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Orange County Family Law Blog

Personal data impacts divorce and family law issues

Identity theft is common these days and can ruin a person's finances, reputation and life. The risks brought by identity theft are not the only reasons why California spouses should protect their personal data. Digital information should be protected from spouses, especially in the event of a divorce and other family law issues, such as child custody and child support disputes.

A new study from McAfee reported troubling results regarding divorcing spouses and digital information. According to the study, 96 percent of adults trust their partners with intimate photos, passwords and other personal information they have shared on mobile devices. Of this, only 32 percent of participants have asked their former spouses to delete that personal data after separating. Also, former spouses occasionally cyber stalk or log onto their ex's social media account if passwords remain unchanged. One in five said they have opened their spouse's Facebook account, and 30 percent admitted that they viewed their current partner's ex on social media.

Trendy prenuptial agreement for social media use

For more and more Americans, Californians included, prenuptial agreements are just part of the process of getting married. This is largely because people are aware that half of all marriages fail and people who did not protect themselves often said they wish they had. The purpose of a prenuptial agreement is to preserve an individual's wealth, property rights and assets in case marriage does not work out. It is not, as many people believe, a lack of commitment to a marriage, only the sober realization that divorce is always a possibility.

Some prenups are now including social networking clauses or elements that address the common use of such social media sites and applications as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One recent study found that married couples' use of social media can cause strains in a relationship that are severe enough to lead to divorce. One problem is that unhappy spouses can more easily reconnect with old flames online now. Rekindled cyber romances can torpedo real ongoing relationships if the former partners reunite in person.

When debts can become a problem in divorce

California couples who are ending marriages are often concerned about whether they will take away their fair share of marital assets. But just as important as assets is something that can make property division more complicated, debt.

Division of debt in divorce is different from the division of assets because creditors do not automatically recognize a couple's divorce decree. For example, if both spouses share a credit card account, then both of them can be responsible for paying any debts accrued on the credit card. Unfortunately, failing to consider marital debts before and during property division can have long-term effects on a spouse's credit rating and ability to get credit in the future, something that may be critical in the months and years following a divorce.

Valid prenuptial agreement are harder than many think

Over the last few decades, large numbers of celebrities have been creating prenuptial agreements to financially protect themselves in the event of divorce. Seeing this, many Californians have drafted their own prenups the last few years. Anyone who signs a prenup should note, however, that marital contracts, including prenuptial agreements, are not necessarily air tight and often can be challenged and even declared invalid during divorce proceedings.

A prenuptial agreement can be nullified if the contract is signed under duress or through fraud. For that reason, prenuptial agreements signed a day before a wedding are often considered invalid, as is a prenuptial agreement that fails to fully disclose all assets and properties.

Cohabitation contracts now a family law option in California

A bride walking down the aisle to join her soon-to-be husband at the altar is a romantic vision that many Californians have. For some individuals, though, getting married nowadays is far less attractive because of the divorce rate and the financial challenges of having a child. For these reasons, more and more people are deciding to live together without getting married.

The Census Bureau estimates that more than eight million people were cohabiting in the United States in 2013. This figure is a significant increase over the five million unmarried couples in 2006. In one case, a woman and her boyfriend had chosen to cohabit instead of marry. The couple has a child together and started to cohabit three years ago. Before they did, however, the woman demanded that they sign a cohabitation agreement that clearly laid out how the couple would divide household expenses and what would happen to their house if the relationship ends -- she keeps it, and he must move out in two weeks.

How courts determine child custody and visitation rights

Many California parents become understandably anxious if they cannot spend time with their children whenever they want. Unfortunately, this is often the case when parents divorce. The noncustodial parent often has only limited visitation rights because at some point a judge determined that the other parent should be responsible for the child on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, not all child custody issues are always clear-cut.

In determining child custody, all state courts, including those in California, use the best interests of the child as the basis of their child-custody decisions. This standard was established to provide some stability during an often-tumultuous time and to prevent a child from being forced out of one home to relocate to the home of the other parent once the divorce has been finalized.

How spouses can prepare for a smoother and quicker divorce

Many Californians are familiar with the challenges that come as a marriage is ending. Beyond the conflicts and anxieties is the need to make decisions about child custody, child support, spousal support and property division. For some spouses, this array of decisions leads them to put off divorce plans until just the right time and just the right circumstances.

Waiting for the right time to file for divorce, however, will make no difference if the spouse who is ending the marriage is not prepared for the process ahead. Given the amount of time, money and stress associated with a divorce, however, becoming prepared for the divorce is crucial.

Implications of child support modification can be serious

California is a progressive state when it comes to child support issues. Child support modification can be obtained by petitioning family court and is usually obtained by a custodial parent whenever necessary and can include an increase in child support, a decrease in the amount or elimination of existing child support.

A precondition of child support modification is, however, an alteration or modification in circumstances. Only a significant change can enable a parent to demand a boost or a reduction in the existing child support. Change in this case legally means a permanent change that is substantial in nature. Being temporarily laid off from a job, for instance, is not necessarily deemed permanent for the purposes of modification.

Prenuptial agreement -- an instrument for ensuring marital bliss

California has one of the highest divorce rates in the country so the trend toward prenuptial agreements can be relevant to Orange County residents. An increasing number of couples are drawing up a prenuptial before marriage to ensure the bliss of marriage is not clouded by minor to major differences in opinion. A prenuptial agreement is a contract drafted and signed before marriage, which helps protect the marrying couple's individual rights. Such an agreement can be essential in solving issues within the marriage as well as in scenarios were the couple to separate.

Ideally, before a prenuptial agreement is drafted, couples should propose the subjects for the agreement. A draft provides a basis for the couple to contemplate the issues and discuss what needs to be included in the final agreement. Experts believe that a prenuptial agreement is ideally drafted right after engagement and in plenty of time before the marriage ceremony. Almost everything that a couple comes up with can be part of the agreement, as long as both the parties are in agreement. A prenuptial agreement can be basic or highly creative -- it's up to the couple.

Mistakes that affect California parents' ability to co-parent

Every child in Orange County, California, deserves a happy family. However, in some situations, divorce changes the family dynamic and that happy family becomes more difficult to achieve. For some children, divorce can seem like an infection that can kill the love and care their parents provide together. Although young children are not mature enough to understand the situation and what their parents are going through, it is the responsibility of both parents to limit the impact of separation on their children.

Limiting such impact is what child custody decisions are all about. Parents may think that the child custody process is all about determining who is the more suitable and fit spouse to parent the child. However, child custody should actually focus on the best interests of the child and it really does not end when the divorce is finalized because both parents should raise their children together as co-parents. Co-parenting is usually challenging for divorced parents and sometimes parents commit mistakes that can result in conflict and stress.

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