Issues that Complicate Divorce

Issues that Complicate Divorce

Many people consider divorce one of the most stressful life events. But not all divorces carry the same levels of stress. Some couples agree on any significant issues, which makes the resolution of their case fairly simple. Other soon-to-be-ex-spouses have a more difficult path because of one or more of the following issues that complicate divorce.

Spouse-Related Concerns Can Be Problematic

The issues you had with your husband or wife don’t stop when you file for divorce. Some may directly impact how your divorce proceeds.

  • Adultery. You do not need grounds for divorce in California. So, your final order or settlement might not be affected except for one thing: misuse of community funds. When one spouse uses marital property on a new love interest, courts might reimburse the innocent spouse in the form of a larger portion of the remaining marital funds.
  • Revenge. Some people complicate divorce by trying to take revenge because their spouse deeply hurt them. Vengeful feelings can delay settlement negotiations.
  • Pregnancy. This issue can complicate divorce because of questions about paternity. If the husband doubts the child is his, he might ask for paternity tests so the court can determine whether child support is appropriate.
  • Spousal Support. It is not easy to work out how much spousal support is due and how long it will be paid.

Married couples without children avoid some of the concerns that parents face.

Children Typically Complicate Divorce

It’s great when both parents love their children and want to care for them. But all that love can get lost in the shuffle of divorce papers.

  • Custody and Visitation. Before a judge can issue the final order, parents have to come up with a parenting plan. Custody can be contentious as couples navigate the four types of custody: sole physical, sole legal, joint physical, joint legal. They might use standard visitation schedules or personalize them to fit their child’s needs. However, working out children’s arrangements adds an extra layer of stress.
  • Child Support. Parents who do not have physical custody often pay monthly child support to the parent who does. Calculating the amount of support definitely can complicate divorce proceedings.

Fortunately, family court judges always try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children.

Finances Are Often a Contested Issue

Money matters to most people. Whether a divorce is amicable or contentious, spouses generally want to get what they deserve from the marital estate. Unfortunately, some issues complicate divorce to the point that settlement might be several years down the road.

  • Muddled Property Classification. Couples might have separate property, which they retain, or community property (which is split between the parties). However, it is not always easy to decide whether property is separate or community. For example, disagreements arise when one party brings substantial assets into the marriage but fails to keep them separate. Sometimes property is partially separate and partially community. It might take experts to untangle complications like these.
  • High-Net-Worth. Having more property means there’s more property to classify and divide. Again, the parties might need a financial expert’s careful analysis.
  • Business Assets. Some property is easier to appraise than others. Determining the value of a business is typically difficult and can quickly complicate divorce.

Divorce can be difficult, but you don’t have to go it alone.

When Issues Complicate Divorce, You Need Experienced Legal Counsel

Talk to a qualified California divorce attorney today. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Please call us at 415-293-8314 to discuss your case. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with divorce matters in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Spousal Support After the In re Marriage of Ciprari Decision

Spousal Support After the In re Marriage of Ciprari Decision

Some divorces proceed in a relatively uneventful way. Others like In re Marriage of Ciprari drag on for years, then spend additional time on an appellate court docket. The California Appeals Court decision on spousal support brought up some interesting points.

The Story Behind In re Marriage of Ciprari

Dorothy (DeeDee) and Joseph Ciprari married on September 16, 1995. After almost 15 years of marriage, DeeDee filed for divorce in a case styled In re Marriage of Ciprari. Because of several complex issues, the final divorce was not issued until March 18, 2016.

The trial court awarded only $5,000 per month to DeeDee for spousal support, seemingly overlooking Joseph’s monthly income of $47,000. DeeDee appealed this decision. She also appealed several other decisions made by the trial court, but we will look only at the spousal support issues.

The Appeal Claims Regarding Spousal Support

In her appeal, DeeDee claimed that the trial court erred in considering only the Ciprari’s 2013 tax returns and not the 2014 return. One reason is that the 2014 tax returns were “more reliable indicators of actual 2014 income.”

Two other claims related to Joseph’s rental income and investment returns on divided assets. The appeal claims that the trial judge did not consider this income when ordering permanent spousal support.

Finally, the permanent spousal support award of $5,000 was considered low because of Joseph’s income and the couple’s marital standard of living. The trial judge felt that DeeDee’s claimed expenses were exaggerated but did not explain why he or she believed this or why $5,000 was an appropriate spousal support award.

The California Supreme Court’s Decision

The court rendered its decision on February 6, 2019. The decisions made on spousal support issues are as follows:

  • 2014 Tax Returns. Remanded. The trial court was ordered to consider income shown on the 2014 income tax returns, as well as other factors usually considered when calculating spousal support.
  • Rental Income and Investment Returns. Denied. The appellate court did not overturn the decisions, which were made at the trial judge’s discretion. Also, DeeDee’s appeal failed to provide evidence supporting her claims.
  • Amount of Permanent Spousal Support Award. Reversed and remanded. The trial court is expected to recalculate permanent spousal support considering income, expenses, and marital lifestyle.

Spousal support tends to be a tricky issue in divorces. We encourage you to discuss your case with an experienced California divorce attorney as soon as you begin thinking of dissolving your marriage

Will In re Marriage of Ciprari Affect Your Spousal Support?

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce, legal separation, and annulment. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Do Children Testify at Divorce Hearings?

Children rarely, if ever, ask their parents to split up. Instead, they sometimes just become part of the collateral damage of divorce. Dealing with the court system during a divorce is stressful for everyone, including children. Even parents who try to do what’s best for their kids may wonder if courts will increase the tension by making children testify at divorce hearings. Let’s look at how this problem is handled in California.

Children, Divorce, and California Law

Each divorce is a little different. Sometimes court hearings are needed to address children’s needs related to custody and visitation.

Fortunately, California law does not require children to testify at divorce hearings. Likewise, California law does not expressly prohibit children from speaking in court. Generally, courts consider a child’s participation on a case-by-case basis. Age plays a part in the court’s decision, as set out in California Family Code Section 3042:

  • Children under 14 years of age might address the court if the court determines that it is appropriate and in the child’s best interests.
  • Children over 14 years of age will be allowed to testify unless the court decides testifying is not in the child’s best interests.

If the court decides the child cannot testify in open court, alternative methods include:

  • Allowing the child to participate in a child custody mediation,
  • Appointing a child custody evaluator,
  • Allowing people to present evidence on behalf of the child,
  • Admitting information provided by a child interview center or counselor.

The judge may also allow testimony in a closed courtroom or in the judge’s chambers.

But what happens when the court decides to allow kids to participate in hearings?

Requesting That Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

Sometimes, people close to a child may learn that he or she wants to testify. According to the 2020 California Rules of Court, the following people must let the court know if this happens:

  • The minor child’s counsel
  • Evaluators
  • Investigators
  • Child custody recommending counselors.

Any party to the divorce or any party’s attorney may also let the court know that a child wants to testify. Also, judicial officers may ask whether children want to testify.

How the Courts Handle Children’s Testimony

Just because a court decides to let children testify at divorce hearings does not mean they stop protecting those children. Judges might appoint an attorney to represent the child during the testimony. Courts decide where the testimony will happen – in open court or in the judge’s chambers – and who will be present. In some cases, it is not in the child’s best interests to allow parents to attend. Finally, judges will protect children who testify at divorce hearings from harassment and inappropriate questioning.

You Need Experienced Advice When Children Testify at Divorce Hearings

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are well-versed in divorce and the dissolution of registered domestic partnerships. Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Southern California Coast.

Are California Registered Domestic Partnerships Reserved for Same-Sex Couples

Are California Registered Domestic Partnerships Reserved for Same-Sex Couples?

One day, Luisa received an announcement that her friends, Donnie and Melissa, had decided to register their domestic partnership. As Luisa celebrated with her friends, she was a little puzzled. She and most of her friends thought that California registered domestic partnerships were only for same-sex couples. 

History of California Registered Domestic Partnerships

Until 1999, same-sex couples really did not have the same rights and benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoyed. However, California enacted a law that allowed gay couples to register as a California domestic partnership. Doing so meant that the parties:

“have same rights, protections, and benefits, and shall be subject to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under law …”

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2013, same-sex marriages were legal in all 50 states. California began recognizing both same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. However, registration was limited to same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples where at least one partner was over 62.

Then, in 2019, the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 was amended. Now, California registered domestic partnerships are available to all couples over the age of 18, regardless of sexual orientation.

Qualifying for Registration

California law defines domestic partners as: “two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.” However, it takes more than love to qualify for a California registered domestic partnership. There are still legal requirements to meet when registering, including:

  • Neither person is married or part of a current domestic relationship;
  • The parties to the partnership are not related by blood in any way that prevents them from marrying under California law;
  • Both parties are over age 18 (although there are exceptions); and
  • Both parties are capable of consenting to the registered domestic partnership.

Previously, opposite-sex couples were prohibited from being recognized as California registered domestic partnerships. However, the new law allowing them to register took effect on January 1, 2020.

California Registered Domestic Partnerships for Couples

Sometimes couples do not want to go through with a traditional wedding or be considered a married couple. It’s important to consider all the options when choosing a domestic partnership over being married. For example, federal law generally does not recognize domestic partnerships, so taxes and benefits can be challenging.

However, some couples benefit from choosing the registered domestic partnership route. For instance, a widow might lose benefits upon remarriage that are not changed by a domestic partnership.

So, to answer Luisa’s concerns:  Yes, opposite-sex couples can choose to be domestic partners instead of a married couple.

Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.