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Westlake Village Legal Blog

Courts allowed to factor pet well-being into custody decisions

Judges in California will soon have more issues to consider when awarding pet custody in divorce cases. A new state law that was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on October 18 allows judges to base their pet custody decisions on matters pertaining to the pet's well-being.

Until now, judges have tended to grant custody of a pet to whichever spouse bought or adopted it. But under the new law, there is more room for emotional considerations. For example, a judge might consider which person spends the most time with the pet, takes it to vet appointments and cares for it at home. The author of the bill says that while pets are still property, it is important that their well-being is taken into consideration.

The TCJA and divorce

California couples who are getting divorced should be aware of how the changes brought on by the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act can impact a marital separation. The new laws will institute changes in the treatment of child support and alimony that may result in divorces finalized after 2018 being more expensive.

One important aspect of the TCJA for divorcing couples is the elimination of the value of the dependent and personal exemptions. The legislation also increased the amounts of the standard deductions. Being able to claim Head of Household status, which leads to a greater deduction, is likely to be a major discussion point during divorce negotiations.

Financial planning and divorce after 50

Divorce among older spouses is becoming increasingly common in California and other states. Also known as "gray divorce," a late-in-life separation can threaten a senior's hard-earned retirement savings. However, there are several ways to prevent a gray divorce from affecting retirement.

Going through a divorce can be quite difficult emotionally. It is important to make important financial decisions with a rational mindset rather than letting the emotional aspects of the situation take control. Many people want to maintain the same social status or appearance in front of their friends that they enjoyed before the divorce. It is important to not let this get in the way of being practical about budgeting decisions.

Can I claim pet visitation rights in my divorce?

A topic that comes up for many couples in divorce proceedings, but is not often tackled in the news or pop culture, is that of pet visitation. Although it may not seem like a significant factor in the overall picture of divorce, pet visitation can actually become a rather contentious point between ex-spouses.

If you and your spouse have a pet(s) and are facing a difficult divorce, it may be an uphill battle to decide who gets to "keep" the pet, as well as if the spouse without the pet can continue to see the pet. Understanding more about this often-overlooked factor in divorces can help you prepare to face this situation with a well-thought-out strategy.

For older adults, divorce affects health, social life, finances

Divorced people in California who are 50 and older may be a growing group, but they should be aware of the health problems that can be caused by the chronic stress that often accompanies divorce. Symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and depression can worsen chronic health conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes, and people might also be more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as overeating and drinking too much. Healthy habits, such as exercising, may fall by the wayside.

Experts have identified several likely reasons for the rise of divorce among older people. One is that views about marriage have changed, and people are more likely to seek a divorce if they feel unfulfilled. People are also living longer, and women may have more economic freedom than in the past. Older people are more likely to be in second marriages, which have a higher divorce rate than first marriages.

Delaying bankruptcy can make a bad financial situation even worse

Individuals in California and around the country who are struggling with significant debt often put off filing for bankruptcy because they are concerned about the possible consequences. However, a recent study suggests that this delay can often be far more financially damaging. Researchers from the Notre Dame University Law Review came to this conclusion after scrutinizing data from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

The researchers found that people with unmanageable financial situations often endure stress and daily harassment from debt collectors for years before seeking relief. More than two-thirds of the bankruptcy filers that were surveyed waited for two or more years before filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 petition. Almost a third delayed taking action for five years or longer. However, bankruptcy documents reveal that their situations became progressively worse as they waited. Many only pursued debt relief when the pressure on them to make restitution became unbearable, and they had no assets left to sell.

Simple rules make co-parenting easier

California residents usually understand that co-parenting can be frustrating at times. Whether a family splits because of divorce or the parents were never married, the best parenting relationships are cooperative and focused on the children. Sometimes it is easier said than done, but adopting a few simple rules can make things flow much more smoothly.

Whether the parents are friends or completely unable to get along, the most important guideline to follow in parenting is remembering that the top priority in their ongoing relationship is the children. Maintaining a strict focus on the best interests of the children should be the guiding star of every parental decision. If both parties can agree to put the kids first, it goes a long way toward establishing a successful parenting relationship. Each should adopt a strict 'no disparagement" policy regarding the other parent when in the presence of children. Furthermore, they should always keep the children out of disagreements even if the dispute involves the children.

Divorced women and financial security in retirement

Being financially secure during retirement is a major concern for many women who get divorced. According to the results of a 2008 study, women divorcees are hit with a sustained drop in income of over 20 percent on average while their ex-husbands are likely to experience an income increase of nearly 33 percent.

According to a study that was conducted by the Center for Retirement Research, however, a typical divorced woman's long-term financial state will be in a better condition than what individuals may be led to believe. The reason for this is homeownership.

Preparing for property division in a divorce

When couples decide to get a divorce in California, they may be particularly concerned about the financial implications. Many spouses recognize that the financial repercussions of a separation can be longer lasting than the emotional and practical changes. In order to prepare for divorce, it can be helpful for people to review their financial situations and gain a greater understanding of the process to come.

One of the most important parts of preparing for a divorce is undertaking a realistic valuation of personal and real property, especially marital financial assets. These include bank accounts, cash on hand, retirement funds, investment accounts, real estate trusts and more. These types of assets are particularly fungible and may be important to each spouse, especially if one person needs to access them to cover living expenses. When going through the property division process, it is also important to include the impact of taxation when valuing an asset. For example, a bank account with $100,000 is not equivalent to $100,000 in an IRA because withdrawals from the IRA made later on will be subject to income tax.

Will relocation with the other parent be good for your son?

Let us say that you and your former spouse have been divorced for three years and have had few problems with respect to the visitation schedule set up for spending time with your son.

Now your ex, the custodial parent, seeks to relocate and wants to modify the original child custody order, but you do not have confidence in the move. What will the court decide?

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