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San Mateo California Family Law Blog

Anna Faris and Chris Pratt reach agreement on child custody, more

Although Chris Pratt and Anna Faris might be most well-known to people in California for their roles in popular movies, they have been in the headlines more recently for their ongoing divorce. However, unlike many celebrity splits, the couple reached a settlement in a relatively quick and collaborative manner. Their settlement addresses important topics, such as alimony, child support and child custody.

Pratt and Faris filed for divorce back in Dec. 2017, at which time they cited irreconcilable differences. Less than a year later, their divorce is officially over. This may be due in part to their prenuptial agreement, which outlined how they would handle certain issues if they decided to end things.

Don't fret over property division -- get a prenup

You probably already have an idea of the type of people who use prenuptial agreements -- wealthy and perhaps not totally committed to their future nuptials. Unfortunately, this long-standing stereotype makes it difficult for the average person in California to fully grasp the true benefits of a prenup. Whether addressing concerns about property division or protecting yourself from your partner's debt, a prenup is an invaluable tool from which virtually anyone can benefit.

So why is it important to tackle issues like property division if you have no plans of divorcing in the future? Aside from the fact that divorce is a possibility for anyone, thinking about your assets and finances before marriage is actually a very healthy step. This gives you and your soon-to-be spouse the opportunity to be open and honest about your property and debt, laying the groundwork for future open lines of communication within your marriage. Plus, having your financial ducks in a row before you even walk down the aisle can make embarking on this new path in life much easier.

Am I eligible for alimony?

Post-divorce support payments are often necessary aspects of California family law. For those who earned significantly less than their ex-spouse or left the workplace altogether, alimony -- often referred to as spousal support -- can be an important lifeline. But how can an individual know whether he or she will receive alimony? There are a few factors that usually go into the decision. 

Barring extenuating circumstances, a marriage that lasted a few years or less is unlikely to yield alimony payments. However, limited alimony might be appropriate if one person earned a much higher income. Those who were married for longer periods of time -- usually 10 years or longer -- can expect alimony to come up during divorce proceedings.  

Don't split up Fido during property division; see a judge instead

Owning a pet is about so much more than simply feeding an animal. For most people in California, pet ownership means treating an animal like another valued member of the family. Unfortunately for most pet parents, this familial bond has not always translated well during divorce, putting beloved animals in the middle of heated property division disputes. Now, a new California law aims to help these individuals handle things more easily. 

The bill was recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown, and although it does not change the designation of pets as community property, it does improve matters during divorce. Instead of automatically shuffling pooches into the mix during property division, judges will have greater discretion to rule on these matters. Some have likened it to child custody, but for pets. 

Do I need to establish paternity for child custody?

Establishing paternity may not always seem like a priority for unmarried couples in California. Even if the parents are no longer in a relationship, if they are civil, why bring the law into things? The stakes are actually fairly high for not doing so. If you have a child for whom you have yet to establish paternity, you will not be able to exercise any child custody, visitation or legal rights. 

Just because things are good between you and your child's mother now does not mean that they will always be so, and a serious argument could prompt your ex to withhold access to your child. Even if things stay good between you, what if your ex wants to move out of state with your child? Without paternity, you cannot intervene in this decision. 

A prenup can protect you during a high asset divorce

Prenuptial agreements are enjoying a bit of boom in popularity, and experts say there is one group to thank for that -- millennials. As these young adults in California delay marriage in favor of dating for longer periods and advancing their careers, they have significantly more to protect. When thinking ahead, protecting themselves during a potentially high asset divorce is essential. 

According to the U.S. Census, the average age of marriage has risen by nearly two years for men and almost three years for women since 2005. And what are young adults doing with this extra time during their 20s when they are single? For many, advancing their careers. This often includes accumulating wealth through various approaches, including employee stock options, retirement savings, property and more. Potentially laying half of that on the line to say "I do" is a risky move, even if the relationship seems solid. 

The link between cutesy wedding dates and property division

There are a million little tiny decisions that go into planning a wedding. However, even if a couple already has an ideal venue in mind or the perfect flowers, nothing can really fall into place until they settle on one, important thing -- the date. California couples usually take a wide range of factors into account when picking that perfect date, but a new study indicates that one factor could be setting people on a path toward divorce and property division. 

Out of the 365 possible days to get married in an average year, the one that couples may want to steer clear of is Feb. 14. Approximately 11 percent of all couples who say "I do" on Valentine's Day end up divorcing within five years. Looking forward to nine years after the wedding date, 21 percent of couples will be legally separated. 

Worried about debt and property division? A prenup can help

Planning for an upcoming wedding is an overwhelming ordeal. California couples spend hours upon hours selecting the right venue, picking the perfect date, sending out invitations and planning every last detail of their perfect day. Few, however, look ahead to something else they may want to plan for -- property division in the event of a divorce down the line. Although prenuptial agreements may feel distinctly unromantic, having one can help couples who must later traverse through the emotionally-fraught divorce process. 

Although there is still some lingering stigma around prenups, surveys indicate that more people are coming to appreciate them for what they are -- a family law planning tool. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that 62 percent of attorneys who participated in its study said that more of their clients were seeking help with prenups over the past three years. While experts understand that couples seem to be increasingly interested in prenups, many are still unsure of why this sudden shift in attitude is happening. This trend is especially confusing considering that millennials generally earn less than their parents did at the same age and are marrying far less frequently. 

When is co-parenting necessary for child custody?

Being a parent is not easy, but having to co-parent with an ex might be even more difficult. As more child custody agreements shift toward a focus on shared custody, divorced California parents must figure out how to successfully work together for the benefit of their children. Although this sounds good in theory, it can be a bit harder in real life. 

The move toward shared custody leaves behind historical norms of mom getting custody and dad seeing the kids during visitation. While shared custody might be better for kids, it can be incredibly difficult for divorced parents. Shared custody requires continual and ongoing communication between parents. For two people who were unable to stay married, this is asking a lot. 

Can I use mediation for a high asset divorce?

Ending a marriage is often viewed as an all-out battle in which each side fights to be the winner. In reality, most California couples know that fighting over every detail is not always smart, especially when the stakes are high. Mediation is a more collaborative approach that may be appropriate for those going through a high asset divorce. 

As an alternative dispute resolution, mediation gives divorcing couples the opportunity to negotiate their own settlements and agreements. Couples who choose mediation typically have much greater control over the process than those who choose a more standard approach. If you and your soon-to-be ex are on roughly the same page about things and decided to divorce on relatively good terms, this process can also be quicker and cheaper. 

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