Family Law Center attorneys focus on family law and specialize in dissolution, legal separation, divorce mediation, custody and child/spousal support in Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, and El Dorado counties.
Children’s Ages, Needs, and Developmental Stages
Children’s abilities and needs are not the same at four as they are at thirteen. They grow and change. These changes take place in known developmental stages that are fairly predictable, although the exact age these changes occur varies slightly from child to child.
When considering a parenting plan, your children’s ages and needs are significant factors. The needs of a young child and the needs of a teenager, for instance, are going to be very different. That may be obvious. Not so obvious are some of the things co-parents can do to help children through these developmental stages.
While you may know your children very well, a solid understanding of the developmental needs of children will make you better able to design an effective parenting plan.
A look at where your children stand developmentally will help you design an age-appropriate plan to meet their needs, always bearing in mind that your children are unique.
Separation and divorce are major stressors in a child’s life. Designing a parenting plan that considers each child’s developmental stage will reduce some of the stress and anxiety at the time of the separation or divorce.
A well-written custody agreement
A well-written custody agreement will be helpful to your co-parent relationship. It is an important document and deserves enough time to consider all possibilities.
Start by understanding that the custody plan is your agreement. This means that you may add whatever information is needed to support the two of you in your working relationship.
Most custody agreement/parent plans and court-orders regarding custody are written by someone other than the parents. These agreements often contain information the parents did not decide on or agree to. Instead, the information likely was placed in the custody agreement/parent plan by a well-meaning mediator or attorney who believes he or she knows what works for most parents. This does not mean the same information works for you.
It’s your agreement and I recommend that you take charge. The courts have no prohibition against parents adding provisions to their parenting plans. In fact, the court has minimal requirements about what is mandatory in a parent agreement.
What is required in the parent agreement is set by state and county court rules, so before preparing yours, check to determine what the minimum requirements are in your area. This is the part a mediator or attorney can
help you with.
Generally, the courts require a determination of Legal Custody and Physical Custody. Let’s look at what those terms mean:
is the decision-making process about the children's health, education, and welfare. Courts encourage parents to have joint legal custody and share in the decision-making process.
is where the children are going to live. The courts require that the parents select "joint" or "sole" physical custody. Joint physical custody does not necessarily mean equal or 50/50 parenting time. It does mean that both parents have a substantial amount of time with the child.
If one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent will usually have parenting time outlined in the specified agreement.
If one parent is unable to cooperate or unfit to make decisions regarding the children, the court will award sole legal custody to the parent who is capable.
The best custody agreement/parent plans establish consistency for the children in what can be a very inconsistent time.
Parents need to understand they have many options to select from. If you already have an agreement or a court-ordered custody agreement/parent plan, this information can be used in the future when you modify or expand your existing agreement.
You can make an addendum or an amendment to your existing custody agreement/parent plan by adding some of the options or by replacing an existing section of your agreement. This should always be done in writing and signed by both parents. It can be one page long or twenty pages long, but should detail how you agree to raise your children together.
Custody agreements and parent plans should be filed with the court. Relevant things to include in your custody agreement include:
- Name and date of birth of each child
- Standards of conduct for parents
- Parent responsibilities, decisions, and appointments
- Parents’ access to information and records
- School and education
- Child care
- Time spent with each parent, including school, summer holidays
- Transportation to/from each home
- How to modify the custody agreement/parent plan in the future
- Provisions for catastrophic events
- Religious affiliation and training
- Grandparents’ visitation
Many challenges arise in the course of co-parenting, so it’s good to have a plan in place that outlines how to handle these issues in advance. This avoids conflict in the future.
When parents are communicating well, they can create more flexible agreements with less specific detail. When parents are challenged by communication, a more specific agreement that outlines the details of their co-parent relationship helps reduce the risk of conflict.
This is an excerpt from my book, 8-Weeks to Collaborative Co-Parenting.
You can purchase on-line with Amazon.com or come to Family Law Center, 1722 Professional Drive, Sacramento, CA. 95825 for a free copy.
I recommend you hire an attorney or mediator to help you with your custody/parent plan to be sure you have created the best agreement for you and your children.
Carol F. Delzer, Attorney-Mediator, Marriage and Family Therapist, 916-488-5088.
Divorce Process Options
Once you have decided to divorce, the option you select regarding how you will get your divorce is probably the single most significant choice you will make.
In a traditional divorce, each party retains an attorney and the attorneys negotiate the divorce, either privately or, if necessary, in front of a judge. This process is generally the most expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining option. But you have other options you can consider: mediation, collaborative divorce, settlement-oriented divorce, or self-representation. These different alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or consensual dispute resolution (CDR) options give you more control over the decisions you make and how you make them. They can also save you time, money and stress.
Choosing the best option for your divorce depends on a number of factors, such as motivation to come to mutually beneficial solutions (or not), the level of contentiousness of the divorce, the ability to disagree constructively, each party’s ability to speak up for themselves, the level of trust or mistrust between the parties, and how realistic each party’s expectations are.
The other question to consider is whether you and your spouse can agree on the appropriate divorce option. If you do not agree initially, some attorneys would tell you that litigation is your only option. But I disagree. In my experience, if one of you thoroughly researches the options and shares that information with the other, you can often find that the other party is willing to explore the options with you. For example, hundreds of couples have come to me after reviewing the information and insight I offer here on my website (www.FamilyLawCenter.US
). Please call us for a consultation so we can help you determine the best divorce option for you. Call Family Law Center 916-488-5088.
A Timely Divorce
Even the decision of when to proceed with the divorce will create very different choices and outcomes. When a couple can communicate well enough at the time of breakup to make decisions together respectfully and cooperatively, they are in the best frame of mind to proceed. However, if emotions are still running high and a couple’s communication is so mired in conflict that they can’t make even simple decisions together, they usually benefit by completing the necessary temporary agreements initially and waiting a reasonable time to tackle the more complex, difficult and permanent decisions of the divorce. Time often heals wounds and soothes frayed nerves. Allowing a reasonable time before proceeding with all the details and decisions within a divorce can be very healing, reduce stress and allow for the best results and possibilities to emerge.
When to proceed?
Timing can mean everything to a divorce process, a point that I constantly emphasize to my clients. It is critical to honor and respect each other’s individual timing in moving through the divorce. Being aware of what each person needs and not trying to go faster than the slowest spouse can reasonably move will make a world of difference. In my experience, it is the best environment for moving a divorce along at the couples’ pace, not the pace set by the courts or someone else. To move any faster than the slowest party can reasonably move in a divorce may push the couple into becoming resistant and adversarial, which is not an ideal direction for any divorcing couple.
I always ask my clients, “Whose decision was it to end the marriage?” This often opens up the discussion of timing for each spouse and how best to move forward. The person who makes the decision to end the divorce is often referred to as the “leavor.” The spouse who did not make the decision to end the marriage is referred to as the “leavee.” Psychological studies show the leavor is often 9-18 months further along emotionally than the leavee. I have seen a wide variation in this timing, and I have also noticed that males seem to recover faster as the one who did not
decide to end the marriage than females in that situation.
If you were not the one who decided to end the marriage, you may still be dealing with the disappointment of the ending of the marriage and are not ready to be rushed into making decisions about your future. When we feel rushed or pushed into something, our normal human reaction is to resist. When resistance happens in the divorcing process, it increases conflict and adversarial positioning, eventually leading to decisions being settled by the court. When divorcing spouses take their fear and resistance to court, it may become the place to cathartically work through their personal emotional lack of readiness. But it’s a shame that hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent because one spouse is in a hurry to move forward, when all that was really needed was just a little more time. It is also a shame to see one spouse unreasonably delay the process because they did not have the tools to prepare themselves. Spouses who are willing to be patient, pacing the divorce to respect both parties’ needs, will save not only thousands of dollars, but also avoid additional pain and conflict.
This is an excerpt from my new book Divorce made Easier
which will be available this spring. Carol Delzer, Attorney-Mediator, Marriage Family Therapist.
In a divorce mediation session, a mediator facilitates discussion between the parties by helping them communicate and by providing information and suggestions to help resolve differences. At the end of the mediation process, the separating parties have typically developed a tailored divorce agreement that can be submitted to the court. Mediation sessions include the parties and the attorney-mediator who can inform both parties of their legal rights, but does not provide individual advice to either. Divorce mediators are generally attorneys who have experience in divorce cases. Divorce mediation can cost significantly less, both financially and emotionally, than litigation.
Mediators have different styles of divorce mediation. In the most common type of attorney-mediated divorce, parties work together with the mediator in the mediator's office for 1-2 hours per session. The number of mediation sessions depends on the parties' level of conflict and the complexity of issues. The mediator generally has three areas of issues to resolve: child custody/parent plan, identity and division of assets and support - both child and spousal. It is the role of the attorney-mediator to provide the parties with legal information so they can make well-informed decisions about these issues. Often a mediator's knowledge of the law will allow for a resolution that the parties (and their attorneys) will not have thought of or will alert the parties to the fact that a particular resolution is available.
Mediation in its best form is a healing and transformative process for parties who are coming apart.
Child support is a monthly payment to cover the day-to-day expenses of child/children. Both parents are financially responsible for their children, and the court may order either or both of the parents to pay Child support, based upon each parents' income, and the percentage of time each parent spends with the children.
Child support is meant to pay for the food, shelter, and clothing during the child's minor years. Additional expenses of the child such as work related child care, extracurricular activities, and uninsured medical and dental are generally shared equally between the parents. In California, a child is a minor until their eighteenth birthday unless they are still in high school full time, living at home, and then it ends at age nineteen.
In the state of California, the Child support guidelines are best determined by visiting a family law attorney. The family law attorney will use a child support calculator to help you estimate how much child support should be. The child support calculator that's most often used in California are Dissomaster and Xspouse.
Types of Cases where Child support can be requested:
1. Divorce or Legal Separation:
You can request child support immediately after filing for divorce or Legal Separation. If you need to fast track the child support order, you can request a temporary order to take effect until final judgment.
2. Restraining order for Domestic Violence:
If requesting a restraining order for domestic violence against the other parent, you can also request a child support order.
3. Petition for Child Custody and Support of Minor Children:
Petitions for Child Custody and Child support of Minor Children can be requested if:
- A. You do not wish the be divorced, legally separated, or annulled, but still want a court order for child support or custody. (Or visitation)
- B. You are not married but have already signed a voluntary Declaration of Paternity and want a child support order.
- C. If you have legally adopted a child together but are not married or registered as domestic partners.
- D. When both parties have been determined parents in a juvenile case and now want to file for a Court order for Child support.
4. Local Child Support Agency:
Either parent can request a new case from the local child support agency, also known as child support services. Certain aspects of the child support are handled differently when involving the LCSA
5. Parentage or Paternity Case:
A parentage case is for unmarried couples who have children together. The case states the identities of the legal parents of the minor children. A judge may make a child support order in a parentage case.
In the state of California, all Child custody and Child support cases are subject to change. In order to benefit the child at maximum magnitude, the court can take substantial changes in circumstance into account. Modifications can be made in the monetary amount or expenditure of time one parent is due to the child. The legal system is fluid in this regard, and parents should continue to modify their normal routines in order to accommodate “what's best for the child".
During a divorce or similar situation, it's important for parents to be reminded of the long term implications of their actions. At Family Law Center we recognize the emotional toll child custody and child support battles can take on a person. We wish to make the experience bearable, and lead to a constructive co-parenting relationship without the resentment that is all too common in these cases.
The Family Law Center has been representing clients dealing with child support and child custody throughout California including: Sacramento, Antelope, Auburn, Cameron Park, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Davis, El Dorado Hills, Elk Grove, Fair Oaks, Folsom, Granite Bay, Placerville, Rancho Cordova, Rocklin, Roseville, West Sacramento, Woodland and the counties of Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Yolo
and more with a dedication to providing legal services in a compassionate and cost-efficient manner tailored to your individual needs.
When getting a divorce, people have a lot a questions they need answered. You also need to make some choices based on your situation such as how you and your spouse want to approach divorce. Many factors are involved such as are you and your spouse on good speaking terms or not? Are you willing to work out your differences together? Is there a lot of anger/hurt that you cannot put aside? Do you need counseling? What is your financial situation? How is your child/children handling the separation? At Family Law Center we approach divorce with an attitude of making your divorce as cost effective as possible, with compassion and to try to reduce the stress of what is already a difficult situation. These are just some of the ways “Divorce Done Differently” is all about.
No one is saying that Divorce is easy, but it doesn’t have to be more difficult than it already is. Having the right attorney to help you with your divorce and help you work through the issues that will arise will make the process easier for you. If you have children, having the right attorney to help you maintain focus on your children and guide you through child support and child custody decisions will take a huge burden off of you so that you are better able to be the best you can be for them.
Visit our office to receive informational brochures on your divorce options and to get a free copy of Carol Delzer’s book “Collaborative Co-Parenting.”
Divorce matters are best handled by experienced attorneys who are highly focused, and dedicated to protecting your rights and financial security.
At Family Law Center our attorneys always seek to resolve divorce, child custody, and family law issues peacefully, but when the opposition decides to wage war, we will roll up our sleeves and advocate for you
With the family law attorneys at Family Law Center, you will have expert, hands-on guidance
every step of the way in your divorce or family law matter. We will work with you to formulate the best strategy and guide you through the entire process.
You and your children deserve the best legal team in the greater Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, ElDorado County area
, one that is well-versed in all aspects of family law – from divorce and child custody to paternity issues and complex marital property divisions and business valuations.
Family Law and divorce matters are not something you want to do alone, and hiring the right team
is not something you can afford to leave to chance.
At Family Law Center we understand divorce matters and that you matter to us. We take a 360-degree view of divorce and family issues, recognizing that this is often the most trying time anyone ever faces. Our firm was created specifically for people who need a lawyer who will be there for you and your children.
Let Family Law Center handle your divorce matters and show you how we can help you face this challenging time with superior legal strength, expertise, and efficiency. Schedule a confidential consultation today.
A divorce action plan should include many things but most of all it should be well thought through.
Divorce Action plan One: Determine if your marriage is really over. This is the time to take heart with your spouse to ask have both of you done all you can do or all you are going to do to save or work on your marriage. Are you in marriage counseling or have you tried marriage counseling? Once the decision is made make it clear to your spouse that this is what needs to take place. An open communication about your intent to move forward will make the path much smoother.
Divorce Action Plan Two: Begin to gather information for the divorce about your assets, debts, income and expenses. Compile all your bank statements, credit card statements, retirement statements and any other financial asset and debt information that is available to you. As you gather these statements take time to review and determine if either of you received or have any separate assets (such as separate inheritances, debts etc.). To determine if you are still entitled to a separate interest will most likely require help from a family law attorney. Make a note that when you seek a consultation with a family law divorce attorney to ask for their advice on the issue of separate versus community interest in assets.
Divorce Action Plan Three: Determine the divorcing options available to you. Are the two of you candidates for Divorce Mediation? Or better suited for a Collaborative Divorce? Is the conflict such that the two of you need separate family law attorneys? Ask for referrals for a good divorce family law attorney or mediator. Referrals are the best source for obtaining a family law attorney. Ask friends you know have been divorced about who they used.
Divorce Action Plan Four: Filing the first divorce papers with the court. This starts with filing of a Petition for the Divorce. The first divorce papers are primarily to open the case in the court and obtain a case number from family court. It is important to understand that the statements made in the petition for divorce are not an agreement but can cause conflict if not done properly. This is why having the right divorce attorney to help you begin this process is so important. A good family law attorney will be able to help you complete these forms without increasing the conflict.
Divorce Action Plan Five: Completion of Declaration of Disclosure including a Schedule of Assets and Debts and an Income and Expense Declaration. Much of the financial and historical information you gathered in the divorce action #two will be used for this next step. It is important to make a complete and full disclosure to your spouse and ask that your spouse make a full and complete disclosure to you. The family court has created forms for the two of you to make your Declaration of Disclosure. The obligation in a divorce to make a full disclosure has serious legal significance and it is well worth the investment to seek the advice of a divorce attorney to help you complete them or to review your work.
Divorce Action Plan Six: Building the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). It is best to seek the help of an experienced family law attorney to prepare your Marital Settlement Agreement also known as MSA. This agreement will include how you intend to share your children’s time including your child custody: physical child custody and legal child custody provisions. (See our blog on Legal Child Custody versus Physical Child Custody to learn more about the meaning and impact of custody determinations). The MSA agreement will also state how you want to divide your assets and debts. If there is a retirement account you may need to use a a Qualified Domestic Relations Order QDRO to divide it. A QDRO will allow you to divide the retirement account without having to pay any taxes on the transfer or have to pull the money out of retirement to reach an equal division of property. The MSA will also include any support agreement for both spousal support and child support if you have children. To be sure that you have a legal binding agreement and have covered all the marital issues in the MSA you need to seek the help of a divorce or family law attorney with preparation and processing of the MSA.
Divorce Action Plan Seven: Processing the MSA and the other necessary final family court documents is the last step. It seems only reasonable that after completing an MSA you could just send it to the court. This is not so. In order to send an MSA to the court it must be accompanied by other court required documents including but not limited to; Judgment; Notice of Entry of Judgment; Declaration re: Service of the Declaration of Disclosure; an Appearance Stipulation and Waiver; and a Declaration of Uncontested Divorce. These documents need to be prepared based on local rules. I recommend that you seek the advice of a family law attorney and to be sure this is done correctly.
At Family Law Center we can provide you with the legal help to process your divorce papers in an inexpensive and efficient manner. We will do our best to make the divorce process as seamless, easy and low conflict as we can for you. Call us at Family Law Center for a consultation with one of our divorce family law attorneys.
When going through a divorce, you and your spouse will be required to complete a preliminary and possibly a final "declaration of disclosure". Sometimes, the final declaration of disclosure may be waived. At some point during the divorce process (usually very early in the process), at least the preliminary Declaration of Disclosure will need to be prepared by each spouse and exchanged between them.
A declaration of disclosure (whether preliminary or final) is comprised of an asset and debt schedule, an income and expense declaration, and a one-page declaration of disclosure form. The asset and debt schedule is where you each will list ALL of your assets and debts, whether you think the asset or debt is your separate property or community property, and regardless of whether you feel there is no dispute about the property and who will receive it in the divorce. The income and expense declaration you will both need to complete will list your income and expenses as of the time you complete this form. This will be important in the divorce process, particularly in relation to child and spousal support (alimony). Even if you have no children and do not expect to ask for spousal support from your spouse, you will still need to complete this form and exchange it with your spouse.
Over the last number of years, California law has placed a "fiduciary duty" on both spouses to deal with each other fairly, to not take financial advantage of the other, and to fully disclose finances – whether separate or community. In fact, the fiduciary rules are similar to those which apply to business partners. Breaching that duty can result in significant penalties in a divorce, and non-disclosure can actually lead to the other person being awarded 100% of the non-disclosed asset! Also, the forms will be signed by you under penalty of perjury – so these forms need to be accurate.
Correctly completing the documents for your declarations of disclosure should be with consultation of a family law attorney, and Family Law Center attorneys can help you, whether you are going through your divorce in mediation, using the collaborative process, or litigation. A correctly completed declaration of disclosure greatly enhances both of your ability to settle a divorce case quickly, saving both spouses time and money.
Written by Mark Johannessen
For more information contact Mark at Family Law Center
When couples marry they often bring to the marriage separate assets they had before marriage. One of the most common assets is a residence. When the couple now married makes payments on the separate asset of one spouse from earnings the community begins to acquire an interest in the separate spouses residence.
The same rule applies when the couple makes improvements to the spouses residence and the parties use earnings or savings to make improvements on the spouses separate residence. The community interest is a complicated formula that was established from two family law cases Marriage of Moore
. The formula is know as the Moore-Maresden formula and requires the consultation of a family law attorney to understand. Below is family Code Section 2640
FAMILY.CODE SECTION 2640
When couples 2640. (a) "Contributions to the acquisition of property," as used
in this section, include downpayments, payments for improvements, and
payments that reduce the principal of a loan used to finance the
purchase or improvement of the property but do not include payments
of interest on the loan or payments made for maintenance, insurance,
or taxation of the property.
(b) In the division of the community estate under this division,
unless a party has made a written waiver of the right to
reimbursement or has signed a writing that has the effect of a
waiver, the party shall be reimbursed for the party's contributions
to the acquisition of property of the community property estate to
the extent the party traces the contributions to a separate property
source. The amount reimbursed shall be without interest or adjustment
for change in monetary values and may not exceed the net value of
the property at the time of the division.
(c) A party shall be reimbursed for the party's separate property
contributions to the acquisition of property of the other spouse's
separate property estate during the marriage, unless there has been a
transmutation in writing pursuant to Chapter 5 (commencing with
Section 850) of Part 2 of Division 4, or a written waiver of the
right to reimbursement. The amount reimbursed shall be without
interest or adjustment for change in monetary values and may not
exceed the net value of the property at the time of the division.
President & Senior Mediator/Collaborative Attorney, Certified Family Law Specialist
Carol has extensive experience and education in negotiation and conflict resolution, including over 30 years' experience in creating “win-win" agreements as a real estate broker with an extensive knowledge of tax and finance. Her background is a tremendous asset to her clients during divorce negotiations; it allows her to recognize each person's point of view, explore the alternatives thoroughly, and guide the opposing parties to an equitable resolution. In addition to being a certified family law specialist, Carol is a licensed marriage family therapist and author. Her latest book is 8 Weeks to Collaborative Co-Parenting for Divorcing Parents
Mark has practiced civil, business and tax law since 1983, and exclusively family law since 1993. With an extensive business and financial background, Mark is qualified to represent clients in complex property and financial dissolution cases using a cooperative, respectful, and professional approach to conflict resolution.
Contact Family Law Center to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced Family Law attorney.
Family Law Center represents clients throughout California including, but not limited to: Sacramento, Antelope, Auburn, Cameron Park, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Davis, El Dorado Hills, Elk Grove, Fair Oaks, Folsom, Granite Bay, Placerville, Rancho Cordova, Rocklin, Roseville, West Sacramento, Woodland and the Counties of Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, Yolo and more.