How to Talk About a Prenup With Your Partner

When you get engaged, you’re not expecting or hoping that your marriage will end in divorce. You’re expecting happily ever after. But in reality, you know that some marriages do end in divorce.

There is a stigma attached to the idea of getting a prenuptial agreement (also known as a prenup). Many people see it as their partner not being “all in” on the relationship or that they are expecting the marriage to fail before it even begins. This can make it difficult to talk to your partner about it if you decide that a prenup is what you want.

At Azemika & Azemika, we have helped people navigate legal issues pertaining to family law in Kern County for over 28 years. Our practice focuses solely on family law, so you can be assured that we have the knowledge and experience needed to help you work through the process of any family law issue you are facing. 

Prenuptial agreements are a commonplace and wise way to ensure that in the event of a divorce, you and your partner’s assets are protected. Today, we’re going to take a look at the prenup discussion and address how best to approach the conversation with your partner.

Start the Prenup Conversation Early.

The sooner you bring up the conversation, the less pressure you will feel. Addressing the conversation shortly after your engagement can make your partner feel more relaxed and more willing to communicate with you.

Even better, if you address your desire for a prenup while you are still dating, you can use your partner’s reaction to decide how to handle the subject later in your relationship. Not only that, they will know your thoughts on the matter early enough to process the idea of a prenup. It is recommended that you have the conversation before your engagement if possible, so that it becomes less of a conversation of the trust between you and your partner as you become increasingly committed, and instead more of a conversation on the concept and benefits of the agreement.

Make Sure to Emphasize That There Are Benefits to Both of You.

If you point out the fact that a prenup can significantly benefit both of you, your partner may feel less intimidated by the idea.

Prenups can provide emotional and financial stability if your marriage ends in divorce. Since everything has already been planned, there is less fighting, less tension, and it allows both of you to move on with your lives with all the variables already considered.

Discuss and Decide the Terms Together.

If you go into the conversation with an agreement in hand, most likely, your partner will immediately become defensive. If your attorney has drawn up the contract, it will most likely have been drafted in your favor.  

Instead, look into hiring a mediator to write the prenup with your partner so that you both have input, and it will allow the two of you to discuss what expectations you each have for your marriage.

Be Upfront With What You Want.

If you want to draft a prenup without causing resentment from either party, you have to trust and communicate with each other openly.  

If you want something in the agreement, being open and honest with your partner will help them understand what is important to you. When you suggest a term of the agreement, especially one that you think will trigger your partner, make sure you take the time to help them understand why you want it. The more they understand your “why,” the better the conversation will go.

Listen to Your Partner.

There will be terms of the agreement on which you will both agree. But your partner will likely have some concerns that are different or even the complete opposite of yours. When this happens, be sure to listen to them with an open mind, and be sensitive to their needs and concerns.

Every disagreement that comes up allows the two of you to improve your relationship and understand each other better. This whole process isn’t to “win” or “be right.” It is a chance to strengthen your relationship and build a steady partnership for the union to come.

Make Sure You Leave Room for Change Through the Years.

A prenup should cover more than just what you have at the time of drafting the document. It should also consider things that haven’t happened yet.

Right now, you may not have much, but in the future, that could change. When the document is drafted, you could be running your own business while your partner has their own career. In the future, your partner may play a significant role in your business, or perhaps you or your partner steps back from their career to stay home and raise your children.

The possibility of all of this should be taken into account when drafting the prenup as well.

Need Help Talking About a Prenup With Your Partner? Call Azemika & Azemika.

A prenuptial agreement can help relieve undue stress during a difficult time in your life. Knowing that your assets are protected and that the solution has been laid out can help you move into your marriage with peace of mind.

Let the attorneys at Azemika & Azemika help you manage the process of drafting a fair agreement that will benefit you and your future spouse.  

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Do Mothers Have More Parental Rights Than Fathers?

If you are a father who is in the midst of a separation or a divorce, you may be wondering if you even have a chance to gain custody of your children. Often, fathers are under the assumption that the custody of their children will automatically be granted to the mother. This is untrue.

While it is true that the courts often leaned towards awarding custody to the mother in the past, the state’s views have changed, and there is no longer a preference of women over men in granting custody.

At Azemika & Azemika, Kern County family law practice, our attorneys have a combined total of over 56 years of experience in family law. Our practice strictly handles family law cases, so you can rest assured that you’re in good hands.

How Was Child Custody Decided In the Past?

In the past, men were generally expected to be the breadwinner of the family, while women were typically expected to stay home to care for the house and the children. Due to this being the expected cultural norm, when a couple pursued a divorce, it was very common for the mother to gain custody of the children.

Custody Laws Today

Many women, whether married or single, work outside of the home, and more men have begun staying home and becoming the primary caregivers to their children. In most cases now, both the mother and the father contribute to finances as well as raising their children. 

As familial responsibilities have changed, laws have changed as well. Scientific research has suggested that children fare better when both parents are actively involved in their lives. Courts now promote participation from both parents when deciding custody.

Why Don’t More Dads Have Custody?

Looking at the divorced couples that you know, it may appear that mothers are still the primary caregiver, and statistically, they are. You may be wondering how that is possible if there is not a bias in family court. The majority of the time, the courts are not who decides who has how much parenting time.

In over half of custody cases, the parents decide that the mom should have primary custody of the children without the court’s intervention. Only a small percentage of child custody cases ever go to trial, and very few go entirely through the litigation process. This means that family courts are usually not deciding who the primary parent should be. Typically, the parents are the ones deciding that the mother should have primary custody.

It is also possible that fathers do not pursue custody because they believe they will be discriminated against in court or simply don’t want to put themselves and their children through the process. The bottom line, however, is that statistics simply do not indicate that there is a bias in the courts toward awarding custody to a female parent versus a male parent.

How to Take Advantage of Your Rights as a Father

The excellent news for fathers is that if you choose to assert your child custody rights, the laws are on your side. Shared parenting is normally what the courts lean towards unless extenuating circumstances exist. It is absolutely possible for you to be awarded equal parenting time.

If you were married to the mother of your children when the children were born, you are generally assumed to be the legal father of the children, so it will not be necessary to establish paternity first. You can petition the court for custody arrangements as part of the divorce proceedings. If the divorce has been finalized, you can ask for a modification to the custody arrangements to allow for more time with your children.

If you were not married to your child’s mother, you might have to take steps to establish paternity. Once paternity has been established, the same rules apply as above. And even if you are an unmarried father, you have equal parenting rights as the mother.

It is important to know that research suggests that children do better when their fathers are involved in their lives. If you genuinely want to be part of your child’s life, take the initiative to ask for a custody arrangement that will allow you to participate.

Need Help Asserting Your Parental Rights as a Father? 

When facing a custody battle, you need the best representation possible — a lawyer that knows the judge and court as well as one who can help you fight for your rights as a parent who wants what is best for their child. 

Azemika & Azemika Law in Bakersfield has helped families navigate divorce and child custody cases for more than 30 years, providing strong trust behind their legal guidance. 

For a family-oriented firm at an affordable cost, contact Azemika & Azemika Law today.

How is alimony calculated in California?

People going through divorce need to know their rights and obligations regarding spousal support. Spousal support is gender-neutral, and you may either be on the receiving end or be required to pay alimony to your former spouse during or after the divorce. What exactly is alimony, and how much will you have to pay or be eligible to receive?

Spousal support, known as alimony, is a payment from one person to another during or after a divorce. In California, most judges use a standard formula when calculating support amounts. However, several factors are calculated by how much alimony you are entitled to receive or are responsible for paying.  

There are three types of spousal support in California. Temporary, Rehabilitative, and Permanent spousal support. The court must consider the controlling statute 4320 when determining spousal support. However, the courts also have a tremendous amount of discretion on what influences how much support one receives.

Alimony support is required to help make the transition from a two-income household to a one-income household less overwhelming. While it may seem unfair, the goal is to help both parties be on as stable a financial foundation as soon as possible. Therefore, the court will determine spousal support after the establishment of child support.

We will help you understand the different types of alimony and how alimony is calculated in the state of California.

What Are The Three Different Types of Alimony?

1. Temporary Alimony 

The purpose of temporary alimony support is to help the person with a lower-earning income with expenses and maintain a standard of living they are accustomed to until permanent support is determined and assets and debts are divided.  Temporary alimony is paid while the divorce is pending. There is no expiration date, and there is no set time period for support. 

2. Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is the most common type of spousal support and utilized when one person was the primary earner while the other person primarily cared for the children. The goal is to support the individual and allow time for them to gain essential job skills or education so that they may join the workforce and help themselves.

3. Permanent Alimony 

The purpose of court-ordered permanent alimony support is to provide a sufficient income that will cover basic needs and standards that meet the spouse’s lifestyle receiving the support. Permanent support is generally reserved for marriages that lasted ten years or more or one person can not work due to age or illness. 

Factors For Determining Temporary Alimony Support

There are four factors the courts look at for determining temporary alimony support in California:

  • Income
  • Assets
  • Expenses
  • Debts

Guidelines When Factoring Rehabilitative Or Permanent Alimony Amounts

  • Duration of Marriage
  • Assets and Debt responsibilities of each person, including properties
  • Health and Age
  • Standard of Living Established
  • The ability for the individual receiving support to have sustainable employment
  • History of domestic violence against either party or the children
  • The ability of the Supporting Party to Pay Alimony
  • The level which the supported party contributed to career, education, etc. by the spouse paying the alimony
  • The earning capacity of each person
  • Tax consequences to each person
  • The goal is that the person receiving alimony will be self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time. Generally, this period is half the length of the marriage, but this is left up to the court’s discretion and may be longer or shorter based upon the factors listed.
  • Criminal convictions In accordance with Section 4325, criminal conviction of an abusive spouse will be considered.
  • The court may include other factors that deem just and equitable, and the court will consider these in determining the alimony support amount. (CA FAM 4320)

The general guideline for calculating alimony takes 35% to 40% of the higher-earning spouse’s income and subtracts 40% to 50% of the lower-earning spouse’s income. Depending on what county you live in, it will vary.

Consult An Attorney

Determining or modifying your spousal support payments can be a complex and confusing process. There are forms, documents, and court hearings to consider. Even if you and your spouse agree to the modification, consulting an attorney and ensuring you file the right paperwork is critical to your success.

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. We handle divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. Our partners at Azemika & Azemika will put their expertise to work for you and make sure your case is customized to your needs. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

Options for maintaining child support while unemployed

The circumstances of your life are constantly changing, but that doesn’t mean your obligation to pay child support will. California requires both parents to help meet the financial needs of raising their child or children. So while changes in your income can alter your responsibility somewhat, you still need to go through the legal process to make it official and avoid punishment. But what can you do when you’re unemployed and have no income? 

At Azemika & Azemika Law, we specialize in many aspects of Kern County family law, including maintaining child support during difficult times. Because California courts make child support judgments in the best interest of the child, there are times when you may feel the amount you must pay is overwhelming or unrealistic. Thankfully, there are solutions available to ensure you keep making your payments on time—and we can help you sort through the options that best match your situation.

In this article, we’ll outline how different forms of unemployment can impact your child support obligations. We’ll also analyze how courts can calculate changes to your payment obligation should you find yourself unemployed. Then, with the help of an experienced family law attorney in Bakersfield, you can take the necessary steps to adjust your child support payments. 

Types of Unemployment

For child support, California considers three different types of unemployment:

  • Voluntary unemployment, wherein a parent chooses not to work (or loses their job) but doesn’t seek new employment.
  • Involuntary unemployment, where a parent loses their job through circumstances beyond their control and is unable to secure work despite their best efforts.
  • Voluntary underemployment, which sees a parent choosing to work less or receiving total income less than they were when the judge issued the initial child support order.

A judge will look at your specific circumstances to determine whether or not an adjustment to your child support order is valid. Understandably, courts don’t view all cases with sympathy. For example, if you quit your job and opt not to look for a new job, that’s a personal decision within your control that will warrant an adjustment.

A judge is more likely to adjust if you can demonstrate that the reason for your job loss or underemployment wasn’t your choice. For example, suppose budget cuts resulted in your termination, and you have been diligently searching for a new job. In that case, it’s more likely that a judge will alter the original support order until you can find employment. However, if you were terminated due to poor performance or bad behavior and still can’t find a job, that’s not out of your control.

However, the circumstances of why you’re unemployed aren’t the only factor determining a change in a child support order. Besides investigating cases, California courts must decide what you should still pay, if anything, following state guidelines. To do this, they use imputed income to make a final calculation.

What Is Imputed Income?

Imputed income could be thought of as a baseline salary you could be making if you were still working full-time. However, rather than look at the job you previously held, courts usually use state or federal minimum wage guidelines to determine what you should continue paying. While this doesn’t altogether remove your child support responsibilities, it could reduce them considerably. 

Another purpose of imputed income is to punish parents who are acting in bad faith. For example, a parent who goes out of their way to get fired, or chooses to quit and not seek work, could be doing so intending to hurt their former spouse. Imputed income ensures they can’t weaponize unemployment against their ex-partner or their child.

Imputed income isn’t always used by courts when a parent is suffering hardships, however. For example, if you’re able to demonstrate that you’re putting in your best effort to secure work or have a valid reason for not seeking employment (like staying home to care for a loved one), imputed income likely won’t come into play. Instead, a judge may make a temporary change in your payments until you find work or can return to work.

What Counts As Income?

When they crafted your initial child support order, the courts looked at more than your employment wages to determine what you should pay. These revenue streams, such as stocks, bonds, and other investments, contributed to that final figure. So even when you’re unemployed, those additional revenue streams will still count towards your total income. 

That being the case, you may need to sell some assets to illustrate that you’re doing everything you can to meet your payment obligations, even if you aren’t actively earning an income from working. It’s a factor in showing that you’re doing everything to meet your obligations. However, this doesn’t apply to all assets, nor is it a steadfast rule.

You Can Count on Azemika Law

The complexities of child support laws can be overwhelming on their own, but meeting your responsibilities on top of unemployment can feel like an impossible task. However, how you try to solve the problem can significantly impact your future, so it’s best to work with Bakersfield’s best family law attorneys.

That’s where we come in.

At Azemika & Azemika Law, we have expertise in family law, including child support, child custody and visitation, father visitation, and divorce. Let us help you navigate these and other changes in your family life with compassion and understanding. Reach out to our office now to discuss your needs and learn what we can do for you.

Can paternity results be challenged?

Are you wondering if you can challenge paternity test results to determine if the results are accurate? The short answer is —  Yes. A paternity test is vital to establish who the true father is of a child. Once verified, it places legal rights and responsibilities on the individual to provide support and care for the child.  

There are different reasons why someone would want to establish or challenge paternity.

Before you begin, it is wise to research and choose solid legal support to help you gather evidence and build your case. Whether you are the mother or the presumed father who wants to explore the results of a paternity test, the outcome will have a significant effect on your life.

Going through the paternity process can be emotionally and mentally draining. Today, we will look into why establishing paternity is essential, the reasons one might want to challenge a paternity test, and how to challenge the results. We are here to help you navigate this complex issue and the family court system.

Why Establishing Paternity Is Important

In child custody cases, the outcome of a paternity test determines who will have input in raising a child, their daily life, schooling, medical decisions, and financial responsibility, which is excellent if you are the father and want shared custody. For a mother, paternity tests can help establish the right to financial support from the father and access to the crucial medical history of the father.

Perhaps a parent wants to collect support for a child, and you don’t believe it is your child. You don’t want the financial or legal responsibilities, you will need help challenging paternity.

Raising and being responsible for a child is a lifetime commitment. If you have a question, it is best to find out the truth sooner rather than later. If you are considering filing a paternity suit, here are some of the reasons why you may want or be able to take the next step.

Reasons To Challenge Paternity

While testing is primarily accurate, sometimes the results are wrong. Utilizing medical evidence in establishing the father of a child is normal, and here are the grounds for challenging the results are as follows:

  • Lab results that are inconclusive or inaccurate
  • Lab results are fraudulent because someone else went to the lab to take the test instead of the presumed father
  • Presumed father provides proof of infertility or sterility
  • Evidence that the results of the test were tampered with by someone
  • Proof of infidelity in the marriage 
  • To prove a child is yours in a child custody case
  • To establish a child is not yours in a custody or support case
  • To determine the child’s father for child support and to have access to the fathers medical history

If this sounds like you or someone you know, there may have grounds for a paternity suit. Protect your rights and privileges and the rights and privileges of the child you love.

Ways To Challenge Paternity

Establishing paternity and challenging paternity is done through very similar methods. State laws differ, so seeking local legal advice from an attorney is best to help navigate the complex state laws in family court.

Filing a complaint with the court is the first step. The court will likely order DNA tests for the child and the father to determine the actual father. The court allows the use of medical documents and blood tests as evidence. DNA is the most accurate way to determine paternity and is the final factor. Once a DNA test is complete, the court will officially establish who is the child’s father with a Declaration of Paternity.

Another thing that some states consider is the emotional and psychological impact on the child if a man has been considered their father for many years, which can make proving paternity more difficult.

We Can Help You Challenge Paternity

Determining if the evidence provided is sufficient to use in court to challenge paternity results is best done by an experienced attorney. You don’t have to navigate the legal challenges and the family court system alone. We have helped many people in your circumstances.

At Azemika & Azemika, we understand the complexities of state laws and the family court system. The issues that you are facing are emotionally, financially, and legally challenging. Our practice is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. As a result, we can handle cases involving divorce, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. With efficiency and great attention to detail, our partners at Azemika & Azemika use our vast experience in family law to customize each case to our clients’ needs.

Contact us today for a consultation, and we will work with you to determine the best option for your future.

Should You File for a Divorce or Legal Separation in California?

Should You File for a Divorce or Legal Separation in California?

Are you considering filing for divorce in the state of California but unsure whether there’s a better option? Maybe you’ve heard that filing for a legal separation would be best, but what exactly are the differences between the two.

Divorce and legal separation are both serious legal matters. But, when you’re already preoccupied and attempting to navigate a rocky marital situation, having to figure out your best course of action can be even more distressing.

Knowing the details about each process can help you make a more informed decision regarding your future. Today, we will take a closer look at the details you need to know to help you decide whether a divorce or legal separation is a better option for you in California.

What Is a Legal Separation

Both divorce proceedings and legal separation proceedings begin with a petition filed to either dissolve the marriage (divorce) or invoke a legal separation between the two married people.

A legal separation agreement is a document that details things such as how you and your spouse will split your property, custody arrangements for your child(ren), and how you will pay for things during the legal separation process. This document is important during a legal separation, but it is also commonly one of the first things arranged during the beginning process of a divorce.

When you obtain a legal separation, you are still technically married. When you are legally separated, it means that you cannot remarry unless you convert your legal separation into a divorce. In a legal separation case, you still have to declare your assets and settle custody issues just as you would in a divorce case. 

How Are Divorce and Legal Separation Similar?

In both divorce and legal separation cases, both parties must disclose their assets and agree to custody arrangements set by the court. Property, as well as assets, are usually divided between both parties in a legal separation.

The two processes are very similar, save for the outcome. In a divorce, your marriage is dissolved, and you may have limited access to your ex-spouse’s future retirement income. 

Why Would I Consider Legal Separation?

In California, you must have been resident in the state for at least six months and a resident in the county where you are filing for divorce for at least three months. This residential requirement must be met by one or both parties for a divorce to occur.

  • There are no residential requirements or ‘cooling off’ periods required in a legal separation. Because there is no waiting period for a legal separation, it may be a better option for someone who has just moved to the area.
  • Some people have very personal reasons for wanting to avoid a divorce. For example, certain religions frown on divorce, and one or both parties may wish to avoid the stigma of being legally divorced. Others may simply want to avoid being called a divorcee.
  • Occasionally, couples choose legal separation to try and keep healthcare benefits for the spouse of the insured. However, legal separation isn’t a guarantee that the health insurance provider will have to keep the spouse covered, so this can be a risky plan.
  • If you are legally separated, you may still be able to file taxes as a married couple. Filing this way could help you with certain tax breaks.

Are There Negatives to a Legal Separation?

A legal separation isn’t a ‘clean break.’ Because your marriage has not been dissolved, you can’t legally remarry. And you are still financially tied to your spouse despite being separated. 

Since you are technically still married, you could be liable for your spouse’s tax debts. If they fail to pay their taxes, the IRS might come looking for you to pay it. If there is no financial benefit for either party under a legal separation (and there is no chance of reconciliation), it may be a better option to file for divorce instead.

For most people, a legal separation is simply the necessary first step towards a divorce. If you are sure that you want out of your marriage, a legal separation will only prolong the process.

Let Us Help You Navigate Your Separation

Divorce and legal separation are both difficult and draining processes. With so many moving parts and conflicting emotions, trying to map out your best legal options can be extremely difficult.

At Azemika & Azemika, we are dedicated to the practice of family law. We have seen numerous legal separation cases, divorce, custody matters, and many other family law issues. We can help you navigate the course of your legal proceedings so you can focus on healing your family.

Contact us today for a consultation, and we will work with you to determine the best option for you and your family’s future.

Common Mistakes Made During a California Divorce

Common Mistakes Made During a California Divorce

Divorce is a life-changing decision that can have a significant effect on your life. Even if your divorce is amicable, mistakes happen that can impact you forever, especially when there are children involved. If your divorce is not amicable, you may face complex legal and financial issues, hurt, anger, disputes, and other issues. 

The divorce process can be complicated and messy if you’re trying to do it on your own. There are forms to file, deadlines to meet, and court hearings to prepare for. You don’t want to make rash decisions, or show up with incomplete information, as this can lead to significant issues that you may or may not be able to resolve down the road.

If you’re considering divorce, you need to be aware of mistakes that can be avoided during the process. Here are five mistakes to avoid during a California divorce.

1. Rushing To Get It Over With

You may think that just getting the divorce done and over will save you time and money. But you may end up with a divorce judgment that you’ll regret later. Take your time and work out a mutually beneficial agreement. It’s critical to negotiate during the divorce process so that all parties leave the table satisfied.

Getting a divorce is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. First, you need to review the terms of the divorce and understand all the details. Once the divorce is final, there are some details you can’t ever change. If you’re not sure that you understand all the details, Talk to your attorney. Going a divorce alone simply isn’t a viable option, especially in California, where property and alimony are such crucial factors.

2. Not Identifying Separate Property

California is a community property state. This means that even though the assets you and your spouse acquired during your marriage are subject to being distributed between the two of you, assets you acquired before the marriage are not. If you don’t identify assets you had before your marriage, they may be distributed along with the rest of the property.

Note: In some circumstances, there are assets acquired during your marriage that qualify as separate property. In the same vein, there are assets owned before the marriage that become community assets. For example, retirement accounts and privately held businesses may have both separate and community property components. It’s best to speak to an attorney to determine the distribution of all assets.

3. Unrealistic Expectations

Divorce is all about negotiation. This means both partners need to manage their expectations. If there is an issue you cannot agree on, you’ll end up in court. Negotiations outside of the court allow you to reach a middle ground that works for both parties. When you’re negotiating, try to be reasonable and practical with your expectations.

Remember, getting a divorce means that you’ll have less than you did during your marriage. If you expect to take all the marital assets, have no debt, and your attorney fees covered, you have unrealistic expectations. You need to decide which issues are worth the time, energy, and expense of possible litigation to adjust your expectations and save money on your divorce by avoiding court.

4. Assume Key Issues Will Resolve Themselves

A divorce is not an event to be passive about, and issues won’t resolve themselves if you don’t discuss them. It may mean difficult conversations and uncomfortable situations with your ex, but they need to happen. You need to make informed decisions because they will affect you long-term if you unknowingly give up too much in the divorce. When you delay or ignore the necessary steps to resolve issues can make your situation even hard and more stressful.

5. Posting Sensitive Information Online

You may be tempted to post about your divorce on social media. Resist posting your thoughts, feelings, and experiences about the divorce online at all costs. If you feel you can’t, you may want to not use social media until the divorce is finalized. There are things about your divorce and life that may become public record when posted on social media. Even if you think your account is secure, a private investigator may still access the information you post.

Things you post online can be distorted and be subject to scrutiny by people who don’t need to be involved. Even things that don’t seem directly related to your divorce can have a significant impact. For example, if you purchase a new TV, this information can end up as evidence and be used as proof that you have money to pay child support or even alimony.

Protect Yourself By Hiring An Attorney

No matter how amicable you think your divorce is or will be, there are still situations that could arise and cause conflict. Negotiation, separation of property, child support, and alimony all play significant parts in any divorce. Avoid costly mistakes that could have severe impacts on the rest of your life.

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. We handle divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. Our partners at Azemika & Azemika will put their expertise to work for you and make sure your case is customized to your needs. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

Lost Your Job During The Pandemic? What You Need To Know About Paying Alimony

Lost Your Job During The Pandemic? What You Need To Know About Paying Alimony

The pandemic changed a lot for everyone, especially those who lost their jobs. In addition to job loss, some individuals lost income from Retention Stock Units (RSU’s) that were negatively impacted by the stock market drop. In addition, small businesses closed because of stay-at-home orders and mandatory shut-ins. 

Depending on the extent of financial loss you experienced, you may be unable to continue your alimony payments in the amount you are obligated to. In some cases, you may not be able to make the payments at all.

For example, if you or your former spouse experienced job loss due to the pandemic, you might be able to modify your alimony judgment. However, there are a few things you need to know about paying alimony or modification because of job loss.

Can Alimony Be Modified?

Depending on your alimony agreement, your alimony payments may or may not be modified. If the agreement does not list it as modifiable, then it can be. If the agreement does state that it cannot be modified, it should list circumstances where it can be modified. These circumstances can be job loss, disability, or other major life events. The third option is that the agreement states in no circumstances can it be modified.

How Can It Be Modified?

If alimony can be modified, the law states that the amount can be increased or decreased as circumstances and justice requires. In this case, you must show that there has been a material change in circumstances, such as job loss or reduced income since the original agreement or court order was issued. 

Be Up Front & Honest About Your Financial Situation

Even if you’re only anticipating a change in your income, it’s crucial to talk to your ex and explain the situation. Make it clear that you want to communicate and plan to modify payments when business picks up again. A little bit of goodwill and honesty will go a long way in working to lower support payments for now.

Remember, your ex is receiving this money because they need it. They’ll have to make adjustments to their expenses too. The more communication and time you can give to help them plan, the better the negotiation will go for now and in the future.

Try To Reach An Agreement Together

If you and your ex can have an open and honest discussion about your loss of income or potential, you may want to try and discuss coming to an agreement together. Unfortunately, courts are closed to hear cases during the pandemic, and it can be months before you can have a hearing or mediation. Not to mention, you’ll save time and money working things out together.

Be mindful that your tone is critical to your success. You don’t want to say anything that could be perceived as a demand or criticism. Communicate clearly, but empathize that you understand the impact this will have on them as well. If you and your ex can agree to an agreement, make sure you get it in writing and submitted to the court as is required.

When Does The Modification Go Into Effect?

In California, spousal or partner support cannot be changed retroactively. For example, if you lost your job three months ago and are just now filing papers to change your order, the judge cannot go back to the day you lost your job. They can only go back as far as the date you filed your papers in court requesting the modification.

What Do I Need To Do To File For A Modification?

If you and your ex can come to an agreement, you need to file the request to the court. The process of filing a request for modification takes quite a few steps:

  1.  Fill out your court forms – Check out the California Courts website for specific forms to complete.
  2. Have the forms reviewed by your attorney.
  3. Make two copies of all forms for your ex and the court’s copies.
  4. File the forms with the court clerk – the clerk will keep the original and return your copies stamped “Filed.”
  5. Get a court date.
  6. Serve the papers on your ex – you must have someone other than yourself serve these papers.
  7. File proof of service – once your ex has been served, file the proof of service.
  8. Go to the court hearing – take a copy of your papers and proof of service. Bring your proof of income and expenses to support your argument for modification.

Once the judge makes a decision, they will sign a court order. Once the order is signed, it cannot be modified unless another request is submitted. 

Consult An Attorney

Modifying your spousal support payments can be a complex and confusing process. There are forms, documents, and court hearings to consider. Even if you and your spouse agree to the modification, consulting an attorney and ensuring you file the right paperwork is critical to your success.

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm is exclusively devoted to the field of family law. We handle divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. Our partners at Azemika & Azemika will put their expertise to work for you and make sure your case is customized to your needs. Contact us today for your free case evaluation.

What Qualifies You for Alimony in California?

Are you facing a divorce and wondering if you qualify for alimony? This is a question a lot of people ponder about – many factors will influence spousal support in the state of California. 

What qualifies you for alimony in the state of California? Figuring out alimony can get complicated. There are 4 key elements to qualifying for alimony that you will need to understand. These are: 

  • The Length of Your Marriage
  • Marital Standard of Living
  • Debts & Assets
  • Ability to Become Employed

When it comes to divorce and money, it can be overwhelming, stressful, and emotional. In this article, we will go over a few key elements the State of California will look at to see if you or your spouse will qualify for alimony.  

1. Length of Your Marriage

If you or someone you know is currently going through a divorce, then you may have heard some legal terms such as pendente lite, alimony, and long-term spousal support. Understanding these legal terms will help you understand how the length of your marriage will impact a spousal support order.

Do not forget that you and your soon-to-be ex-partner can agree to a spousal support agreement without the court’s help. This would be the best possible outcome to have instead of going through the courts. 

Once the length of your marriage has been determined, there are 5 different types of alimony you can seek.

  1. Temporary Alimony
  2. Rehabilitative Alimony
  3. Permanent Alimony
  4. Reimbursement Alimony
  5. Lump-Sum Alimony

2. Marital Standard of Living

The marital standard of living refers to the lifestyle that both parties enjoyed during the duration of their marriage. This standard of living will include considerations such as:

  • How often did the couple eat out?
  • Where the couple usually shopped for clothing
  • How much did the couple spend on their housing situation?
  • How big is the marital house? 
  • Where was the marital house located? 
  • What types of schools did the children go to? 
  • Where and how often did the couple go on vacations?

After the divorce, it is typically not feasible for both spouses to maintain the same lifestyle as they once enjoyed together. 

For example, in re Marriage of Smith, this case describes the marital standard of living within your means. This case displayed that if both parties were spending more than the income they were taking each month, this should not be a deciding factor in what the court will determine as the marital standard of living. The court will then have to look at the actual income earned rather than the amount spent. 

3. Debts & Assets

A community property state, such as California, will look at all assets and debts obtained during the duration of the marriage. If you and your spouse have accumulated assets, such as houses, cars, boats, and the like, this will all get considered during the spousal support process. However, your debts and assets that you’ve obtained before you got married will be separate.

The one thing that the court will never take into account with spousal support is your student loans. It does not matter when you took the student loans out. In the court’s eyes, student loans are considered separate property. 

But, the courts can and will consider any bank accounts that you both shared, even if one name is on the account. As long as the other party would deposit their money into it, it becomes a community property at that point. The same goes for a retirement account. 

What you should know is that each party will have an equal share of all assets. The court will divide the assets equally between both parties. However, the parties can agree to do an unequal division if they want. 

When it comes to marital debt, the courts will not get involved. The debt will have to get settled between the two parties. The courts will not make a binding contract for any debt that stemmed from the marriage. For instance, if one party says they will pay all of the marital debt but does not pay them, the creditors can still come after both of you for the total amount. 

4. Ability to Become Employed

In situations where the other party is unemployed, it is common for the supporting party to ask for the other party to get put under a work efforts order along with a request for the Gavron warning, which is under Family Code 4332(b) states: 

“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, the court shall make specific factual findings concerning the standard of living during the marriage, and, at the request of either party, the court shall make appropriate factual determinations concerning other circumstances.”

When filing for a spousal support order, the court will advise the other party to make reasonable efforts to help them support themselves during this time. The court will also take into account all circumstances under Family Code 4320.

But also should remember that spousal support can last for only half of the length of their marriage if the marriage did not last longer than 10 years. However, if your marriage lasted longer than 10 years, there is no limit on how long the spousal support order can stay in place. This information will give you an idea of how long you may be paying for the other party.

Before You Respond or File– Let’s Talk

Before you decide to file or respond, you have a lot to think about. It can get overwhelming trying to figure out how to respond to your partners’ paperwork or figure what paperwork to file first. 

As long as you know any of these 4 qualifications to get spousal support, you are already ahead of the game. Divorcing is not pretty or easy, but understanding the law will help make it a more bearable time. 

At Azemika & Azemika, we know how spousal support works here in California because we specialize in California family law. We offer legal representation and advice based on understanding, trust, and integrity. Contact us today for your free legal consultation. 

What Can I Do If a Parent Is Not Paying Child Support?

Has your former partner stopped paying their court-ordered child support? Sadly, it’s a widespread occurrence —  a 2018 Census report showed that less than half of custodial parents received their full child support benefits. Many parents face this very situation and feel an increased pressure to meet the expenses that come with raising their child.

Adding to this already overwhelming problem are the complications involved in tracking down and communicating with your former partner. Did they leave the state and cut off communication? If you can find them, are they combative and unwilling to pay? Though this can put you in a lonely and challenging position, you aren’t alone. Thankfully, there are other ways to remedy the situation.

In California, custodial parents can file a complaint in court against the non-custodial parent for not paying child support (or not making payments in total). From there, the weight of resolving the problem is off your shoulders. The legal system will begin the process of notifying your former partner and getting the payments for you.

At Azemika Law, we are deeply involved with California divorce law and work with clients struggling to get the child support payments they’re entitled to. We wrote this guide to illustrate how California parents can get late, missing, or incomplete child support payments. Read on to discover your options.

Reporting Non-Payment

If your ex-partner has stopped sending payments in part or in full, the first step to remedy the situation is to bring a copy of your order to a child support agency. One of our Kern County family law attorneys can help you through the process of proving your ex-partner did not pay child support. The agency will then begin the work of collecting the missing money.

As a state department, the child support agency has many resources to locate a non-paying partner and get your child support payments. The first step is to send the non-paying parent notifications and a time frame in which to respond. Should they fail to respond, the agency may move on to any other methods listed below.

Suspension of Drivers Licence

The child support agency will contact the department of motor vehicles and notify them of the issue. In compliance with state law, the DMV will refuse to renew the non-paying parent’s driver’s license until they pay their debt. They may instead suspend or revoke the license. Depending on the severity of the situation, the DMV may choose to issue them a temporary license while your ex-partner makes back payments.

Suspension of Professional Licenses

By suspending professional or occupational licenses, the state prevents the non-custodial parent from working in specialized occupations. Often, this happens in concurrence with driver’s license suspension or immediately afterward. The lack of professional licensing prevents them from legally holding well-paying jobs in related fields and serves as the first financial punishment against them.

Credit Reporting

An often overlooked fact following divorce is that not meeting the child and spousal support obligations can hurt one’s credit score. Ideally, this adds additional pressure on your ex-partner to make payments. Unfortunately, if their credit score is already low, they may not care or even notice. However, the efforts don’t end there.

Collect Wages and Other Money

If your ex-partner collects disability, workers compensation, or a tax refund, the state of California can collect it instead and use it to pay missing child support as well as use it towards future payments. Sometimes, this occurs alongside wage garnishment. 

Passport Suspension

If your ex-partner owes $2,500 or more in unpaid child support, they risk losing their passport until they meet their financial obligations. If they don’t have a passport, this will prevent them from getting one.

Filing A Motion of Contempt

If payments don’t resume after filing your complaint, it can become a criminal matter. At this point, you can file a motion of contempt with the court to hold the other parent liable to more severe penalties. Our firm can assist you through this process. However, keep in mind that there is a three-year statute of limitations on child support in California, so there comes a point where it is too late to collect on past payments.

California advises parents not to file a motion of contempt before using other methods because it carries both civil and criminal penalties. In some circumstances, a parent found guilty could even serve jail time.

Once you file the motion of contempt, a judge will hold a hearing to determine if the non-payments were intentional. That’s where the contempt itself lies: because child support, alimony, and other forms of spousal support are court-ordered, disregarding them is contempt of court. If found guilty, the court can enact any of the following punishments.

  • Wage garnishment or direct garnishment of their bank accounts
  • Order payments from benefit sources (pension, disability), gambling winnings, community property
  • Order the sale of their property to make back payments
  • Community service for at least 120 hours but increasing with each case of contempt
  • Payment of your legal fees going back to your first attempt to collect back payments
  • Rarely, a judge may order a fine for each case of contempt, but that is becoming less frequent
  • Jail time

These are only some of the penalties a California court can impose. However, there are potential federal punishments based on how much money they owe and if they deliberately attempted to avoid making them. Federal cases carry the most severe penalties, but state-level courts cannot impose them.

What If There’s a Reason for Non-Payment?

Your ex-partner may not be in the financial position to make payments. They may have even communicated this to you. However, simply stating this, even if they can demonstrate it to you, isn’t enough to remove their child support responsibilities. 

A California child support agency allows parents to modify a child support order for many reasons, including financial hardship. So your ex-spouse will need to go through the process as soon as they realize they can’t meet their responsibilities. Should things go to court, hardship can’t be used as a defense if they didn’t try to modify the agreement on those grounds, even if they can demonstrate that they did not have the money. 

Azemika Law Can Help

If you need help understanding the complexities of California divorce laws or would like an experienced attorney to help you work through divorce as efficiently as possible, call on our attorneys at Azemika & Azemika
We are experts in Kern County family law who bring compassion and honesty to everything that we do. We’ll treat you and your family with respect and confidentiality as we help you achieve the best outcome possible. Contact us today to learn more about our expertise and what we can do to help you.