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Westlake Village Legal Blog

A look at student loan debt and the divorce process

A divorce in California involves the division of the spouses' marital assets and debts. Although the state views marital assets as community property that should be divided equally upon the dissolution of marriage, family law carves out some special rules for student loan debt.

Student loans taken out by individuals prior to tying the knot could likely remain the responsibility of the borrower after the divorce. As for student loan debt acquired during a marriage, the state typically assigns it to the person who received the loan. This represents an exception to how family law typically divides other marital debts between both people. A spouse who co-signed on a student loan from a private lender for the other spouse, however, will likely remain responsible for the debt regardless of the terms of the divorce.

Tips for keeping your pet during divorce

There are so many consequential aspects to a divorce. Who gets custody of the kids? What happens to the family home or car? Another important consideration is who gets to keep the pet. And thanks to a new law in California, the courts treat pets more like children than property in divorce proceedings. 

So, how can you fight to maintain ownership of your beloved dog or cat? Here are some ways to argue that it is best if the pet lives with you after the end of your marriage. 

More young people struggling with credit card debt

An increasing number of young people in California and across the country are facing growing credit card debt and bills that are difficult to repay. Many millennials became adults during the financial crisis of 2008 and the immediate aftermath, and they became known for avoiding credit cards and other forms of personal debt. At the same time, many already struggle with significant amounts of student loan debt, especially as the cost of university has skyrocketed in the United States. However, millennials have also experienced growing incomes and professional salaries that are often accompanied by solicitations from credit card companies.

Card issuers have found that young Americans respond best to bonus offers rather than traditional advertisements offering zero-interest balance transfer. Instead, travel credits and signup bonuses have induced many young people to sign up for new credit cards. However, some are also facing difficulties repaying this mounting credit card debt. Among people age 18 to 29, more than 8% of credit card balances are overdue by 90 days or more. This is a relatively new trend, and it is also reflected in other concerning statistics. Young Americans are also more likely than people in other generations to have long-overdue credit card balances.

Will a child support modification work for you?

Children need the support of their parents physically, mentally and emotionally. After a divorce, the court will likely put a court-ordered physical child support payment arrangement in place.

As a child enters different development stages, the need for child support may change. Alternatively, a parent may go through circumstances requiring a shift in finances, including the payment. Either way, there are a few things to consider to determine if a child support modification may work for you.

How to share custody over summer break

Parents in California and elsewhere will ideally create a plan to share custody of their children over the summer months as early as possible. A set plan can reduce stress for both the adults and the children who must live with them. The first step in determining who gets custody of a child and when is consulting the parenting plan. In many cases, this will only be a starting point in terms of what the summer months will look like.

It is not a problem to deviate from the plan as the needs of the parents and child change. It is also important to not get too hung up on minor details that may not matter many months or years from now. Ideally, parents will show each other the respect that they deserve and will refrain from doing or saying anything negative in the presence of the children.

How California parents can successfully co-parent

California parents who have been through divorce and are struggling to co-parent their teenaged children should be aware of several tips to help make things easier for their kids. Divorce is hard on ex-couples, but it also profoundly affects teenagers, who often are already struggling with the daily trials of adolescence, such as hormonal and physical changes that may already lead to mood swings and depression.

First, divorced parents should make sure they do not stop communicating with each other about their teenager. Each parent may wrongfully assume that the other is aware of everything that is going on in the teenager's life, which can lead to a lack of support and guidance for the child. Parents should also make sure they do not fall into the trap of passing messages to each other through their child. Messages may not be delivered correctly, and it gives the child a considerable amount of power over his or her parents.

The dischargeability of debts in bankruptcy

When a debtor in California files for bankruptcy, they generally assume that all their debts will be discharged or forgiven. However, this isn't true in all cases. A North Carolina court has provided some guidance for creditors seeking exemptions for instances when debtors aren't entirely honest.

The case that led to the court's ruling concerning the extent of bankruptcy protection involves allegations that the executrix of an estate mismanaged it. The jury sided with the children who inherited from the estate and ordered the former executrix to cover compensatory and punitive damages. She then filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after the trial. A lawsuit inside of the bankruptcy case was filed to have the jury award declared non-dischargeable. The court determined that state-court punitive damages awards are not automatically non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. But claims against the executrix by the estate were dismissed, so the judgment was ultimately discharged.

Studies find complex relationship between income, divorce

California couples may look at their incomes, which of them makes more money and the size of the disparity to predict one risk factor in their marriage. Studies have indicated that most Americans still tend to think men and not women should be the family breadwinners. However, the percentage of women in cohabiting relationships who earn half or more of the income had increased to almost 33% by 2017 compared to 13% in 1981.

A sociology professor reports that when husbands do not work full time, the risk of divorce increase by 33%. Some women report that husbands who do not work outside the home drive them into debt. However, another study found that men who flash their wealth around are not seen as good potential partners, with participants assuming that a man with more extravagant spending habits might also be more likely to enjoy affairs and short-term relationships. On the other hand, some men who have accumulated a significant number of assets might worry about marrying a woman who makes less than them and what would happen in a divorce.

How courts determine spousal support payments

Like all states, California has its own laws for determining spousal support. Individual courts may take a variety of factors into account. These include the needs of the spouse receiving support, the other spouse's ability to pay, how long the marriage has lasted, and the couple's lifestyle, age and health. The court may also consider any non-marital assets and whether the couple has children under 18.

In some cases, alimony may only be ordered to cover a period that allows a spouse to go back to school or retrain for a higher-paying job. Spousal support can be modified if one person's financial situation changes, but because of the time, money and uncertainty involved in this modification, some couples agree to support that cannot be modified. It is not uncommon for spousal support to have an end date, but it generally only ends early on the death of one person or if the spouse receiving support gets married.

When coparenting is difficult or impossible

It may be impossible in some circumstances for parents in California to co-parent after a divorce. These circumstances include abuse, incarceration and abandonment. In other cases, parents may simply be unable to communicate well enough to have an effective co-parenting relationship.

Healthy co-parenting requires a number of conditions to be in place in addition to communication. Parents need to be consistent in terms of their rules between households and set clear boundaries. They need to stick to the agreed-upon schedules while also being flexible when necessary. Parents should keep one another updated on any relevant life changes and check with one another before making plans with the children. They should be able to attend events together without conflict, respect one another's relationship with the children and agree on how to raise their children in terms of religion, education and medical care.

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