How Is Legal Separation Different From A Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorney Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsLegal separation is the formal process of confirming an actual separation of the parties, as opposed to filing for divorce.  Parties that chose legal separation do so for religious reasons, do not believe in divorce, or have concerns about medical insurance coverage, among other reasons.  If the parties proceed all the way to a final judgment in a legal separation case, they can obtain the same orders that they would have in a divorce case.  The biggest difference is that in the end, the parties are technically still married after a legal separation case and cannot get legally remarried.

Agreement for separation

An agreement on separation includes terms that are quite similar to those if the concerned couple was getting a divorce. This means there will be a distribution of their marital property, agreement on child visitation and custody if applicable. Not only this, the couple opting for a legal separation will also have to come to a decision on dividing any debts that were incurred by them after they got married.

Ideally, the above-mentioned terms should be binding in case the couple wants to get divorced. Moreover, both parties should hire their individual attorneys for negotiating all the details of the agreement on their legal separation. In case the spouses eventually make up their mind to go one step ahead and file for a divorce, it has been observed that the judge usually keeps the same terms as both the parties agreed to them earlier.

Differences between a legal separation and a divorce

Check out some of the following key differences between a divorce and a legal separation.

Name

While the spouse continues with the legal married name in the case of a separation, a wife may revert back to her maiden name after the divorce comes throughout the divorce be.

Child support

The conditions related to child support are ascertained when the legal separation takes place. When a couple decides to go for a divorce after being legally separated, ideally, the same terms are followed that were mentioned in the document for legal separation.

Marital status

A couple is still married even though there is a legal separation going on. But when the divorce is finalized, the marriage ends.

Child visits

Visitation rights of the child are decided when the legal separation takes place. If a divorce comes through after the legal separation, most of the times, the same terms are followed as mentioned in the document of their legal separation.

Alimony

The terms for alimony are ascertained during the legal separation. The conditions are typically kept same if the divorce gets finalized in the future.

Split of marital property

The couple agrees to the terms while going for a legal separation. When they do decide to finally divorce, the sane conditions that are mentioned in the document for legal separation are followed.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Division of Pension Plans In A Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsPension plans are usually divided in one of only two ways: “cash out” or by Qualified Domestic Relations orders (QDROs).  The latter is the most common way through which pension plans get handled. Under this scheme, it is ordered by the court that at the time of retirement of the employed spouse, the other one will be the recipient of a percentage of every pension check. This percentage is arrived at by dividing years when the spouses spent together in their once home as wife and husband by total number of all years when the spouse who is employed had participated in pension plan. The result amount of that division is community property percentage of pension plan. To give an example, if a husband has put in 20 years of his monetary contributions to a pension plan, and 10 of the coinciding years he lived with the wife, the share of the pension plan will be about 50 percent. In such a case, the wife will have 25 percent of the pension checks of the husband. 

Money plan 

As per reservation of jurisdiction, the spouse considered a non-employee could elect to receive her or his share of the pension benefits of the employee spouse at earliest time when the employed spouse will retire. It means that in the case of the employed spouse electing not to retire at earliest opportunity, that spouse must pay the non-employed spouse what the latter would have got in case the employed spouse would have retired. To give an example, if the husband becomes eligible to retire at 55, but elects not to retire in that age, his ex-wife could demand that he provides her the amount of money she would have received if he retired during that age. It is to be mentioned that in case the wife selects this option, she will not receive any increases due to higher cost of living after that date.

QDRO

The 1984 made Federal Retirement Equity Act created “Qualified Domestic Relations Order”. In this system, the court gives orders regarding the retirement plan of the spouse. The Federal law states that the employer must comply with the order terms.  The QDRO preparation is complicated and time consuming. It is also expensive. However, the QDRO is an essential step in dissolution process. A number of companies have been created for the sole aim of making them.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

What Happens If You Fail To Disclose All Your Assets In A Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation lawyers; California Divorce MediatorsWhile you might find it tempting to conceal a certain part of your assets from your divorcing spouse, it is not really a good idea when it comes to legal implications of the same. Similarly, if in case you suspect that your partner is not providing complete disclosure of his or her assets for the purpose of distribution in a divorce, you must understand that the state laws of California stipulate stringent legal actions against such an act. When it comes to rectifying the omission of an asset disclosure, there are typically two aspects that are taken into consideration: the time of discovery and whether the omission was intentional or a mistake.

Asset omission through a mistake and discovered after the final court order

In case a spouse has inadvertently failed to make a complete disclosure of his/her assets, and it is discovered after the final judgment has been announced, the court has the right to alter the order and divide the asset as per the stipulates of the Californian State laws.

Intentional omission discovered before the final court order

Speaking of the obvious, an intentional concealment of an asset by a divorcing party is treated quite differently as in the case where the omission was an honest mistake. According to the Californian law, both the divorcing parties have the ‘fiduciary duty’ of serving a declaration of disclosure that contains all the information about their assets and debts to each other, failing which the guilty party will be faced with stringent corrective actions from the court of law. In some cases, an incomplete disclosure of an asset may also lead to the court ordering 100% ownership of the said asset to the other party involved.

Intentional omission discovered after the final court order

In the event that you discover an intentional un-disclosure of your spouse’s assets after the court has announced the judgment, the Californian law offers you the right to set aside the court order as ‘based on fraud’. In addition to this, you also have the right to file a tort action or the infringement of your rights, against your guilty partner.

The bottom line is that it is prudent to follow the laws of your state and provide proper disclosures of your assets and liabilities, in order to facilitate smooth and trouble free divorce proceedings. It is always advisable to be as transparent as possible in your case.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Can The Husband Sell The Marital House?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation; California Divorce MediatorsThe answer to whether a divorcing guy can sell his house or not is not quite an easy one. This is because the reply depends on factors like what decisions were made by the judge in a particular case and the conditions of a divorce agreement.

Divorce and marital home

At the time of divorce, the concerned couple has to take a call on the entire marital property and that includes the house the spouses shared.  Though it will be simpler if the house is sold outright prior to finalizing the divorce and splitting the sales proceeds, the solution may not be feasible in all cases.

There are some scenarios when a spouse purchases the interests of the other party. Alternatively, a spouse may transfer some other asset to her or him as a part of settling the property issue. There are other ways of dealing with the marital house too. If children are there in a marriage, both sides may agree that the parent who got the kids’ custody can stay at their house for a specific time period. The contract could also specify that the marital home will be sold whenever the younger kid will turn eighteen and the sales proceeds will be distributed between the ex-couples at that time.

The ex-spouses may have you also agree to an arrangement to ensure that the house is in a good condition during that time period. Moreover, the non-custodial parent could be directed to provide for the maintenance of the house so that both the former spouses can get the highest amount of money when the marital house gets sold.

Chances of a divorced man selling his house

When a man is already divorced and has outright ownership of a house, he does not have any kind of obligation towards his ex-spouse and can sell it while keeping the money from the sales for himself. The guy can also purchase another pretty if he desires to or invests the funds. He can also use the money for any purpose as per his discretion.

In case both the spouses were the joint owners of the house during their marriage, the man has to distribute the sales proceeds with his ex-wife according to the court’s orders or as per any other agreement.

In case the former spouses are ordered to keep the house as it is for a reasonable time prior to its selling, he needs to get in touch with an attorney and find out if he needs to send an application to the court to permit him to sell the home by reversing the original order. In such cases, the court will consider the man’s explanations for the need to sell the house and eventually determine whether he can do so or not.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Dividing Retirement Plans During A Late-Life Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation attorneys Orange County; California Divorce MediatorsLate life divorces are increasing in number as more and more people live longer.  A recent study has revealed that one in every four divorces are late-life divorces. Like any divorce, a late-life divorce can be hard hitting on the financial front. But a late-life divorce could ruin people with the best retirement plans.

The cost of living separately is much higher than the cost of living together as the number of accommodations and facilities double. In simpler words, an elderly couple that have been together for a long period of time would have likely planned their retirement together. When a divorce is filed, one of the spouses will have to move out and more often than not, have to plan separate occasions to meet other family members. All of this, could drive expenses up by 30 or 40 percent.

Anyone involved in a divorce will tell you that it is one of the most expensive scenarios to deal with. For people aged 50 or over, this could spell the destruction of their financial plan altogether. A financial planner or advisor needs to be consulted in order to understand the circumstances. This is especially true, if one of the spouses handled the finances throughout the marriage.

In some cases, retirement benefits might be more valuable than all of the couple’s other community property combined. This might form conflict on the division of the benefits. Some forms of benefits such as social security, military compensation, and workers’ compensation for disability are not considered to be community property and will remain with the individual after divorce.

Retirement Allocations

In California, retirement is considered to be community property that can be divided amongst both spouses. However, retirement divisions are handled outside of the usual divorce proceedings. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) outlines the division of the retirement funds.  It is usually filed after the divorce judgment. The QDRO is needed to divide 401k, 403b, profit-sharing plans, tax sheltered annuities and other aspects.

During divorce proceedings, the QDRO calls for the equal division of retirement assets. However, mediation and negotiation can help spouses agree on different rates or division percentages. The QDRO  is the final indicator of division of retirement benefits. Divorce attorneys often hire QDRO specialists to help segregation and division. Once both parties have agreed on the division of benefits, a QDRO is filed.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Handling Defaulting on Debts During a Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediator; California Divorce MediatorsDivorce can become a complicated subject, especially when debt becomes a part of it. If you are a married person, then you know what that means. There have been cases where one person walked away without paying a single cent while the other went bankrupt. It could be a nightmare for the one paying the debts.

How you handle debts after your split can have a major impact on your credit.

Debt on property

In states like California, both you and your spouse are liable for the debts incurred after you got married. It does not matter in whose name the account is. Both of you are responsible for the property purchased and the debt as to be shared. In other states, the debt is paid off by one person only. It might not sound fair but that is the law in those states.

Debt on credit accounts

The same goes for credit accounts as well. Since the credit was shared by you and your spouse, the debt too must be shared. Even if the divorce rules say that your spouse is responsible for paying the debt, you will still be a part of it. You miss the payments, and you become a defaulter. If you become a defaulter, then your credit score drops, making it harder to get credit in the future.

Handling joint debts

After you get divorced, make sure you close all joint accounts that are in your and your spouse’s name. Remove your spouse’s name from the authorized user list. Try getting the account converted into individual accounts if you can.

Try paying off as many debts as possible before the actual divorce. It will keep you prepared for any extra charges that might incur during your divorce proceedings.

Minimizing damage

When you close accounts, make sure that the credit accounts are in your name. Doing so will give you control over your money and you would not have to worry about any unknown debts.

It’s common among couples that one person borrows while the other spends. If you are one of them and you are on the spending side, then talk with your partner and work out a common ground. Understand that if your credit score is low, future lenders would not lend you money. Before you get divorced, try clearing as much debt as you can together.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Division of Debts in a California Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

orange county divorce mediation attorneys; California Divorce MediatorsWhat are community debts and separate debts?

In the State of California, debts between a couple are divided into two types – community debts and separate debts. Community debts are those debts that are accumulated by both parties to the marriage during the marriage until the date of separation. These debts are to be equally divided between both the parties even if only one spouse was responsible for incurring these debts. Separate debts are those debts that were incurred separately by the parties before the marriage or after separation and belong to the individual spouses who were responsible for incurring them.

Treatment of debts in California between a divorced couple

All debts in the State of California are to be treated as community debts as California is regarded as a “community property” state. This is of course unless the parties to the marriage had entered into a prenuptial agreement before the marriage regarding the division of assets and debts between them in the event that they decided to get divorced. If there is no prenup, then the court equally divides all debts between both spouses equally.

However, there is one exception to this rule and that is when the total value of the community debts exceeds the total value of the community assets jointly held between the two spouses. In this case, the court will order for a higher portion of the debts to be borne by the spouse who earns a higher income or who is in a better financial position to pay off these debts.

Importance of the date of separation

In the division of community debts in the State of California during a divorce, the date of separation of the couple is extremely important as only those debts that were incurred before the date of separation will be included in the community debts and all other debts incurred post the separation date will be assigned to the spouse who individually incurred them and the burden of paying those debts post-separation will not be borne or shared by both spouses.

Deciding the date of separation is sometimes a difficult task especially when the couple is in total disagreement with each other. Two tests can help confirm the actual and legal date of separation between a divorcing couple in the State of California –

  • The first test is to determine the date of physical separation between the spouse, that is the date on which they began living or sleeping separately or the date on which one of either spouse moved out of the house.
  • The second test is to determine when either spouse expressed their clear intention to end their marriage. This does not include a trial separation.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

How To Avoid Unequal Division Of A Business During Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation orange county; California Divorce MediatorsA divorce can be a complicated process when assets and properties are involved. Through mediation a part of the problem can be solved but since it is a question of finances, couples tend to be skeptical. In case of business, things become even more complicated because unlike other assets, a business has the opportunity to become more valuable. The one who owns the business can claim the business as his/her own as part of the separate property but when it is owned by both, the division becomes difficult.

The establishment time of the business

If the business was established before the marriage, it is most likely that it will have a separate part to it. If you can show that there is a separate part and that it belongs to you, then the court will award it to you. But if you fail to show any such evidence which indicates that part of the business belongs to you, the court is liable to divide it based on the laws governing the division of assets.

Family business

For people who run a business that has been passed down to them from his/her family, the question of division is an important one. They, obviously would not want to part with the business due to emotional attachments. Again, if the business was solely passed to you and no one else and if such a fact can be supported by documents, then the business belongs to you as a separate property. However, if the business was passed on to both you and your spouse, it become a marital property and is subject to division.

Separate property funds

One of the most important things governing your business is property funds. A business could have started when you got married but that does not make it a marital property. If the business is built on property funds that was allocated by you, it can very well fall under separate property. A California court will look into many factors once it establishes where the property funds came from. Things like profitability and value will play a big role in determining how the business will be divided.

Conclusion

Divorces can be scary when the division of property is in question. It becomes worse when property is a business. A California court will look into different factors like who primarily owns the business, whether it was passed down from a family or not and who is responsible for the property funds. After looking into each and every factor it will decide how the business should get divided.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

Ways to Protect Your Assets in a Divorce

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange-County-divorce-mediators; California Divorce MediatorsYou would be well aware of the fact that once you separate from your spouse and start a new life from scratch, you will need substantial financial support to pay your bills and maintain your regular standard of living. It is, therefore advisable, to organize your finances and assets in such a way that your spouse cannot obtain an undue ownership of what is rightfully yours. By devising a solid plan before you go on to file a divorce, you can legally protect your assets and rest assured that you will not be left with an empty bank account when the final verdict is announced. Here are a few ways in which you can protect your property and assets in the event of a divorce or a legal separation.

Organize your separate property

It is important to create an inventory checklist of all the items that have been given to you separately, to ensure that they do not get mixed up with your marital or community property. It may include any specific possessions such as jewelry or family heirlooms that have been directly inherited by you. You can also take photographs of the items on your separate property list, to prevent your spouse from claiming them on the grounds of obscurity. After preparing the catalog of your valuables, you can move them to a safe place so that you do not miss out on them in case you have to leave your marital home. 

Gather proof of gifted or inherited possessions

It is a good idea to go up to the concerned people and request a written and signed proof to state that the items were solely given to you and not your spouse. The court of law demands evidential proof of every little thing that is brought forth to a trial. It will be easier and more convenient for you to prove your ownership of a separate property in front of a judge if you possess an attested statement to support your claim.

Sort out your rent and mortgage payments

The lending companies and landlords expect you to pay the monthly installments, regardless of what your present situation might be. If the situation arises you may have to move out of your marital residence before or after filing for a divorce. Although, you will still be obliged to make one-half of the mortgage or rent payments, this action of yours can be detrimental to your claim in the share of your home. It is therefore advised to have a peaceful and practical discussion with your spouse and reach a mutual agreement about who will be entitled to become the rightful owner of your marital home post-divorce.

If you are thinking of getting a divorce from your spouse, you should organize your finances right away, even before you file a petition in the court and proceed with divorce mediation.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation

What Happens To Family-Owned Businesses In A Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

divorce mediation orange county; California Divorce MediatorsDividing family owned businesses can be very tough if you and your spouse are not on the same page. And by being of the same page it means understanding how importance the family owned business is. You might be the owner of a business that was passed down to you by your family and suddenly your divorce splits it into two. Your partner may not be interested in the business but despite that gets a half of the business. It can be very disappointing.

Businesses can be viewed as property

During a divorce, businesses are viewed as properties. Two important factors that play a major role in determining this are classification and worth of your business. Your business can be classified as either a community property or a separate property or even both. How much your business is worth depends on the amount of money generated by your business and the net worth of your business.

Equal division of business

If you own a business then you know how much time, effort, and money you have spent to establish your business. Now, imagine if everything that you built were divided in half and one half was given to your wife? Heart-breaking, isn’t it? Well in California this is exactly what happens to your property during a divorce. California, being a community property states, require that every property belonging to the marital “community” be divided in half. This includes family owned businesses as well.

The best solution to save your business from splitting in two would be signing a prenuptial agreement or some other exit strategy cleverly developed by an experienced lawyer. Another option would be to work with your partner in the same business. Both solutions are tough because you need an amicable relationship with your spouse and if you have that why would you be heading towards a divorce then?

Protecting the business

The first way to protect your business is to talk with your partner and agree on some mutual understanding. While talking, you need to keep your personal squabble out of it.

You must get your business valued if you are getting a divorce. If you both are joint owners, doing this is not a problem but if you’re not then things can get complicated.

If you both work in the same business, you can expect both of your roles and responsibilities to change. This reduces conflict of ideas and save the business from utter devastation.

To learn more about the divorce process in California and how mediation can help, please visit our page, What is Divorce Mediation