estate plans and divorce

Estate Plans and Divorce

Going through a divorce can be an extremely painful and emotionally exhausting experience. Still, it is important to pull yourself together and do what is necessary, so that you can look forward to a better, brighter future.

One of the important steps you need to take after getting a divorce is to revise and update your estate plan. Why is it critical? What kind of changes do you need to make to your plan? Let us take a look.

Importance of Updating Your Estate Plan after Divorce

When you are married, it makes sense to grant your spouse the power of attorney and to name them as your beneficiary so that they could make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to and inherit your assets in the event of your death.

Once you get divorced, it makes no sense to allow your ex-spouse to retain the same degree of control of your life. So, you need to update your estate plan so that you can get your ex-spouse out of the picture and designate someone else who can make financial and medical decisions on your behalf – should it come to that.

Updating your estate plan is particularly important if your divorce was contested and if you and your ex-spouse no longer enjoy a cordial relationship.

Moreover, California is a community property state, which means your spouse is theoretically entitled to get 50% of everything you own in the event of a divorce. If you fail to review and update your estate plan, your ex-spouse will inherit more of your assets in the event of your death, which is not what you may want to happen.

What Kind of Changes Do You Need to Make to Your Estate Plan after Divorce?

Updating Your Will

Under California law, any gifts or bequests your will makes to your spouse will be revoked automatically in the event of an annulment or divorce. Still, it’s necessary to update your will after divorce for several reasons.

If you have named your ex-spouse as the primary beneficiary of your assets, you need to remove them to make sure they do not inherit the rest of your assets (what is still left with you after the divorce) in the event of your death.

Similarly, if you have named your ex-spouse as the representative or executor of your estate, you need to remove them and designate someone else.

Apart from this, if your will has provisions for your ex-spouse’s children (from their previous marriage) or their relatives, and if you no longer want them to receive a share of your assets in the event of your death, you need to amend your will accordingly.

Amending Your Trust

Setting up a living trust is undoubtedly one of the best ways to provide for your beneficiaries. But if you have appointed your ex-spouse as the trustee, you need to remove them and appoint a new trustee.

Revoking Your Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directives

If you have designated your ex-spouse as your agent, who can make financial, healthcare, and end-of-life decisions on your behalf, you need to revoke the power of attorney you granted and amend the directive so that you can designate a new agent.

Nominating a Guardian for Your Minor Children

This is a tricky subject, as your ex-spouse might be the other parent of your child(ren) and they have the same rights that you do. However, you need to make sure you nominate a guardian (someone other than your spouse) for your children, so that they can take care of your children in case your ex-spouse is not able to – for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They have a physical or mental disability or illness which makes them incapable of caring for the children.
  • They have a serious alcohol or drug addiction problem.
  • They are unable to or do not want to take care of the children for other, legitimate reasons.

Reviewing and Updating Other Financial Accounts

After the divorce, you need to change beneficiary designations in the following accounts.

  • Bank accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance policies and annuities
  • Pay-on-death accounts
  • Homeowners’ insurance and auto insurance

Looking to Update Your Estate Plan after Divorce? Contact Our Seasoned Southern California Estate Planning Attorneys

Reviewing and amending your estate plan after a divorce is a complicated, time-consuming task which requires a great deal of legal expertise. The attorneys at Garmo & Garmo have over 80 years of combined experience in estate planning and have helped thousands of clients in California over the years with their estate planning needs.

We can review, revise, and update your estate plan according to your needs and make sure your ex-spouse does not too much of a role in making important decisions should you become incapacitated and/or managing your final affairs.

To find out more about updating your estate plan, call us today at 619-441-2500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team. 

co-parenting during covid-19

Co-Parenting During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect our lives, and most experts agree that social distancing will be the new “normal” for some time, even after shelter-in-place (SIP) orders are lifted. Within a family unit, parents can form a social distancing plan with rules for the family to follow in and outside their home. But for divorced or separated parents, social distancing and staying healthy when children are going back and forth between two households can be challenging.

How do Shelter-In-Place and Social Distancing Rules Affect Custody Arrangements?

Many court systems, including the San Diego Superior Court, have clarified that social distancing and shelter-in-place rules don’t directly affect custody orders. You should continue following your current custody arrangement unless you and your co-parent agree to an alternative plan or your custody order is formally changed by a court. Courts are making it clear that wrongful use of COVID-19 to deny court-ordered parenting time could result in penalties such as contempt of court and sanctions.

But, some parents might have valid concerns which could justify a temporary change to custody, such as:

  • You or your co-parent has been exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • You or your co-parent is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19
  • You or your co-parent has a high-risk job and is frequently exposed to COVID-19
  • You or your co-parent has an underlying condition increasing risk related to COVID-19
  • Your child has an underlying condition increasing risk related to COVID-19

What are some co-parenting guidelines for dealing with school or daycare closures?

All schools in San Diego County and throughout the State of California are closed for an extended period of time. While the schools are physically closed to students, most are still enrolled full-time and participating in “distance learning” to varying degrees. Courts have clarified that parenting time should continue as if children were still physically attending school with the same start and end times. However, some parents are still working full-time outside the home, and may not be able to care for their children during what would have been a normal school day. Courts are encouraging parents to be flexible and work together towards what is in the best interest of their children, taking into account relative work schedules.

Legal Advice and Emergency Custody Orders

If you believe that sending your child to your co-parent’s home could pose a risk to you or your child’s health, you can ask your co-parent to agree to temporarily change the custody arrangement.  Possible alternatives can be proposed, such as:

  • Temporarily postponing in-person visits for a period of time (pursuant to medical advice and/or lifting of shelter-in-place orders) and scheduling make-up visits for a later date
  • Scheduling daily phone calls and/or “virtual visits” using FaceTime or Zoom
  • Keeping in touch by sending letters, cards, and text messages.
  • Agreeing to adjust the custody plan and/or adding appropriate shelter-in-place rules for the parents, child, and other family to follow

But what happens when parents can’t agree? Custody disputes in the time of COVID-19 are new territory for both parents and family law attorneys. To complicate things even further, most courthouses have temporarily closed for nonessential cases. However, if you or your child’s health is truly at risk, you may want to seek help from a family law court. If there is a true emergency, you may be able to obtain a temporary child custody order from your local family court, despite the nonessential closures.

If you have questions about your custody arrangement as it relates to COVID-19, or if you have been unable to resolve custody issues on your own, you can contact the office of Garmo & Garmo for advice. Our family law attorneys are available for phone or video consultations.

divorce lawyer in La Mesa

Divorces Likely to Increase due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis has caused a major disruption to all of our lives. California and most other states have a “stay-at-home” order in place to keep citizens distanced from each other until the pandemic subsides, and this has resulted in the closure of countless “nonessential” businesses, causing millions to suddenly lose their jobs. The kids are going to school from home, and those of us who are still working are doing so out of our homes as well.

The end result of all this is that most Americans have been cooped up in their homes together for an extended period of time. Unless you are an essential front-line worker, you can only leave your home to go to the grocery store, pharmacy, to take a walk, and a few other limited activities.

It is difficult to predict what the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will be on couples who have been quarantined together for several weeks. This is an unprecedented situation, and how the pandemic will impact married couples is one of numerous questions that we will not know the answer to until long after this is over.

Some couples will certainly see COVID-19 as a welcome disruption to their normal routine and an opportunity to spend more time with each other. For others, it could bring tensions that have been simmering underneath the surface to a boil. A lot depends on what the health of the relationship was before all this started, how each spouse is handling the shutdown, their attitudes and worldviews, compatibility in closed quarters without much time apart, and other specific factors.

So, will the coronavirus pandemic trigger a spike in divorces, or will we see another baby boom? Only time will tell. Here are a few reasons why there is a good chance that the number of divorces will increase after COVID-19 is over:

  • People Need Space: It is a widely accepted truth that marriages benefit from spouses having time for themselves. No matter how much two people love and care for each other, being together constantly can be very unhealthy for a relationship. People need time for themselves to pursue their own interests and hobbies, maintain their individual identities, or just relax. Also, when people spend some time apart from each other, they tend to be happier and less stressed when they do get to see each other. Given these natural tendencies, couples who find themselves stuck together because of the coronavirus outbreak will need to work extra hard to keep their relationship healthy and fresh.
  • Record Numbers of Households Face Financial Distress: Money is one of the top reasons couples get divorced, and COVID-19 has created a huge amount of financial stress for many families. Being in the same home together along with tighter finances could be drive many couples over the edge and cause them to end their marriage.
  • The Increase in Domestic Violence Cases: One of the saddest unintended consequences of the coronavirus lockdown has been the rise in domestic violence cases. Law enforcement agencies across the country have reported a spike in domestic violence calls, which experts believe is largely due to the tension and stress couples and families are under being cooped up together. This tragic development could be a preview of what will happen with the divorce rate.
  • China’s Divorce Rate has risen Since the Start of COVID-19: China, the country in which the coronavirus originated, has seen a sharp rise in divorce rates since the quarantines ended. They also had a spike in domestic violence cases when they were under lockdown. China is obviously a different country than ours with a vastly different and unique culture, but higher divorce rates there could be an indication of what is to come in the Western world. We will need to keep an eye on other countries like Japan, South Korea, and Italy where the pandemic hit before it arrived here to see if this trend continues.

Whatever your Legal Needs, Garmo & Garmo is Here to Help

At Garmo & Garmo, we hope everyone is staying safe and healthy as we go through the coronavirus pandemic and deal with its aftereffects once it is over. We also hope you are taking steps to keep the valued relationships with your loved ones healthy as well. This is one of those rare shared experiences where we can truly say “we are all in this together”, and this will all be over hopefully sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, we want you to know that we are here for you if you need legal help. We are taking all the precautions and following all of the social distancing guidelines, and most of our work is being done remotely these days. The court also has limited access right now, but they are still available for emergency proceedings. Despite the current challenges, we have the technology and resources to run a fully functional practice and continue providing the experienced and skilled representation our clients have always received.

For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call us today at (619) 441-2500. We look forward to serving you!

when business goes to family court

What Happens when a California Business Ends up in Family Court?

Owning and operating a business can take up a lot of your time and energy. And in some cases, this can put a major strain on your personal life. Over the years, we have seen numerous high-profile cases of business owners who end up getting divorced. The largest divorce settlement in U.S. history happened recently when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos agreed to give a 4% stake in the company he founded to his wife Mackenzie. Her share was valued (at the time of the divorce) at $35 billion.

Businesses both large and small frequently end up becoming part of a divorce proceeding, and when this happens, things can get complicated, and they can become very contentious. In a lot of cases, only one of the spouses is heavily involved in the business, and many businesses have outside partners as well. 

How do you divide marital assets in a fair and equitable manner while preserving the viability of a business and at the same time preserving delicate family relationships? This is a question many divorcing spouses have had to grapple with.

California Divorce Laws

California is a “community property” state. This means that assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage are considered to be equally owned by both spouses. There are a few exceptions to this, such as gifts and inheritances one of the spouses receives, but a business that was started after the couple was married is not one of these exceptions.

Even if just one of the spouses went into business after the marriage and the other spouse never had anything to do with it, the business still belongs equally to both spouses. The same rule would still apply if the business has outside partners. For example, if one spouse owns 25% of the business with three outside partners owning equal shares, in theory, the other spouse would be entitled to own 12.5% of the company as part of the divorce settlement.

In practice, things do not usually work out this way. If one of the spouses is not involved in the business, they will most likely want compensation for their interest in it rather than retaining ownership. And this is what often complicates matters.

If a spouse is to be compensated for their interest in a business, it must first be determined what that interest is worth. And since there are multiple ways to value a business, this can become a major point of contention. 

For example, the spouse who is involved in the business may want to use “fair market value” – what an outside party would pay for the business based on comparable business sales.  However, the other spouse may want to factor in “goodwill”, or the reasonable expectation that the business will grow in value in the future based on its established reputation and position in the marketplace.

Once an agreeable price is finally determined, the spouse that retains the business must figure out a way to compensate the other spouse. If the couple has other valuable assets, such as real estate properties, stock investments, etc., the spouse who is selling their share of the business could be compensated by receiving a larger interest in the other outstanding assets.  If there are no such assets available, then another arrangement must be made; such as a lump sum payment or installment payments over time. It may also be necessary to finance this purchase if there is no liquid capital available.

It should be noted that even businesses that were started before a couple was married could still end up in family court. This would happen if the business grew and gained significant value during the marriage.

For example, let’s say you started a dental practice in San Diego a couple years before you were married. At the time of the wedding, the practice was worth $150,000. You were married for 10 years, and during that time, you added some new dentists, opened up another office, and took on a couple of partners. Now, your practice is worth $2 million dollars. In this scenario, the vast majority of the equity you own in your practice would likely be considered community property.

How to Prevent Major Trouble When a Business Ends Up in Family Court

If you own a business in California, it is a good idea to prepare for worst-case scenarios, such as a divorce or death.  While you may not be able to keep your business from being part of a divorce, you can take steps to minimize the damage this may cause:

  • Use a Prenuptial Agreement: If you are bringing the business into the marriage, ask your fiancé to sign a prenuptial agreement stating that the business (or your share of it) is not part of community property. If you started the business after you are married and you are still on good terms with your spouse, you may want to consider a postnuptial agreement. Postnuptial agreements are not generally seen as favorably by the courts, but if they are signed well in advance of any separation or divorce, they should still be helpful in providing some guidance on asset division if a divorce proceeding ever arises.
  • Create a Buy-Sell Agreement: This is an agreement that is often used between business partners to spell out the specific terms and conditions in which changes of ownership can occur. For example, a buy-sell agreement can limit your spouse’s right to own part of the business, and it could also give the other owners the right to buy your spouse’s interest at a price that is reasonable and predetermined.
  • Do Not Comingle Your Finances: It is always best to keep the finances between your business and your personal life separated. As much as possible, do not use funds from your business to purchase personal items or cover personal expenses, and vice versa. The more commingled your finances become, the harder it will be to untangle everything later on.

Need Help with Business or Family Law Matters in Southern California? Call Garmo and Garmo, LLP for Assistance

When business owners get divorced, it can become a messy situation. If you are facing these circumstances, you need attorneys who have an in-depth understanding not only with family law, but business law as well. If you are in San Diego, El Cajon, or anywhere in Southern California, call Garmo and Garmo, LLP at 619-441-2500 or message us online to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys. 

divorce and taxes in California

How Divorce Affects Taxes in California

The marriage dissolution process has a lot of financial implications. There are issues such as child support, alimony/spousal support, division of marital assets, and many others. These issues will affect your finances in many ways, and one area that many divorcing couples do not put enough thought into is the tax implications once the divorce is finalized. 

No matter how long you have been married, if you decide to get a divorce, it will impact your tax situation. And if you do not look at the tax consequences ahead of time, you may end up with some very unpleasant surprises when it comes time to file your taxes. 

As the 2019 tax filing season comes to an end, this is a good time to look at divorce and taxes, and how a marriage dissolution can affect your tax situation.

Tax Filing Status Changes

After a divorce, your tax filing status will change. However, the filing status you use depends largely on when your divorce was finalized. If you finalized your divorce any time before December 31st, you are considered to be unmarried for the entire year. This means your tax filing options would be “single” or “head of household”.

In general, it is more advantageous to file “head of household”. However, you must meet certain qualifications to be eligible for this status. You must have paid for the upkeep of your home for at least half of the year, and you must have had at least one dependent living with you for at least half the year to claim the “head of household” status.

If you were still married as of the first of the year, your filing status options would be “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately”, or “head of household” if you lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year and meet other qualifications for this status.

“Married filing jointly” generally provides better tax benefits than the “married filing separately” status, although this is not always the case. That said, there are other reasons you may want to consider filing a separate return rather than filing jointly with your ex-spouse. One major reason is if your ex is untrustworthy or uncooperative or you have other reasons to believe that filing a joint return will in any way jeopardize your financial and/or tax situation.

Division of Assets

The division of the marital property is generally a tax-neutral event. However, there are some couples that have significant assets and more complicated finances. In these types of cases, various activities could result in tax consequences. For example, if you are liquidating certain assets (such as selling real estate property that does not qualify for an exemption), you may be responsible for capital gains taxes.

Another area in which there could be tax complications is with the division of retirement accounts. Portions of a retirement account that were added or appreciated during the course of a marriage are generally considered part of the marital estate. However, in order to divide these assets without being penalized by the IRS, you will most likely need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). QDROs are complex documents that are required for many types of retirement accounts. These documents must be drafted carefully and precisely in order to meet the required specifications to make them legally enforceable. Consult your attorney for more details on QDROs and if you will need one for your situation.

Who Claims the Children on their Taxes?

The question of who can claim the children as dependents on their taxes used to be an important issue that was often negotiated during divorce proceedings. Generally, the custodial parent is the one who has the right to claim the children unless they sign a written release on their tax return giving the other parent the right to claim the children. However, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 got rid of personal exemptions and raised the standard deduction to make up for it. This means that there is no longer any direct financial benefit to claiming children as dependents until this provision expires in 2025.

Claiming the children as dependents is important for other reasons, however. For the custodial parent, they must have at least one dependent for at least half of the year to claim “head of household” and receive the potential benefits of this tax filing status. Having children to claim may also make you eligible for the Child Tax Credit or Child and Dependent Care Credit, and it could help you qualify for a higher Earned Income Tax Credit.

Child Support and Alimony

Child support is tax-neutral; the payor cannot deduct payments on their taxes, and the payee does not have to claim this support as income. Alimony/spousal support payments are deductible for the payor and taxable as income for the payee if your divorce was finalized on or before December 31, 2018. Under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017, however, for all divorces finalized on or after January 1, 2019, spousal support payments are now tax-neutral.

Speak with a Seasoned Divorce and Family Law Attorney in San Diego

If you are facing a divorce, there will be many issues that will need to be dealt with, many of which concern your finances and taxes. For this reason, you need a lawyer with extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and an in-depth understanding of how these issues will apply to your personal situation. 

For skilled guidance with divorce and other family legal matters in San Diego, El Cajon, and throughout Southern California, call Garmo and Garmo today at 619-441-2500 or message us through our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

Protective Order attorney in el cajon

What do I Do if my Spouse Violates a Protective Order?

In California, protective orders (also known as restraining orders) are used to protect an individual who is being harassed, stalked, threatened, or abused. For example, a protective order may be placed on an abusive spouse that restricts them from coming within a certain distance of the other spouse for a specified period of time. It is unlawful for the restrained person to violate a protective order, and a violation can result in harsh consequences.

California Protective Order Basics

Protective orders/restraining orders are court orders that protect the endangered person from harm. There are several different types of protective orders in California, these include:

  • Domestic Violence Protective Orders: Domestic violence restraining orders are among the most common, and they are used to protect an individual from someone they have a close relationship with. A protective order against a spouse would fall into this category. Other examples include protective orders against the former spouses, current or former cohabitating partners, current or former individuals they were in a dating relationship with, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, anyone closely related to them by blood, marriage, or adoption, or anyone who lives regularly in their home.
  • Civil Harassment Protective Orders: Civil harassment restraining orders are used to protect an individual from someone who they do not have a close relationship with, and which would not be considered a domestic relationship. Examples may include former friends, neighbors, roommates, and distant family members who would not qualify for a domestic violence protective order.
  • Workplace Violence Protective Orders: This type of protective order protects employees who have been victims of threats, harassment, stalking, or violence from a coworker or someone else in the workplace. Workplace violence restraining orders can only be requested by the employer on behalf of an endangered employee. The employee cannot request the order themselves. However, an employee could request a domestic violence or civil harassment protective order depending on their relationship with the restrained person.
  • Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse Protective Orders: Individuals who are 65 years of age or older or disabled and between the ages of 18 and 64 can request an elder or dependent adult abuse restraining order to protect them from physical, mental, or psychological abuse, neglect or abandonment, financial abuse, deprivation, or any other treatment that is physically or mentally harmful to the victim by a caregiver for whom the victim relies for their basic needs.
  • Emergency Protective Orders: When there is immediate danger, an emergency restraining order can be requested by a law enforcement officer any time 24/7. Emergency orders are limited in duration, and the victim will need to request an extension of the order or obtain a new order to lengthen the duration.

What to Do when your Spouse Violates a Protective Order

If your spouse intentionally disobeys any of the provisions of a protective order, there are some steps you should take:

  • Contact the Police: If your spouse’s violation of the protective order puts you in danger, call the police right away. Show the police a copy of the order, and if your spouse is there and has not been served, ask the police officer to serve them. The police could also choose to arrest your spouse for violating the order, and they could be charged with a misdemeanor or felony depending on if this is a first or subsequent violation. Criminal penalties may include heavy fines and jail time.
  • Retain Evidence of the Violation: Gather as much evidence as possible to prove that your spouse violated the protective order. Write down, in as much detail as you can, what happened while it is still fresh in your mind. Obtain statements from anyone who may have witnessed the event. Retain copies of any threatening voicemails, text messages, emails, social media posts, or any other type of electronic messages. If you were injured, obtain copies of your medical report.
  • Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney: If the involvement of the police has not deterred your spouse from violating the protective order, get in touch with a seasoned family law attorney to discuss your legal options. The next step may be to file a contempt of court action for violating the order. This is a powerful remedy, however, and it could land your spouse in jail. This is also a complicated action that requires you to prove that your spouse knew about the protective order and willfully violated it. For this reason, contempt of court actions should only be used as a last resort.

For immediate help with protective orders and any other type of family legal matter in San Diego, El Cajon, and throughout Southern California, contact the experienced attorneys at Garmo and Garmo. Call our office today at 619-441-2500 or send us a message through our web contact form.

how divorce affects your credit

Will a Divorce Negatively Impact my Credit Score?

Filing for a divorce is one of the most consequential decisions anyone ever has to make. There are many factors to consider, and emotions always run high. Getting a divorce will impact you in numerous ways. Your marital assets will be divided (hopefully in a fair and equitable manner), and if there are children involved, you will need to work out issues such as child support, child custody and visitation. There are also financial implications beyond just the division of assets.

For example, there are now two households to support with the same overall income. This means double the housing payments, leaving less disposable income and a lower standard of living for everyone. There may also be tax implications that couples are not aware of.

Another possible area of concern during a divorce is your credit. Your ability to borrow money for the best interest rates and most favorable terms and conditions could be extremely important, especially during the transition from being married to becoming single again. One question divorcing spouses often ask is “will a divorce negatively impact my credit score?”

There are actually two answers to this question. The short answer is “no”, the act of filing for divorce does not have any direct impact on your credit score, because your marital status has nothing to do with your creditworthiness. So, if all other factors remained the same, dissolving your marriage could leave you with the same credit rating you had before you filed for divorce. That said, things do not remain static when you are going through a divorce, and there are some indirect ways your credit score could be negatively impacted by the process.

Here are two of the most common ways a divorce could negatively impact your credit score:

Inability to Pay your Bills

As mentioned earlier, divorce can have a major financial impact on the household. When spouses are living apart, they now have more bills to pay with the same amount of income. Not to mention that divorcing spouses often need to come up with thousands of dollars to cover their legal fees. The financial cost of the divorce could cause you to get behind on one or more of your credit accounts. And since on time payments are one of the major factors that go into your credit score, even a few late payments could cause your score to drop significantly. There is no easy solution to this issue. You will either need to live on less or earn more. Ideally, you should try to do both.

Spouse Doesn’t Pay Joint Accounts

During the course of the marriage, it is highly likely that you and your spouse opened some credit accounts together. As the marriage comes to an end, these accounts need to be dealt with. There may be some accounts that you are responsible to pay, and there may be some accounts that your spouse is responsible to pay. Just because a court rules that your spouse is responsible for a certain debt, however, this does not mean you are off the hook. If your name is on an account, you made a contract with the lender to make payments per the terms and conditions of the loan. This means that if your spouse does not make timely payments on those joint accounts, or refuses to pay them at all, it will affect both your credit scores.

There are a few ways to deal with this potential situation. First of all, once you become aware that you are getting a divorce, close all joint accounts that have no outstanding balances. This will limit the amount of financial damage that could be done, which is especially important if you have a spouse who is a spendthrift and/or has a tendency to be vindictive. Also, do everything possible to limit the number of joint accounts that your spouse will be responsible for when the divorce is finalized. For example, if your spouse is taking ownership of the marital home, insist that it is refinanced and placed in their name only. If they are not willing to do this, do not relinquish ownership of your portion of the property.

If there are joint accounts that cannot be closed, be sure to monitor them closely and make sure that your ex-spouse is paying them as agreed. To protect yourself even further, insist on and indemnity clause being written into the final divorce decree. An indemnity clause gives you the right to file a civil claim against your ex-spouse in the event that they do not pay the debts they are supposed to, and you decided to pay them to protect your credit.

Speak with a Compassionate San Diego Family Law Attorney

If you are facing a divorce, there are many ways that it will affect your life, and it is important to have skilled counsel by your side to provide legal guidance and moral support. At Garmo & Garmo, we understand how divorce impacts our clients, and we work closely with them to provide the strong personalized representation they need and deserve. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, call us today at 619-441-2500 or send us a message through our web contact form.

Holidays and Visitation - Child Visitation Attorneys - Garmo & Garmo

Child Visitation and the Holidays

During the holiday season, it is a good time to discuss child custody and visitation schedules, and how holiday visitation schedules interact with the regular schedule. Kids naturally want to be with both their Mom and their Dad during the holidays, but unfortunately, they can’t be in two places at once. This means working out a holiday visitation schedule that is fair for both parents and is in-keeping with the best interests of the children.

In a divorce or parentage case, parents should try to work out a holiday visitation schedule on their own. Each family is unique and has its own traditions, and not every holiday has the same level of importance. Even ex-spouses or unmarried parents who are living separately may prioritize various holidays differently. For example, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July might be more important to one parent, while the other might place a higher value on Christmas and Easter. And of course, Mother’s Day is usually spent with the mother while Father’s Day is spent with the father.

Visitation and the Holidays in California

By talking through the various holidays with your ex, you can usually come to some type of agreement on how the holiday visitation schedule will be set up. In California, a standard schedule often involves rotating visitation during the holidays in even and odd years. Here is an example of how that might work:

  • Children spend Thanksgiving week (Wednesday through Sunday) with their father during even-numbered years, and with their mother during odd-numbered years.
  • Children are with their father for Christmas eve until the morning of Christmas day during odd-numbered years, and with their mother during this time in even-numbered years.
  • Children stay with their father from Christmas morning until the following day during even-numbered years, and this switches to their mother during odd-numbered years.
  • Children spend this time period with their father in odd-numbered years, and with their mother in even-numbered years.
  • Children go with their father on New Year’s Day morning until the next day during even-numbered years, and this switches to their mother during odd-numbered years.

The additional holidays throughout the year rotate in similar fashion, and adjustments are made based on the importance the parents and children place on each holiday. A workable schedule should also be developed for school breaks, birthdays, and other special occasions. Various factors might necessitate other adjustments to the visitation schedule. These may include the locations of each parent, how far away they live from each other, work schedules of each parent, extra-curricular activities the kids are involved in, and many others.

What Happens when Holiday Visitation Conflicts with the Regular Visitation Schedule?

One common question that often arises is what happens when the holiday visitation schedule is in conflict with the normal schedule. For example, let’s say the father has the kids on the second and fourth weekends of the month, Thanksgiving falls on the third weekend of the month, and this is the father’s year to have the kids over Thanksgiving. When this occurs, the holiday schedule generally takes precedence over the regular visitation schedule.

In this scenario, the father would have the kids for the weekend of Thanksgiving, even though it falls on the third weekend of the month when the kids would normally be with their mother. This would mean that the father would have the kids for three consecutive weekends; the second, third, and fourth. It is important to note that in a standard visitation schedule, holiday visitation does NOT reset the regular visitation schedule when this situation occurs. In other words, just because the father had the kids for the second weekend (his regular weekend) and the third weekend (Thanksgiving), that does not mean the schedule would reset and the mother would take the kids on the fourth weekend.

This may not seem fair, but it is important to keep in mind that, if the regular visitation schedule was reset every time there was a conflict with the holiday schedule, the parents would not be receiving the extra holiday time they are supposed to receive. In addition, you must keep in mind that inequalities like these will generally even out over time. You may lose a couple days this year, but it is likely you will gain some time because of holiday visitation schedule overrides in future years.

Speak with a Compassionate San Diego Family Law Attorney

Holiday visitation schedules can get complicated, and it may sometimes be difficult to work these out, especially when an ex is being unreasonable. When this is the case, it is highly beneficial to have a skilled attorney by your side advocating forcefully for your rights and interests.

At Garmo and Garmo, we are seasoned family law attorneys, and we have served countless clients in San Diego, El Cajon, and the surrounding Southern California communities. We work closely with our clients, taking the time to listen and understand their needs and develop practical and innovative solutions to meet their needs and protect their interests.

For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our office today at 619-441-2500 or send us a message through our web contact form.

Can social media hurt your alimony case?

Can Social Media Hurt My Alimony Case?

In today’s information age, so much of what we say and do leaves an electronic footprint. For the better part of the past decade, the use of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many others has increased exponentially. People use social media for many different purposes, such as to stay in touch with family and friends, let them know what they are up to, express their opinions on various topics, and many others.

Most people are aware that prospective employers typically look at posts from Facebook and other social media sites when they are preparing for a job interview. However, some fail to realize how your social media posts can impact a divorce proceeding. In a contested and contentious divorce, your social media posts are fair game, and they can be used against you.

Can Social Media Hurt my Alimony Case?

When it comes to alimony/spousal support, your social media posts can definitely impact your arguments. This is true whether you are the payor or recipient spouse. Here are just a few ways social media posts can be used against you in your spousal support case:

  • Vacation Pictures: The argument over alimony is financial; either the payor spouse is arguing that he/she cannot afford spousal support, or the recipient spouse is arguing that he/she should receive more because of very limited financial means. One of the most common types of social media posts that can blow up this narrative is a picture of a lavish vacation. People love to post pictures of their trips to exotic destinations, fine restaurants they dined out at, days spent at the beach, and related activities. While it may seem fun at the time to share these photos with your best friends, you may have a hard time explaining them later.

One thing to keep in mind about vacation photos; you may get in trouble even if you didn’t post them yourself. For example, if you go on a weekend trip with your friends over to Vegas or Tahoe and stay in a five-star luxury resort, one of your friends may post some photos with you in them and tag you in them so they show up on your timeline.

  • Pictures of New Purchases: Another popular social media pastime is to boast about expensive new stuff you just bought, such as a brand-new car or boat. An expensive new purchase may be even more difficult to explain than a trip. Sometimes, you could plausibly say that a friend paid for your trip because you needed some relaxation time while going through your divorce (or something similar). But it is much harder to convince a court that someone bought you a brand-new Lexus or BMW for “therapeutic” purposes.
  • Enhanced Profiles: People who are separating or divorcing often go on dating websites to search for someone new. This practice could expose you if you reveal what kind of job you have (especially if you tell your ex you are not working) and/or how well-off you are. Sometimes, this may be an embellishment designed to impress those who see your profile. Regardless of whether it is true or not, if you make yourself out to be better off than you are telling your spouse, this could hurt your alimony case.

Social Media is Discoverable

Many divorcing spouses believe they can delete their social media posts and make the problem go away. Actually, this will most likely make things worse. Social media posts are discoverable in a divorce case and deleting them could be considered destroying evidence. On a related note, do not assume that because you have your privacy settings configured a certain way, your posts will not be uncovered. Whatever you have posted (or been tagged in) online, it is best to assume that it will become evidence in your divorce case.

Protecting Yourself from Social Media Hurting You During a Divorce

If you are in the middle of a divorce or even considering divorce, the best way to deal with social media is to stop doing anything electronically, especially if you are angry, frustrated, or upset at your spouse. This goes for sending text messages as well. Do your best to stay away from all your online accounts until after the divorce is finalized. If you have already posted something you regret, do not delete it. Instead, contact an experienced family law attorney for guidance.

At Garmo and Garmo, our attorneys have several years of experience helping clients handle contentious issues such as alimony/spousal support during a divorce. We work closely with clients, providing skilled legal guidance during this difficult time. We can help mitigate as much as possible the negative impact social media may have on the divorce, and we can help you deal with other complications as well.

For help with alimony/spousal support and all other family law matters, contact our El Cajon office today at 619-441-2500 or send a secure and confidential message through our web contact form.

how to modify child support payments

Can I Change my Child Support Payments in California?

During a divorce in California, child support is often awarded to the parent who has the majority of custody. In paternity cases, child support may also be ordered to be paid by the non-custodial parent after a legal determination has been made regarding who the father of the child is. Child support is normally paid until all children reach the age of 18, and the amount awarded is calculated using a complex formula that is based on a number of factors.
Some of the factors used to determine how much should be paid in child support in California include:
• The number of children;
• The income of each parent;
• How much time each parent spends with the child(ren);
• Health insurance premiums;
• Child care expenses;
• Other major expenses that impact the family finances.
After a divorce is finalized, the parties move on and life circumstances tend to change. One or both ex-spouses may decide to get remarried, one may go back to school to begin a new career, and the children will grow up into teenagers and eventually adults. Some changes in circumstances are significant and impact the financial status of the paying or receiving parent.
When is a Change in Circumstances Enough to Change Child Support Payments?
If you want to modify the child support payments you pay or receive in California, it must be approved by the court. Once a child support award has been set, it can be difficult to change later on. Courts are reluctant to make modifications to an existing support order, and in order to convince the court, you must show a significant “change in circumstances” since the issuance of the original order.
There are a number of significant life changes that may qualify for a child support modification. Some of the most common include:
• Job Losses: If the paying parent loses his/her job due to a disability, layoff, or termination, they may no longer have the financial means to pay the same level of support. Also, if the receiving parent was working and lost their job, they may have greater financial needs than when the original order was issued.
• Income Changes: In addition to job losses, other circumstances can affect the income of either the paying or receiving parent. For example, a job promotion for either parent can provide significantly higher income. If one parent is remarried, the addition of their spouse’s income can be significant.
• Incarceration: The incarceration of either parent is a significant change in circumstances that is likely to adversely impact the family’s financial situation. If one parent is jailed or institutionalized against their will for longer than 90 days, support payments are suspended automatically after the 90-day period elapses.
• New Child: If either parent has a new child from another relationship, this also has the potential to significantly impact the family’s financial situation.
• Changes in Parenting Time: Since one of the major factors in calculating support payments is the amount of time each parent spends with the child, a significant change in parenting time may be a strong basis for seeking a child support modification.
• Changes in the Child’s Needs: As children grow up, their needs can change and often become more expensive. Examples may include significant increases in health insurance premiums, child care expenses, and educational costs.
What Happens if I Don’t Obtain Court Approval?
After a significant change in circumstance, some parents decide to simply cut back on child support payments or cease paying them altogether. This is a huge mistake. There are severe consequences for non-payment of child support in California. The state has a number of enforcement mechanisms at its disposal. Some of the penalties you may face if you don’t pay the amount of support you owe include:
• Wage garnishments;
• Bank account seizures;
• Intercepting tax refunds, workers’ compensation benefits, or part of disability benefits;
• Driver’s license suspension;
• Suspension of a professional license;
• Negative/derogatory information on your credit report;
• Denial of a passport (if you owe more than $2,500 in back child support);
• Criminal sanctions.
Parents are allowed to work out child support modifications between themselves, but a verbal agreement is not enforceable. This means that if your ex decides to come after you later for back child support, you may still face harsh consequences. If you and your ex agree on a change in child support payments, you need to get it in writing and bring it before a judge for approval.
Speak with a Knowledgeable San Diego Child Support Modification Lawyer
In California, child support is serious business, and any changes must be brought before the court. To ensure that your rights and interests are fully protected during this process, it is best to work with an experienced family law attorney. At Garmo and Garmo, we understand the California child support guidelines, and what is needed to convince the court that the amount of support you are paying or receiving should be modified. For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, contact our El Cajon office today at 619-441-2500.