What Is Required to Marry in California?

What Is Required to Marry in California?

Every state has legal requirements that must be met if two people want to get married. One of the main requirements is the issuance of a marriage license. The marriage license must be obtained before the marriage takes place, and it must be filed with the appropriate office within 10 days after the ceremony occurs. This article will discuss the prerequisites for marriage in California.

California recognizes two types of marriage licenses: public and confidential. Public marriage licenses are part of the public record in the county in which the license is purchased. Anyone can obtain a copy of a public marriage license. Confidential marriage licenses are confidential records that are registered in the county where they are purchased. Other than the couple, only people who have a court order may obtain a copy of a confidential marriage license.

Some of the requirements for a marriage license are common to both public and confidential licenses:

  • Both people must be at least 18 years old (with one exception for public licenses noted below).
  • Neither person may be a partner in a current marriage.
  • Both people must appear personally with photo identification and, depending on the county’s requirements, a copy of their birth certificates.
  • The marriage must be solemnized in a ceremony conducted by someone legally authorized to do so.
  • If either person was married before, he or she must know the ending date of the marriage and how the marriage ended, such as through divorce or death.
  • The couple must pay a fee for the issuance of the license.

To obtain a public marriage license, at least one witness must be present and must sign the certificate. Additionally, a person under the age of 18 may marry with permission of both a parent and a superior court judge.

To obtain a confidential marriage license, the parties must be living together at the time they apply for the license. No witnesses are required.

Once issued, a marriage license is valid for 90 days. The marriage must take place within this time. If it does not, the couple will need to obtain a new license.

If you need the assistance of an experienced California family lawyer, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today if you have questions about California family law: (415) 293-8314.

Will a California Judge Listen to My Child’s Preferences About Custody?

Will a California Judge Listen to My Child’s Preferences About Custody?

If you have ever wondered whether a judge will listen to your child’s preferences about custody or visitation, you are not alone. There is a short answer: Yes, under certain circumstances. However, there is much more to the story, and there are common misconceptions about the effect of the child’s preferences.

To understand the longer answer, you have to start with California law. In 2012, the California State Legislature enacted a law to give children more of a voice in custody and visitation matters. The law applies when a child is mature enough by “age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent preference” about custody or visitation.

The law has a specific provision when the child at least 14 years old, specifically with regard to how the child’s preferences are obtained and presented to the court. For these older children, the court “shall consider, and give due weight to” the child’s wishes unless doing so “is not in the child’s best interest.”

For kids less than 14 years of age, the court may permit the child to express his or her wishes if it is “appropriate pursuant to the child’s best interests.”

Any time a court does not allow a child to testify as a witness, the court must allow alternative means to obtain the child’s input. For example, the court may be informed of the child’s preferences through the child’s lawyer, an evaluator, or a mediator.

There is a common misconception that a court will necessarily do as the child asks.  This is not true. Even when the court does hear from the child, the court is not bound to follow the child’s preference. Rather, the court’s guiding principle is the best interest of the child. For this reason, the court can consider issues such as parent manipulation of the child and the child’s desire to avoid parental rules or discipline.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in child custody and visitation matters and can advise you in detail about how courts deal with these issues. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.

Get Ready for Next Tax Year: How Does the IRS Treat Spousal Support?

Get Ready for Next Tax Year: How Does the IRS Treat Spousal Support?

If you are newly divorced or going through a divorce, you may be unsure how the Internal Revenue Service treats spousal support for tax purposes. Many people do not think about taxes until tax time rolls around. Of course, it is wise to be prepared on this issue, as receiving (or paying) spousal support will affect your tax bill and potentially lead to an underpayment that you will need to make up by April 15.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) treat spousal support, also called “alimony,” as income for federal tax purposes. The most important issue is what qualifies as alimony under federal tax law.

Alimony payments must meet all of the following qualifications:

  • The parties do not file a joint return.
  • The payments are made in cash, by check, or by money order.
  • The payment is received either by the ex-spouse or on that person’s behalf.
  • Neither the parties’ separation agreement nor a court decree says that the payment is not spousal support.
  • The responsibility to make the payments stops when the ex-spouse dies or remarries.
  • The payment is neither child support nor part of the parties’ property settlement.

The IRS specifically provides that the following do not qualify as alimony:

  • child support;
  • property settlements that are not made in cash;
  • payments that are intended to be a spouse’s share of community property income; and
  • payments made either to keep up or for the use of the paying spouse’s property.

The former spouse who receives the payments is required to report alimony as income for federal tax purposes. Likewise, the former spouse who makes alimony payments is entitled to a deduction for payments made.

Those who receive payments are required by law to cooperate by providing their Social Security number to the paying party. If receiving spouses do not do this, they may receive a $50 penalty. A party making the payments could not only receive a $50 penalty for failing to include the recipient’s Social Security number but also could see his or her income tax deduction disallowed.

Here are a few trickier situations that require competent financial or legal advice:

  • payments made to a third-party under a separation agreement, a divorce decree, or at the written request of the receiving party;
  • payments for life insurance premiums for the benefit of the receiving spouse, if they are required by court order or a written separation agreement; and
  • certain mortgage, real estate tax, or house insurance payments.
If you are not sure whether to claim alimony as income or a deduction, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger will provide authoritative legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.
The Basics of Domestic Partnerships in California

The Basics of Domestic Partnerships in California

California’s legal option for domestic partnerships remains intact for eligible partners who wish to “share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” Domestic partnerships provide a viable alternative to marriage for those who meet the legal requirements.

A couple who wishes to register their domestic partnership must meet certain requirements under California law:

In addition, the people must either be of the same sex or at least one of the individuals must be older than 62. If either of the partners is less than 18 years old, either parental or judicial consent is required.

Domestic partnerships are registered with the California Secretary of State. After the necessary paperwork is filed, each partner has the “same rights, protections, and benefits,” as well as “the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties” as do married spouses. California law also provides domestic partners with protection against discrimination by state agencies.

California also offers registration of confidential domestic partnerships. While most domestic partnerships are a matter of public record, a confidential domestic partnership “is a permanent record that is not open to the public.” The members of a confidential domestic partnership may obtain a copy of their filing documents. However, no one else may obtain a copy unless they can produce a certified copy of a court order.

The United States Supreme Court’s opinion that required states to license same-sex marriages did not change California’s domestic partnership law. Couples may still take advantage of domestic partnerships to formalize their relationship if they so choose.

If you need the assistance of an experienced California family lawyer, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today if you have questions about California family law: (415) 293-8314.

Protect Yourself: Update These Documents after a Divorce

If you are recently divorced, you need to make sure you update key documents. Many people remember to change the name on their driver’s license, credit cards, and so on. While that is important, there are other documents that are arguably more so; the failure to change certain documents could result in a different distribution of your property than you might intend.

Whether or not you initiated the divorce proceedings, you probably have strong feelings about whether you want your ex to have your property or insurance benefits if something happens to you. Unfortunately, too often, people overlook or postpone dealing with this issue, with potentially disastrous results.

Here is a list of some of the types of documents you will want to update:

  • employment documents, such as payroll data and withholdings;
  • financial documents, such as bank and brokerage accounts, as well as credit cards;
  • government and identification documents, such as your Social Security card and driver’s license; and
  • documents that relate to the ownership of property, such as car titles.

Beneficiary designations should be at the top of your list. You will need to identify all of these, which typically include insurance policies, retirement plans, financial brokerage accounts, and bank accounts that are payable on death (POD).

Other critical documents that need immediate attention are your will, any trusts, and any powers of attorney or advance directives. California Probate Code § 6122 provides that a divorce automatically revokes certain aspects of a will. However, that automatic revocation may cause other unintended consequences where property is concerned.

Even if you are relatively healthy, life is unpredictable. To ensure that your wishes are carried out, it is best to update your key documents and to consult with an experienced California lawyer who can help you identify important issues that may result from your divorce.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters and can advise you about many of the consequences of divorce. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.