When Life’s Challenges Require A Legal Response
Planning the future following a major life change can be physically and emotionally difficult. Much can be required of a person at a time when they might not be ready or able to make clear decisions.
At CC LawGroup, A Professional Corporation, we provide sensitive and sensible legal assistance to clients in the East Bay and Tri Valley areas during times of need. We offer services in family law, probate and trust administration, and estate planning areas and can assist you with a wide variety of legal concerns.
Flexible Counsel For You And Your Family’s Unique Needs
At CC LawGroup, we can assist you with difficult matters concerning:
Our firm assists couples seeking or going through a divorce and unmarried parents in resolving issues pertaining to child custody and support, property division, spousal support and payment of related attorney fees. We also draft prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements.
Probate and trust administration
Our firm has vast experience in handling the probate of a decedent’s will as well as administration of a trust including but not limited to changing of trustees, or distribution of trust assets upon the demise of the Settlor (Trustor). As a full-service practice, we can take on all aspects of your case, or just parts of it if you wish. We will sit down with you and determine the best path forward to offer you experienced service that’s within your budget.
Estate planning and administration
Our firm helps clients plan for the future through the drafting of wills and trusts, powers of attorney, and health care directives. We also represent families involved in the estate administration process.
In the ever-evolving landscape of family law, understanding the distinctions between dissolving a marriage and ending a Registered Domestic Partnership (RDP) is crucial for individuals navigating these personal and legal transitions. While both processes signify the end of a legally recognized relationship, they are governed by distinct sets of laws and regulations, especially in a state like California, known for its progressive stance on relationship recognition.
Whether you are in a domestic partnership or a marriage, understanding these differences is vital in making informed decisions and navigating the legal system with confidence and clarity.
The Differences Between Registered Domestic Partnerships and Marriage in California
In California, the concepts of registered domestic partnerships (RDPs) and marriage, while related to family law, have distinct legal characteristics and implications.
Registered domestic partnerships are legally recognized unions between two individuals, which grant rights and benefits similar to marriage. In California, this status is not limited to same-sex couples; heterosexual couples can also choose this option, even if they are not over the age of 62. This arrangement was originally designed to provide legal recognition to same-sex couples before the legalization of same-sex marriage.
To be eligible for an RDP, couples must share a common residence and not be married or part of another domestic partnership. The partnership is formalized through registration with the state.
Partners have many of the same rights as married couples, including property rights, the right to make medical decisions for each other, and certain tax benefits. However, there can be differences, especially when it comes to federal laws and benefits. RDPs are not federally recognized, so partners must still file federal taxes as single individuals. Furthermore, Social Security does not recognize RDPs, potentially preventing couples from accessing each other’s benefits.
Differences Between Dissolving RDPs and Getting Divorced
In California, the processes for ending a Registered Domestic Partnership (RDP) and getting a divorce share many similarities, particularly because California law affords significant rights and responsibilities to domestic partners that are similar to those of married couples.
Ending an RDP can be similar to divorce, including the division of property, determining spousal support, and arranging child custody and support. In certain cases, if the partnership is short-term (under five years), without children, shared property, or debts, it might be ended through a simpler process called a “summary dissolution.”
- Legal Filings and Proceedings: Both processes require legal filings with the court. The specific forms and procedures can vary slightly but generally follow similar paths, including the requirement for one party to serve the other with the dissolution paperwork.
- Federal Recognition: Even though California recognizes domestic partnerships similarly to marriages, the federal government does not. This affects federal taxes and some federal benefits. In contrast, federal recognition of marriage means that divorce also carries federal implications, such as for filing federal taxes and eligibility for federal benefits.
- Children and Custody: In both cases, issues related to children — including custody, visitation, and support — are handled in much the same way. The best interests of the children are the court’s primary concern.
- Community Property and Spousal Support: California is a community property state, meaning that in both RDP dissolutions and divorces, the property acquired during the union is generally divided equally. Similarly, spousal support can be ordered in both cases based on similar factors.
- Residency Requirements: There are no residency requirements in California to dissolve a domestic partnership. However, to get a divorce, at least one spouse must be a resident of California for six months and a resident of the county where the filing is made for three months before filing the divorce petition.
Eligibility for Summary Dissolution
In certain cases, partners may qualify for a simpler process called summary dissolution. To be eligible for summary dissolution, the partners must meet all of the following criteria:
- Duration: The partnership must have lasted less than five years.
- Children: The partners must not have had children together before or during the partnership, and neither partner can be pregnant.
- Property: The partners must not own any part of land or buildings.
- Rent: The place where they live must be rented, the lease must not include an option to purchase, and the lease term must be less than one year.
- Debts: The partners must not have incurred more than a specified amount in debts (excluding car loans) since the date of their partnership.
- Property and Assets: The total amount of property acquired during the partnership must be below a certain value, and neither partner can have separate property worth more than a specified amount.
- Written Agreement: The partners must have a signed agreement dividing their assets and debts, and both must waive any rights to partner support.
Standard Dissolution Process
If the relationship does not qualify for summary dissolution, or if one partner does not want to dissolve the partnership, the standard dissolution process is as follows:
- Filing a Petition: One partner must file a petition for dissolution with the court.
- Service of Process: The other partner must be formally notified of the dissolution petition.
- Response: The other partner has the opportunity to respond to the petition.
- Financial Disclosures: Both partners must disclose their financial assets and liabilities.
- Agreement or Mediation: The partners may negotiate a deal on the division of assets, debts, and other issues such as partner support. If they cannot agree, they may need mediation or a court hearing.
- Court Approval: The agreement or court decision must be approved by a judge. The court will issue a judgment dissolving the partnership.
Talk to Experienced Legal Counsel to End Your Relationship
It’s important to note that laws and legal processes can change, so it’s important to consult with a skilled attorney to receive the most current and personalized advice. At CC LawGroup, we have years of experience helping couples in marriages or registered domestic partnerships end their relationships efficiently and effectively. Schedule your consultation to discuss your needs and learn more about how we can help you.
Spousal support is an invaluable tool to help lower-earning spouses provide for themselves after a divorce. However, every state has unique laws regarding how spousal support (alimony) is awarded and paid. The differences between states can make things confusing if your ex-spouse moves away.
Don’t worry, though. Your spousal support order is enforceable even if your ex has left the state. Let’s break down how alimony orders work, what happens if your ex-spouse relocates, and what to do if you need your order modified across state lines.
Understanding Spousal Support in California
The state of California describes spousal support as “court ordered payment from one spouse or domestic partner to help cover the other’s monthly expenses.” There are two types of orders available in California:
- Temporary: These short-term orders are put in place while a divorce is ongoing to provide for the lower-earning spouse until the split is finalized.
- Long-term: Sometimes known as “permanent” orders, they are issued alongside the divorce decree. They may last up to half the length of the marriage if the couple was married for fewer than ten years. For marriages of long duration, they may last indefinitely until either partner dies or the recipient enters a new supportive relationship.
When deciding whether to award alimony, the court considers factors such as the spouses’ comparative incomes, earning potentials, contributions to the marital estate, age, and health. The actual amount ordered can vary significantly depending on the circumstances. Once an order is issued, it remains in effect until the stated expiration date or one spouse successfully petitions for a modification.
Relocating and Spousal Support Across State Lines
California’s laws are relatively straightforward. However, other states may have substantially different legislation. Some of the biggest differences in alimony laws across the states include:
- Factors considered when deciding whether to award support: Many states may weigh factors like age, health, and earning potential differently when determining whether support is necessary.
- How the amount of support is calculated: In some locations, factors like child custody or fault for the divorce may impact the amount of support ordered.
- Exemptions from support: California protects people from having to pay alimony to spouses who abused them, but this is not true in all locations.
- How duration of alimony is calculated: Some states have specific rules regarding how long maintenance may last, while others prohibit indefinite awards entirely.
While these factors may affect orders issued in other states, they do not affect the obligation to pay support.
Interstate Spousal Support Enforcement and Reciprocal Agreements
While every state has its own regulations regarding alimony, there’s one law they all have in common: the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). Congress ordered all states to adopt some form of the UIFSA in 1996, which has been revised several times in years since. The Act sets the terms for jurisdiction when child and spousal support orders cross state lines.
UIFSA is essentially a reciprocal agreement between all the states. It requires each state to respect and enforce orders issued elsewhere in the US.
Normally, a California court cannot directly issue enforcement actions against a person living in another state in most cases. As such, UIFSA permits people who receive alimony to register their order in their ex’s new home state and county. Once the order is registered, it must be treated by the new state as if it had been issued there.
However, UIFSA also states that the court that originally issued a support order has jurisdiction over the matter, even if one party moves away. In other words, if you get divorced in California, the court that issued your decree is in charge of your alimony order regardless of where your spouse moves. It’s the only court that can modify your order, even if you have the order registered somewhere else.
Seeking Spousal Support Modification Before and After Relocation
If you need to change a support order issued in California, you must file a petition for modification at the court that issued the original order. This is typically simpler if your spouse still lives in the state. You will need to:
- Collect evidence to support your petition, like proof that you lost your job
- File your petition with the court
- Have your ex-spouse served with copies of the petition
- Attend a hearing to argue your case
If your petition is successful, the judge will issue a new order in your favor. However, if your spouse has already relocated across state lines, there are a few extra steps.
First, if it’s an emergency, you may need to file an ex parte application to alter your order without your spouse’s input. Ex parte family law motions permit the court to issue a ruling without hearing from both sides, which can be helpful if your ex lives far away. However, they are rightfully rare and usually temporary since they restrict the other party’s right to participate in the proceedings.
Second, you’ll need to have your spouse served across state lines. They may have the right to request a virtual hearing, or they may send someone to attend in their stead since they no longer live locally.
Finally, if your petition succeeds, you’ll need to re-register your order in your ex’s current state of residence, which can be a time-consuming process.
Talk to Experienced Alimony Attorneys in Newark, CA
Alimony orders are complex enough when restricted to a single state. When multiple states are involved, the potential complications multiply significantly. That’s why talking to an experienced attorney about your needs is so important. At CC LawGroup, we have the knowledge and skills to help you with your alimony issues. We have decades of experience assisting California clients with interstate spousal support orders. Schedule your consultation to learn how we can help you modify or enforce alimony across state lines.
The holidays are advertised as a time for family and togetherness. While that’s fine in theory, it can make your first holiday season as divorced or separated parents painful. When everyone is talking about spending time together, you may feel like a failure because you can’t spend every day with your kids.
However, it’s important to remember that nationwide, tens of thousands of families celebrate the holidays happily despite divorces and separations. You can, too. When you know what to expect and how to prepare, you can provide your kids with a happy holiday season despite differences in how your celebrations look this year.
Why the Holidays Are Challenging for Newly Divorced Parents
Coparenting has its challenges no matter what time of year it is. However, the holidays pose some particular complications that may not be as serious during other seasons. Some of the biggest issues that can make the holidays more stressful for your family include:
1. Splitting Parenting Time
The most obvious holiday season challenge is how you’ll split parenting time. It’s only natural to want to spend major holidays with your children. However, if you’re sharing custody, your coparent probably wants to spend time with the kids on those days just as much as you do. That can make deciding how to split your parenting time an emotional minefield.
Parents often agree to take turns celebrating certain days with their children. For example, one year, Parent A may get the kids for Thanksgiving, and Parent B gets them for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, then next year, they’ll swap. While this is an excellent solution, the first year you celebrate without your kids present can be painful.
2. Changing Expectations
Many families create traditions around special days, like cooking the turkey together, decorating a Christmas tree, or lighting the menorah in a certain way. When you’re coparenting, these traditions will need to change.
Change isn’t necessarily bad, but it can be stressful and sad. If you or your kids aren’t prepared for the little things that will look different this year, it can make the season more difficult for everyone.
3. Whirling Emotions
With change comes stress and strong emotions. Family holidays make the reality of a divorce or separation finally sink in for many kids. As a result, they may be more likely to act out. Even kids who seem to have accepted the changes to their daily lives may “regress” and throw tantrums or become moody as Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve draw near.
Think of it this way: the upcoming celebrations may make you more emotional, and you’re an adult. If the season is difficult for you, imagine how much harder it might feel for your children, who have little control over what’s happening. They’re not behaving badly on purpose; they are reacting to a major life event the only way they know how.
Strategies for Handling the Holidays as Coparents
The challenges of the holidays can be substantial. Still, it’s possible to celebrate the season and make good memories despite the obstacles, even if it’s more subdued than normal. Here are a few strategies you can use to help your festivities run smoothly while coparenting:
1. Make Plans Early
Many coparents establish how they’ll share the holidays when they write their initial parenting plan. However, if you didn’t do so or your custody agreement doesn’t specify how kids will get from one place to the other, now is the time to figure things out.
The earlier you establish a plan for each holiday, the easier it is to set expectations with your kids. That’s crucial for helping them adjust to their new family reality.
2. Communicate Regularly
It’s worth talking to your coparent about your kids regularly, not just when you need to make a plan. Discuss how your children are doing and any changes to their needs or schedules. Keeping an open line of communication makes it easier to tweak your holiday plans if necessary without the matter becoming a major argument.
In addition, it’s worth talking to your coparent to coordinate gifts. The last thing you want to do is to give your child two copies of the same item. Chat about your present plans to avoid pressure to overspend or one-up each other.
3. Manage Expectations
Remember, the holidays aren’t just about you. Your child probably has hopes and expectations for the season, too. It’s important to discuss matters with them so you can make sure they understand what is and isn’t possible.
For example, many kids hold out hope that the holidays will magically bring the family back together. If that’s the case, kindly explain to your children how the holidays will be separate this year, but still fun. It can help to create new, exciting traditions to replace the old, rather than just dropping old traditions entirely.
4. Consider the Extended Family
Your kids have family ties beyond you and your coparent. While your children should be your first priority, you must address extended family members, too. Communicate with your relatives about when the kids will be around so no one is surprised and upset when they aren’t present.
If possible, it’s also worth scheduling extra celebrations with extended family. Maybe you can’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th with the kids, but what about the 27th? Having an “extra” holiday can help your kids maintain strong relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members, even if they can’t be there on the day.
Get Help With Your Holiday Parenting Plan
If you’re preparing a parenting plan for this holiday season, you don’t have to do it alone. At CC LawGroup, our experienced custody lawyers can help you develop a fair parenting and custody order that makes the holidays a little easier to handle. Schedule your consultation with our Newark family law office to discuss your custody concerns and learn how we can help.
Sensible Solutions, At A Value That’s Hard To Beat
Whether you are going through a divorce, dealing with the aftermath of a broken marriage or planning for a future after your death or incapacity, we have the legal experience and tools to assist you in meeting your personal and financial needs.
We also understand the importance of avoiding costly litigation when it’s unnecessary for your case. We always try to resolve your legal challenges as effectively as possible outside of the courtroom, yet are still prepared to take your case to trial when it’s best for you or your family.