Category Archives: Spousal Support

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.

Taking Care of Your Financial Future During Divorce

Taking Care of Your Financial Future During Divorce

Some people may find it difficult to imagine a future without their spouse. But if you are getting a divorce, your future is at stake. While you start considering where you will live and which friends will take your side, take a long hard look at your financial future. Will you flourish financially after the divorce is final? That depends on the steps you take before and during your divorce.

Protecting Your Financial Future Before the Divorce

If you are planning to initiate the divorce, you have a little more time to get ready. If you suspect your spouse is planning to make a move, you can avoid being blindsided. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Organize your financial matters. Know what you and your spouse have and where it is located.
  • Gather your records. Get copies of all financial records and try to store them away from home. If your spouse was the person in charge of finances, you might have to quietly search for tax returns, bank statements, and investment account statements. Don’t forget Social Security and retirement accounts.
  • Avoid adding any community debt. Buying a house or any other high ticket items might hurt your financial future if you think you will be leaving soon.
  • Consider applying for a credit card in your name only. It might be difficult to get new credit right after your divorce. However, that’s when you might need it the most.
  • Start a bank account in your own name. You can start depositing money to build up an emergency account.

As you start building your financial future, consider getting a P.O. box to protect your privacy.

We have to mention this: you cannot hide finances from your spouse during your divorce. However, your spouse is not allowed to do that either.

Watch for Financial Disclosures and Shenanigans During Your Divorce

California law requires that both parties to the divorce file full financial disclosures during a divorce proceeding. This information helps the court with property division, spousal support, and child support.

  • Carefully review your spouse’s financial disclosures. Is your spouse honestly declaring income, assets, and debts? Compare your spouse’s claims with your records to look for discrepancies.
  • Is your spouse hiding income or assets? For example, you may see signs that your ex-spouse spending above their income. Unfortunately, hiding income is common. Quietly reviewing your spouse’s social media can help.

Also, this is still a time to keep an eye on your own finances.

  • Watch your spending. Making a budget based on your current finances could help preserve your financial future.
  • Check your credit report. Take action immediately if you see unusual changes. You could be the victim of identity theft, or your spouse could be doing things that will harm your financial future.

It may seem easier to give in to your spouse’s demands instead of sticking up for yourself. But taking just a few precautions with the assistance of your divorce lawyer can help you have a better financial future.

Protecting Your Financial Future Is Possible.

After the divorce is final, make sure you remove your ex-spouse’s name from your financial accounts. Take time to review your current financial situation and make necessary adjustments to your budget.

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 Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Smith-Ostler Orders How to Handle an Ex-Spouse’s Bonus Pay

Smith-Ostler Orders: How to Handle an Ex-Spouse’s Bonus Pay

Spousal support and child support are often two of the most contentious issues in a divorce. The person paying support feels the payment is too high. The person receiving support sometimes feels the payment is unfairly low. Calculating support can be challenging. The process becomes more complicated when the payer’s annual income fluctuates for any reason, including bonuses and overtime. In such situations, the judge may sign Smith-Ostler Orders.

California Spousal Support and Child Support

Generally, courts award spousal support to:

“limit any unfair economic impact to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse in a divorce by providing that spouse with an ongoing income.”

Courts consider a number of factors when calculating spousal support, including age, length of the marriage, earning ability, and annual income.

Child support is handled differently. Under California law, both parents are financially responsible for their children. Courts may order one parent to make monthly support payments to the other as a form of being financially responsible. When calculating child support, courts typically consider the amount of time parents spend with their children as well as each parent’s income.

It’s the reliance on annual income that sometimes causes problems. It’s challenging to calculate support when parents earn money from overtime or bonuses that vary from year to year.

Smith vs. Ostler

Victoria Smith and Clyde W. Ostler, Jr., married at age 17. They had four children before divorcing after 21 years of marriage.

At the time of the divorce, Clyde had a high-paying job with a financial institution that included a car allowance, dividends, and an annual bonus. Victoria had worked to put Clyde through college, then became a stay-at-home mom.

As they worked out their marital settlement, Clyde’s income became a point of contention. He wanted the Court to consider only his base salary. Victoria felt his bonus had been an integral part of the family’s annual income.

The family court ordered Clyde to pay spousal support to Victoria and child support for his two minor children. Clyde was also ordered to pay a percentage of his future bonuses to Vicki for herself and child support.

Clyde appealed the bonus part of his support order, but the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order.

This divorce lends its name to Smith-Ostler Orders currently issued regarding an ex-spouse’s future bonus payments.

Smith-Ostler Orders Are Just One Factor Affecting Your Support.

Courts consider many actors before awarding spousal support and child support.

And support negotiations can get messy.

We strongly recommend that you talk to an experienced California divorce attorney about your divorce. 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 Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

my wife makes more than i do will she have to pay spousal support

My Wife Makes More Than I Do. Will She Have to Pay Spousal Support?

Seth and Angela enjoyed a comfortable, upper-class lifestyle during their 12-year marriage. However, many of their luxuries were made possible by Angela because she earned far more than Seth. This became an issue only when they decided to divorce because Seth asked his wife to pay spousal support to him. Does a wife have to pay her ex-husband support after they divorce? Isn’t that usually the husband’s duty? Continue reading

What Happens if My Husband Stops Paying Spousal Suppor

What Happens if My Husband Stops Paying Spousal Support?

Joyce was relieved when her ex-husband, Martin, was ordered to pay spousal support. She had no way of maintaining anything close to the lifestyle she enjoyed during their 22-year marriage. It would take several years for her to train for a career so she could support herself. Then, suddenly, she stopped receiving checks from Martin. When your husband stops paying spousal support, where do you turn?
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My Spouse and I Can’t Agree on Anything How to Negotiate Divorce Issues

My Spouse and I Can’t Agree on Anything: How to Negotiate Divorce Issues

Constant bickering and disagreements can lead a couple to turn to divorce. However, after filing the petition, the unhappy couple now have to resolve a lot of serious issues they couldn’t settle while they were married! If you and your spouse can’t agree on anything, be prepared. You still have to negotiate  divorce issues to reach a settlement. Here are some tips on how to do just that:
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How Long Will I Have to Pay Spousal Support

How Long Will I Have to Pay Spousal Support?

Jennifer knew she might have to pay spousal support to her husband, Blake. After all, her income had been much higher than his for most of their 12-year marriage. However, as they negotiated their marital settlement, she couldn’t help but ask her attorney, “How long will I have to pay spousal support to Blake?” The answer to her question depended on a number of factors.

General Reasons the Court May End Spousal Support

In some cases, the court may not order spousal support in the dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership. Based on the couple’s standard of living or earning capacity, neither spouse may be economically disadvantaged after the divorce.

If spousal support is ordered, the person who is paying (the “payor”) may want to know how long they will be required to pay. Spousal support, also known as domestic support or alimony, may end under the following circumstances:

  • A court order or judgment;
  • One of the parties dies; or
  • The person receiving spousal supporting remarries or registers a domestic partnership.

Many factors play into the question of whether spousal support will be ordered and for how long.

The Length of the Marriage Matters

The California Family Code (the “Code”) contains laws regarding divorce, including spousal support. Section 4320 states that the supported party (the person receiving alimony) is expected to be self-supporting within a reasonable time frame. “Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage…”

For example, if Jennifer and Blake had been married eight years, Jennifer might be ordered to pay spousal support to Blake for four years. This assumes that the request for spousal support meets all other requirements.

However, a “marriage of long duration” is generally considered to be any marriage over ten years. Unless the parties agree otherwise or a court order terminates support, the court continues to oversee, or retain jurisdiction, indefinitely for marriages of long duration. Because Jennifer and Blake have been married 12 years, their marriage fits the definition of a marriage of long duration.

How Long Will You Pay Spousal Support?

There’s no easy answer here. Whether a party pays spousal support, how much support will be paid, and how long payments last depends on the particular facts of your case. In addition, some decisions are up to the judge’s discretion.

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 maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Diego, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
Why Preliminary Financial Disclosures Are Important

Why Preliminary Financial Disclosures Are Important

The typical divorce case involves many issues, including child custody, spousal support, and property division. Transparency is key to fairly resolving these issues, especially when it comes to dividing a couple’s marital assets and debts. In a community property state like California, debts and assets acquired after marriage usually belong to both parties. That’s why the preliminary financial disclosures are important – it’s hard to divide property when you don’t know it exists.

What are preliminary financial disclosures?

The divorce action starts when one person files a petition to dissolve the marriage. At the same time, or within 60 days, the petitioner serves the preliminary financial disclosures on the other party. If the other party responds to the petition, he or she must also serve preliminary financial disclosures on the petitioner.

Several documents make up the disclosure packet:

  • Declaration of Disclosure,
  • Income and Expense Declaration,
  • Schedule or Assets and Debts OR a Property Declaration, and
  • Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure.

Courts generally do not grant divorces if the parties have not submitted their financial disclosure forms.

What happens if the preliminary financial disclosures are wrong?

It’s entirely possible one party could omit assets from the disclosures accidentally. It’s also possible that the assets are being hidden to avoid sharing them with the other party.

If disclosures are incomplete or wrong, the simple answer is that the property will not be divided evenly. One party may not receive everything they deserve. The court may approve the property settlement without learning of the hidden property.

Accidental omissions on the preliminary financial disclosures may be easy to fix. However, deliberately concealing assets can lead to penalties. For example, a court may award 100% of a community property asset to the innocent party instead of only 50%.

Make Sure Your Property Is Disclosed and Divided Properly

Talk to an experienced 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 Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
What Is “Property” in a Divorce?

What Is “Property” in a Divorce?

We all own ‘stuff.’ Sometimes we get quite attached to that stuff, which makes it that much more difficult to divide it up during a divorce. Both parties may want an item and have trouble deciding whether it is considered property in a divorce. Basically, property is anything that can be bought or sold or has a value. However, the question may become more complex during the property division stage of a divorce.

Community Property vs. Separate Property

Generally, courts consider most property (and debts) accumulated during a marriage to belong to both parties. However, this is not as cut and dried as it may seem. For example, an inheritance one spouse receives during the marriage may remain the separate property of that party. Sometimes separate property may become mixed with community property during the course of the marriage. Hard decisions have to be made, then approved by the court.

But Is it Really “Property”

Generally, we think of personal property and real property. Some possessions may not be thought of as property, though, especially when it comes to splitting them between spouses. That said, you might expect the following items to be personal property:
  • Furniture,
  • décor,
  • collections, like wine or art,
  • appliances,
  • clothes,
  • jewelry,
  • books, and
  • other personal effects.
However, personal property also may include:
  • bank accounts,
  • retirement accounts,
  • investment accounts,
  • vehicles, including boats, cars, and airplanes.
Real estate, or real property, may include:
  • Your home,
  • Commercial property, and
  • investment property.
We sometimes don’t think of our belongings as “property” in a divorce, property that needs to be split. For example, Margie never considered her husband’s tool collection as property  — until she filed for divorce. And Liam never thought his wife’s art collection was a big deal, but then it became property to be appraised during their property division negotiations. Whether you consider items to be property or not, be aware that they may figure into your divorce settlement.

Final Thoughts on Property in a Divorce

Determining whether a possession is community property or separate property makes a difference in property division. It’s also important to know the value of your property before dividing it up. You need an attorney who understands simple to complex property situations. To discuss how to handle property and divorce issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.