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32 Affordable Summer Activities You Can Do With Your Kids

A father and son fly a kite together

Summer is just around the corner, and that means barbecues, beach days, and warm patio nights ahead. It also means your kids are going to have plenty of free time on their hands — and it’s up to you to fill that time. While it might be tempting to go way over budget signing them up for every camp, lesson, and excursion available, keeping your kids active and entertained over the summer doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

After all, the average day camp charges $304 per week, a sum that compounds quickly if you enroll for multiple weeks or have more than one child. For many single parents, it’s a challenging burden to take on. Luckily, all it takes is a little creativity and a lot of love and attention to make this summer a memorable one without breaking the bank.

Check out the below list of free and low-cost activities you can do with your kids this summer!

When You Want to Keep Things Chill

  1. Pack up your gear and plenty of snacks and spend a day at the beach — then splurge on some ice cream at the end of the day.
  2. Go for a picnic, and get your kids to help with planning and preparing the menu.
  3. Go bird watching.
  4. Learn how to make your own ice cream sandwiches (and then eat them, of course!).
  5. Attend a free outdoor play or concert.
  6. Spend an afternoon at a farmers market.
  7. Host your own movie night at home, complete with freshly popped popcorn, DIY movie tickets, and a red carpet.
  8. Schedule a weekly board game night. Have one family member pick a new game each week they have to teach the others how to play.

When It’s Time to Get Active

  1. Go swimming at a free outdoor pool — or a clean lake if there’s one nearby.
  2. Research the best trails in your area and go for a long hike.
  3. Sign up for a beginner lesson at the nearest rock climbing gym, for both you and your kids.
  4. Go for a bike ride.
  5. Play Frisbee.
  6. Go canoeing or kayaking.
  7. Attend a free yoga class in the park or at a local studio.
  8. Play tennis outside.

Keep Them Learning, All Summer Long

  1. Attend a free day at a museum, art gallery, or science center near you.
  2. Find a book on foraging at the local library and go on a discovery walk in the woods.
  3. Since you’re there already, spend a day at the library! Check out a few of our recommendations for single parents.
  4. Take a tour of a local farm.
  5. Visit a wildlife sanctuary.
  6. Volunteer with an organization that supports a worthwhile cause, like a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  7. Find free workshops at your local art gallery and learn to sculpt, paint, or draw.
  8. Plan a camping trip together, and see how resourceful you can be.

Just Plain Fun

  1. Throw a water balloon party with all the neighborhood kids.
  2. Build your own kites and learn how to fly them!
  3. Host a cookie swap, and get each of your kids to make their own batch.
  4. Build a fort or tree house in the backyard.
  5. Make a blanket fort in the house.
  6. Get a head start on Halloween this year by having your kids start making their own costumes early. Combine old clothes and cheap finds from the local Salvation Army or Goodwill.
  7. Host a tea party at home, complete with fancy dishes and freshly baked goodies.
  8. Drive out of the city at night and do some stargazing.

Money Doesn’t Buy Great Memories

When looking back on their summer days with you, your kids won’t remember how much money you spent. They’ll remember the experiences you shared together, the new things they learned, and the adventures they had — so get creative, and have fun! If you enjoyed these suggestions, the Father’s Rights blog offers lots of tips and advice for how to make life work as a single parent.

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How to Balance Your Career and Children As a Single Father

How to Balance Your Career and Children As a Single FatherYou don’t need to be told that being a working parent is tough. With so many competing responsibilities vying for your energy and attention, finding any sort of work-life balance can seem impossible — and all the more so if you’re a single dad. However, maintaining both a fulfilling career and an enriching family life can be done, whether you have a partner or not.

Successfully balancing your career and children will take some careful assessment and planning. It will require setting boundaries, schedules, and priorities, both at home and at the office, and sticking to them as often as possible. It will also require forgiving yourself for those many times when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Here are some effective ways to ensure your career, family, and personal well-being all get the attention they deserve.

Build (and Actually Use) a Support Network

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” No matter where you live, you need a network of people you can rely on for support and, perhaps more importantly, you need to actually use it. Being a single parent can be isolating, exhausting, and frightening at times, with worries about the future always at the back of your mind. Knowing you have friends and family members to talk to, especially if they’re people who also understand the challenges of parenthood, can go a long way toward banishing that sense of isolation.

Your support network will also function as your backup child-rearing team. It should be comprised of people you can reach out to when you need a babysitter, assistance around the house, or anything else. It can be difficult to ask for help, but remember that your loved ones likely want to provide for you.

After all, consider a time when someone you loved needed you. Did you consider it a burden — or an honor — to provide that support to them?

Ask for a Flexible Work Schedule

It’s important you and your employer are on the same page, and that begins with letting them know you’re a single parent. Consider scheduling a meeting with your supervisor. Come prepared to not only discuss your needs and scheduling issues, but to also offer concrete solutions that prove you’re willing to be flexible in turn.

For example, If you need to leave early some days, you could offer to start work earlier than usual those days or work from home during off hours to make up the lost time. A flexible work schedule could also include options like working part-time or working longer shifts but fewer days during the workweek.

A reasonable employer should be open to discussion, and an increasing numbers of companies are offering flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to keep your family life running smoothly.

Keep Yourself on Your Priority List

Self-care might be a huge buzzword right now, but don’t let that detract from its critical importance in your life. For the sake of your mental and physical health, and that of your family, you simply can’t pour from an empty cup. If you don’t take time for yourself to rest and recharge, you won’t be able to devote your full energy — or your best self — to work or parenting.

Everyone’s needs are different, so it’s important to figure out what will help you recharge. Do you play a sport or love hitting the gym? Do you crave social outings with friends or love to keep your mind engaged with art, literature, and film? Give yourself permission to do things that bring you joy. Allow yourself time to actually rest, too. This means time when you’re not checking work emails, planning the kids’ meals, or doing chores around the house. Not only will this make you more present when you are taking care of responsibilities, but it will set an example for your kids that they should be treating themselves with the same level of respect — not putting themselves at the bottom of their own priority lists.

Determine Your Non-Negotiables

This is a part of self-care, but it also applies to your entire working and family life. Ask yourself: What absolutely has to be done this week? What can wait? Non-negotiables might include taking your kids to lessons or practice, ensuring there’s always home-cooked food in the fridge, or allotting one day per week to doing something fun together as a family. You might also include time for your morning workout or meditation, or joining your coworkers for drinks after work every couple of weeks.

Once you know what is essential for your family to function well, your performance at work to remain solid, and your well-being to stay intact, it will be much easier to say no to the things that run counter to those priorities.   

Protect Your Rights With a Family Lawyer

Making sure you have access to your children is the foundation on which you will build these other aspects of your life. Seek out the help of a family lawyer today to maintain custody of your

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Creating a Parenting Plan When You’re Deployed

Military father holds his young daughter

It’s never easy to leave your child for a length of time, but if you must depart because of military deployment, you face a unique set of challenges. You need to be prepared for every outcome — and that means creating a parenting plan.

A parenting plan is a comprehensive and fair document outlining the future care of your child. Crafting this plan requires a thorough understanding of the state-specific laws that govern deployment and custody (especially in the case of single parents), so you’ll want to seek help from a lawyer. If you are a single parent, you will need a lawyer’s help because, according to the Department of Defense, single parents cannot enlist in the Armed Forces. In order to enlist, you’ll need to transfer your custody rights to another person.

This post will walk you through the process of transferring custody and outline the most important things to consider when crafting a parenting plan. This can help prepare you and your child for your departure as thoroughly as possible.

How Transferring Custody Works

Transferring custody isn’t a decision to take lightly, and will require the help of a lawyer who is well-versed in state laws regarding custody. Enlisting in the Armed Forces as a single parent requires you to transfer custody to another person. You might choose your co-parent, your child’s grandparent, or another close friend or relative. You should note that the two latter options may require your ex-spouse’s consent. This transferring of custody will be a permanent arrangement that will require further legal action upon your return home if you wish to revert or change this decision.

There is a chance that complications can arise during the process of restoring custody. The new custodial parent might choose to defend their new status, or your child might prefer to remain with their guardian. The court might also grant joint custody to the other party, even if you previously had sole custody of your child.

Once you have transferred custody, the next step is to outline everything that your child’s new custodial parent will need to know. This step is where a parenting plan comes into play.

What to Include in Your Plan

Your parenting plan should cover everything necessary for your child’s well-being. The plan includes practical information (like their medications, allergies, and food preferences), as well as a more detailed description of their weekly routines, chores, spending allowances, leisure activities, and house rules. This parenting plan should be accompanied by an outline of your expectations for child care — do they need babysitting or do they attend daycare? Also included, is expectations for transportation to and from their various activities and appointments.

You’ll also want to include the contact information for their friends and family members, school, tutors, babysitter, and health care providers in this plan, along with any important legal documents like their birth certificate, health card, a current copy of your will, and life insurance details.

It’s also up to your discretion when and how you share these details with your child and in accordance with what you believe is age-appropriate. By reassuring them that their routines will still be in place and by preparing them for any disruptions, this guidance can go a long way toward helping them establish a sense of comfort and security.

Other Things to Consider

When and how you explain your deployment to your child may also impact their feelings about the situation. It is advised that you tell them sooner rather than later but use your best judgment. If you wait until the last possible moment, it may seem like you were hiding this information from your child, which could breed distrust and fear. You and your former spouse should sit down together with your child in a comfortable setting and be as open and honest as is appropriate for your child’s age. Reassure them of your love for them as often as you can, and make sure they know they’ll be in a safe and loving home even with you gone.

Some details might be better to share with your child over others. For very young children, explaining that you’re going on a long trip can be enough, but older children may expect a more concrete timeline or explanation. In either case, your child may find solace in learning where in the world you’re going and by seeing it on a map. Focus on how you’ll be helping people — will you be improving infrastructure, training new police officers, or building schools and hospitals? Or will you be providing humanitarian aid to people lacking sanitation, food, and water?

Determining how you’ll stay in touch may also help to alleviate any anxiety your child is having about your departure. Whether you want to set a schedule for video calls, emails, or letters is up to you; and sticking to that plan might greatly benefit your child’s mental state. Routines matter and they create the security and stability your child may feel they are lacking when you’re away.

Plan Ahead

Take the time to speak with a lawyer at Father’s Rights Law Center about how you can prepare for your deployment. The more prepared you are, the easier the transition. And with plenty of open communication and honesty, it is possible to ensure your time away goes smoothly for everyone involved.

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How Can I Protect My Business in a Divorce?

Small business owner works at his desk

Divorces can create an uncertainty about the future, and this includes the future of your business. Your business is an asset, and in a divorce, assets may be split among partners. If you’re considering filing for divorce or are already in the process of a divorce, it’s important you understand how you can protect your business.

The best way to protect your business is through a prenuptial agreement (or “prenup”), which is created and signed before a couple is married. A prenup lets you identify your business as separate property rather than marital property.

Once you’re married, however, things become a bit more complicated — but you still have options. Below we detail some suggested steps you can take to help protect your business in a divorce.

Postnuptial Agreements

The first step is to sign a postnuptial agreement with your partner. A postnuptial agreement (or “postnup”) is a contract signed by a married couple that fully discloses their assets, liabilities, and income. The document also outlines how you and your partner’s assets will be divided in the case of a divorce or legal separation, and defines how much spousal support will be paid if a divorce or legal separation occurs. Any dishonesty in the creation of this document will render the agreement void.

A postnup must also be written down — oral agreements won’t hold up — and notarized. It is also advised that each party seek out legal counsel to ensure their best interests are being met through the postnuptial agreement. Be sure to obtain your own lawyer. Using your spouse’s lawyer to review your postnup could be a conflict of interest.

Both postnups and prenups are valid in the state of California, but they need to meet some factors to be considered valid. To avoid an invalid prenup or postnup, make sure your agreement is fair and clear to both parties involved. Both parties enter into marriage willingly and then create a document that details the option to back out — so there’s less of a chance that the terms of a postnup will be unfair. In contrast, a prenup may have some factors that make it invalid: one partner signed it without full knowledge, was coerced into it, or didn’t have fair legal representation.

There is no guarantee that a postnup will be enforceable, but the below suggestions are some ways to make a fair and defined postnup agreement that identifies your business as a separate asset.

Ways to Solidify That Your Business Is Solely Your Property

1. Validate Your Spouse’s Involvement

If your spouse contributes to the business in any way, including offering advice or brainstorming ideas, it will be harder to prove that they aren’t entitled to a portion of the business. And if they are currently working for you, you’ll need to find a way to let them go if you want to be the sole owner.

The longer your spouse has been involved in the business, and the greater their role, the more they have contributed to its growth — and therefore should be entitled to some of the profits.

If you and your spouse are co-owners, it makes this process more complicated. In this instance, you’ll either have to continue working together — which may not be ideal — or hire a business appraiser to perform a valuation of the company. After the evaluation, you can suggest buying out your spouse’s half of the business.

If mutually agreed upon, you also have the option to sell the business and split the profit.

2. Pay Yourself a Good Salary

You should always pay yourself a good salary if you own or co-own a business. This is something that you should do from the start, and isn’t something that you can start doing if you are thinking about or are in the process of divorce.

If you avoided taking a decent salary to allow more money to be invested in your business, your spouse might be entitled to part of the business. It can be argued that they invested marital earnings into the company, and are therefore entitled to part of the business.

3. Keep Good Financial Records

You can protect your business by showing that it has been solely your responsibility and capital.

If you have borrowed family finances to pay for business expenses, then the court will determine that your spouse has a right to part of the business. But if things remain distinct and separate, it is more likely that the court will be in favor of you solely keeping your business.

4. Use Other Assets to Match the Value

You can offer other assets (such as stocks, vehicles, or house) to match the value of your spouse’s portion of the business and then buy out their portion instead of using cash. Offering assets over cash could be one way to protect your future income while still satisfying the demands of splitting assets in a divorce.

The Sooner You Seek Counsel, the Better

Divorce can be a complicated matter, and both you and your spouse will need a lawyer to navigate the best path moving forward. If you’re considering divorce and are wondering how your business will be affected, you should seek legal counsel from a lawyer at Father’s Rights Law Center. The sooner you take steps toward understanding the potential outcomes, the more knowledgeable you’ll be.

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Navigating Military Divorce in California

Two wedding bands lay in the palm of someone's hand

Going through a divorce can be difficult on its own, but when one of the spouses is in the military, it adds a whole new layer of questions.

Fortunately, there are systems in place to ease the process for military parents going through a divorce. With a little research and some patience, the process can be made as smooth as possible.

So, what do you need to know if you’re going through a military divorce in California? For starters, California is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means there is no guilty party in a separation. The role of the state in your divorce is to help the divorcing spouses reach fair agreements relating to their lives, belongings, and children, so they can both move ahead in their lives.

Once divorce proceedings are initiated and both spouses are aware of the movement, it will take six months to complete the process. This is a mandatory waiting period to protect both spouses.

The military considers divorce a private civil matter — they are, after all, your employer. With that said, there are some specific challenges you may face as a military father. This blog post can help you navigate those challenges, so you can reach the best outcome possible for your family.

Your Rights & Responsibilities

If you’re the one filing for divorce, it’s your responsibility to file in your home state. This means that even if you’re working overseas, you are not subject to their jurisdiction. If you have several legal homes, you can choose where to file. In this post, we’ll focus on California specifically.

If your spouse is the one filing for divorce, it’s important that you get a good understanding of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. This act protects your rights while you’re on active duty. Normally, there’s a time limit required to respond to a divorce filing; but if your spouse files for divorce while you’re overseas, this act can extend the administrative procedures to allow you to answer in a more realistic timeframe.

Your Spouse’s Rights & Responsibility

One of the first things that seems to come up in military divorces is the matter of ID Cards. Here is the general rule: it is your spouse and child(ren)’s right to retain their family member ID cards unless Congress decides to take those cards away. As the military spouse, you may apply for and sponsor your family for these cards — but Congress is the one who gives the ID cards, and they’re the only ones who can take them away.

Usually the nonmilitary spouse will lose their ID card after the divorce is finalized, but some exceptions do apply when it comes to long-term marriages.

If you live on-base, another common subject that separating couples ask about is military family housing. As a military member, you cannot evict your spouse or children from this housing — only the installation commander can do that. You may be placed in barracks while your family stays in the family housing; but, there is usually a 30 day limit for a spouse to stay in military housing without their military spouse.

Finally, your spouse may be entitled to some of your retired pay, medical care, or other benefits. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act allows the court to take care of administering this, so it’s important to be aware of this act as it relates to your situation.

Child Support & Custody

When it comes to child care and custody, remember that divorce is a civil proceeding. That means the standard California laws apply when it comes to custody and child support. You’ll have to negotiate an arrangement with your spouse, which will likely involve legal representation from an attorney. In determining child support, the court will consider your income, your spouse’s income, and additional factors such as time spent with the children.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to your legal aid office if you’re a service member. They’ve seen similar scenarios, and may be able to help put your situation in context. That said, there are limits to their expertise; and it’s always wise to reach out to a professional attorney with expertise in military divorce for more detailed and personalized information. Your attorney can help you assess your family’s unique situation, and advocate on your behalf to the court.

At Father’s Rights, we specialize in helping our clients navigate matters in divorce, child custody, and child support — and we have particular experience with clients in the military. With our expertise and legal counsel, we’ve helped military clients minimize the burden of support during deployment, coordinate parenting plans while they’re on deployment, and facilitate contact with their children; all while taking into account the great service they’re providing for their country.

Contact us today to speak to an experienced attorney about your situation and navigate this process as smoothly as possible.

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4 Books on Single Parenting to Add to Your Reading List

A man lounges on his couch as he reads a book.

Being a single dad can be as tough as it is rewarding. Between balancing parenting and work, planning for the months (and even years) ahead, and simply managing the day-to-day operations of a somewhat smooth household… things can pile up fast.

Sometimes it can help to hear from other dads who have gone through the same thing, who have stories that make you feel a little less alone in raising your kids to thrive in this world.

If you can manage to steal a few moments between parental obligations and other duties, we highly recommend checking out some of our favorite books on single parenting — written specifically for single dads. There are more single dads out there than you’d think (about 2.6 million in fact), and these books feature some refreshing and reassuring viewpoints.

Here are our four favorite books on single parenting for single dads to add to your reading list, all available through Amazon.

1. The Single Father: A Dad’s Guide to Parenting Without a Partner

If you’re looking for an easy place to start, The Single Father combines expert advice, firsthand accounts, and humor so smoothly you’ll forget you’re reading to learn. It contains plenty of content aimed at showing single dads how to help their children, and how to help themselves.

Armin A. Brott writes about how single dads can keep up morale and improve their self esteem when parenting without a partner gets challenging. It covers everything from how to smooth things over with ex-partners, to dating advice for newly single dads — and the whole thing is equal parts hilarious and helpful.

Single dads will appreciate the resources it contains on how to talk to your children about their feelings, and how to talk to them about even the most difficult of subjects, like chores.

The Single Father is a survival-guide-style approach to being a single parent; one that you’ll enjoy when times are good, and feel especially grateful for when conflict arises.

2. The Complete Single Father: Reassuring Answers to Your Most Challenging Situations

The powerhouse team behind The Complete Single Father is made up of Elaine Fantle Shimberg and her son — a single father himself — Michael Shimberg.

You’ll learn how to organize an efficient schedule with your ex, plan healthy meals kids will actually eat, and deal with common childhood illnesses. It also deals with situations where a single dad has been widowed, sensitively touching on how to take care of yourself while also caring for your children.

This mother-son duo incorporate “tales from the trenches” from more than 50 other single dads, giving plenty of material for readers to relate to. It also includes advice from professionals that range from psychologists to teachers and even spiritual leaders. If it takes a village to raise a child, you’ll find a village in this book.

3. Better Dads, Stronger Sons: How Fathers Can Guide Boys to Become Men of Character

Fathers are their sons’ first heroes. As a single dad, it can seem like the weight of your sons’ world is on your shoulders — this next book shows that the weight doesn’t have to feel so heavy.

In Better Dads, Stronger Sons, author Rick Johnson explains practical ways you can be a positive role model for your young sons as they grow.

You’ll learn how to discuss difficult topics like dating and sex, strengthen your understanding of the importance of male bonding and discipline, and gain confidence in your existing skills. This book confronts complex issues and teaches you how to work through them — rather than providing overly simplified solutions that might not get to the heart of what’s really happening with your son.

This book includes a list of 10 mistakes single dads can avoid making, helping you recognize and evade some of the most common pitfalls; all while giving you the skills and mindset you need to focus on the important things.

4. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know

If raising a son alone is difficult, for many single dads, raising a daughter presents whole different sort of challenge. Many people think it can be harder for a father to connect to a daughter, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

Meg Meeker is a pediatrician who specializes in counseling young girls. She wrote Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters to show just how important a daughter’s relationship with her father is. A young woman’s confidence and strength can benefit greatly from a healthy relationship with a father who acts as a positive role model.

This book outlines 10 secrets for every father that will help you build a strong, lasting relationship with your daughter. For single dads, it’s especially useful as a simple guide on how to raise wonderful girls in an increasingly complicated world.

With these books at your disposal, and many other parenting support books out there, you don’t have to feel alone as you navigate the world of single parenting. For more tips and advice on raising children or adjusting to life as a single dad, check out our blog.

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How Much Responsibility Should You Give Your Kids Around the House?

A young boy smiles at the camera as he washes dishes

It’s common for a parent to assign children household chores — but how do you know when your child is old enough to take on a new chore, or how much responsibility they can handle?

These are questions all parents face, and as a single parent, you may feel antsy to get some helping hands around the house. Household chores not only help you share the load of managing the household, but actually provide a lot of character-building opportunities for your kids. Giving your kids chores from a young age, and gradually increasing their responsibilities, is a great way to instill lifelong skills.

Below, we explore some of the top questions parents have when doling out the chore chart.

Is Your Child Old Enough for Chores?

Your child’s readiness for chores depends on their age and level of ability. In general, if a child is old enough to walk and talk, you can introduce them to the idea of chores gently with very simple tasks, such as putting toys away after playtime. While they’ll be too young to fully comprehend the notion of personal responsibility, they can begin to understand that the toys must be put away — and that they should help because they played with them.

As your child gets older, this concept can be expanded so they understand their role in contributing to the function of your family unit. In other words, “everybody helps.”

Remember that your child must be tall and strong enough to perform some chores, and must be mature enough to cook or use cleaning products safely. If your child is too young for some of these “mature tasks,” think of a smaller, related task they can help with — for instance, if your child is too young to help cook dinner, perhaps they can be tasked with setting the table while you cook.

How Much Responsibility Can Your Child Handle?

Gaining a sense of responsibility, teamwork, and commitment are invaluable life skills. A child’s capacity for handling responsibility grows over time, particularly when they are given a few small responsibilities to begin with.

However, between their schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and housework, it also is important that your child is not truly overworked. Pay attention to how well they are dealing with their workload and help them learn to manage their time — always be willing to make adjustments for your child’s wellbeing. You are the parent, and you know your child better than anyone else.

Should You Pay Children an Allowance for Doing Chores?

Not everyone agrees on whether paying children for chores is a good idea. After all, a child is a member of the family, not an employee. The child directly benefits from the chores they do, as well as the results of other family members’ chores. Some say that paying kids for tasks you expect them to do undermines the goal. Some families simply may not be able to afford it, and that’s perfectly okay.

Remember that paying your kids an allowance is entirely your choice as a parent — there’s no definitive rule (even if some people seem passionate about it), so whichever you decide is fine.

If do you choose to give your child an allowance, you may consider withholding some or all of the money when chores are not done on time, or are not done thoroughly. This is a good way to teach your child about work ethic and follow-through.

Make sure your child understands these consequences, and that doing the chores is not optional — whether they receive any money for them or not. Keep in mind that an allowance should be a reward, never a bribe.

How Do You Motivate Children to Do Chores?

Whether or not your child receives an allowance for doing chores, there are times they’ll need some extra motivation. Your kids may resist completing their chores, especially when reading or playing video games sounds much more fun. When this happens, here are a few constructive strategies to try:

  • If possible, set up a “chore time” — a block of time when everyone in the family does their chores simultaneously. This reinforces the idea that it’s a group effort, and can even foster family bonding as everyone puts in the work and gets it done together.
  • Use positive reinforcement. If your child does a task well, praise them for doing a good job. Tell them that when they complete their chores consistently, it demonstrates that they are reliable and responsible. Show that you are proud, and let them take pride in their own good work.
  • When practical, rotate the chore schedule so everyone gets experience doing various household tasks and nobody is stuck doing the same thing all the time. This is a good way to gradually build up your children’s life skills, preparing them to live on their own someday. Everyone should know how to do laundry, wash dishes, and perform other basic life tasks.

Doing chores helps the family in the moment, but also teaches children crucial skills they will use throughout their lives. Determining the best strategies to implement in your home may take some trial and error, but everyone will benefit in the long run. For more tips and advice on raising children or navigating the world of single parenting, check out our blog.

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5 Child Support Basics in California

Money fanned out with a piece of paper that says "child support"

Separating from your spouse is a messy business, but when kids are involved, it’s important to ensure they don’t have to shoulder that mess.

With our extensive experience helping fathers navigate custody situations, we’ve put together a list of some child support basics that can help you wrap your head around the process and prepare. Since the average child support payment is around $430 a month, it’s an expense worth understanding — whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of the payment.

Child support guidelines are determined on a state-by-state basis. Here are some of the child support basics you need to know in California.

1. The Amount is Based On Both Incomes

The formula for determining how much child support you will pay changes depending on which state you’re in. In some states, such as Texas or Alaska, your child support may be based on a percentage of your income. However, California uses an income shares model.

In an income shares model, the court calculates child support by adding up both parents’ monthly incomes (yours and your ex’s), and representing each income as a percentage of the whole. They use another calculation to come up with the anticipated cost of raising your child, and the support amount for each parent. These two support amounts are then offset to establish which parent will pay the other parent.

That means, if you’re a non-custodial parent making 60% of the combined income of you and your ex, your child support payment may be up to 60% of the anticipated costs of raising your child. Every situation will be unique, as the court takes into account additional factors such as the amount of time each parent spends with the children, child support or alimony from previous relationships, and more. An attorney will be able to help you more accurately calculate your expected child support, based on the details of your family.

2. Child Support is Intended to Cover Essentials

The purpose of child support is to ensure that your child’s quality of life stays the same when you separate from your partner. As such, the money the custodial parent receives in child support is intended to cover essentials like food, shelter, and clothing. The court essentially assumes that the custodial parent is using the child support money to cover these basic costs, or investing money in things like a mortgage that provides shelter.

California is one of the states that allows child support “add-ons,” which means a court order can be obtained to cover things like healthcare, medical insurance, or childcare costs if the custodial parent has to work.

3. There’s Plenty That Child Support Doesn’t Cover

While your child may consider piano lessons essential and you may deem private tutoring a necessity, that doesn’t mean the court will agree.

Despite the ubiquity of teams, clubs, and lessons, they are not considered essentials. If you want your child to be involved in enriching, extracurricular activities, the non-custodial parent will likely have to fork over extra money on top of child support to cover them. Other common costs that aren’t covered by child support include daycare or nursery school, school photos and yearbooks, and college funds. In an ideal-world-scenario, you and your ex would negotiate a separate, additional amount to set aside for this.

Although the court might not include “extras” in their divorce decree, it’s still a good idea to have them on the record, to help avoid arguments or messy situations down the road. Your attorney can help you assess and include specifications for “extras” in your agreement. This will also help you and your ex calculate your budgets.

4. The Parent Who Pays Doesn’t Get to Choose Where the Money Goes

Even if you’re paying child support to cover your child’s essential living costs, there’s no way for you to track how it’s being spent; the recipient of child support is not expected to present receipts to prove how they use the money.

This is one of the biggest points of contention when it comes to child support. If you’re the one paying, you may be concerned that your ex is misusing the money. However, the system is based on the court’s assumption that the custodial parent is acting in the child’s best interest. So, even if your money does not go directly towards essentials, the court will assume that it’s contributing to your child’s essential wellbeing.

If you are genuinely worried that the child support you’re paying is not going toward your child’s basic care, and that their needs are not being met, it’s time to get an attorney involved.

5. An Attorney is Your Best Bet

While the court prefers mediation and compromise to resolve issues related to child support, if you’re having real concerns about setting an agreement with your ex, it’s always best to consult an attorney. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you can receive personalized counsel from a professional who will account for all of the details of your family situation and advocate for you to gain the fairest terms possible. Instead of assessing your child support requirements alone, an attorney with experience in family law will consider all aspects of you and your children’s wellbeing and work with you to achieve the best outcome for your family.

Negotiating family law is complex and varies widely from family to family. Getting advice from an expert is just about the only way to ensure all your questions are answered and all your concerns are addressed. Contact Father’s Rights today to speak to our experienced team about your unique case.

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What Is Temporary vs. Long-Term Spousal Support?

a gavel sits atop money

If you have questions about spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, you’re not alone. Spousal support comes in two general types: temporary and long-term. When you go through a divorce in California, you or your ex-spouse may apply for one, or both. Spousal support is a written agreement or order to instill temporary or permanent payment from one spouse to another after separation, when plans for divorce have been made. Let’s look at these two basic types of support, how they are calculated, the differences between them, and when each is put into effect.

What Is Temporary Support?

Generally speaking, temporary spousal support is implemented to maintain the financial status quo during the actual process of divorce or legal annulment/separation. Long-term support, on the other hand, can be indefinite. For temporary support to be put into effect, each party must file an income and expense declaration to prove their financial situations. It is at the discretion of the court to determine what the financial status quo was prior to the time of separation. Guideline calculators are often used (but not required) by the courts to determine the amount awarded. These calculators factor in each spouse’s income, healthcare deductions, and expenses. This type of support is considered temporary because it is meant to end once more permanent, long-term support is awarded once the divorce is finalized.

What Is Long-Term Support?

Long-term support does not employ the use of a calculator in determining payment amounts. The courts instead consider a broader spectrum of factors, including the couple’s married standard of living, current separate income, earning capacity, ability to pay alimony, relative financial needs, assets, length of marriage, the needs of dependent children, the age and health of each spouse, any prior payments from one spouse to another towards education or training, and more. Because of its long-term nature, it is more all-encompassing.

Modification of Long-Term Support

Long-term support can be modified, and very rarely lasts forever. Long-term support for shorter marriages is often implemented for only half the length of the marriage. For marriages over 10 years, a judge will determine how much time is reasonable for the supported spouse to become self-sufficient after the marriage has ended. But the duration and amount of long-term support can be modified by request as long as “non-modifiable” verbiage is not contained within the initial agreement. You and your ex-spouse can agree to modify the amount, or either one of you can bring the issue to court by filing a motion for a material change of circumstances that would warrant such modification or termination. Some such circumstances might be loss of a job, a health issue, or any other circumstance that has decreased the paying spouse’s income through no fault of their own. Long-term support obligations also automatically terminate upon the death of the supported spouse.

Three Major Differences between Temporary and Long-Term Support

1. These two types of support fulfill different needs. Whereas temporary support is meant to support the status quo during a divorce case; long-term support is meant to support the standard of living experienced during the marriage after the divorce is final.

2. Guideline calculators for the support payment amount can only be used to determine a motion for temporary spousal support. They cannot be used in determining permanent spousal support, as many more factors must be taken into account to determine a fair judgment for long-term support.

3.  Permanent spousal support is not considered taxable income as long as each spouse files a separate tax return.

Temporary and long-term support are both applicable to the divorce process, but in very different ways. Different factors are taken into account, and modifications can often be made to long-term rulings as circumstances change in the years following the divorce. A spouse may be subject to one, both, or neither during the process, depending on the financial dependence of each spouse and the determination of the court.

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What You Need to Know About Amending the Terms of Child Support

A gavel sits atop a desk covered with money

As the lives of you and your child move forward, child support payments may require modification. The court system is flexible to this, but changes must be legally approved and meet certain requirements. In California, parents must demonstrate that there has been a change in circumstances significant enough to warrant the modification.

Child support is a serious issue to California courts. If your situation has changed and you believe your child support structure needs to change as well, make a modification request sooner rather than later. Failing to pay — even for valid reasons — without informing the court of your situation can lead to a judge finding you in contempt of court.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at why you may need to change your child support arrangement, and the considerations to bear in mind as you move forward.

Reasons for Modifying Child Support

A major life change, personally or professionally, is often the main reason to amend the terms of child support. An adjusted income (either up or down) or the loss of a job is often seen by the courts as a valid reason to reassess child support. On a personal level, child support may shift if a parent is incarcerated, has a child from another relationship, or is going through a divorce.

A child’s needs also affect support costs — for instance, the need for extra educational support or the onset of a health problem that demands care. A shift in custody arrangements is also a reason to modify child support. If a child is now spending significantly more time with you than before, then the amount of child support you pay may drop in accordance with your additional responsibilities.

Courts may also make temporary child support changes to accommodate pressing matters such as a medical emergency, or a short-term shift in income for either parent as a result of a temporary disability or the occurrence of a natural disaster, for example.

Going About the Change

Unlike in some states where child support modifications can be made by opening a case at a local child support agency, California requires that a judge sign off on any changes, provided the shift totals either 20% or $50, whichever is less.

A child support agency can provide assistance in this process, but it is not the main place where issues are mediated. If there are disagreements with the change, a family attorney or a facilitator in Family Court are two other individuals who can offer support.

If parents and guardians are satisfied with the change amount, they can sign an agreement which will be approved by the court. If there is no agreement, it is up to a judge to decide for or against a change based on the information parents must submit. This information includes any documents that offer proof of finances (paystubs, unemployment benefits, etc.), medical and health information for the child, as well as custody and visitation agreements. These are all elements that will be considered when deciding if an amendment is appropriate, so it’s essential to keep up-to-date and accurate records.

Getting the Support You Need

Amending the terms of your child support is challenging to navigate alone, especially because each person’s personal situation is unique. It may be in your best interest to speak with an attorney about your situation.

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