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San Mateo California Family Law Blog

Preserve your retirement stability during property division

Divorce is an unavoidable part of life for some people, but it does not have to be a wholly negative experience. While many California couples understandably struggle with the emotional aspect of ending a marriage, a measured and careful approach to property division can make the legal side of things somewhat easier. However, even those individuals who are focused on preserving their financial stability after divorce can overlook something very important -- retirement.

Whether retirement is a matter of years or decades away, the importance of planning cannot be understated. Divorce can impact a person's retirement readiness, but there are ways to minimize this impact while also preserving other measures of financial stability. A good first step for anyone is to understand the types of retirement accounts they have and how they are handled. For example, while an individual retirement account -- an IRA -- only lists one person's name, the contents may still be considered marital property.

Property division decisions can impact credit scores

Financial security following a divorce is an issue that should not be overlooked. It can be easy to overlook the small details or long-term implications of decisions made during property division, particularly when the initial effects might feel immediate. However, forgetting about things like credit scores and how these numbers can impact future finances can lead to undesirable outcomes for California residents.

Divorce in and of itself does not harm a person's credit score. However, the decisions and actions made during and after a divorce certainly can. Untangling years or even a lifetime of marital property -- including debt -- can be complicated, particularly if there are several complex accounts. However, once everything is divided up and the divorce decree is approved by a judge, most people are content to focus solely on their portion of the assets.

How to approach property division in a California divorce

Divorce is more than just a legal process to separate the lives of a married couple. For many people in California it is also an emotional journey, which can make addressing things like property division difficult. From angry exes to questionable information about assets, here are a few things that can help make the divorce process better.

One of the best things anyone can do when heading into property division is to decide to be reasonable and ready to compromise when necessary. This does not mean a person needs to lie down and let his or her ex make all of the decisions about who gets to keep what, but it does mean that he or she should consider what is really important and let go of what is not. When both parties are willing to compromise, divorce is generally faster and more agreeable.

Establishing paternity is essential for child custody matters

It is not uncommon for unmarried couples in California to have children. While this situation works well for many parents, it can be difficult for some fathers to get time with their children. Establishing paternity is often the first step toward getting a child custody agreement that reflects the child's best interests, which usually involves having access to both of their parents.

You can get formally establish paternity in one of two ways. The first is for the father to acknowledge a child as his own and to sign a declaration of paternity at the time of birth. A witness must be present at the time that the declaration is signed, and afterwards it has to be put into the state's database.

What you need to know about the different types of child custody

California parents put an enormous amount of thought and consideration when making decisions that will affect their children. Because of this, many divorcing parents spend a significant amount of time weighing the benefits of divorce before actually filing. One of the biggest topics parents tend to consider is that of child custody. Despite being used as a catchall term in popular media, there are several distinct forms of custody.

Legal custody gives parents the legal authority to make important decisions on the child's behalf. This includes decisions about education, health and medical treatment, religious instruction and the child's general upbringing. While it is possible for a family court to award legal custody to only one parent, legal custody is often awarded to both parents. This means that after a divorce both parents can continue to make important decisions regarding their children's lives.

How to handle your family business during property division

Starting a business with a spouse might seem overwhelming at first, but many California couples find this to be a lucrative and exciting option. However, there is a chance that starting that business might feel easier than splitting it up during property division. For married business owners who are ready to divorce, dealing with business matters can be extremely complicated.

Before deciding what to do with the business, it is important that everyone involved understands its value. Thoroughly valuing a business can be a complicated process and it might be hard for interested parties to produce an unbiased result. It is usually best to utilize an impartial third party to establish the value.

Is your ex hiding assets from property division?

Creating a sense of financial security for life after divorce requires more than a single-faceted approach. From securing essential post-divorce payments -- including alimony and child support -- to obtaining half of the marital assets during property division, California family law provides ample opportunities to ensure that a person is not financially stunted from divorce. Unfortunately, some individuals try to circumvent these protections by hiding assets during their divorce.

Hiding assets is a popular method used by those who want to keep more than their share of the marital assets. These individuals might use a variety of approaches for keeping assets hidden, such as claiming that they lost an asset or that it never existed in the first place. Temporarily transferring property to another person until the divorce is finalized is another common approach.

Do credit card rewards points factor into a high asset divorce?

Credit card rewards programs are a significant draw for those who use their cards responsibly. Many people in California use their credit cards strategically so as to optimize their rewards. However, during a high asset divorce, these become another complicated asset to value and divide.

It is important to determine whether the rewards points are either separate or marital property. If one individual can thoroughly demonstrate that they opened the card and earned all of its related rewards points before marriage, then he or she may keep them as separate property. In general though, rewards points earned during the course of a marriage are considered to be community property. This is true even if only one person opened the account and spent money on the card.

Second marriages and property division -- consider a prenup

Getting married is an exciting and magical experience, but those who are ready to tie the knot for the second time around may understand just how important it is to be prepared. Prenuptial agreements can be especially helpful in this regard. Not only have these individuals already dealt with property division before, but they also understand that divorce is a reality even for the seemingly happiest of California couples.

Remarrying after age 40, 50 or even 60 usually involves significantly more assets than marrying for the first time at the age of 25. Individuals usually have real estate, motor vehicles, retirement savings, investments and more that they want to protect. Some also want to ensure that their assets are protected so that children from a prior relationship can still receive their intended inheritances. Prenups can even give couples the opportunity to address important topics that will come out throughout the course of their marriages.

Keeping separate property out of property division

As young adults in California prioritize their careers, they tend to put off marriage until a later time. The intervening years between establishing a career and tying the knot are often a prime opportunity to accumulate a large amount of personal property, and combining those items during marriage is not always easy. When dealing with separate and marital property, keep the following in mind to avoid huge property division headaches.

One of the easiest ways to formally document separate and personal property is to use a prenuptial agreement. Couples can use a prenup to list their personal property before tying the knot, ensuring that these items will not be subject to community property division if they divorce. However, not everybody is in favor of these documents.

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