Dual Citizenship’s Effect on Divorce

Dual Citizenship’s Effect on Divorce

Nancy knew when she married Mark that he was both a United States Citizen and a citizen of Nigeria. He had been born in the U.S., but his parents raised him in their home country. She did not know how Mark’s dual citizenship would affect their divorce a few years later.

Does it matter where the divorce proceeding takes place?

Anyone who considers divorcing a spouse with dual citizenship owes it to themselves to do a little research. Choosing to file in the country with the most favorable divorce laws could make a huge difference, especially when spousal support and child custody are involved.

Nancy may be able to file for divorce in the United States if she meets applicable residency requirements. For example, California law requires the filing party to live in California for the 6 months prior to filing. The filing party is also required to live for at least 3 months in the county in which they plan to file.

What if one spouse moves their children to their home country without permission?

In this situation, a parent who is also a U.S. citizen could reach out to the United States Department of State. However, it may also be necessary to start working through the courts of the country to which the children have been moved.

How can court orders be enforced?

The court handling the divorce proceeding has the authority to hand down orders. The problem may be enforcing orders in another country. The U.S. State Department may be able to help. However, it’s likely that a person based in the U.S., for example, will have to retain counsel in their ex-spouse’s country.

Plan Ahead for Dual Citizenship Issues.

Dealing with this type of issue can take divorce to a whole new level. This is hard to say, but the best time to plan for this type of issue is before the marriage takes place. Actions that seem harmless with the Wedding March still ringing in your ears may have serious consequences if it becomes time to divorce.

Contact a California attorney to learn your options. 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.

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.
The Effect of Long-Term Marriage on Divorce Settlements

The Effect of Long-Term Marriage on Divorce Settlements

Jack and Diane’s marriage lasted much longer than the average marriage. But after 32 years, they decided to call it quits. They knew their adult children would be fine, but really had no idea how their long-term marriage would affect their divorce settlement.

Divorce Settlements, in General.

The parties to a divorce agree on a divorce settlement, or the court irons out the details for them. Typically, such settlements include custody and visitation agreements, child support, division of assets and debts, and spousal support.

For issues involving children, courts look for an arrangement that best suits the children’s needs.

When it comes to assets and debts, California is a community property state. This means that a couple’s debts and property are generally considered to be owned 50-50, although there are exceptions.

Spousal support is based on factors like:

  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • Whether the supported party contributed to supporting party’s career.
  • The supporting spouse’s ability to pay.
  • Each spouse’s needs.
  • Each spouse’s assets and obligations.
  • The duration of marriage.
  • Whether supported spouse can work without harming children.

This is not the complete list contained in the California Family Code 4320. However, in this blog, we are looking at how people married for over 10 years fare in a divorce. The length of the marriage is only one factor in negotiating a settlement.

So, What’s Different About Long-Term Marriages?

Marriages that last less than 10 years are generally thought of a short-term when it comes to calculating spousal support. When one spouse needs support from the other, courts often give the needy spouse alimony for one half the duration of the marriage. Importantly, the court orders a time period wherein the court can make further decisions related to alimony. For example, for a marriage of 8 years, the supported spouse might receive alimony for 4 years, but the court retains jurisdiction for only 2.

A supported spouse leaving a long-term marriage may receive support for half the duration of the marriage. Courts tend to be more flexible in longer-lasting marriages. As for jurisdiction, the court can make decisions about alimony for this divorce indefinitely. If the supported spouse becomes ill while receiving support, the court could order additional support after taking all factors into consideration.

Years Can Make a Difference.

If you’re facing divorce, how long you remained married influences your divorce settlement. However, courts are not required to abide by a 10-year rule. It’s just a very common measurement. It’s best to speak with an attorney to make sure you receive everything to which you are entitled.

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.

What Is Included in a Petition for Divorce?

What Is Included in a Petition for Divorce?

In California, the process of ending a marriage or a domestic partnership begins when you file a petition for divorce in your local superior court. The petition, Form FL-100, is a three-page document completed by checking boxes and writing in short answers to questions.

Whether you are ending a marriage or a domestic partnership, the petition for divorce requests the same information. To prepare for completing Form FL-100, gather or have ready the following information:

  • The name and contact information of you and your partner in the marriage or domestic relationship.
  • Your county of residence for the last three months and your state of residence for the last six months.
  • The names and ages of any minor children of the relationship, including the paternity of the children.

Your county and state of residence determine which court has jurisdiction to grant your divorce. For marriages, you must file the petition for divorce in the superior court of the county where you have lived for the last three months.

In addition to the information above, the form petition for divorce also asks the following questions:

  • whether you are seeking a divorce due to irreconcilable differences or, instead, due to the permanent legal incapacity of your spouse or domestic partner to make decisions;
  • whether you are seeking spousal or domestic partner support;
  • whether you or your spouse or domestic partner has separate property, community property, or quasi-community property;
  • whether you are ending a marriage, a domestic partnership established in California, or a domestic partnership established outside of California;
  • whether you want your former name restored; and
  • whether you are asking the court to order your spouse or domestic partner to pay your attorney’s fees.

You should consult with and have an attorney complete the petition for divorce. Form FL-100 may look simple enough to fill out, consisting only of boxes to check and short answers to fill in, but how it is completed impacts you divorce. Along with the petition for divorce, you must file a summons, which is Form FL-110. Yet another form is required if there are minor children. You must also pay a filing fee.

Additionally, the form does not tell whether other law may affect your particular circumstances. For example, if you or your spouse or domestic partner is in the military, your divorce may be subject to the provisions of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act as well. The filing of a petition for divorce may also affect your immigration status. There are some differences in the divorce process depending on other factors such as whether there are children of the relationship or whether the relationship is a marriage or a domestic partnership.

If you have questions about how to complete the petition for divorce, about divorce in general, or about how your circumstances may affect the divorce process, contact an experienced California divorce attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger will provide authoritative legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.

Who Controls Marital Property During the Marriage?

Who Controls Marital Property During the Marriage?

The assets a couple accumulates during marriage, for the most part, are marital property. This includes money and things of value such as automobiles, furnishings, and real property like the marital home. Each spouse is a 50 percent owner of the assets. There are circumstances under which property owned by one of the parties before marriage may become marital property, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Marital property may be controlled by either or both parties to a marriage. Both own half of the property, and both have the authority to manage or dispose of the property but with this limitation: the controlling spouse cannot act in a way that diminishes the other spouse’s 50 percent share of the asset’s value.

The underlying concept of control of marital property is that marriage is a contract that imposes a “fiduciary duty” on each party. In the context of this discussion, the duty requires the spouse who exercises control over a particular asset to do so without damaging the other’s 50 percent interest in the property.

A good example of both the power to control an asset and the fiduciary duty is a car owned by a couple. Most married people officially title a car as belonging to John or Jane Doe. This means that in the eyes of the State of California, either John or Jane can assign the title of the car to a third person.

According to California Family Code § 1100, however, the party disposing of the car may not do so for less than “fair and reasonable” value without getting the consent of the other spouse. In the case of the car, the spouse could legally sell it according to state motor vehicle law, but if he did so for $10,000 less than its value without his spouse’s consent, the non-consenting spouse would have a claim against him.

In this example, the spouse selling the car has a fiduciary duty to the other spouse to maintain the value of her 50 percent interest in the fair and reasonable value of the car at the time of its disposition. A failure to do so results in the selling spouse being liable for that loss.

In the case of real property, it is little different. California Family Code § 1102 requires that any sale or encumbrance of real property, or its lease for more than one year, requires execution by both spouses. There is much less room for a spouse to take unilateral action without the other spouse’s agreement. A spouse is, however, authorized to encumber her half of real property for the purpose of engaging counsel once a proceeding for dissolution of the marriage has been commenced.

If you have concerns about your spouse’s management of marital assets, you should consult with an experienced California divorce lawyer. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger will provide authoritative legal support tailored to your specific situation. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can help: (415) 293-8314.


 

Does California Recognize Common Law Marriages?

Does California Recognize Common Law Marriages?

It seems like no one gets married anymore. We all have family members and friends who choose to live with their significant others rather than “tie the knot.” We have all also probably heard of common law marriage. Doesn’t that mean that people living together are actually tying the knot even though they may think otherwise? In California, perhaps surprisingly, that is not the case. The Golden State has not recognized common law marriage since 1895.

Marriage laws are governed by state laws. Common law marriage was a function of older times when states were either not yet states or had not yet formally codified marriage rules. Today, only 10 states and the District of Columbia recognize common law marriage.

While California law does not allow for common law marriage, it may recognize one that was effected in a state that does permit common law marriage. Such was the case in the matter of In re Marriage of Smylko. In this case, the Smylkos had been formally married in Alabama in 1941, but they divorced in 1953. In 1957, they moved back in together and again lived as husband and wife in such a way as constituted a common law marriage under Alabama law.

The couple moved to California in 1960, where they continued to live together. In 1976, Mr. Smylko moved to Hawaii and subsequently remarried. He continued to send money to his common law wife in California for another five years. When he stopped, his California wife filed an action to “determine the validity of her marriage.” The California court ruled that there was a valid marriage recognized in that state due to its having existed in the state of Alabama before the Smylkos moved to California.

This case, which was decided in 1986, does not mean that any common law marriage from another state will be found to constitute marriage in California. Each case is evaluated on its own particular facts as well as the laws of the state where the marriage occurred.

If you have established a relationship that is commensurate with marriage within the state of California, a claim of common law marriage will not survive. If, however, you came here from another state under circumstances that might fulfill the common law marriage requirements in that state, and you need for that marriage to be recognized for whatever reason, you might have a strong argument.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including what constitutes a legal marriage. We can advise you about the many different issues that can come into play when a marriage is in question. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.

What Is Required to Marry in California?

What Is Required to Marry in California?

Every state has legal requirements that must be met if two people want to get married. One of the main requirements is the issuance of a marriage license. The marriage license must be obtained before the marriage takes place, and it must be filed with the appropriate office within 10 days after the ceremony occurs. This article will discuss the prerequisites for marriage in California.

California recognizes two types of marriage licenses: public and confidential. Public marriage licenses are part of the public record in the county in which the license is purchased. Anyone can obtain a copy of a public marriage license. Confidential marriage licenses are confidential records that are registered in the county where they are purchased. Other than the couple, only people who have a court order may obtain a copy of a confidential marriage license.

Some of the requirements for a marriage license are common to both public and confidential licenses:

  • Both people must be at least 18 years old (with one exception for public licenses noted below).
  • Neither person may be a partner in a current marriage.
  • Both people must appear personally with photo identification and, depending on the county’s requirements, a copy of their birth certificates.
  • The marriage must be solemnized in a ceremony conducted by someone legally authorized to do so.
  • If either person was married before, he or she must know the ending date of the marriage and how the marriage ended, such as through divorce or death.
  • The couple must pay a fee for the issuance of the license.

To obtain a public marriage license, at least one witness must be present and must sign the certificate. Additionally, a person under the age of 18 may marry with permission of both a parent and a superior court judge.

To obtain a confidential marriage license, the parties must be living together at the time they apply for the license. No witnesses are required.

Once issued, a marriage license is valid for 90 days. The marriage must take place within this time. If it does not, the couple will need to obtain a new license.

If you need the assistance of an experienced California family lawyer, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today if you have questions about California family law: (415) 293-8314.

Contesting Parentage in California

Contesting Parentage in California

It goes without saying that being a parent comes with both rights and responsibilities. Nowhere is this more evident than in legal proceedings that relate to families. In the realm of family law, a child’s parents have the right to request custody and visitation. However, they also have the responsibility of supporting the child, sometimes by paying child support, uninsured healthcare costs, and child care costs.

When a child is born, the mother’s name is listed on the birth certificate. If the mother is married at the time of birth, her husband is presumed to be the father, and his name is also placed on the birth certificate. Likewise, if the mother was married at the time the child was conceived, that man is presumed to be the father and is listed on the certificate.

If the mother is not married, determining who the father is can be more complicated. A very common way of establishing paternity is through a voluntary Declaration of Paternity completed by the parents. Outside of a presumption or voluntary declaration, court proceedings are often used to determine the child’s father. You can read more about paternity at our earlier blog here.

But what happens when a man disputes that he is the father of the child? Indeed, much is at stake for everyone involved — the mother, the putative father, the child, and the state of California.

The California Family Code reaffirms that the state has a compelling interest in establishing child paternity and that both parents have a duty to support their children. This makes sense because parentage affects many rights:

  • child support;
  • child custody and visitation;
  • health insurance;
  • military benefits, survivors’ benefits, and Social Security benefits; and
  • inheritance rights.

When a parent does not support a child, the child suffers. However, the child’s family and the state are also often negatively affected.

The state child support agency can request that a court establish the paternity of a child. Others who may start a paternity suit include the mother, the child’s personal representative, and, of course, the father. A man has the legal right to request a genetic test to determine whether he is the biological father of a child.

Under California Family Code § 7575, if a man who signed a voluntary declaration of paternity is determined by genetic testing not to be the father, the court may still refuse to set aside the declaration. The court’s decision in this regard is focused on the best interest of the child.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including challenges to paternity. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.

California Law on Premarital Agreements

California Law on Premarital Agreements
If asked, few people would willingly turn over their future financial decisions to lawmakers or judges, but the truth is that without a premarital agreement, that is exactly what happens. Executing a premarital agreement gives both parties control over future financial matters. And premarital agreements are designed for more than just divorce.

In fact, California law allows the parties to a planned marriage a great degree of control over future financial matters, regardless of how the marriage ends. For example, a couple could agree to one set of conditions if the marriage ended in divorce but a separate set of conditions if the marriage ended with the death of one of the parties.

At the core of a valid premarital agreement are voluntariness and full disclosure. In fact, if either of these conditions are not met, the agreement is unenforceable. In addition, a premarital agreement must be made before the marriage occurs. The agreement only becomes effective after the marriage has been formalized.

A couple can set forth their respective rights and obligations with regard to several matters in a premarital agreement:

  • real and personal property ownership, management, and control;
  • the disposition of property at the termination of the marriage;
  • the requirement to create another document — such as a will or trust — to execute the provisions of the premarital agreement; and
  • the ownership and disposition of life insurance death benefits.

A premarital agreement may make provisions for spousal support, but, by law, it cannot control child support or child custody.

California law relating to premarital agreements also contains several formalities that must be followed for the agreement to be enforceable. If you need the assistance of an experienced California family lawyer to protect your interests in the drafting or interpretation of a premarital agreement, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger can help. Make the call today to learn how our attorneys can fight for you: (415) 293-8314.

What Must You Disclose about Your Assets and Liabilities in Your California Divorce Proceeding?

What Must You Disclose about Your Assets and Liabilities in Your California Divorce Proceeding?
It is human nature to not want to disclose financial details with your soon-to-be-ex spouse. However, when you are involved in a legal proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or nullity, it is mandatory that you do so. In fact, failing to make full and accurate disclosures can have severe consequences.

Under California law, spouses must act as “fiduciaries” to one another. This is an obligation of the highest order, requiring each spouse to deal with the other in “good faith” and not to take “unfair advantage” of the other. The fiduciary duty continues past the date of separation even while the divorce case is pending. The fiduciary duty also applies when it is time to make mandatory financial disclosures during the legal proceedings.

California law provides for the systematic disclosure of financial information between the spouses. Complete and accurate disclosure is important for several reasons:

  • It prevents the parties from dissipating assets before the court officially distributes them.
  • It helps to “ensure fair and sufficient child and spousal support awards.”
  • It helps the court divide the couple’s assets and liabilities.
  • It helps reduce acrimony between the parties.

The first disclosure is considered preliminary and consists of two main documents: the “Schedule of Debts and Assets” and the “income and expense declaration.” These documents are both basic inventories. The first document must list all actual or potential assets and liabilities, regardless of how they are titled or listed on paper. The second document must provide information about each party’s income and expenses. Both parties have an ongoing duty to update these documents immediately if there are any material changes.

The second disclosure is called final. The final disclosures provide much more detail about each party’s financial information. These documents must provide “all material facts and information” about assets, liabilities, community property, community obligations, and party income and expenses.

California laws include specific requirements that must be met in financial disclosures. If these requirements are not met, the court can impose monetary sanctions, including attorney’s fees and costs, and can hold the party in contempt of court. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have extensive experience in family law matters, including financial disclosures. Contact us today to learn how our attorneys can help you in your case: (415) 293-8314.