Divorce

Many people are unsure if, or when, they should seek the advice of an...

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PATERNITY

In San Diego, California there are many cases in which parents are not married...

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CUSTODY & VISITATION

For most parents, the most important issue in a divorce or legal separation...

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signing a checkIn most stereotypical child support cases, one parent makes a monthly payment to the other parent for the support of the child. So what happens if you have a court order that requires you to pay support to your ex-spouse, but then, some time later, the child stops living with your ex-spouse and thereafter lives with your parents? According to a recent ruling by the First District Court of Appeal, this situation may entitle you to pursue certain legal action regarding your child support, even if the child resided with a third party rather than in your own home.

The backstory was a complicated one. The parents married in 1978 and had the child in 1979, and the mother filed for divorce in 1981. The child, from 1981 to reaching age 18 in 1997, lived with the mother for two 10-month stretches. For the rest of the time, the child lived with the father’s parents.

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pile of cashChild support can be a complicated issue in any family. Even when the supporting parent is among the “1%,” the supporting parent may feel a need to seek a downward modification of his obligation when his income dips. That’s what a movie and commercial director claimed after his work-related income dropped by more than three-quarters. However, since the director also had more than $60 million in amassed assets, the Second District Court of Appeal concluded that the father had not demonstrated a material change in circumstances, and the trial court should have denied his request for a modification.

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gavelWhen you are going through a family law case, there are certain steps the court must take to resolve the issue, depending on which type of claim is involved. If your case involves a request for a modification of child support, for example, the court must identify whether or not there has been a material change in circumstances, regardless of the level of need the children may have. In one recent case originating in Los Angeles County, the Second District Court of Appeal overturned a trial court’s refusal to modify child support because, in that case, the lower court never completed the “material change in circumstances” analysis, which was required.

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gavelCalifornia has operated under a “no-fault” standard for divorce cases since Governor Ronald Reagan signed the country’s first no-fault divorce law in 1970. Since that time, spouses may seek a dissolution of their marriage in California as long as they meet the jurisdictional requirements and allege that the marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown due to irreconcilable differences. As a recent Southern California case decided by the Second District Court of Appeal demonstrates, the standard for deciding spousal support is not the same. In litigating spousal support, the parties may offer evidence of fault, especially if the at-fault party is the spouse seeking support.

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magnifying glassIn family law, as with many areas of the law, it pays to pay close attention to “the fine print.” Each detail and every term of any legal agreement into which you enter has the potential to have a profound impact on you. For example, if you agree in a marital settlement to pay alimony until your ex-spouse’s death or your ex-spouse’s remarriage, the law and the courts will hold you to that. As a result, if you want to end your alimony payments, you’ll need clear proof of an actual marriage, not just evidence that your ex is holding herself out as married to her new partner. That was what ultimately defeated one Southern California husband’s case, recently decided by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

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moneyIn family law cases, as with many areas of life, one can sometimes lose an individual battle but still achieve a larger outcome of success in the end. In a recent example, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court’s ruling that raised an ex-husband’s spousal support obligation to make up for the man’s declining receipt of future military pension payments. The ex-wife was not allowed to receive this money as spousal support because the law doesn’t allow judges to increase spousal support just to make up for lost community property interests. The ex-wife was entitled to receive this money, but it just could not be in the form of spousal support.

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man aloneThe chances are that you are good at the job you do. Whether you are a plumber or a podiatrist, a kindergarten teacher or a chemical engineer, it is reasonably likely that there are things about your job and your industry that are well within your personal sphere of knowledge that would be outside that of the average “person on the street” who hasn’t done your job. The same is true for the law — all types of law. While family law matters may seem more manageable as a layperson than, say, patent law or international business transactions, thinking that there isn’t a cost to be paid when you forego counsel can very often be dangerous. In one recent case, a father managed, as a result of the way he mishandled his appeals case, to block the First District Court of Appeal from reviewing either his divorce judgment or his post-judgment child support case.

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signatureWhen you go through a divorce process in California, there potentially are many things to address. One of these may be whether or not you and your spouse have any community property. Sometimes, the identification of the status of a property can be murky, especially if a community asset’s sale may not have been valid. In a recent case involving two apartment buildings sold using a forged deed, the courts were asked to decide whether the sale was valid. In this case, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the wife couldn’t challenge a forged deed because she had pro-actively taken many steps that blocked her from going back and arguing that the sale should be invalidated and the buildings deemed to be omitted community assets.

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Almond orchardWhen a couple goes through a divorce process in California, there are three types of assets they may have:  the first spouse’s separate property, the second spouse’s separate property, and community property. If the classification of each of your assets is completely black and white, agreeing on a division of property in your divorce may be relatively straightforward. But few things in life are ever all black and white. What happens if the couple took money from a community asset and invested it in improving an asset that was one of the spouses’ separate property? That was the issue recently before the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which decided that such a scenario gave the community a right of reimbursement, and that right, when not accounted for in the couple’s divorce judgment, gave the wife a valid cause for action under the statute governing unadjudicated assets.

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Alarm ClockAn old maxim familiar to those well-versed in the law says that “equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights.” In a recently decided matter before the Fourth District Court of Appeal, this was, in some ways, literally true. A husband, who was initially self-represented, had received an unfavorable property distribution ruling in his divorce case after he slept through a hearing, leaving no one to argue his side of the case. He then spent a great deal of time and effort trying in vain to use other procedural bases to get a judge to re-decide the issues. However, since the courts had already fully litigated the topics he was trying to revisit, the courts ruled against him.

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