Alimony: What’s taken into (or out of your) account?

moneyGoing through a divorce is never fun. There’s no sense in denying that. The best thing you can do is work hard to succeed in other aspects of your life. For example, a potential client recently came forward with some good news despite his in-process divorce. He’s been promoted, and starts a new job with a signifciantly higher salary next week. His concern regards alimony. When he filed for divorce earlier this year, he was making considerably less money. The couple has yet to go before the judge and finalize their divorce; the date is set for later in the month. So, will alimony be calculated from his reported earnings when he initially filled for divorce, or will it be based on the higher salary he is about to receive?

We started by informing this man that he is under a fiduciary responsibility to inform his soon to be ex-spouse regarding his change in income. The question of whether his new income will be the exclusive number considered in setting spousal support is another matter. The average of the last twelve months earnings is statutorily presumed to be a proper basis. Some judges stubbornly stick to that even under situations such as the one this man is in.  Since he will have already started his new job, and if it is likely to be a long term position, I expect his judge will probably use his prospective income when it comes to his ability to pay, one of the factors the judge must consider. However, the primary factor is the standard of living during the marriage, which was undoubtedly based on this man’s previous income. There is no computer formula used for spousal support awarded in a final judgment, so there is in fact no “calculation” to be made by the judge. It’s a matter of weighing a number of factors set forth in Section 4320 of the Family Code.

For more information on calculating alimony and spousal support, please visit our website: http://stanprowse.com/spousal-support-california

 

 

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Spousal Support: A Case of Waived Rights

Couple problem

Is a piece of paper sufficient protection? Are words signed in ink adequate defense against an ex-spouse going against his or her word?

Let’s take a look. A woman recently approached us with the following question: can a spousal support ruling be reversed despite the fact that both parties signed the waiver? In her specific case, she and her ex-husband signed that they “voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently” waived their rights to spousal support. It was specifically stated that neither party could change his or her mind, even if circumstances changed.  But then, the issue of child support arose.  This woman’s ex-husband threatened to return to court for spousal support if she seeks out child support for their children. Is this threat a water gun spray painted black, or can he actually reverse their agreement?

When this couple mutually agreed to forever waive their rights to spousal support as part of their divorce agreement,  the court’s ability to order spousal support was terminated. This woman need not fear; the court would not be able to grant her ex-husband’s request if he files a Request for Order.

For more information on spousal support and possible modifications to spousal support, please visit our website: http://stanprowse.com/modifying-child-support

Marriage Annulment; grounds for annulment?

relationship concept couple in divorce crisis

A woman recently approached us with an inquiry regarding the annulment of her marriage. She has been married to her husband for 13 years. However, one couldn’t call this a “happy” union, as it isn’t much of a union at all other than on paper. Though the couple do share a child, he was born before their legal marriage. According to the wife, her husband lives with another woman if she is his wife, and the two share multiple children. The woman asks us to determine whether this is enough to receive a marriage annulment.

The short answer to her question is simply no. However, if we were provided with more information regarding the marriage, we would be able to provide more insight. For example, did the couple live together AT ALL (even one night) after the marriage ceremony? Did the couple have sex AT ALL after the marriage ceremony? Was the husband already sleeping with someone else when the couple was officially married? There’s a case called Marriage of Johnson, (1993) 18CA4th 499, 502, which suggests that a spouse’s intent to ignore his/her marital obligation of fidelity may support a finding of fraud, which is one of the few grounds for a voidable marriage, and thus an annulment. If this is indeed the scenario for this woman, she could possibly obtain an annulment. With that being said, she should consult with an attorney to see if she is able to avoid a formal divorce, or if she will need to file for dissolution of marriage.

For additional information on marriage, divorce, and family law, please visit our website: http://stanprowse.com/family-law-2

Divorce Agreement: Subject to change

Currency, Law, Divorce.How has your life changed in the past three years? Perhaps you graduated from college, and are now part of the adult work force. Maybe you’ve had a second child, and you realize you haven’t had a full night’s rest since 2012. You could possibly be like me, and have recently taken on a new position that adds to your work load. In my case, becoming the President of the Carlsbad High-Noon Rotary is surely time consuming considering I also run the office full-time, but the rewards of my efforts to improve our community are certainly worth the time spent. But of course, our lives can also change in ways we never anticipated. For example, a potential client recently approached us with an inquiry regarding changing the divorce agreement from his dissolution of marriage three years prior. He claims the conditions of the divorce agreement have changed. Initially, he waived the right to child support. However, his son now lives with him full time. His question is how best can he go about changing the divorce agreement so he can have the child support necessary for his son’s well being.

The answer to this question is very dependent on whether the waiver of child support included language saying he could never go back and ask for it. It would read something like “The court shall have no jurisdiction to award spousal support to me in the future.” If the agreement is void of a statement like this, he can file a request for order asking for whatever child support he’s entitled to. Before that however, he should look at the official San Diego County Superior Court website for self-help information. After that, he should meet with a family law attorney for advice on what’s the best move.

As I’ve said, a lot can change in a three years. Change is inevitable, so the best thing we can do is arm ourselves with the correct tools to roll with the punches.

For additional information on child support and more, please visit our website: http://stanprowse.com/child-support

Divorce and Remarriage: Just when you thought it was over

Mann sitzt verzweifelt über Papierflut am Arbeitsplatz

You’re recently remarried after divorcing your first husband or wife three years ago. You’re happy and excited to be starting fresh. You decide to buy a new house with your new spouse, and the lender asks for a copy of your divorce decree, but you can’t find it in your documents at home. No big deal, you’ll just go to the court house and get a copy. Shockingly, when you arrive, you’re told that there is no divorce decree on file. Surprise! Your divorce was never finalized, and according to the court, your case is still active. Imagine going home to the person you just married, and having to tell him/her that on paper, they’re not the only wife or husband you are legally married to. Talk about cutting the honeymoon period short!

That’s the exact situation a potential client was in when he went to buy a house and along the way discovered his dissolution of marriage was never finalized. He was the respondent, and currently pays child support every month as ordered by the judge. His question was whether or not his lawyer had the responsibility to “see the case all the way through”, especially considering the fact that he was given the impression that everything was taken care of. And, if so, what recourse could he take considering the economic and emotional stress this newfound discovery places upon his and his new wife’s head.

Now, despite the considerable carelessness of this man in his divorce and remarriage, a lawyer has a fiduciary duty to his/her client. That being said, he should contact his lawyer and demand the situation be remedied. A threat to report the incident to the State Bar should grab their attention. Of course, the nature of the last communication between this man and his lawyer could be of importance. It’s possible there is a letter in file asking for him to contact his attorney and he failed to do so, or something along those lines. No matter the circumstance, the first step is to meet with his lawyer and find out how this colossal mistake occurred. Going from there with the legalities, from now on he should remember to dot his i’s, cross his t’s, and double knot his shoelaces.

For more information on divorce, please visit our website: http://stanprowse.com/divorce

 

Military Divorces: camouflage and complexities

military divorceMilitary divorces are different than civilian cases, and often times more complicated. That’s why the confusion was understandable when a potential client approached us with questions regarding how she should go about divorcing her husband who is an active-duty service man.

In this specific woman’s case, her biggest question was where. Though the couple has a home of record in Texas, the family is currently stationed in San Diego, California; she didn’t know which state would be best to file in.

We advised her to file here in San Diego so as to gain court ordered spousal support and child support immediately. However, once filed here, and assuming the children have been here for over six months, the San Diego court will have continuing jurisdiction over the children. This means if she wished to move back to Texas (or to any state for that matter), she should do so immediately, hoping that her husband doesn’t file in California before the children have lived in Texas for over 6 months. If he did, the woman could be forced to return the children to their father. With this in mind, if she so wishes to move back to Texas, she should tell her husband where she will be reached, how she can be reached, and allow for him to visit their children- in writing. That way, there is zero room for accusation of parental kidnapping.

Divorce is hard. It can be even harder for a family in the military. For more information on military divorce, visit our website: http://stanprowse.com/military-divorces-are-different

Child Custody: One father’s rights

A hand cutting paper chain of a family, divorce and child custody battle

We were approached with an interesting story. A recently divorced man maintains “partial” custody of his daughter, but that custody is being seriously controlled by his ex-wife. The mother will not allow her ex-husband to take their child anywhere except the park or his house. She refuses to allow any type of contact between her daughter and her ex-husband’s family; the uncle of this child relayed that his own daughter isn’t allowed to have play dates with her cousin. You might ask how the mother is controlling where her ex takes their child. This is the eyebrow-raiser: the mother placed a tracking device necklace on her daughter. She threatens to stop letting him see her if the tracker is removed or tampered with.  There are no stipulations in his custody rights, and his family reports that he’s a responsible man and father. The question is, can the mother legally track her daughter while she’s in her father’s custody? Is this something worth fighting in court?

To completely understand this story, we have to make two assumptions. First, we assume that by “partial custody”, the father has a significant time share with his daughter; presumably every other weekend and an overnight during the week. Second, we assume that by “no stipulations” there are no restrictions in the custody order in regards to where this man can go during his time with his daughter. With those two assumptions, the mother has no right to tell her ex where he can and can’t go during his time with their daughter. The tracking device, in my opinion, is an unreasonable intrusion into his custodial rights – it’s as if the child’s mother is always there looking over his shoulder and interfering with the intimacy of his father-daughter relationship. This man should get a lawyer, go to court, and defend his parental rights.

For more information on child custody, please visit our website: http://stanprowse.com/child-custody-fundamentals