What Is Joint Legal Custody?

What Is Joint Legal Custody?

Zach and Mary decide to divorce after 14 years of marriage. Of course, they are concerned about how their three children will handle the stress of divorce. Both parents want custody, but realize they need a plan. As they learn more about how custody is decided, they have questions. For example, they aren’t sure what joint legal custody entails.

Types of Child Custody

In a divorce proceeding, the term “child custody” refers to the care, control, and maintenance of a child or children. However, there are two different types of custody:  physical and legal. Each type of custody can be sole or joint. Sometimes a judge may even award one parent sole physical custody of a child, but joint legal custody. As always, the judge will decide what’s best for the child when finalizing child custody arrangements:

  • Sole Custody. A parent with sole physical custody decides where a child lives. If a parent is awarded sole legal custody, he or she will make all legal decisions related to a child’s health, education, and welfare. The non-custodial parent may have visitation rights as ordered by the court.
  • Joint Custody. Parents may share legal or physical custody under joint custody arrangements. Physical custody still relates to arrangements regarding the physical presence of the child. Legal custody still refers to the child’s health, education, and welfare. The difference, of course, is that each parent has at least some say in what happens with the child.

So, how does joint legal custody vary from sole legal custody and joint/sole physical custody?

Joint Legal Custody

Parents who are given joint legal custody generally are required to make decisions together. However, if a parent refuses to work with the other parent, they may both end up back in court. That’s not the ideal situation for anyone.

Sometimes Sharing is Impossible.

A judge may give one parent sole legal custody if:

  • parents are unable to work together
  • one person is considered an unfit parent
  • one of the parents is just not capable of making legal decisions
  • it appears that it’s not in the children’s best interests for both parents to share legal custody

Final Thoughts.

Zach and Mary found it difficult to agree on a parenting plan. Both wanted maximum time with their kids. Both wanted to make all decisions. The judge presiding over their case sent to them mediation, where they came up a parenting plan that worked for the children. They were able to see that joint custody could work as long as they continued to communicate and put their children first.

Acting in the best interest of the child is the driving principle behind a parent plan. Make sure custody issues are handled while negotiating your marital settlement agreement.

To discuss your child custody concerns with an experienced California attorney, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.

Separate Property: How to Handle Increases in Value During Marriage

Separate Property: How to Handle Increases in Value During Marriage

Separate property is property that the law recognizes as owned by only one spouse in a marriage. Community property is presumed property obtained during marriage. Those short definitions make property issues sound simple, but they often are not. If you and your spouse were married for any length of time, there’s a good possibility any separate property brought into the marriage may have increased in value.

So, how does such an increase in value affect a divorce settlement?

That depends on the asset and how the asset appreciated in value.

Business Assets

Sometimes one spouse starts a business before marrying. The business is that spouse’s separate property. If the marriage ends, isn’t the business still considered separate property? Not always.

For example, Jay owned a business prior to marrying Jill. He brought the business into the marriage as separate property. However, Jill spent many hours helping him build his mom-and-pop store into a much larger retail operation. When they decide to divorce after 12 years of marriage, what right does Jill have to Jay’s business assets?

Community labor is worth something. Both Jay and Jill’s efforts, during marriage, played a big part in the store’s success. Jill probably is not entitled to own part of the business. However, she is entitled to an interest in the business because the separate property increased in value due to Jay and Jill’s efforts during marriage.

Acquired Assets

Property purchased during a marriage is generally considered to be community property. However, gifts and inheritances that one spouse receives are the separate property of that spouse. It’s possible, though that a spouse could receive an inheritance that increases in value. The increase may become community property.

Gloria owned a house prior to marriage. Three years after marriage to Bob, Gloria put Bob on the deed. When Gloria and Bob divorce, Bob wants half the equity in the house. Bob may have a community interest in the home.

Calculating the Community Increase

Once it’s determined that the increased value of separate property is community property, how is the increase calculated?

Divorce courts and attorneys may use formulas based on prior divorce cases to figure out property division.

  • Moore/Marsden calculations are sometimes used to calculate how much of a home’s value became community property during a marriage. This formula uses separate property appreciation amounts, total principal reduction, and comparisons between purchase price and current value.
  • Pereira accounting may be used to figure out how community funds and community labor enhanced the value of separate property. It’s typically used when the business appreciates due to the efforts of the spouse who doesn’t own the business.
  • Van Camp accounting typically is used when a business value increases due to the business or to economic factors.

Pereira and Van Camp are two family law cases in which the courts had to decide division of property that increased in value.

Learn More About Separate and Community Property

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in Marin County, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities. Our Beverly Hills office will be opening soon.

How to Help Your Kids Thrive During a Divorce

How to Help Your Kids Thrive During a Divorce

Children feel a whole range of emotions during a divorce. They may be too young or too damaged to express and deal with those emotions, though. There are ways, however, that you and your ex-spouse can help your kids thrive, even in the middle of a divorce proceeding.

Talk to your children … and let them know they can talk to you.

Reassurance is important. Tell them the divorce is not their fault and that they are still loved. Since communication is a two-way street, make sure they know they can talk to you about anything, any time.

Don’t badmouth the other adults in their young lives.

You may have some pretty strong feelings about your child’s other parent right now. Those hard feelings may extend to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even family friends. Try hard to keep bad thoughts to yourself or only vent to another adult when your children are not around. Letting off steam might help you feel better, but it won’t help your children cope.

Coordinate with their other parent.

Parents who are divorcing need to complete a written agreement called a parenting plan. Use this opportunity to calmly coordinate rules, discipline, school events, holiday and other things your children need to feel safe, loved, and protected.

Don’t interfere with scheduled visitation.

Punishing your children because you’re mad at your ex is never a good idea. The only reason to withhold visitation is if you think your child is being endangered. Even then, you need to alert your attorney or the court that there’s a problem.

Watch for warning signs.

Children deal with stress in different ways. Watch for any indication that your son or daughter is not handling the divorce well. Unchecked anxiety, anger, depression, and the like can lead to long-term damage. If your child is behaving oddly, losing interest in activities, or their grades are slipping, seek help for them.

Keep Their Best Interests in Mind.

Divorce is hard on everyone involved. Even though you’re hurting and stressed out right now, remember that your children have needs, too.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience with divorce and child custody matters. In fact, Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist. Please feel free to call us at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Cost, including San Francisco, Marin County, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
How Adultery Affects Your Divorce

How Adultery Affects Your Divorce

Adultery often leads to divorce. Whether you were the straying or non-straying partner, infidelity may still affect your divorce in ways you did not intend.

The No-Fault Divorce.

For years, someone who was stuck in an unhappy marriage had to state grounds for getting a divorce. Abuse, desertion, and adultery were commonly cited by a party when filing divorce papers. The divorce petitioner may have had to provide proof to back up their reasons for ending the marriage.

Now, no-fault divorce is available in California. A petitioner filing for a no-fault divorce doesn’t have to say who was at fault or what happened. You just have to say you want to end the marriage.

It’s Not Illegal, but There May Be Consequences.

Adultery is not against the law, so you won’t be arrested for having an affair. However, straying from the marriage can make things difficult for the adulterous spouse:

  • Alimony and Spousal Support. A court may consider a party’s adultery while determining alimony and spousal support. The amount of support ordered won’t be based on morality, but instead on how the adultery may have affected the innocent spouse’s financial wellbeing.
  • Custody. Adultery typically has more of an immediate effect on a person’s relationship with their spouse than their relationship with their children. Still, the strain on the marital relationship will cause discomfort for everyone involved. However, courts typically only consider the infidelity’s effect if children are being put in danger by the affair.
  • Property Distribution. California is a community property state and community property is typically split 50-50. However, if one spouse uses community funds to pay for his or her infidelity, the other spouse may be entitled to restitution from the offending spouse’s share of the marital estate.
  • Negotiations. The adulterous spouse may feel ashamed or guilty. The injured spouse may feel angry and want revenge. Emotions can add an extra level of stress to delicate negotiations.

Learn More About the Effect of Adultery on Your Divorce.

Whether you’re the cheater or the person being cheated on, infidelity will affect your divorce. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are highly experienced with all divorce issues. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.
Insurance Settlement and Your Divorce

Insurance Settlements and Your Divorce

Divorce can be complex. Untangling finances, figuring out what to do for the children, and determining what’s community property can take time. Adding the complication of an insurance settlement to a divorce certainly doesn’t help.

The Law on Personal Injury Settlements

California law addresses insurance settlements in California Family Code 780 and 2603. While some of the language is vague, the law does address whether settlements are separate or community property.

Injuries During Marriage.

When a personal injury cause of action – the event that led to the injury – occurs during a marriage, then the insurance settlement for those injuries is considered community property. As such, the settlement is split 50-50 between the parties, even if only one party was injured.

Sometimes parties divorce after the accident, but before the insurance settlement is received. The community property/separate property determination is made based on when the injury occurred, not when the settlement is received.

Injuries Incurred Outside the Marriage.

If an injury occurred before parties were married, or after they start living separately, then the insurance settlement belongs only to the injured party. The term “living separately” does not necessarily mean “date of separation.”

For example, an unmarried person is seriously injured in a car accident, then later marries. The cause of action for the personal injury occurred before the marriage. Any insurance settlement is the property of the injured party only.

Reimbursement for Expenses

One exception to the separate property case noted above involves reimbursement for expenses paid by the non-injured spouse. Family Code 781(b) states that expenses paid by the non-injured person from separate property or community property may be reimbursed.

For example, if one spouse may be injured in an accident before the marriage. After the marriage takes place, the uninjured spouse pays expenses that relate to the injuries suffered in the accident. The uninjured spouse may be able to recover at least part of their expenses from the insurance settlement received by the injured spouse.

Learn More About Insurance Settlements and Your Divorce.

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 Central California Coast.
My Husband Got Custody of Our Kids. Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

My Husband Got Custody of Our Kids. Do I Have to Pay Child Support?

Some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching decisions to make during a divorce involve children. Who will provide a home for the kids and money to care for them? Regardless of where the kids live, both parents are expected to be financially responsible for their children. This expectation may lead some people to question why they have to pay child support if the other parent has physical custody. 

California courts require every parent to be financially responsible for their children.

Child support is the law, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to calculate. Courts will consider several factors when calculating who should pay child support:

  • Both parents’ financial circumstances,
  • The children’s needs,
  • Whether additional support is needed for special expenses, child care costs, etc. and
  • The amount of time each parent has physical responsibility for the children.

Custody arrangement can make a difference.

“Time-share” – the amount of time the parent spends with the children – typically takes three forms:

  • One parent spends more time caring for children. The other parent usually pays child support. Occasionally, though, there’s a great discrepancy between the parents’ income. Generally, the parent with the greater income will pay child support to the parent with lower income. This scenario can be tricky. It is best to consult a family law attorney.
  • Parents spend about the same amount of time with the kids. The parent with the higher income may pay some child support to the other parent.
  • Parents of multiple children ‘split’ up the children. For example, in a family with two children, one child lives with mom and one child lives with dad. Child support may be paid depending on the parents’ income or special needs.

What’s best for the children?

It really comes down to taking care of the children’s needs, regardless of their address. Maybe you have questions about child support or are considering separate or divorce. Give us a call 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 Central Cost, including San Francisco, Marin County, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
Change These Documents After Your Divorce

Change These Documents After Your Divorce

Many things change during a divorce: residence, last name, marital status (of course). With all these adjustments, it may be natural to miss a few. Certain documents, though, may have a long-lasting effect on you and your heirs.

Your Estate Planning Documents.

Any time you experience a life event – like divorce, marriage, or an addition to the family – it’s extremely important to review and update your estate planning documents.

Why?

Your Will tells everyone where you want your possession to go when you die. People who are married often give most, if not all, of their estate to their spouses. Sometimes the executor named is also the spouse of the person signing the Will. Obviously, if your marriage is at a point where you want out, you’ll want to remove all references to your spouse.

A durable power of attorney grants an agent the authority to act on your behalf. Married couples often name each other as agents. You can revoke your power of attorney at any time.

The Advanced Healthcare Directive is another common estate planning document. This document also grants an agent power to act on your behalf. Unless you really want your ex-partner making end-of-life decisions for you, you should change this document immediately.

Your Beneficiary Designations.

Companies like financial institutions and insurance companies give accountholders the ability to designate beneficiaries on their accounts. These designations should be changed as soon as possible. However, unlike estate planning documents, these designations usually cannot be changed during a divorce proceeding. As soon as you are legally allowed, name new beneficiaries on all your accounts.

Also, remember that changing your Will does not affect how accounts with beneficiary designations pass to your heirs. So, disowning your spouse in a new Will does not mean he won’t have a claim against a life insurance policy where he’s named the beneficiary.

Divorce Is Hard. We Can Help.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger specialize in family law matters. Feel free to give us a call at 415-293-8314 to set up a confidential appointment.

Our offices are conveniently located in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacrament), and Roseville.
Keeping Property Separate During a Marriage

Keeping Property Separate During a Marriage

Marriage is the ultimate partnership. But it’s more than just two people in love forming a union of two souls. Each person usually brings along property, money, and personal possessions. At least some of that property is considered ‘separate property.’ As a marriage progresses, couples also acquire property, some of which might be intended to be the property of only one member of the couple. It’s important to understand about keeping property separate during a marriage.

Community Property.

California is a community property state, meaning that property acquired by a couple is considered the property of both partners. The same principle applies to debt, with each partner usually being held accountable for debt owed by either partner.

Separate Property?

Sometimes parties will bring separate property into a marriage or domestic partnership. During the marriage, gifts or inheritance to one partner are also considered separate property, meaning it’s the property of the person who received the gift or inheritance.

Property and debts acquired after the date you and your partner enter into a separation is also considered separate property.

Commingling of Property

As you might imagine, determining whether something is separate property or community property can be difficult. For example, perhaps one spouse uses their own money to buy a house before marrying. However, during the marriage, mortgage payments were made using money earned by both spouses. Equity built up during the marriage is community property, but the down payment on the house is still separate property.

Keeping it Separate.

Fortunately, there are ways to maintain separate property during a marriage:

  • Be careful titling financial accounts and real property. For example, don’t automatically add your new spouse’s name to property you obtained before your marriage.
  • Income and dividends from separate property should be kept separate.
  • Use separate income to maintain separate property.
  • Don’t commingle inherited property and gifts.
  • Maintain accurate records of what property was acquired before and during the marriage.

Final Thoughts.

When spouses own property in more than one state, or have lived and worked in a state other than California during their marriage, the separate property/ community property debate becomes more complex.

To discuss how to handle separate and community property issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.
Can I Keepy My Divorce Records Private?

Can I Keep My Divorce Records Private?

Divorce is a highly personal experience. Most people would prefer to keep details about their divorce within their circle of friends and family. In California, though, most court proceedings are maintained as a matter of public record. Divorce is no exception, but there may be things you can do to keep at least some of your divorce records private.

Sealed Cover

Documents filed under what’s called a ‘sealed cover’ are not accessible to the public. Family law documents that include the following information may be filed under a sealed cover:

  • Paternity;
  • Healthcare records;
  • Financial records;
  • Identifying information about minors; and
  • Information about the identity of a victim of domestic or sexual violence.

If your divorce papers include this type of information, consult with your attorney about ensuring the information is filed under sealed cover.

Motion or Application to Seal

Some documents containing embarrassing or highly personal information are not automatically filed under a sealed cover.

To have these records kept confidential, your attorney may file a motion to seal the record. The motion will be served on all parties. The court then may enter an order granting or denying the request. If granted, not only will the records be hidden from the public, but other parties generally will be prohibited from disclosing information they learn from sealed records.

Redaction

The term ‘redaction’ means marking out sensitive information in a document. Information may be redacted from documents that are public record. Protected data includes social security numbers and financial account information. So, if you must provide information to the court or opposing counsel that includes your bank account numbers, for example, the account numbers can be redacted.

Learn More About Filing for Divorce

In general, you cannot keep all your divorce records private. However, your attorney may be able to get the court to seal records under certain circumstances.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.
Can I Move Out of State with My Child?

Can I Move Out of State with My Child?

Despite everyone’s best efforts, child custody issues arise. Even in cases where the court and parents have agreed on what’s in the best interests for the children, life changes. At some point after a divorce, one parent may want or need to move out of state.

What California law says about move aways.

According to California Family Code 7501:

(a) A parent entitled to the custody of a child has a right to change the residence of the child, subject to the power of the court to restrain a removal that would prejudice the rights or welfare of the child.

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to affirm the decision in In re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25, and to declare that ruling to be the public policy and law of this state.

The decision in In re Marriage of Burgess grants a parent the presumptive right to move, not an absolute right. This means the court may or may not allow you to move. The court will consider factors in addition to your custody order before granting or denying your request to move away.

How much time do you usually spend with your child?

The court may consider how much time each parent spends with the child when deciding a move away case. The parent who has physical custody of a child more than the other parent may be more likely to win a move away case. Whether the time spent together is quality time may also influence the court’s decision.

Will the move be detrimental to your child?

Is the move being made for a legitimate reason that may benefit the child? Moving closer to extended family, living in a better neighborhood, and attending a better school are good reasons to move. Moving to be closer to your boyfriend or your favorite beach are not.

However, moving can be tough on a child’s relationship with his or her non-custodial parent, but courts often don’t consider that harmful enough to deny the motion to leave. However, if any of the child’s rights will be restricted due to the move, the court may refuse to allow the parent to move away.

Do you have a plan?

If you’re thinking of moving away, you need to plan ahead. It can be months before a judge grants or denies your request to move.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are highly experienced with child custody issues. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), Roseville, and surrounding communities.