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Hiding assets in a divorce in California is a bad idea

When a divorce becomes nasty, one or both parties may use tactics that they would never use in their business or social lives. One of the most common tactics is to hide marital assets from the other spouse. This behavior is usually based on three incorrect assumptions: the other party has no means to search for or find the property; the property is hidden so that it will not be found; and if the property is found, the consequences will be light.

Hidden property is governed by a brief paragraph in the California Family Code that does not spell out the consequences of hiding assets in any detail, but one sentence, however brief, should be a warning to anyone thinking about concealing assets. If assets are discovered after the divorce becomes final, the court will divide the property equally "unless the court finds upon good cause shown that the interests of justice require an unequal division of the asset or liability." In other words, the court has wide latitude to order an unequal division of the hidden asset, which means that 100 percent of the hidden asset can be given to the other spouse.

How California judges determine the amount of alimony

One of the most difficult issues in any divorce in California is whether one ex-spouse will be ordered to pay alimony to the other ex-spouse. The answers to these questions can affect the life of each ex-spouse for many years, and understanding the factors that the court must consider in awarding spousal support will help both parties present their cases arguing for more or less alimony.

The court must first evaluate the earning capacity of each spouse during the marriage. The court must then examine the likely earning capacity of each spouse after the divorce. If the ex-spouses are likely to have substantially differing post-marriage earning capacities, alimony will be used to equalize the two situations. The court will evaluate the marketable skills of the spouse getting support and the job market for those skills. The court will also determine whether the spouse receiving support will need further education or training to find employment.

Changing the terms of an order for child support

Many people in Sacramento who endure a divorce proceeding find that their financial circumstances change after the divorce is completed. One of the ex-spouses may become unemployed or suffer a demotion that reduces their salary. Occasionally, one of the spouses or a child will suffer a medical crisis that results in unexpected bills. Sometimes, a change has the opposite effect - an ex-spouse may receive an unexpected promotion with a significant increase in income. In all of these circumstances, the original order for child support may suddenly seem unfair. What can be done about it?

If the ex-spouses cannot agree on how to change the existing order, one or both may bring a motion to modify the original order before the court that signed the original order. The motion must show that the parties have experienced a "change in circumstances" since the last child support order was signed. Many different reasons may require a modification of the original order:

  • The income of one or bother parents has changed;
  • One parent has lost his or her job;
  • One parent has been incarcerated;
  • One parent has had another child in another relationship;
  • The time that the child spends with either parent may have changed; or
  • The child's needs for childcare, health care or education may have changed.

3 tips for dividing debt during divorce

The thought of dividing your assets in a divorce may be stressful. However, it is crucial to remember that you must divide your joint debts too. Splitting up your debt can be a complex process, so it is important to make decisions carefully. 

If you are not careful, you may end up with an unfair amount of debt. Here are some tips for making it through the debt division process.

The basics of dividing property in a divorce in California

Most people in Sacramento County understand that a divorce involves the division of property owned by the couple. An understanding of the types of property that a couple may acquire during their marriage can help understand the process of dividing those assets.

The law recognizes two broad categories of property: personal property and real property. The latter category includes real estate and interests in real estate, such as mortgages and contracts to convey. Personal property includes everything else, from savings accounts to fine art to automobiles. California law imposes different requirements on the division of real and personal property, and the difference often depends on when the asset was acquired.

Property division pitfalls

Many couples in Sacramento who are going through a divorce attempt to divide their property without consulting a lawyer, an accountant or a financial planner. Such efforts can resolve a number of major issues in the divorce without the interference of the courts or opposing attorneys. The do-it-yourself property division process, however, has a number of pitfalls for the unwary.

First, anyone attempting to negotiate a property settlement with their soon-to-be former spouse must understand the mechanics of California's community property law. Any property acquired during the marriage is deemed to be community property and must be divided equally. Any property that was owned by one spouse prior to the marriage is personal property and need not be divided.

A refresher on California's community property laws

Most people in Sacramento County have been told that California is a "community property state," but very few know exactly what the phrase means. The phrase refers to state laws that govern the division of property in a divorce or legal separation, but even understanding that part of the law does not adequately convey the effect of the law on divorcing couples.

All property that is acquired by the couple, either together or separately, during the marriage is defined as "community property." Property that was owned by one spouse or the other before marriage is referred to as "personal property." State law requires that a divorcing couple divide their community property equally between them. Personal property is not divided.

Understanding supervised visitation

Child custody and visitation can be two of the most contentious issues in a divorce in California. Many people in Sacramento who are contemplating a divorce regard child custody and visitation as the most difficult questions that must be resolved in a divorce, but sometimes, the circumstances of the parents may prevent a complete resolution regardless of the terms of the court's order for visitation. In such cases, the parties may wish to consider supervised visitation.

Supervised visitation means that a neutral third-party must be present when a child meets with the non-custodial parent. Previous domestic violence in the household is one of the principal justifications for supervised visitation. Other reasons a court may order supervised visitation include re-introducing a parent and child after a long absence, introducing a parent and child when they have had no prior relationship, the existence of parenting concerns, including mental illness, or the threat of abduction.

What to do when you learn the custodial parent is moving away

Even though your child primarily lives with your former spouse, you do everything you can to ensure that the two of you have a close relationship. However, the other parent is now saying that a move to another state is in the near future.

What can you do to make sure your parent-child relationship does not suffer?

Protecting business assets in a divorce in California

Many couples in Sacramento have entered into a marriage without considering the possibility that a divorce may change their lives unexpectedly. Some couples have attempted to co-own and manage a small business without considering the possible effect of a divorce on their respective interests in the business. If and when a divorce occurs, splitting the business can prove to be a problem.

One of the most effective ways to protect an interest in a close corporation is the creation of a prenuptial agreement. Such an agreement can specify how the shares will be valued and how they will be distributed. If the company was started from scratch during the marriage, and the company has no shareholders beside the married couple, the business will be considered part of the couple's community property and divided accordingly. Another effective method of dividing corporate ownership is a post-marital agreement, but such documents are not always easy to negotiate.

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