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Divorce And Real Estate: What Happens To The Family Home?

Posted on: February 23, 2017 by in Divorce, Uncategorized
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When a married couple buys a home in the state of California, it’s their community property, and if the couple divorces, the home must be “split” 50/50. When a marriage ends, the division of the family home is often a central point of dispute. Divorce often means a new lifestyle, a smaller home, or even a move to a new community.

For most spouses who are divorcing in California, selling the family home during the divorce is usually the best way to split the home. Of course, both parties will want the maximum possible benefit from the sale, and that’s where conflict can surface.

WHAT ARE THE WAYS A HOME CAN BE DIVIDED?

What are your options when you divorce in California and the family home must be divided? When you seek a divorce in this state, it’s imperative for you to understand all of your options and alternatives. In Southern California, to make sure that you are aggressively represented and that your legal rights are protected throughout the divorce process, work from the very start with an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney. If you and the spouse you are divorcing can agree, these are some of the options for splitting the family home:

  • Selling the home: The easiest way to split a home is simply to put the home on the market and then divide the proceeds 50/50. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this solution won’t be available in many divorces.
  • A buy-out or sell-out agreement: In a buy-out, one spouse simply buys the other spouse’s half of the home. If you and the spouse you are divorcing agree to a buy-out, a good divorce lawyer will look out for your long-term interests.
  • Remaining at the home: Certain divorcing couples may be able to share a house until a divorce is complete, but this plainly isn’t feasible for most couples during the divorce process. If the two of you choose to remain under one roof during the divorce procedure, establish clearly understood limitations and rules.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU MUST NOT DO DURING A DIVORCE?

However, one of the worst moves you can make just prior to a California divorce is voluntarily moving out of the house. If your name is on a lease or a mortgage, you are not obligated to leave. Sleep on a sofa or set up a tent in the back yard if you must. But do not move out before any divorce papers have been filed. If the case goes to a trial, your spouse’s lawyer can claim that you “abandoned” your family, and you’ll have a difficult time refuting the charge.

Dividing and distributing the marital assets is always a daunting challenge in the divorce process. If selling is the agreed-upon option for the home, selling also means that the divorcing spouses will have to select an agent, determine a selling price, and agree on the terms. Make sure the sale price takes into account your expenses: mortgage loan balances, legal fees, interest accrued, recording fees, transfer taxes, and property taxes. A real estate agent can help you determine the right selling price. Divorcing spouses who agree to sell their home will want the advice of an experienced divorce lawyer as well as a trustworthy and experienced real estate agent.

If a buy-out is the agreed-upon option for the home, and you are bought out by your spouse, have your name deleted from the title. If you are the one buying out your spouse’s share of the home, know the details regarding the mortgage, the principal-interest ratio, the taxes, and the homeowner’s insurance. If you plan to buy out your spouse’s equity in the home, you’ll need the ability to qualify for a mortgage by yourself.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD DIVORCING SPOUSES CONSIDER REGARDING THEIR HOME?

If you sell the home, you also must decide if either spouse will remain in the home until the sale. When divorcing spouses are parents, the parent with custody frequently stays in the home. If the house does not sell quickly, then provisions for the additional mortgage payments will need to be included in the final divorce settlement. Repairs, maintenance, and other expenses that selling a home entails will also have to be considered. If the valuation of the home is below the current mortgage balance, divorcing spouses may choose to wait and sell the home after market conditions improve.

As you can imagine, a number of factors must be considered when you sell your home during a divorce. Financial details are a substantial part of any divorce, so the more properties and assets you and your spouse own, the more complicated a divorce will be. While you should seek specific personal advice about finances during a divorce from an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney, the suggestions provided here can help you keep your finances in order during and after the sometimes-lengthy divorce process:

  • Pay thoughtful attention to how your house is titled, where your important financial documents are stored, and the details regarding your assets, your debts, and your retirement benefits.
  • Pay thoughtful attention particularly to your retirement plans. A divorce can effect your retirement savings, military retirement payments, corporate pensions, and Social Security entitlements.
  • If the final divorce settlement lets you, close, split, or personally refinance mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans. Your own credit score shouldn’t suffer simply because your former spouse makes late payments or no payments at all.
  • A divorcing parent may be ordered by the court to pay child support. Establishing a life insurance policy can guarantee those payments are made if the non-custodial, support-paying parent dies while the child support order is in effect.
  • Keep on top of your own financial situation, because expenses really do rise when you are on your own. Two may not be able to live quite as cheaply as one, but the reality is that the single life really does cost more.

Bring your beneficiary designations up to date and ask your Long Beach divorce attorney about the changes you’ll need to make to your will and other legal documents after a divorce. California law does not require you to hire an attorney to handle your divorce, but an experienced California divorce lawyer can help you understand your rights in a divorce and provide the legal guidance you need – right from the start.

Is Tax Time Also Time For Divorce?

Posted on: March 7, 2016 by in Uncategorized
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August, as you know, is the season for buying back-to-school supplies, October is the time to buy Halloween candy, and November is the month when we buy the most turkeys. The ancient wisdom of the Book of Ecclesiastes says that, “To everything there is a season.” For many people who are seeking to dissolve their marriages, the divorce season coincides with tax season – January through April. With the holidays behind us and the expectation of cash back from the IRS, thousands choose tax season as the time to make the transition and to file for divorce. If you are counting on your tax refund to pay for your divorce, speak as quickly as possible with a good divorce lawyer, and in southern California, with an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney. You simply cannot go into the divorce process alone and without sound, reliable legal advice.

If you choose to divorce during the tax season or at any other time of the year, it is vital for you to understand fully that a divorce often can mean some quite substantial changes in at least one spouse’s income, finances, and lifestyle, and you must be fully prepared to accept and deal with those changes and challenges. If the financial side of your divorce is not properly managed by an experienced and trustworthy divorce lawyer, you could be heading directly into a financial disaster. Adequate financial preparation for a divorce begins by comprehensively reassessing all of your finances and by speaking with an experienced divorce attorney regarding your legal fees and the other costs that are associated with a divorce. When a divorce becomes inevitable in your own marriage, you should take some pro-active measures to protect yourself and your finances. Consider these suggestions:

  • Cancel all joint credit cards. This keeps a negligent or vindictive spouse from creating debts that could later become your obligations.
  • Create a budget and closely watch your spending.
  • Change the beneficiary on your accounts if the beneficiary is your spouse.
  • Safeguard your share of any joint bank accounts. Withdraw half of the balance and set up a new individual account in your own name at a different bank. Notify your spouse about the withdrawal in writing, and make and keep a copy of that notification letter.
  • Examine your life insurance policy to see what changes will be required.
  • Reevaluate your financial, estate, and retirement plans.

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EXACTLY WHAT WILL A DIVORCE COST?

The exact cost of a divorce will be different in every state and region and frankly in every case. That cost will depend on how complicated the divorce is going to be and on how much cooperation can be achieved between the divorcing spouses. Many divorce attorneys can offer you a quite reasonable payment plan. Under the California Family Code, theoretically no one is supposed to be at a disadvantage in a California divorce simply because of an income disparity. In some cases, you may even be able to have your attorney’s fees paid by your divorcing spouse as part of your divorce verdict or settlement. If you divorce in southern California, an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney can tell you more about how attorney’s fees might be determined in your own divorce.

What a divorce attorney will need in terms of payment will also depend on the precise type and amount of legal services provided by the attorney. The more issues that are in dispute, the more a divorce will cost. If you and your spouse can settle your disputes independently, you can significantly lower the final price of a divorce. These are the matters that are usually disputed and that will require resolution in a typical divorce:

  • the division of property, assets, and debts
  • child custody, support, and visitation
  • alimony (“spousal support”)
  • attorney’s fees and other claims for reimbursement
  • claims for breach of fiduciary duty

You’re paying for the help, so it’s important to take full advantage of the legal advice, insights, experience, representation, and resources that a seasoned divorce attorney can provide. If you intend to pay your divorce attorney with your income tax refund this tax season, understand that criminals are working hard in the state of California to steal tax refunds. “The identity theft with the tax returns has become a cottage industry,” one tax lawyer told CBS. The Internal Revenue Service uses identity theft screening filters to spot phony tax returns, but the IRS also advises that you should never carry your Social Security number with you and that you should protect any documents, papers, or files that include your Social Security number. The IRS never contacts taxpayers by telephone, so never give information over the phone to anyone who claims to be calling from the Internal Revenue Service. Just hang up.

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WHAT’S REQUIRED IN A CALIFORNIA DIVORCE?

Divorce in the state of California is now “no-fault” divorce. No one any longer has to prove that anyone else is adulterous or is mentally disabled, for example, and either partner may make the initial filing for the divorce. The technical requirements for a divorce in California are that at least one spouse must reside in the state for at least six months and in the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months. A divorce in the state of California takes at least six months to become final. Any property that was acquired during the course of the marriage will be divided by the court unless the divorcing spouses can arrive at their own agreement regarding the division of marital property. Property division may sound easy, but determining which spouse actually owns what can be quite tricky, especially if a divorce becomes acrimonious or if the property and assets that must be divided are extensive.

Marital property typically includes much more than simply your home, cars, and bank accounts. It can also include real estate holdings, equity and bond holdings, works of art, and the pets. One issue that can substantially muddle a divorce proceeding is the division of retirement plans. A spouse may have a claim to pensions, IRAs, 401Ks, and 403Bs. If you divorce, you must do everything that you can to protect your retirement savings. Discuss your retirement savings and any other property concerns – like your pets – with your divorce attorney early in the process.

The courts in California frequently order spousal support – usually known as “alimony” – to be paid by one ex to the other. When one spouse has maintained the home or has only worked sporadically or part-time in order to raise children or to support the other spouse’s career, that spouse is entitled by law to seek spousal support from the full-time, income-earning partner. The alimony sum that a California court eventually orders will hinge to a great extent on each partner’s personal circumstances and current income. If the divorcing spouses can agree on an alimony arrangement, the court will almost always approve that agreement. When there’s a dispute regarding alimony, the court will make the final decision.

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WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?

Nothing, of course, is a higher priority than your children and their future, and the courts in California will always put a child’s best interests first. Every child custody case – and every child – is important and unique. When divorcing spouses are also parents, the courts in California begin with the presumption that joint custody is preferable, but even if eventually only one parent is granted custody, the other parent will almost always be allowed generous visitation privileges. The non-custodial parent will usually be ordered to pay child support to the custodial parent to help cover the costs of a child’s clothing, schooling, food, housing, healthcare, and other basic needs.

Typically, and with only rare exceptions, child support payments in California continue until a child’s 18th birthday. The courts in California adhere strictly to legally-specified guidelines when they decide on child support amounts, and the state aggressively pursues parents who fail to meet their child support obligations. When your life circumstances or your ex-spouse’s life circumstances change as the years go by, you or your ex may petition the court to modify the custody, visitation, and support orders as needed. Your divorce attorney can handle those modification requests on your behalf and represent your interests if your ex challenges any of your modification requests in the future.

When you seek a divorce in the state of California, you must have the advice and services of a trustworthy divorce lawyer who will see to it that you are treated right. For the personal and specific legal help and advocacy that you’ll require in a California divorce, speak to an experienced Long Beach divorce attorney. Tax season is when many divorce, but for you, the best time to divorce is when you are fully financially and emotionally ready to divorce. Then, you’ll need an attorney who is sensitive to not only your financial circumstances but also to your emotional concerns. An experienced and trustworthy Long Beach divorce attorney can help. If you are divorcing in the Long Beach area or anywhere in southern California, when you are ready to divorce – whether it’s tax season or any other season – make the call promptly.

Served with Divorce Papers? How to Respond

Posted on: November 13, 2015 by in Uncategorized
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If your spouse has served you with divorce summons, then you are now the respondent in a divorce case. Go through the papers that you have received. Most likely, you will receive a Petition, and a divorce Summons.

The Petition will inform you about what your spouse, or domestic partner, wants. The Summons will inform you about your rights during the divorce process. In the summons, you will also be prevented from moving out of the state with your children. It’s important to go through these documents carefully. Once you receive the summons, it is also important to speak to a family lawyer in Los Angeles who can explain the contents of the documents, and also advise you about what to do next.

Remember, there are several options open to you. If you choose to do nothing, it means that you are giving up your right to participate in the case. If you already have a pre-existing notarized agreement with your spouse, in which you decide that you want to end the marriage, and have decided on other important aspects, like child custody, child support, alimony, division of assets and other things, you also don’t have to do anything.

You can also choose to file a response with the court. If you have reached an agreement with your spouse on matters of child custody, support and alimony, you are now in an uncontested divorce. If you have not reached an agreement with your spouse on these matters, you are in a contested divorce.

Get in touch with a family lawyer in Los Angeles to learn more about how to respond when you’re served with divorce papers. It’s important for you to protect your rights as soon as divorce proceedings are initiated, especially when it comes to child custody, and alimony.