should not think of a prenuptial agreement as planning for the end of their relationship. Instead, it is simply a contract that both spouses enter into prior to marriage.

The main purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to establish property rights. While prenups are often thought of in the context of wealthy individuals, they have other purposes as well. One of the most common is to protect a family business. Other potential uses of a prenuptial agreement include clarifying financial rights, determining how property will be deal with if one spouse passes away or protecting one spouse from assuming the existing debt of the other. This contract is generally also a guaranteed way to avoid a long and expensive divorce process.

Are Prenuptial Agreements Valid in California?

Once people understand more about the true nature of this type of agreement, they often want to know if it is something that is valid in the state of California. The answer to that question is yes. And for couples who do not have a prenuptial agreement, state law will determine how property is divided if marriage ends in a divorce. This means that property, as well as other assets and debt, will be split in a way that neither spouse will have as much control over as they would probably like.

Can You Get a Prenuptial Agreement After a Wedding?

As previously mentioned, the most common reason that couples who are planning to get married are hesitant to visit a family law attorney in Northern California to discuss a prenuptial agreement is they think it will create negative feelings about their wedding. But even if a couple is not worried about that aspect of a prenuptial agreement, they may not be at a point where they can make fully informed decisions about this type of contract.

Making legally binding decisions about property and other assets after a wedding can be done through a postnuptial agreement. This document can be created at any time after a couple is married. Not only does a postnuptial agreement have many similarities to a prenuptial one, but it may even be able to address a greater number of topics. For example, if a couple accumulates assets together, a postnuptial agreement can be used to designate a specific split instead of having it labeled as community property by the state.

With both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, it is important for documents to be created properly. Any mistakes with an agreement can result in part or all of it being thrown out in the event it is ever put in front of a judge. Continue reading →

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MarriageThere are no doubt people in this country who believe the institution of marriage is dead and should now be buried, that there is no longer a need or a use for marriage as it use to be described in our society.  Marriage has traditionally been the bulwark, the foundation upon which the family unit was built. Marriage vows were usually taken in a religious ceremony where the couples vowed their commitment to each other “until death.” That was until society “came of age” so to speak. To some it seems that marriage no longer takes the place of importance it use to have in our society. Whether you believe this to be a good thing or a bad thing, it is a reality.

Divorce is on the Rise

We now live in a society where people change their spouses often. It seems like it was an exception to talk to a person who has been married two, three, or four times. As in many jurisdictions, divorce in California has been made quite simple. California is a “no-fault” divorce state. Prior to the 1970s, in order to get a divorce in California, and many other jurisdictions, one spouse had to plead and prove that they were entitled to a divorce because of the actions or misdeeds of the other spouse. They had to prove that there were “grounds” for the divorce. One of those “grounds” would be infidelity (adultery) or cruelty.

Fast forward to today, when adultery within a marriage seems to some to be more of the norm instead of the exception. It appears to be as inevitable as “death and taxes.” Perhaps it is the result of the advances made by social media and Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Perhaps it is as a result of the ease with which couples can get married and the ease with which they can get a divorce. Whatever the reason marriage vows are taken so lightly, it has had an acute effect on how society looks at the “institution” of marriage. Since there are no grounds to be proven in a divorce proceeding, evidence of adultery is no longer relevant.

Society used to view marriage as the first step in starting a family. Today, you can start a family, including having children without a marriage. Couples seem to be in agreement that marriage is archaic in the sense that no one marries anymore and if they do get married, they do not stay married for very long.

Marriage, Commitment, and a Safe Place to Raise a Family

There are some good things about a family unit that are missing from today’s view on marriage and relationships, and that is “commitment” to the family unit. Humans are gregarious by nature. Families that commit to the well-being of each other are important for the advancement of our species. With that said, it is important to choose your life partner carefully. However, when you make a misstep and find yourself in a relationship that is not conducive to the making of a strong family unit, divorce is the best option.

When Divorce is the Best and Only Option

The family unit cannot always withstand the onslaught of infidelity and cruelty from either spouse, especially when children are involved. Sometimes, the protection of the family unit requires that a “cancerous” portion of that unit be incised so that the family can be restored to a productive and committed whole. Divorce then becomes the process by which this is done. Continue reading →

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Quasi-Community PropertyQuasi-community property, what is it and what effect does this classification have on the distribution of the marital estate during divorce proceedings?

Marital property, no matter what jurisdiction you live in, is any property that was acquired during the marriage. There are exceptions to this rule, however, but for purposes of determining what “quasi-community property” is, we will start with the premise that the property was acquired during the marriage and is not subject to any exception.

Community Property Law States vs. Equitable Distribution Jurisdictions

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step parenty rightsStep parent rights. Many families today are bit less traditional than they were a few decades ago. It is not uncommon for parents to remain unmarried while raising their children or for divorced individuals to remarry and blend two families. Biological and step-parents usually share the daily responsibilities for raising the kids, including changing diapers, helping with homework, attending ballet recitals, and enforcing the rules. But under California law, biological and step-parents do not share the same rights, no matter the arrangement at home.

Step Parent Rights During the Marriage

Unless a court grants step parent rights to custody or they legally adopt the children, step-parents have few rights regarding their step-children. Biological parents retain all physical and legal custody of the children. In reality, families often include step-parents in the decision or rulemaking processes, but legally, biological parents have the final say.

What are step parent rights if the step-parent and biological parent divorce? There may be cases in which a court grants a step-parent custody or visitation but the step-parent must motion the court for custody or visitation. In other situations, the biological and step-parents create a parenting agreement outside of court, which includes visitation for the step-parent.

Step Parent Visitation Following a Divorce

Under California law, a court can grant a step-parent visitation rights if it is determined to be in the best interest of the children. However, this visitation cannot conflict with a biological parent’s right to custody or visitation.

A court may find it pulls children in too many directions to have visitation with two people, or to live under a joint custody schedule and have visitation with a third adult. However, if no other biological parent has joint custody or visitation, a step-parent with a strong bond with the children may be able to prove visitation is best.

Step Parent Custody Following a Divorce

There are certain circumstances in which a step-parent can gain custody following a divorce. First, if the step-parent legally adopted the child, he or she retains the right to legal and physical custody whether or not he or she is married to the biological parent.

If the children were physically or severely emotionally abused by the biological parent or if the biological parent abused drugs or alcohol – and the other biological parent is not available – a step-parent could potentially gain custody. This is a narrow and rare situation.

Legal Guardianship

If neither biological parent is able to take care of the children due to death or the court taking away parental rights, a step-parent can petition for legal guardianship of the children.

Ultimately, the court will implement a custody and visitation arrangement that is best for the children – not any of the parents. If step-parents want to remain involved in their stepchildren’s lives, it is best to work out an arrangement with the biological parents. Continue reading →

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file for divorce, californiaWhere should I file for divorce? When contemplating a divorce, there are many things to consider, both practical and emotional. Taking on the financial and logistical aspects of a divorce alone can be an enormous burden. Issues such as child custody and division of possessions are hard enough, but one must also consider alimony, paperwork, fees, and everything else that comes with taking apart a marriage. The good news is that seeking help from a qualified attorney can make the process much easier.

All states have their own regulations as to what is required in order to get a divorce in their jurisdiction so one of the the first things to evaluate is where to file the divorce paperwork.

File for Divorce In California

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supervised visitation, santa rosa supervised visitation attorney, supervised visitation attorneySanta Rosa supervised visitation attorney blog. According to California law, parents should have frequent and continuous contact with their minor children during the separation process and after their divorce is finalized. However, the law also provides that the court should make decisions regarding visitation and custody, based on what is in the best interest of the child. One factor that is considered when determining the best interest of the child is their safety and well-being. Accordingly, the court must order visitation and/ or custody arrangements that protect the child’s safety and well-being.

In some circumstances, the court may order supervised visitation to protect the child’s safety and well-being while preserving the parent-child bond. One example of a situation in which this may occur is when allegations of domestic violence exist against one or both of the child’s parents. In such a situation, the parent who was a victim of domestic violence may request a restraining order against their spouse or former spouse. If granted the restraining order limits contact between the individual who is charged with domestic violence and their spouse or former spouse, and in some situations, their child as well.

Supervised visitation may be overseen by a professional or nonprofessional.

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spousal support payments, spousal supportHow are spousal support payments calculated in a California divorce? Ending a marriage can affect almost every aspect of your life, including your financial stability. In many relationships, one party chooses to forgo education or pursuing a career in order to support the other person’s ambitions. Even if this is not the case, some couples fall into “earner” and “caretaker” roles, particularly when there are children involved. This may result in significant economic inequality between the parties to a marriage, and may leave one spouse without any income absent judicial intervention.

Fortunately for some who people seeking a divorce, California law allows a court to order spousal support payments (or partner support payments, in the case of a domestic partnership) in order to provide for the financial needs of the party unable to support themselves financially. Spousal support payments can significantly impact both parties: the one ordered to pay and one receiving spousal support payments. Consequently, it is important for anyone involved in a divorce or other legal proceeding in which spousal support is at issue to discuss their case with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.

How Are Spousal Support Payments Awarded?

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same-sex divorce residencyCertain California same-sex divorce residency requirement exceptions. Though the right to marry for same-sex couples is quickly expanding throughout the country, there are still a significant number of states that refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. In order to legally marry, many same-sex couples travel to states like California for their official wedding ceremonies, and then return to reside in their home states.

While this plan works well for couples who remain happily married, it does cause significant complications for couples who wish to get divorced. This is because states maintain a residency requirement for any couple seeking to dissolve their marriage, meaning that family courts generally lack the jurisdiction to grant divorces for out-of-state couples. However, if a same-sex married couple lives in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, the courts will likely refuse to grant a divorce because, in the eyes of that state, there is no marriage dissolve. In fact, in many states, same-sex married couples are engaging in lengthy legal battles challenging state laws simply to get a divorce.

Instead of challenging state laws, many same-sex couples in such states decide to simply live separately, though remain legally married. While this may work for some time, it can cause problems down the line. For instance, if one of the spouses is suddenly injured or falls ill, the other spouse may be asked to make important medical decisions. One spouse may continue to hold a growing interest in the others retirement accounts or other benefits, and they may retain rights to inherit property upon the others death. Certain debts accrued during the separation may still count as marital debt if the couple never obtained a divorce. For these reasons and more, it is not always wise for unhappy couples to live separate lives while remaining legally married.

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The new trend of “conscious uncoupling”. When actress Gwyneth Paltrow announced her split from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin this past spring, the term “conscious uncoupling” came onto the radar of many Americans. Instead of getting divorced, Paltroconscious uncoupling - Gwyneth Paltroww claimed that she and Martin would continue living together and co-parenting their two children; however the two were consciously uncoupling and were ending their marriage. Since then, media has covered other couples who opted to take this less traditional separation path by deciding to continue living together and raising their kids, but to no longer be romantic partners. One San Francisco couple even held an uncoupling ceremony in front of family and friends, during which they gave back their wedding rings but then returned to the home they still share together.

Conscious Uncoupling

This new trend of separating has led many people to wonder about the legal effects of uncoupling. First, holding an uncoupling ceremony or announcing that you are uncoupling does not, in any way, legally end your marriage. If you were properly married with a valid marriage license and ceremony, your marriage will continue to exist until a California family court officially grants dissolution of your marriage.

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divorce cases, social mediaDoes Facebook have a role in divorce cases? Many people believe Facebook to be simply a way to have fun, stay in touch with friends play games, and other light-hearted and harmless activities. However, Facebook has been playing an increasing role in divorce cases each year. A new study shows that Facebook is cited in approximately 33 percent of all divorce cases in the United States, which is an increase from results indicating 20 percent of divorce cases in 2009.

Cause for Divorce Cases?

Facebook has no doubt been a facilitator for meeting new romantic partners or for reuniting with past partners. If this happens to a married individual, online messaging may easily lead to in-person meetings, infidelity and, eventually, to divorce. However, researchers state that it is difficult to tell in how many cases Facebook is the true cause of divorce, since many people who may log on to social media more often or and be willing to stray likely have underlying issues in the marriage already.

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