When a marriage or domestic partnership fails, the parties are immediately confronted with a number of issues, not the least of which is how to separate physically. Typically, there is an initial intimate separation that then morphs into a physical separation.
Separating physically, however, is not that easy for many couples because of issues like finances and children. Couples advancing toward divorce sometimes choose to continue living under the same roof while they get their affairs in order before finally divorcing. Until recently, separated couples in California had to actually live in separate residences to have their post-separation finances considered as separate.
The rule had been handed down in 2015 by the California Supreme Court in a case called In re Marriage of Davis. In that case, the couple had been living in the marital home pending their divorce, although they were functioning as individuals. For example, their finances were handled separately, they travelled to children’s events separately, and they each did their own laundry. Notwithstanding their living separate lives, the Court ruled that an indispensible component of a married couple being separated under the eyes of the law was living in separate residences.
The legislature took umbrage with this ruling and passed Senate Bill 1255, which took effect January 1, 2017. This bill amended the California Family Code, specifying two grounds on which the date of marital separation could be established: 1) One spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage; and 2) the conduct of that spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage. The bill also provided that courts “shall take into consideration all relevant evidence” to establish the date of separation.
The new law provides more flexibility to couples who decide to end their marriages. It is a much more sensible way of respecting the decisions that those couples make as they navigate such a significant upheaval in their lives.
Divorced parents sometimes have a hard time collecting child support payments on a regular basis. The obligated spouse may or may not pay on time and may even go for extended periods of time without making the ordered payments. This can place a severe hardship on the spouse who shoulders the parenting responsibilities. Fortunately, California state law provides an option for that parent to force her ex-spouse to live up to his obligation.
The California Family Code provides that an obligated parent who is 60 days or more delinquent in child support payments may be required to place on deposit assets that will ensure timely payments. The assets are deposited with a court-designated entity and may ultimately be used to satisfy the amount in arrears. The obligated parent may also be required to pay fees and costs to the designated holder of the assets in connection with management or liquidation of the assets.
In making a request for an order requiring the deposit of assets, the requesting parent must declare under penalty of perjury that the obligated parent owes an amount equivalent to 60 days of payments. Once made, the court will provide notice to the obligated parent, as well as an opportunity to be heard. The court may also issue an immediate restraining order instructing the obligated parent not to dispose of any assets except through the normal course of business. The parent may also be required to document any extraordinary expenses after issuance of the notice.
To avoid an order to deposit assets or to prevent the liquidation of deposited assets, an obligated parent must prove that the non-payment of support was not willful and without good faith. He must also show that he did not have the ability to pay. He may also defend against an order by showing one of the following circumstances:
- a change in child custody;
- a motion pending for reduction of child support based on reduction of income;
- illness or disability;
- a serious adverse impact on members of his immediate family who reside with him that would outweigh the harm to the custodial parent and children; and
- a serious impairment of the obligated parent’s ability to earn income.
The amount of assets required for deposit must be the equivalent of one year’s worth of child support payments or $6,000, whichever is less. If the obligated parent continues to be in arrears and fails to make a reasonable effort to catch up within a court specified time-frame, the designated holder of the assets on deposit may use the assets to pay the amount in arrears. This may involve the use of cash or the sale of assets such as personal property.
In many cases, the threat of filing a request for court-ordered asset deposit is enough to bring a delinquent ex-spouse around. Hopefully, that is most often the case. If you need assistance collecting child support payments, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We have extensive experience in family law matters and can help you determine whether court-ordered asset deposit is the right approach. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.
Spouses sometimes come into a marriage with debt and also separately incur debt during the course of the marriage. Sometimes these liabilities are known by the non-incurring spouse, and sometimes they are not. The basic rule in California is that both parties are liable for any marital debt accumulated during the marriage but before separation. This is true whether or not one of the parties even knew it was incurred.
Debts owed by a party prior to marriage, known or not to the spouse, are not the debt of the non-incurring spouse. At the time of a divorce, community property—property accumulated during the marriage—is used to satisfy community debt. If there is not sufficient community property to satisfy the debt, then both parties are assigned a portion of the debt to be paid from their own funds post-divorce.
Couples can sign pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements that allow debts incurred during marriage to be treated as separate debts under certain circumstances. For example, they might agree that a debt incurred unilaterally, with only the incurring party’s income and liabilities qualifying for the debt, is the separate debt of that party. Such agreements must be drafted carefully to ensure they are legally defensible if that becomes necessary.
Debt incurred by a spouse after separation but before divorce is that spouse’s debt, and the other spouse is not liable from her separate funds or her share of community property. There is but one exception to this rule: when the debt is incurred to provide the “necessaries of life” for the debt-incurring spouse and the separation is not by formal agreement.
If you need assistance in a family law proceeding, you should consult with an experienced California lawyer, especially if there are significant questions of debt and property ownership. 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 divorce of a child’s parents does not affect that child’s right to maintain health care coverage under one of the parent’s insurance plans. In fact, California law prohibits an employer or insurer from denying enrollment or coverage for a child based on certain outcomes of a divorce. Specifically, coverage may not be denied because the child is not claimed as a dependent for tax purposes or the child does not live with the parent or within the insurance coverage area.
Typically, as part of a divorce involving children, a court will include an order that one parent or the other maintain or provide health insurance coverage for the children, provided that the insurance is available at a reasonable cost. The amount that parties pay for insurance for themselves and their dependents (even new spouses and stepchildren) is an expense that is factored into child support calculations.
Parents who have been ordered to maintain health insurance for children must provide the other parent with the health insurance information. Conversely, the parent not obligated to provide coverage must advise the obligated parent whether or not she has health insurance through her employer or other group insurance coverage. An obligated parent who is paying child support through a local child support agency (“LCSA”) must also provide documentation to the LCSA of such coverage.
California law also requires courts to include in their child support orders a provision that requires the parent providing coverage to affirmatively seek the continuation of coverage when a child reaches a disqualifying age. Such continuation, however, must be pursuant to other provisions of law that require continued coverage if the child is unable to work due to a physical or mental disability or is otherwise primarily dependent on the parent for support and maintenance.
If you want to learn more about health insurance for children of divorced parents or child support matters in California, contact the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We can help. Call us today to make an appointment: (415) 293-8314.