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With all of the wrangling between parents that sometimes happens in family law cases, it can be tough at moments to remember that child support is intended to provide for a couple’s children rather than to assess blame between the parents. Generally, parents are expected to provide basic support for their children until each child reaches the age of 18. That obligation may very well stand after one or both parents dies, as California’s Fifth District Court of Appeals recently explained.

beauty-is-temporary-1446186-mMother and Father were never married but had a son in 2006. Two years later, a court granted full custody over the boy to Mother and ordered Father to pay $240 in monthly child support. The court also ordered the parents to split all of Son’s unreimbursed medical costs. Less than a year later, Father sought to have the child support payments modified based on a change in circumstances. He had reached the fourth and final stage of a graduated parenting and visitation plan and was also seeking more unsupervised time with the child.

Father later refiled, asking the court to terminate his child support obligation and to instead order Mother to pay child support to Father. He said he had no income at the time, while Mother was bringing in $8,000 per month. The litigation was extended several times, during which Husband’s child support obligation was temporarily reduced to zero, and Mother eventually died due to illness. Following Mother’s death, Father added the trustee for a trust established to hold Mother’s assets as a defendant in the child support case. The trial court denied his request, however, that it retroactively order Mother to pay child support via funds in the trust.

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State law generally requires spouses seeking a divorce in California to provide each other with a declaration detailing their assets and liabilities. This allows each spouse to have a clear financial picture before the divorce is granted, and helps a court – or a mediator – determine whether (and how much) spousal and child support should be awarded.

wedding-rings-1426580-mAs divorce lawyers, we strive to help clients resolve issues related to a divorce amicably and without long, drawn-out legal battles whenever possible. That raises the question:  what if the spouses reach an agreement before they exchange the necessary declarations? California’s Fifth District Court of Appeals took on this issue in a recent decision.

Husband and Wife separated in March 2007, after roughly 22 years of marriage. Before filing a petition for dissolution of the marriage, the couple executed an agreement by which Husband pledged to buy out Wife’s one-half interest in the home that they owned together. They assumed that the house was worth $600,000 at the time, and Husband agreed to pay Wife $300,000 for her share of the property. He paid $197,000 up front, owing Wife an additional $103,000.

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United States Tax Court denies petitioner’s claim for dependency exemption. In Allred vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, TC Memo 2014-54, docket number 27624-11, the United States Tax Court ruled that petitioner failed to attach required documentation to his 2009 tax return. Petitioner did not attach Form 8332, Release of Claim to Exemption for Child of Divorce or Separated Parents to his 2009 return. Instead, petitioner attached the first and last pages of the divorce decree and the 10th page, the page that addressed the dependency exemption. None of these pages contained the mother’s signature or her Social Security number. A full copy of petitioner’s 2009 tax return was provided during Internal Revenue Service examination. The divorce decree did not contain the signature of mother, only that of the parties attorneys and the judge. The United States Tax Court ruled that the signature of the parent releasing the claim as well as that parent’s Social Security number is an absolute requirement. Use of Form 8332 is not absolutely mandatory but in order to claim the exemption documents must be attached to the tax return that were executed for the sole purpose of serving as a written declaration under §152.

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Empty NestIn our last blog, we discussed a New Jersey teenager who tried to sue her parents for child support. In applying California law to a hypothetical case, we noted that California considers a child emancipated at the later of age 18 or high-school graduation for matters concerning child support. These cases rule on that critical period in life when individuals are preparing to leave home and become adults but are still teenagers.

California emancipation laws also apply to child custody orders. A recent unpublished opinion by 6th appellate district, Williams v. Cavers, delves into the issues of child custody when a child has reached the age of 18.

It should be noted that Williams v. Cavers is a 8.1115 opinion. Under California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), an court opinion that is available to the public but is not certified for publication may not be cited in court or used for precedential value. Nonetheless, the case provides some insight into how appellate courts in California handle child custody. Continue reading

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Scales of JusticeUnless you live under a rock, you have probably heard of the teenager in New Jersey who attempted to sue her parents for support and college tuition. Some speculators have called this a potential precedent changing case.

To lay out the case, the 18 year old teenager moved out of her parents’ home last fall due to a family dispute. Her parents stopped paying her private high school tuition and may withhold her college funds. The private school has allowed her to stay enrolled, but the spring bill remains unresolved. She brought a lawsuit against her parents requesting living expenses, health care coverage, private school costs, college tuition and expenses, and legal fees.

According to court documents, her parents claim that she disobeyed their house rules, came home drunk, violated curfew, and disrespected them. They blamed her behavior on a new boyfriend, and, after being suspended for cutting school to hang out with this boyfriend, they refused to let her continue to see the boyfriend. The teenager moved out. The parents argue that she emancipated herself, and they are no longer required to support her. Continue reading

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Wedding Rings

Photo: Wedding Rings by alisonjoy —

In a divorce settlement, the classification of a spouse can affect the rights of all parties involved; especially in property division. Most people are unaware that California has different spousal classifications or, even more surprising, are unaware of their own spousal classification.

A common spouse classification in California courts is the putative spouse. California will consider an individual a putative spouse when a marriage has been invalidated and one party reasonably believed the marriage existed. A marriage can invalid for several reasons like bigamy where one party enters into a marriage without dissolving a prior marriage. The classification was created out of fairness to protect the rights of an individual who reasonably believed that their marriage was valid.

A putative spouse has all the rights that a normal spouse would have. There are California cases where the outcome of the divorce settlement depended on the classification of one party as a putative spouse. When dissolving a marriage, it is recommended you talk to an experienced family law attorney who will help you protect your rights. Continue reading