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Redwood City Family Law Blog

Purchasing the family home in a divorce

Couples in California who are getting a divorce and who own a home will have to decide how they should handle the home in the divorce. For divorcing spouses who want to purchase the home, there are some factors they should consider first.

It is important to know how much equity is in the home, or the net value amount of the home minus any encumbrances or liens. Typical valuation methods can include getting an appraisal conducted by a professional appraiser, obtaining a broker price opinion, having a comparative market analysis completed or using a property tax assessment. Once an accurate value has been obtained, mortgage balances, equity lines of credit and any other types of liens should be subtracted from that value.

Couples more likely to divorce if husband earns less than wife

It's 2019, and nearly 40% of married women earn more than their husbands do, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unfortunately, research shows that this financial situation puts a strain on many heterosexual marriages and pushes some couples in California and elsewhere to file for divorce.

A 2016 study by a Harvard University professor found that straight couples are 33% more likely to divorce if the husband doesn't have a full-time job. Meanwhile, a 2017 Pew Research Center report found that men continue to be the primary breadwinners in around two-thirds of marriages. Further, approximately 40% of Americans think it's very important for men to earn income for their children while only 25% think it's very important for women to bring in money to support their kids. Pew researchers also found that 75% of Americans believe raising children is harder now that more women have found employment outside the home.

Community property laws protect stay-at-home moms

Women who have sacrificed their careers to raise families are often at a disadvantage when they divorce, but they are better protected in states like California that have community property laws. While most states require marital property to be divided equitably, it must be divided equally in states with community property laws. This subtle distinction can be crucial in divorce cases involving stay-at-home moms because what is equitable in these situations is open to interpretation.

This kind of situation is quite common as one in four American mothers still choose to stay home and raise their children rather than pursuing careers. This choice can have a profound effect when mothers divorce after decades of marriage as opportunities are often limited for those who venture out into the workforce later in life. This means that the outcome of property division and spousal support negotiations becomes far more significant.

Certain behaviors can harm a marriage over time

Actions such as stonewalling, avoiding conflict or invalidating a partner's feelings can often lead to divorce, according to relationship experts. However, many spouses in California do not realize that they are engaging in these behaviors that could destroy a marriage.

Stonewalling happens when one partner refuses to discuss an issue. It might be because the person is overwhelmed with emotion, but the longterm effect remains harmful. Conflict avoidance could seem like a positive thing, but it means couples will never work out their differences. Invalidating a partner's feelings can refer to a series of small but consistent comments, such as contradicting a partner who feels the temperature is too warm or too cold. All of these are problems that can breed resentment and harm a relationship.

What to do after a divorce

California spouses who are going through a divorce may be relieved when the process is over. However, they should be aware that there are certain actions they will have to take after the divorce to ensure that everything is in order so that they will be able to get on with their new lives as unmarried individuals.

One of the first tasks is to split all of the joint accounts. It may be necessary to open new individual accounts to hold one's share. A new divorcee should also update the account titles for all non-retirement assets so that they are under only their name; this applies to brokerage accounts, bank accounts and real estate.

Growing trend of joint custody

If California fathers obtained a divorce in the 20th century and sought to share child custody after their divorce, it is highly likely that they were disappointed. During that time, the family courts tended to side with mothers and would award them full child custody. However, during the last 30 years, there has been a significant change in how family courts are handling child custody: They have been increasingly pushing for mutual agreements that favor shared custody.

One of the two types of child custody is legal custody, which gives parents complete autonomy regarding the decisions made about their children's religion, healthcare, education and any other part of their general well-being. The other type of child custody is residential or physical custody, which is primarily refers to where the children reside at night.

Best practices for communicating and coparenting after divorce

Coparenting is a difficult but necessary endeavor for most divorced parents in California. Unless abuse is an issue, it's usually accepted that it's in the child's best interests to see both parents. Parents should not interfere with this relationship. Furthermore, a child should feel comfortable talking about their time at the other parent's house.

It's also important to maintain consistent expectations across households. Even if parents have different coparenting approaches, this may be more realistic than trying to have matching rules. If necessary, parents can use online tools to help them with communication. These tools record all exchanges in case they need to go to mediation later.

Determining whether assuming a loan is a good idea

A California resident who has won the family home in a divorce settlement may be considering their options when it comes to handling the mortgage. Common options include both spouses continuing to pay on a joint mortgage, one spouse refinancing the mortgage in their name or one spouse assuming the loan. The first two options are pretty straightforward. However, when it comes to the third option, a lot of misconceptions need to cleared up prior to proceeding.

When a spouse assumes a loan, they are basically removing the other spouse from the loan and naming themselves as the only borrower. They're doing this without needing to refinance the existing loan. There are some potential benefits to doing this. For example, the joint loan may have favorable terms, such as a low interest rate. Assuming a loan allows an individual to maintain those favorable rates. In some instances, a spouse can assume a loan for less than $1,000 in fees.

Spouses can get crafty with pre-divorce accounting

Is your spouse overpaying taxes? Putting money in a brokerage account but not withdrawing it? Transferring money across different checking accounts?

This behavior might be suspicious, and those suspicions might be that your spouse is making plans for a divorce.

Cryptocurrency assets present challenges in divorce

Some California spouses who are going through a divorce may attempt to hide cryptocurrency assets. This is a growing issue as cryptocurrency becomes more popular. However, it is still far enough out of the mainstream that few people have experience dealing with it as an asset in divorces. Even when a partner is forthcoming about cryptocurrency assets, another problem that could arise is getting an accurate valuation. This is because cryptocurrency value can fluctuate a great deal.

One financial professional says that he identified a $100,000 cryptocurrency investment that a husband tried to hide by studying bank statements. However, it can be much more difficult to find cryptocurrency that is not bought on an exchange. If it is directly purchased and moved offline, an auditor might not find it at all.


The Law Offices of Oliver R. Gutierrez
600 Allerton St., Suite 200
Redwood City, CA 94063

Phone: 650-399-0962
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