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San Mateo California Family Law Blog

Watch out for retirement during a high asset divorce

Adults spend decades saving money for retirement. It is not uncommon for young adults in California to start their retirement savings very early on in their careers, which can help secure a more financially stable future. Unfortunately, a large retirement account is quite often vulnerable during a high asset divorce.

Take for example an out-of-state woman whose divorce led to a significant drop in retirement savings. She married back in 1997, and the couple moved into the property that she had purchased with her own money before tying the knot. Several years later, the couple refinanced the mortgage so that they could provide financial support to the wife's father, who was seriously ill. The husband's name was added to the deed so that his income would be considered during the refinancing.

The role of alimony after divorce

Although an individual might not feel comfortable with providing ongoing financial support to an ex, spousal support is an integral part of California family law. Paying alimony should not be viewed as a punishment, just as receiving support is not considered winning in divorce. Unfortunately, many people do view it as such. Understanding what topics factor into alimony can help address some of these misconceptions.

Divorce is certainly an emotional process, but it is a legal and financial process as well. A person who earned less than his or her spouse during the marriage is usually at a greater risk of taking on unfair economic burdens during divorce. Alimony is intended to lift some of those burdens.

How does my move affect child custody?

Parents have a lot on their minds when going through divorce, but throughout the process they usually keep their main focus on their children. As a parent yourself, this means that getting the right child custody order is one of your top priorities. However, certain factors -- such as one parent moving out of state -- can affect the outcome of the agreement.

Take for example a situation in which your spouse moves out of state, leaving the children behind in your care. He or she may choose to file a motion for visitation or custody in the new state of residence. So which state's laws will determine how custody is handled -- California's, or the state where your ex lives? Your children's home state will have the authority to issue orders, and their home state is the one in which they have been living for six or more consecutive months before the custody proceedings begin.

Child custody and other family law myths

The basics of divorce may seem obvious to most people. However, much of what people believe to be fact regarding California family law is more myth than anything else. From child custody to property division, there is no shortage of misinformation.

Fathers play active and important roles in the lives of their children, both before and after divorce. However, even as fathers are increasingly taking on caregiver roles, the myth that mothers are automatically awarded primary custody still persists to this day. Ultimately, child custody comes down to the best interests of a child, which usually means regular involvement from both parents.

California initiative proposes limits on alimony

Spousal support is a sensitive subject that many people feel very strongly about. Many people agree that alimony is important for spouses who earned less or left the workforce altogether. Others feel that alimony payments are too high or last for too long. In California, a new initiative could significantly change how judges handle this type of post-divorce support.

The new initiative proposes a cap for how long a person may be ordered to pay child support. If this initiative gets onto the ballot and voters approve it, judges would be prevented from ordering spousal support for more than five years after a divorce or a legal separation. The estimated financial impact on both local and state governments is not known.

Hidden expenses in a high asset divorce

Ending a marriage is a complicated matter and can be time-consuming and involve significant emotional and financial commitments. Since divorce is often the culmination of marital distress over a period of time, the loss of time and emotional struggles may not seem like too much to deal with. However, during a high asset divorce, the financial side of things can quickly feel overwhelming.

A recent Bankrate survey concluded that divorce costs the average person approximately $15,000. Since this is an average, some people in California pay much less while others have to shell out much more. Factors such as location, complex assets and whether a couple has children can all influence how much a person might end up spending. Most people should expect to pay for things like court costs, filing fees or even mediation fees.

High asset divorce: How women can secure financial security

Popular media likes to portray divorcing women in a single light. Women are often shown viciously going after ex-spouses for money, desperate to squeeze out every last nickel and dime for their own advantages. In reality, this is very rarely the case. When facing a high asset divorce, the average California woman just wants to be certain of her financial security.

Despite the desire to be financially secure, many women do not take the necessary steps to protect their futures. This includes having a firm understanding of current finances. For example, a woman might want to familiarize herself with the household finances, including household income, outgoing bills, debts, investments and more. If a person only understands one or two facets of the household finances, he or she will not be fully equipped to make informed decisions during property discussions.

The hidden costs of a high asset divorce

For some California couples, money may feel like a significant barrier to divorce. This does not always mean that a couple cannot afford to divorce, and indeed may even mean the exact opposite. In a high asset divorce, dividing complex assets and determining alimony payments can be daunting. Here are a few ways to approach the associated financial concerns of going through a divorce.

No matter how well a person has thought about the future, divorce can disrupt even the most carefully laid plans. Couples who end up in court generally have to pay litigation fees that, over time, can quickly add up. Mediation is a more cost-effective approach that gives both parties more of a say in the final settlement. Still, there are mediation fees to consider.

Protecting wealth during property division is essential

Staying in an unhappy marriage is a burden that no one in California should have to bear. However, couples over the age of 50 may not feel as if they have any other choice. Even for a person who is relatively well-off may worry about what finances will look like after a divorce. Much of this worry centers around how money and other valuable assets will be split during property division.

Most people will experience some type of financial setback after divorce, but younger adults have more time and resources to catch back up. In gray divorces -- divorce involving adults 50 or over -- individuals do not have the same opportunities to recuperate any losses, particularly in regard to retirement. Even if a person has upwards of 10 years before hitting retirement age, the chances that he or she has bounced back financially are slim.

Handling property division according to California state law

Married couples spend years and even decades accumulating joint assets. From family homes to shared vehicles to living room furniture, the number of assets that are considered community property can be quite high. This can be overwhelming when going through the divorce process. However, having a better understanding of California state law in regard to property division ease some people's concerns.

Most states in America base property division in divorce proceedings on equitable distribution, which means that property must be divided fairly though not necessarily equally. California is a community property state, so barring a few exceptions, all assets obtained during a marriage -- including income and debt -- are joint property and must be divided equally during divorce. Understanding that property obtained during a marriage are joint assets that must be divided equally is important for those who wish to be proactive and assertive during property division. Still, there is more to the equation, such as determining what property even is.

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