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Newark Family And Estate Law Blog

Our law firm realizes how tough marriage is for many couples. Sometimes, spouses are able to team up and work through difficulties they are facing in their marriage, especially if they turn to a counselor for assistance. On the other hand, some marriages are not able to survive various hardships. If you are worried about the future of your marriage, it is imperative to look into your options and prepare for different scenarios, especially if you notice signs that your marriage will not survive.

The divorce process brings up a number of concerns, from figuring out how assets are distributed to working through custody matters. Make sure you have a solid understanding of your rights and divorce-related options.

Arguing, growing apart and other marital problems

Sometimes, people notice that their marriage is suffering and think about the likelihood of divorce due to relentless arguing. For example, when a couple is constantly fighting over various issues, this is an indicator that the marriage will not work out. Sometimes, couples simply grow apart and this distance becomes very evident, prompting one spouse to file for a divorce. Moreover, some people have affairs, develop a substance abuse problem or behave in other ways that cause additional friction in their marriage.

Preparing for divorce court

If you suspect that a divorce is around the corner, it is crucial to prepare for divorce even if you want to stay in the marriage. For a marriage to work out, both parties need to cooperate and this is not always possible. Review our blog to read other topics related to divorce and get ready for legal matters that you will likely encounter in the event that your marriage ends.

Most married couples share some amount of joint debt, making the division of this debt a potential challenge during a divorce.

Understanding how creditors view debt liability during and after a divorce is very important to any divorcing spouse as they prepare to make a fresh start as a newly single person.

Divorce decrees and account names

After a couple negotiates and agrees on how they will apportion their shared debt after their divorce, the terms of their agreement may be outlined in their final divorce decree. Once approved by a judge, the couple may believe this decree supersedes any agreement with a creditor. However, Bankrate explains that may not necessarily be the case.

A divorce decree may stipulate that one spouse will repay a certain debt. If that original account remains active with both spouse’s names listed, the creditor may still pursue repayment from both parties. The spouse deemed liable in the divorce decree may find themselves in a financial bind and unable to make payments on time or at all. These late or missed payments may reflect on both parties’ credit reports as well.

Mortgages and keeping the family home

According to The Mortgage Reports, the same concept that applies to debts like joint credit card bills also applies to a joint mortgage. For this reason, when one spouse wants to keep the family home after a divorce, that person should evaluate their ability to obtain a new solo mortgage. This requires a review of their post-divorce income and credit score as well as the amount of equity they have in the home.

As part of a divorced California couple, you may have to pay or rely on support orders. But life circumstances do not stay the same. What applied to you on the day of your divorce may not stay true years later.

So what do you do if you need to change your support order? Can you change it at all? If so, are there any limitations or reasons?

Steps to submitting a modification request

The California Courts discuss how to change a child support order. You must go through proper channels to request this change. This primarily involves submitting the correct paperwork to the local court. From there, a judge will take your request and examine it. They may grant the modification, or they may not.

Do you have a valid reason?

Your reason for requesting modification determines whether courts grant it. You may request modifications for many reasons. The most accepted reasons often involve finances. For example, a supporting ex-spouse may suddenly lose a source of income. If they can no longer support you, they may request a support order change. What if you remarry into a new family and gain their financial support? Your ex-spouse may also request a reduction. But you can request increases, too. For example, if you are receiving payment and lose a source of income, you can request an increase.

Know that you can submit a support modification request for any reason. But the courts will not accept just any reason. You must look at your situation with care and decide if it merits a change in payment.

Ask most estate planning attorneys about probate, and chances are they will respond with a look of downright horror. Probate is time consuming. It is costly. It is public. You must avoid it at all costs. Or must you?

Probate gets a bad rap, but the truth is that the process is not as bad as many professionals make it out to be. In fact, probate is par for the course for most families, and it can effectively help them manage, settle and distribute all of a loved one’s property in accordance with his or her wishes. If you are not completely sold, ThinkAdvisor provides a few good reasons to get over your fear of probate.

It rarely takes forever

The distribution of most peoples’ estates is a fairly straightforward and uneventful process. Though there have been cases in which probate dragged on for years, the average time it takes to complete the entire process is six months. To ensure the proper and legal distribution of your loved one’s entire estate, six months is nothing.

Small estates may take less time

Many states have expedited probate processes for estates with a value that falls under a certain amount. For instance, California allows testators to pass up to $100,000 in assets to beneficiaries through a will and without ever requiring the assets to go through probate.

Probate takes care of debt

It is very rare that a person passes away without leaving some sort of debt behind. Without probate, heirs may find themselves subject to creditors’ claims for years. With it, however, creditors get a certain amount of time to make a claim against the deceased’s estate. If a creditor does not make a claim within the allotted time frame, it forfeits all rights to the money due, effectively relieving all heirs of any financial obligation.

Living trusts rarely account for everything

In an attempt to avoid probate, many people create a living trust. While living trusts certainly come with their fair share of benefits, the reality is that it is almost impossible for individuals to account for every last asset. Inevitably, a person will acquire something of value late in life and forget to transfer it to his or her trust, leaving that item unaccounted for.

The process protects the deceased’s wishes

Perhaps the greatest benefit of probate is the fact that it is thorough and that it occurs in a court of legal standing. Though the process can be lengthy and costly, at the end of the day, survivors can have peace of mind that the deceased’s property was distributed in a lawful and proper manner, and in accordance with his or her wishes.

On a practical level, creating an estate plan is relatively simple, especially if you have solid legal advice and guidance. However, for many, the difficult part is getting past the emotional toll it takes to write a will. You have to consider many unhappy contingencies for the end of your life, and you must think about the fate of your loved ones after you are gone.

If you are among those few in California who braved these daunting thoughts and wrote your will, you should be proud. You have taken steps to relieve some of the burdens many families experience after a loved one dies without a will. Unfortunately, if it has been a while since you reviewed or updated your will, you may be leaving more problems than you are preventing.

Life changes everything

An outdated will may create confusion and lead to litigation among your loved ones. Most essentially, it will not do what you wrote it to do, which is to express your wishes for your estate after you die. Hardly a year goes by that doesn’t bring life changes. Some major life events that may require a revision of your will include the following:

  • If you are planning to divorce or have already gone through one, dealing quickly with your ex as a beneficiary is important.
  • If you are welcoming a child to your family, your will can include the name of a guardian in case something should happen to you while the child is still a minor.
  • You may want to transfer assets to a trust if your child gets married, an heir falls into addiction or a beneficiary accumulates heavy debt.
  • If your financial situation or assets change drastically or your will is based on defunct legislation, amending your will is critical.
  • If your executor or an heir passes away, some beneficiaries become estranged, or your chosen executor is no longer capable of handling your affairs, you may wish to alter these terms in your will.

Of course, you may simply change your mind about how you want to distribute your assets, leaving more to charity, including grandchildren or disinheriting someone altogether. It is possible that you do not even remember what your will says or where you put it. Even if it has only been a year or two since you drafted your will, consulting a skilled attorney may provide you with the information and guidance that can help clear up any confusion and provide a legacy of love for your family.

Many relationship analysts name January as the month when divorces peak. However, a recent study shows that summer months are also popular times for couples to file for divorce. The added stress many couples are feeling in light of recent world events suggests this summer may see a significant rise in those filings.

It is interesting to see why so many couples decide summer is the right time to dissolve their marriages. While your situation is unique, it is likely that you are experiencing similar issues that other couples are going through as summer approaches. Perhaps you have the same reasons for deciding that this summer is the most appropriate time for your divorce process to begin.

You have a lot to plan

Your children are home from school, and perhaps you and your spouse have been stuck at home together for an inordinate amount of time lately. Like many couples, you may be feeling the stress of this situation, and it may be exacerbating the already tense atmosphere in your relationship. This is a common occurrence, and it is not unusual for those tense relationships to end in divorce before summer is over.

The divorce process is typically relatively long, and California’s six-month waiting period does nothing to speed it up. Therefore, those who want the difficult proceedings over with and finalized before the new year would be wise to take steps quickly to learn as much as possible about the process, what to expect and how they can protect their rights. It is not simply a matter of filing papers and walking away from the marriage. You will have to consider the following:

  • Assessing your financial situation
  • Gathering and valuing your assets and determining whether they are joint or separate
  • Evaluating your debts and paying off as many joint debts as possible
  • Collecting records about your joint incomes, bills, and other routine expenses
  • Opening your own bank accounts separate from your spouse
  • Deciding where you will live during and after the divorce
  • Discussing child custody matters with your spouse

You and your spouse may also wish to seek marital counseling so you can make a decision and feel confident that you have sought wise advice. However, even if you are uncertain of whether the time is right for you to divorce, obtaining solid legal counsel is a good decision. With the advice of an experienced attorney, you will learn about your rights in a California divorce and how to protect yourself throughout the divorce process.

Child custody is a major concern for people filing for divorce in California. While there are many topics that may be difficult to negotiate, it is often emotional agreeing on a custody arrangement. Not only is it hard for children to move from a two-parent household to a single parent living arrangement, it may be hard for you to change the amount of time you are able to spend with your kids.

The judge presiding over the case ultimately determines the arrangement based on the child’s best interests. However, each case is different depending on the specific circumstances of the situation.

Types of custody

There are two types of custody, legal and physical, which the judge can order in any combination. The judge may order sole-physical or joint-physical custody, as well as sole-legal or joint-legal custody. In many cases, the judge will award sole-physical custody to the primary caretaker of the children during the marriage. Yet, some studies show that joint-custody may be best for children, as they are able to spend a significant amount of time with both parents.

Factors to consider

There are several factors the judge will consider before making the final decision. These include the following:

  • Age of the kids
  • Ability of each parent to care for the children
  • Mental and physical health of each parent
  • Home environment of each parent
  • Which parent was the primary caretaker of the child

In addition, it is important to look at the potential quality of life the child will have if he or she lives with either parent. This includes what school district the child will attend and how far apart the parents live from one another.

If you are a parent heading for divorce, some of the most difficult issues you will tackle are those involving your children. Reaching decisions about where the children will live and how their lives will change can be emotional and challenging. If your divorce is contentious, you may have little choice but to bring these matters to court although the ideal is to work them out with the other parent.

One weighty issue to resolve is child support. Child support is such an important obligation for parents that California law includes mandatory calculations to ensure the child involved obtains enough to maintain a quality standard of living following the parents’ breakup. Child support is typically based on the income of the parents. Whether you expect to receive or pay support, you want the amount to be fair, and you want to know exactly how the court expects the receiving parent to use the money.

Where should the money go?

Negotiating child support payments allows parents to decide certain other issues, like which parent will be responsible for any expenses related to your child’s hobbies and how you will save for college. In general, however, child support will pay for your child’s basic needs including many of the following expenses and others:

  • Rent or mortgage payments and utilities for the home where the child lives
  • Groceries and other daily necessities
  • Clothing for the child
  • Books and toys, as well as furniture the child may need
  • School supplies, including the costs associated with field trips, sports, music lessons or other extracurricular activities
  • Summer camp or other activities in which your child may be interested

The paying parent may also supply support money for medical expenses, eye and dental care, or include the child on his or her health insurance plan. Child support money should not pay for any expense that is not associated with the child. For example, if you receive payment, you should not use it to buy yourself clothing or get your hair done. Even if money is left over from the previous month, you should not use the money for vacations or entertainment that does not include your child.

You may have many questions and concerns about child support, including how to obtain a fair order, how to seek a modification of the amount if necessary or how to get the other parent to comply with court ordered payments. Discussing your situation with an experienced attorney may provide those answers.

California residents like you work hard to create your estate plan. But after you create it, what comes next? Many mistakenly believe creation is the first and only step. But you must keep your estate plan up to date your entire life.

Today, we will look at why it is important to keep your plan updated. We will also look at ways to tell if it is time to update your estate plan.

Changes in your life prompt estate plan changes

Forbes discusses potential signs that it is time to update your estate plan. This often revolves around changes in your life. After all, the purpose of an estate plan is to manage your assets and estate after you pass. You want information on your estate to be as accurate as possible. To do so, update your estate plan when significant life changes happen. This includes:

  • Changes in family structure
  • Changes in finances
  • Changes in governing laws
  • Changes in location

Family structure, finances and law

For family structure, this includes losing or gaining family members. You may lose a loved one who passes on or divorce a spouse. You may adopt or have a child, or marry someone. In any of these cases, ensure your assets go to who you want them to go to.

For finances, this includes any big positive or negative impacts. This can include bankruptcy or debt. It can include coming into an inheritance or other source of income. Ensure you have what you wish to bequeath.

Governing laws change all the time. Make sure that the laws are still in effect. Otherwise, you risk the court considering your plan outdated. Finally, changes in location means the governing laws change as well. Look up laws in any place you move to. Ensure your estate plan complies with them.

Our law firm realizes how stressful custody disputes are, especially when spouses become involved in a bitter standoff. Unfortunately, stress and other negative emotions sometimes interfere with one’s ability to the most favorable outcome. In some instances, custody battles are very contentious, such as a parent who tries to shatter their ex’s reputation or comes up with false stories in order to win a dispute.

If you are struggling with stress or have a lot of anxiety when you think about your future, it is important to manage these emotions properly and find ways to reduce negativity.

Reviewing your circumstances

It is vital for those who are overwhelmed with disputes over child custody to have a clear understanding of their options and the best path forward. Often, this helps reduce stress considerably, since many parents develop anxiety over uncertainty about their approach. Parents need to look into various factors that influence custody decisions and figure out which steps they need to take to increase their chances of a positive end result, whether they are pursuing full custody, partial custody or visitation rights.

Other strategies to reduce stress

There are other ways parents can lower their stress levels during a custody dispute, such as finding new hobbies, taking a break from work or pursuing other interests that provide a sense of relief. Spending more time with loved ones and friends also helps parents find emotional support and discuss some of their challenges. If you spend more time on our website, you will have the opportunity to read about other issues related to custody disputes and other facets of family law.