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Stockton CA Divorce Law Blog

When joint custody is not always what is best

California takes the best interests of a child into consideration first and foremost when determining custody. Though best interest standards typically dictate that equal and active involvement on both parent's parts is in the child's best interests, a legal or physical joint custody arrangement may not be appropriate for your unique situation. At Dianne Drew Butler & Associates, Inc., we have helped dozens of parents establish custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the children involved.  

California has neither a preference nor a presumption for or against joint legal, joint physical or sole custody. The judge presiding over your case is allowed to use his or her widest discretion to establish a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your child. That said, according to the California Family Code Section 3011, there is a rebuttable presumption that it is not in your child's best interests to enforce a joint custody arrangement if a parent has committed domestic violence. The same is true if you or the other parent has a recent history of habitual or continual abuse of prescribed controlled substances, illegal drugs or alcohol.

Collaboration: the way to stronger custody agreements

Divorce is a complex and difficult process, and it can often cause disruption in the lives of the kids. Many California parents work diligently to protect their children from undue harm by drafting parenting plans and custody arrangements that will work for their unique family situation. There are various ways you can arrive at a workable out-of-court arrangement.

One way you can navigate your custody concerns without going to court is through collaboration. Collaboration offers you a reasonable, organized and respectful way you can work together on a custody plan that will suit the best interests of your children and work for your family for years to come. Before you move forward, you may find it beneficial to consider this option.

What can I do to increase my odds of a better custody agreement?

If you want to increase your odds of obtaining a better custody agreement in California, you must prove to the judge that living with you for a majority of the time is in your child's best interests. Though there is no standard definition of "best interests," each state has its own set of guiding principles it uses to make best interest determinations.

Children's Bureau details best interest standards for each state, including California. California is one of 28 states that places the greatest emphasis on family integrity and permanence. The state does not believe in removing a child from his or her family home if it is not necessary. California also stresses the importance of maintaining sibling and other familial bonds. If you stay in the family home and can prove that you have close ties with other family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles, step-siblings, etc.) that the other parent does not, you may have a chance at a better custody outcome.

Dividing real estate in the divorce

If you and your spouse have acquired a significant amount of real estate during your marriage, your divorce may be a high-asset one and subject to stricter property division guidelines. At Dianne Drew Butler & Associates, Inc., we represent clients in high-asset divorce cases throughout the Central Valley in California. We possess a thorough understanding of California's community property laws, which we use to help clients obtain the fairest possible settlement in their high net worth divorces.

According to SF Gate, California is one of nine community property states in the nation. What this means is that, unlike in an equitable distribution state, a judge will split your assets and liabilities 50/50, regardless of who purchased an asset or if one spouse did not work. The theory behind this concept is that both spouses contributed to the marriage in some way, even if not monetarily.

Mediation is not always best for every divorce

Divorce is often a time of upheaval and high emotion. As your marriage comes to an end, you have many decisions to make, and you want to be certain that your choices allow you to move into your post-divorce life with as little stress as possible.

For many California couples, this means choosing an alternative to the traditional litigated divorce, such as collaboration or mediation. However, these forms of dispute resolution are not always ideal for every divorcing couple.

What makes a premarital agreement unenforceable

A prenuptial agreement can serve as a great tool for mitigating common divorce issues, such as the division of property and alimony. Unfortunately, in our experience, there are flaws in the vast majority of California premarital agreements. Such flaws often render those agreements invalid. Our legal team at Dianne Drew Butler & Associates, Inc., often reviews prenuptial agreements with clients to ensure the documents are valid.

According to section 1615 of the California Family Code, there are two main reasons for which a court may render your premarital agreement invalid. The first is if you did not enter the agreement voluntarily, such as if your spouse pressured you into the agreement even though you were not comfortable with signing it. The second is if the agreement is in any way unconscionable, meaning that it did not provide a fair, judicious and complete disclosure of your spouse‚Äôs property and/or the financial obligations of both of you. If you can prove that one of these two factors is true, the judge may render the contract void.

Should you consider legal separation instead of divorce?

The decision to divorce is a tough one to make, as once a couple makes the decision there is no going back. Many California couples are not ready for that kind of finality. If you and your spouse have decided that you need a time-out but are not quite sure if divorce is what you want, you may consider legal separation.

In some states, legal separation can be just as permanent as divorce, but not in California. In the Golden State, legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership. However, according to FindLaw, it does result in enforceable court orders that help couples facilitate still-connected aspects of their lives. For instance, if you and your spouse share a bank account, children and a health insurance policy, an enforceable court order may separate your finances and direct the custody and support of your children. It may also contain language that ensures that both parties have access to health care benefits via the shared plan.

Custody modification requests should not be made lightly

You probably want to avoid creating more upheaval and stress for your child. After all, the divorce was stressful enough, and you are only beginning to adjust to your new reality.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment was the parenting plan the court ordered. It may have been especially difficult if your former spouse refused to negotiate with you or made little effort to communicate with you to make it work more smoothly. You may be wondering if you have justification to ask the court to modify your custody order.

Are there rules for how I can spend child support?

It is a common misconception that parents can only use child support to pay for a child's most basic necessities such as food, shelter and clothing. The truth is that you, as a recipient parent in California, can use child support for any and all costs associated with raising your child, including those related to entertainment, sports, extracurricular activities, child care, medical care and even vacations.

The section of California's Family Code regarding child support does not specify for what child support should and should not be used. The code does state, however, that children should enjoy the same standard of living at both parent's homes, and therefore, that a recipient parent may use the money to improve his or her standard of living. The theory behind this is that by improving one's standard of living subsequently improves the life of the child. For instance, if child support makes it possible for you to take your child on vacation, you may use the support money to fund the getaway.  

Should same-sex partners get married?

Since the landmark Supreme Court ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case in 2015, same-sex couples throughout the country, including California, are now afforded the same legal rights and privileges that opposite-sex couples enjoy in regard to marriage. However, no couple should take the decision to get married lightly. While there are many potential benefits to marrying your partner, there are also potential drawbacks.

Every situation is different, and ultimately you and your partner may decide that the potential benefits of remaining unmarried may outweigh the potential drawbacks of marriage, or vice versa.

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Dianne Drew Butler & Associates, Inc.
3031 West March Lane
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Stockton, CA 95219

Phone: 209-390-8829
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