Category Archives: Spousal Support

In re Marriage of McHugh When Spousal Unemployment in a Divorce Is Not Accidental

In re Marriage of McHugh: When Spousal Unemployment in a Divorce Is Not Accidental

Under California family law, both parents are expected to be financially responsible for their children. One parent often pays child support to the parent with a more significant custodial role. Courts base child support awards partially on the paying parent’s income. But what happens when that parent no longer has a job or other source of income? Even worse, what if spousal unemployment was not an accident?

What Happened in In re: Marriage of McHugh?

Charles and Connie McHugh were married in 1992. Before their separation in September 2009, they had one child. Charles filed for divorce, then Connie immediately asked the court to grant temporary child and spousal support. The court based the award amount on Charles’s monthly income of $24,149. He was a salesman for Amcor Packaging Distribution (Amcor), while Connie was a stay-at-home mom.

A few short months later, Charles asked the court to reduce his spousal and child support payments. He claimed “drastic income reduction” because he had lost his largest client at Amcor. The judge lowered his support payment.

In August 2011, Connie asked the court to set aside the order. Charles simultaneously asked the court for relief. Specifically, he wanted a further reduction of support payments. This time, Charles claimed he has been fired from Amcor and was earning less from his new job.

After various hearings and appeals, the court learned that Amcor fired Charles for various serious misdeeds. However, Amcor would have retained him if he had admitted his wrongdoing and paid restitution. Charles refused. This refusal made spousal unemployment deliberate, not accidental.

The case eventually landed in the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3. The court ruled on several issues, including the trial court’s imputing income to Charles when establishing support payments.

The Consequences of Intentional Spousal Unemployment

One or both spouses sometimes try to hide income and assets from the other spouse during a pending divorce action. Some even quit their jobs, leaving their children and spouse without financial support.

As in the McHugh’s case, courts can base support payments on the paying party’s past income. This often is the result of deliberate spousal unemployment. Charles McHugh had made several statements to Amcor that he was trying to hide money and reduce his income because of an impending divorce. He then did not make all efforts to keep the job that he had while married to Connie.

In cases of intentional spousal unemployment, one party chooses not to work to their full potential. But they may find themselves on the losing end of the argument before an unsympathetic judge.

Deliberate Spousal Unemployment to Reduce Support Payments Is Wrong

Courts do not award child support and spousal support on a whim. But support calculations are thrown off when one person decides not to pay their fair share. If you feel that your soon-to-be-ex-spouse is choosing spousal unemployment over support, please call a divorce attorney as soon as possible.

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 along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
What Are Ex Parte Hearings and How Do They Work

What Are Ex Parte Hearings and How Do They Work?

From the time a California divorce is filed until it is settled can take time.  But the parties sometimes require action from the court that just can’t wait. For example, ex parte hearings address emergency matters that need to be heard as soon as possible.

Ex Parte Hearings in a California Divorce

One or more parties may apply for emergency orders in family law cases.  

Courts might hold ex parte hearings for the following reasons:

  • Preventing danger or harm to another party or any children involved in the divorce.
  • Preventing immediate loss or damage to property.
  • Setting a hearing for a time that’s shorter than normal.
  • Shortening or extending the service time for notices of hearing and other court papers.
  • Rescheduling a hearing or trial.

Your attorney will know when ex parte hearings are needed and how to get them.

Applying for Ex Parte Decisions

Not every situation requires an expedited or emergency hearing. However, your attorney can ask for an ex parte hearing for the following basic reasons:

  • Request for an emergency order.
  • Ask to reschedule a hearing or trial.

Generally, applications must contain the following information:

  • Contact information for any attorneys involved in the case or the contact information for any party that does not have an attorney if known.
  • Declarations about facts supporting the request.
  • Lists of previous orders or applications made about the same issue.
  • A disclosure of any changes to the party’s status quo resulting from the order.
  • Specific information about child custody or visitation issues.

The law requires that most parties who request ex parte hearings usually must notify the other parties involved.

The declaration also contains details about how the filing party served the other party. If it was impossible to serve the notice, provide information about all attempts to serve. And finally, the person applying for an ex parte hearing can state any reasons that the notice of hearing should not be served.

We Can Discuss Ex Parte Hearings with You.

As our attorneys work on your case, they will identify any areas that might need emergency orders.

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 along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

 

FAQs About Spousal Support

FAQs About Spousal Support

Couples going through divorce have many decisions to make. Some of the most mystifying issues seem to be about spousal support. The person who needs the support wants as much as possible for as long as possible. But the person paying the support might want to avoid paying any at all. The following frequently asked questions and the answers that go with them might help take some of the mystery out of this crucial issue.

Spousal support is also sometimes referred to as  alimony. In a domestic partnership, it’s called partner support.

Is spousal support always awarded?

No. One or both parties can ask the court for temporary or permanent spousal support. Judges look at several factors before awarding spousal support to either party, including the length of the marriage and the standard of living the couple enjoyed during their marriage.

About how much spousal support can I expect?

The judge will decide how much spousal support to award based on some of the same factors used to decide the award. For example, has one spouse stayed home to take care of the house and kids instead of pursuing a career? That person may lack the marketable job skills needed to get a job that supports their prior standard of living. The court will also consider the paying spouse’s income. In some cases, the paying spouse might be ordered to pay around 40% of their net income after expenses.

The couple also could negotiate spousal support as part of their settlement.

How long do I have to pay my ex-spouse?

Here, the length of the marriage plays a part.

For marriages lasting less than ten years, spousal support payments could continue for about half the length of the marriage.

For marriages that lasted longer than ten years, the judge does not typically set an end date for support payments. This does not mean that payments will never end. The family court judge retains jurisdiction. Also, the paying spouse can ask for payments to end and provide proof that support is no longer needed.

Can only women get support?

No, courts can award spousal support to either spouse. Generally, the courts don’t consider gender when reviewing a request for spousal support.

I can’t get spousal support and child support at the same time, can I?

Yes, you can. Different factors go into calculating child support as opposed to spousal support. California courts use a statewide guideline to decide on child support amounts unrelated to spousal support calculations.

Also, both parents are expected to support their children financially under California child support law.

Whether You Have to Pay Child Support Can Be a Major Question

Taking financial responsibility for your children is important. However, splitting into two households can be expensive. Also, if you do have to pay child support, you want to make sure you pay an appropriate amount.

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.

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 along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

How a Forensic Accountant Can Help with Your Divorce Settlement

How a Forensic Accountant Can Help with Your Divorce Settlement

After 12 years of marriage, Blake usually knew when his wife Amanda was lying. Or, at least, he knew enough to be suspicious. The problem was proving it. Blake was especially concerned because he had just filed for divorce and knew he needed help. He and his attorney considered all the reasons they might want to hire a forensic accountant.

Analyzing and Corroborating Financial Information

A forensic accountant has the training and experience to do a deep dive into your finances. He or she can analyze your spouse’s financial disclosures and other property-related records more thoroughly than you can. They know what should be in the record and what should not be.

Identifying and Locating Hidden Assets

For example, many spouses try to hide assets from their spouses during a divorce. A forensic accountant is adept at searching and finding property that might otherwise be overlooked.

Untangling Business Interests

Business assets are often difficult to divide during the property division phase of a divorce. Experts like a forensic accountant can give you a clearer picture of how much a business is worth in terms of community property or separate property.

Calculating Potential Child Support and Spousal Support

It is necessary to understand the parties’ finances before agreeing on child support and spousal support. If the parties cannot agree, a family court judge could use your forensic accountant’s reports when calculating support payments.

Performing Traces to Characterize Property

Separate property belongs to only one spouse. Community property belongs to both spouses. However, sometimes the situation is murky, and it becomes difficult to decide whether property is separate, community, or quasi-community. Forensic accountants might have to trace back through financial records to determine how much of an asset should be divided between the parties.

Assisting and Advising Legal Counsel

Even the most experienced divorce attorney needs expert advice sometimes. Your forensic accountant provides an extra level of scrutiny to financial affairs, leaving your attorney free to deal with the legal issues.

Reporting and Testifying

Finally, your forensic accountant can be invaluable when it comes time to present his or her findings to the court. A well-written report based on factual evidence might go a long way toward helping your attorney get the best property division possible.

Let’s Talk About Forensic Accountants and Your Divorce Settlement

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 South California Coast.
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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