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Westlake Village Legal Blog

Art collections in divorce

It isn't unusual for couples in California to have some conflict over asset division during a divorce. In some cases, dividing personal property can be an area of significant strife, sometimes even more so than splitting up financial accounts. This may be due to one or both spouses having an emotional attachment to a particular item.

One example of this kind of difficulty is when a couple owns valuable artwork. If the couple cannot quickly come to an agreement about what will be done with a piece, or a collection, tensions can quickly escalate. It can be difficult to determine whether a piece is marital property or belongs to one of the spouses. Making matters worse, determining the value of a piece is often a complicated process that can complicate a high-asset divorce.

How digital spying may affect divorce cases

Normally, stalking someone, including an ex-spouse, would be considered a crime. However, technology used for the purpose of digital spying has created a gray area when it comes to such activities. While keeping tabs on a former spouse may be intrusive, it's not always considered a crime in California. In some situations, the legality of the techniques used to track movements will depend on where digital spy devices are placed.

When a family law case involves divorce, there are many potential issues involved. One of these is who owns what. If digital devices like GPS trackers are placed on a vehicle owned jointly, an argument can be made that since the property is owned by both parties, the ex-spouse has a right to track its location. In other situations, existing laws concerning electronic wiretapping may be applied to prevent unauthorized tracking of conversations, including text messages, although finding proof that confirms a spouse's suspicions is sometimes difficult.

Pros and cons of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy

If you are feeling the pressure of mounting debt, actively looking for solutions sooner rather than later can help you decide on the best options. Filing for bankruptcy can be an effective way to handle financial difficulty.

Those filing for personal bankruptcy may resort to a Chapter 13 or a Chapter 7 filing. Each has its own requirements as well as its own advantages and drawbacks. A knowledgeable attorney can help you determine which would work best in your situation.

Credit woes that may be caused by divorce

California estranged couples may find that getting a divorce may influence their credit score. After a divorce, a person may have less money to pay bills and meet other financial obligations. If a person's salary goes down, it may result in a credit card company reducing his or her credit limit. In some settlements, one person is responsible for more of the debt than the other, which can make it harder to keep up on one income.

Joint accounts may not be closed after a divorce is finalized. If the account remains open, both parties to the credit card or other joint account are responsible for any balance on it. In some cases, the person who is responsible for paying down that debt forgets to do so or simply refuses to do so.

Financial planning and divorce

When couples recite their marriage vows, most truly hope that the nuptials will last forever. Unfortunately, many California residents go through expected divorces. A new study shows that 65 percent of married couples do not have a financial plan in case of a spouse's death or divorce.

The online study asked 2,019 married, singled, widowed and divorced individuals age 37 and older about their financial earnings and beliefs. Married individuals reported an average personal income of $61,700, which was $13,100 higher than that reported by widows and widowers and $9,800 higher than the average income reported by divorced individuals.

Tips to help divorced parents better navigate the holiday season

Some newly divorced and separated parents in California and throughout the nation may find it difficult to navigate the holiday season. Although parenting time with the children may already have been determined by agreement or by the court, some parents may be tempted to use the holiday schedule to "get back" at their exes. Rather than bad-mouthing the other parent or being rigid concerning visitation, parents might better serve their kids by keeping a few simple suggestions in mind.

First, parents may want to realize that the holidays are about the kids and make the children's needs the top priority throughout the season. Kids may not fully understand the need to bounce between houses, but they may be able to understand that they have two families who love them and want the best for them. Parents might also want to avoid trying to "buy" their children's forgiveness or love by breaking the bank on expensive technology and the latest toys. There is likely to be more lasting value in spending as much time as possible with the kids.

Signs of parental alienation

When some California parents do not get along with the other parent, they may attempt to have the child spurn that parent. Known as parental alienation, this process occurs when a child turns away from one parent or attempts to completely end a relationship with them.

There are several warning signs that may indicate that parental alienation is occurring. For example, these signs may include exclusionary requests made by the children. In these cases, a child may ask a parent not to attend a game school function. In some cases, a parent may be challenged by the child or the child may become combative when interacting with a parent. The child may indicate that the parent cannot do anything right. These sentiments may be echoed by the other parent. Finally, the child may take responsibility for alienating his or her parent, especially if he or she is confronted.

Avoid early IRA withdrawal fees in divorce

Retirement savings accounts have strict penalties built into them to prevent early withdrawals. Withdrawing money early could result in a lower standard of living during a person's retirement years. Since retirement accounts such as 401(k), IRA and pension plans may be considered community property in California, it's important for them to be divided properly in order to avoid such fees and tax penalties.

Pensions and 401(k) plans may be divided without the risk of penalties via a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO, issued by the divorce court. Although an employee would normally be subjected to a 10 percent tax penalty if they make a withdrawal prior to retirement age, that penalty does not apply as long as their attorney ensures a QDRO is included in the divorce documents.

Divorce considerations for retirement

In California and around the country, an increasing number of people who are at or over the age of 50 are choosing to divorce. When people are thinking about getting divorced when they are near to retirement or after they retire, there are some important things that they should consider before they make the decision.

Getting divorced when people are retired and are no longer working can be financially devastating. Divorces can be expensive. If there are extensive issues that are litigated, the legal costs may increase and the process may be long and drawn out. Even if people are able to negotiate agreements through mediation, they should be aware that they will have to divide all of their assets, including their retirement accounts, real estate holdings, bank account balances and stock options. This may leave both parties facing their retirement years with substantially reduced standards of living.

Senior debtors experience stress relief with bankruptcy filings

The recession of 2008 imposed financial difficulties on people in California, especially among those who are 65 years old and older. Approximately 8 percent of debtors seeking bankruptcy relief fall within that demographic. Medical debt represents the top reason seniors fall behind on their bills, and once collection agencies start to contact them, their stress rises significantly.

One attorney serving older debtors said that bankruptcy filings free them from the emotional difficulty of ongoing harassment for bills that they cannot pay. The aggressive and even unscrupulous tactics of debt collectors tend to distress older people the most. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports that people over the age of 62 lodged the most complaints about debt collection agencies.

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