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San Mateo California Family Law Blog

Social media prenups are gaining in popularity

Prenuptial agreements are a difficult subject to approach for most couples. Many people consider them bad luck. It can feel like bad taste to discuss the end of a relationship.

However, more Californians are now considering the possibility that true love has an expiration date.

What is palimony?

A California divorce attorney coined the word palimony in 1976. They used it in a case where Michelle Triola Marvin sued her ex-boyfriend Lee Marvin, claiming they had a verbal agreement to evenly split all earnings and property.

While the case was eventually dismissed by the California Supreme Court, it created a new form of asset division.

Time is running out on an important tax exemption for divorces

If you are considering a divorce, now may be the time to move forward. Divorces with possible alimony payments are about to pass an expensive deadline.

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act takes effect on January 1st, 2019. As you may know, this law removes alimony from the list of tax-deductible expenses.

Child custody often involves grandma and grandpa

More children are spending part of their childhood living with grandma and grandpa than ever before. In California and other states, the number of child custody cases involving grandparents has doubled since 1970, with a 7 percent increase since 2013. A study from the Centers for Disease Control shows that 3 percent of kids live away from their parents nationwide, and two-thirds of them are being raised by grandparents.

With retirement on the horizon, thoughts of travel, socializing and relaxation come to mind for most older individuals instead of becoming full-time parents again. After being cast back into this familiar role, grandparents may have mixed feelings of anger and resentment over being robbed of the simple and ordinary pleasures of grandparenthood relationships. However, some grandparents report taking on this new responsibility of child-rearing has given them a new sense of purpose and involvement.

More women are required to pay alimony as primary breadwinners

For decades, when couples divorced, it was the man who paid support to his ex-wife mainly because men earned higher incomes. Typically, women were stay-at-home moms or in lower-paying jobs, and she would receive alimony when the marriage ended. Today, in California and many other states, women are now holding more powerful, higher-paying positions with many being the family breadwinner.

A recent survey showed an increase in the number of women paying alimony, spousal support or maintenance to their ex-spouses. Many are surprised to learn they may be required to pay support; some are resentful and even mad about it. Today, with women being the primary financial support in four out of 10 families, the trend is on the rise as they continue to earn more money.

Child custody: Protecting children in an abusive relationship

When an abusive relationship ends, there are many decisions to make regarding the welfare of any children involved. Some family courts believe both parents should retain child custody and may not consider the history of abuse. In California and other states, the American Judges Association states it is not uncommon for batterers to challenge requests by victims for sole custody.

Researchers show that abusive partners can have a negative impact on their children's lives, and in some circumstances, a court may favor them because they are trying to be an active part of their children's lives. In 2016, a U.S. Congressman proposed a congressional resolution designed to prevent abusers from gaining custody and therefore limit coercive control. The resolution, which has stalled in the House Judiciary Committee for two years, mandates family courts to resolve claims of abuse before deciding about visitation or custody.

Tax savings may still be available for alimony payers

Tax-saving opportunities may still be available under The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Couples who are negotiating an alimony agreement as part of their divorce may consider having pretax retirement savings transferred instead. Transfers can be through property division, lump-sum payment, IRAs and 401(k) plans. In California and other states, couples may find more creative tax-saving ways to pay alimony.

Under the new bill that begins in 2019, money paid as alimony will not be tax deductible to the payor but will be tax-free to recipients. This new bill reverses the law that has been in place since 1942, but existing agreements will not be affected by the new ruling. Nondeductible alimony can be paid with stock shares, real estate or retirement plan transfers and, sometimes, depending on state laws, balances from individual retirement accounts.

Matt Lauer's high asset divorce is imminent

Five months after being fired for sexual misconduct, a former television anchor is now living apart from his wife and children. Sources say he has moved out of the family home in the Hamptons and is living in a house nearby as divorce talks begin. In California and other states, a high asset divorce such as this can be a complicated and challenging process.

Matt Lauer, the former Today Show co-host, is isolating himself away from the life he once knew in New York. His wife of 20 years, Annette Roque is angry and embarrassed over his behavior, and has moved forward with divorce proceedings. They are moving slowly with the proceedings and taking it day-by-day to protect their three children, two boys ages 16 and 11, and a girl who is 14. Roque's goal is to make sure that the children's future is protected.

Make rational financial decisions about alimony and divorce

A divorce can shake up emotions that can sometimes lead to irrational decision-making about finances. Taking proactive steps to protect monetary assets before filing for divorce may help prepare for better financial decisions during the divorce. Experts in California and other states suggest closing joint accounts, considering alimony and researching retirement accounts.

Alimony is considered a taxable income to the recipient, though that will no longer be the case for divorces after December 31, 2018. A legal agreement that does not label a payment from one spouse to the other as alimony will not need to be claimed as income on taxes. Laws regarding the tax deductibility of paying alimony and the requirement to report receipt of it as income have changed. Further, alimony, when awarded, is unlikely to last forever. Those who have no marketable skills like a stay-at-home mom may benefit from job training or going back to school to become employable and earn a living wage.

Drug epidemic leads to more grandparents gaining child custody

Grandparents continue to be thrust into the role of a caregiver during the continuing opioid epidemic. Many of them assume custody with no involvement from outside agencies, so they are unaware that there may be programs and resources to help with the expenses of raising a child. In California and other states, child custody is often passed down to grandparents when parents cannot care for them because of drug addiction.

A bill called Grandparents Raising Grandchildren has been introduced and calls for agencies to help relieve burdens to the increasing number of "grandfamilies" across the United States. The long waiting lists for help and resources can devastate those trying to adjust to this new way of life. Many grandparents pay to support their grandkids out of their pocket because they do not know about respite programs.

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