Your Top Alimony Questions Answered (and 3 Myths Debunked)

Too many stay in unsatisfying or even bruising marriages because they believe the rumors friends and family members tell them about alimony.

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Have you heard these?

  • “Alimony is an absolute right.” False. In California, the courts have broad discretion to deny spousal support completely. Just 10 to 15% of California divorces or separations include spousal support in the final divorce judgment.

  • “After 10 years, alimony is guaranteed for life.” No again. Temporary spousal support is initially determined by the “dissomaster, ™” a computer program that weighs income, custody, child care expenses, insurance premiums and more before determining which spouse pays what. Those who want to get an idea of what potential alimony may be can check California’s Child Support Calculator, (a tool similar to the online mortgage calculators) to estimate what alimony could amount to. Keep in mind, however, that this figure is not the final amount as it does not include all factors listed in California Family Code Section 4320. Good attorneys fight for appropriate amounts based on more subtle factors as well.

  • “Spousal support isn’t due until the judge determines it at trial.” While California divorces that go to trial can take 18 to 24 months to appear before a judge, divorcing partners file an “Order to Show Cause,” which a judge rules on in 14 days. This order stipulates temporary spousal support. Neither spouse is left without a way to survive.

With those common misperceptions out of the way, we’d like to answer the most common questions we receive in our San Diego offices.

How Much Alimony Will I Have to Pay and for How Long?

This simple question unfortunately has a long and complex answer. As we mention above, each partner submits documentation on income, expenses, child care expenses, insurance and more. A conscientious attorney will guide his or her client through which documents to submit. The Dissomaster comes up a figure and partners and their attorneys undergo more negotiations until an agreement is reached or the matter goes to trial.  

How and When Do I Ask for Alimony?

If you’re only dealing with family court and not an attorney, you ask for alimony during the divorce proceeding, typically when you first file with your “Order to Show Cause.” The judge will rule on temporary spousal support until your divorce is finalized. If the partners agree on spousal support, ask the judge to make the agreement as part of the court order.

I Don’t Need Alimony Now. Can I Change My Mind Later?

You cannot change your mind and get alimony after the divorce is final. If you want alimony, you must petition for it during the initial divorce proceeding.

Can Men Actually Win Alimony?

Absolutely. Men win alimony in California courts every day. If a female partner makes more money or a father has sacrificed his career to provide childcare, judges often rule for a portion of the woman’s income to be diverted to her spouse.

How Long Am I Guaranteed Alimony?

Should you come to an agreement with your spouse, you will receive alimony for the amount of time you stipulate. If you cannot agree, the judge decides for you. If the judge awards “indefinite” or “permanent” alimony, payments continue until either spouse dies or the court deems it inappropriate (in the case of re-marriage, for instance.)

Will Affairs Impact the Amount of Spousal Support?

No. California is a no-fault jurisdiction, meaning that only income and expenses figure in to spousal support determinations. If an ex-partner is living with someone, however, his or her expenses will be lower, and less support should be needed.

Will Getting Remarried Interfere with My Alimony?

Not necessarily. First, the ex-spouse paying the alimony must file an order asking the court to terminate or reduce alimony because of your remarriage.  

What Happens When My Spouse Want to Pay Me Less that What I Need to Live On?

In these cases, if the matters cannot be agreed upon outside of court, a judge decides. The judge will take into consideration:

  • length of the marriage

  • ages of divorcing partners

  • physical and mental conditions of both partners

  • your ability to support yourself

  • time and training necessary to enable you to support yourself

  • the standard of living to which you’ve become accustomed

  • ability of paying spouse to support him or herself while paying alimony

  • financial assets of each party including homes, investments, retirement benefits and more.

What Is the Difference Between Alimony and “Separate Maintenance?”

Alimony is paid upon divorce. Judges and court orders stipulate “separate maintenance” when the ex-spouses desire to stay married but live apart.

My Ex Just Got a Big Raise, Can I Receive More Alimony?

No. Post-separation earnings cannot be a basis for awarding more support than that stipulated in the divorce decree. Your children may be entitled to more child support, however.

My Ex Just Got a Big Raise; Can I Lower My Alimony Payments?

Yes. When the supported spouse starts earning more, they have less need for alimony. Once again, a trip to court is in order.

I Was Just Laid Off. Can I Pay Less Alimony?

Yes, but you must file for a temporary abatement of support.  If you cannot get a job at the compensation level you had when the divorce was finalized, you may be able to get a permanent spousal support reduction.


Father’s Rights Law Center

The prospect of paying and winning alimony intimidates all divorcing partners. Often, homes, insurance and sufficient funds to care for children are at stake. These practical aspects of life come with significant emotional baggage. Rest assured that the courts strive primarily for the well-being of the children. They no longer “favor” either mothers or fathers, men or women. When no children are present, they divide the assets as the law prescribes, not according to who cheated, who made the travel arrangements or who did the shopping.

Divorce doesn’t have to be a financial disaster. Making the best decisions up front saves you money long term. If you or a friend is undergoing a divorce, marital dissolution or custody battle, we can help. We’re happy to provide a complimentary consultation to answer the many questions you probably have that we didn’t cover above. Call us at 1-800-4-LAW-HELP to speak with an attorney today!

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What is Termination of Parental Rights?

The facts bring clarity to the difficult and complex issue of the termination of parental rights. Parents have both rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. In California, as well as other states, children have rights to financial support and care from both parents. In considering either voluntary or involuntary termination of parental rights, first understand that the courts (read: “judges”) put children’s rights before parents. Therefore, terminating parental rights does not enable a father or mother to escape child support payments. The state’s main goal is to have the child supported by both parents.

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Voluntary Termination:

Because the courts’ aim is to deliver the privileges of both parents to the child, they will proceed with a voluntary termination only if there is “good cause” to do so. Most often, this comes when a step-parent shows intent to support the child both financially and emotionally. When a biological parent is willing to terminate rights and a step-parent stands ready to assume them, the voluntary termination goes smoothly.

A parent desiring to have the other parent completely out of a child’s life without a step-parent present, however, will be surprised that he or she still doesn’t have good cause for voluntary termination, despite the other biological parent’s green light. Even if the non-custodial parent is ready and willing to give up his or her rights, the courts may still want child support from him or her.  

Parents willing to terminate parental rights needs to know that in doing so, they completely extinguish all rights and responsibilities of parenthood. They cannot have a say in where the child lives, goes to school, what doctor or medical care is best and so on. The terminated parent has no custody or visitation rights with the child. The family law code oversees the rules and procedures for termination and post-termination access, if any. 

Involuntary Termination

Often, the state or the custodial parent seeks involuntary termination of the non-custodial parent. When Child Protective Services removes a child from a dangerous home for a foster care stay, they begin a process to evaluate the parent’s competence. A series of legal actions leads to the involuntary termination of parental rights.

The courts insist that “good cause” be shown in involuntary termination of parental rights cases. Good causes include:

  • Severe or chronic abuse or neglect

  • Sexual abuse

  • Abuse or neglect of other children

  • Abandonment

  • Failure to support or maintain contact with the child

  • Involuntary termination of the rights of the parent to another child

  • Long-Term mental illness or deficiency of parents

  • Long-term drug dependency

  • Commission of a felony

  • Lack of access due to serving a prison sentence leading to child’s entrance to foster care

The courts look at all the evidence regarding these issues and then rule in what they consider to be the child’s best interests. It’s critical to have legal representation in termination of parent’s rights cases to either prove or disprove these accusations.  

How to Terminate Your Parental Rights in California

As mentioned above, the only way to terminate your rights in California is to have another ready to adopt your child. Those no longer interested in participating in the child’s life cannot escape payments due for his or her maintenance, unless serving jail time or dangerous to the child. Those who commit crimes, abuse or the other causes above will have their rights terminated by the state if they do not meet the criteria set by the courts when the children were removed from the home.

Reinstating Parental Rights once They Have Been Terminated

The courts do not reinstate parental rights easily and getting this done has a lot to do with why you lost them in the first place. Those who voluntarily gave up parental rights often do so to make to make a child’s adoption by another possible.   

In 2005, however, California Assembly Bill 519 created a way for parents with terminated parental rights to regain custody of their children. The law is very clear-cut and subject to caveats. First, another adult must not have adopted the child after your rights were terminated. Secondly, your child must inform his social worker or foster parent that he or she wishes to live with you. Finally, the child has to make this preference within three years of the termination of your parental rights.  Then, meeting all of these and more criteria, the court can reinstate your rights. Again, getting your rights reinstated takes the expertise of an aggressive family law attorney.

Father’s Rights Law Center

The experienced attorneys at the Fathers’ Rights Law Center have brought hundreds of custodial and child support actions to court on behalf of fathers. We will prepare your case based on how local judges interpret the law. Testimonials about our work  make it clear how hard we work on each, specific cases. We’re happy to provide a complimentary consultation to clear up your most pressing questions and concerns. Call us at 1-800-4-LAW-HELP to speak with an attorney today!


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Birth Fathers and Adoption

More and more fathers are asking to be involved in the adoption process and in establishing their rights as equal parents. There are means for a father to assert himself as an active participant in the adoption process.

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How States Define a Father

There is no federal law regarding birth fathers, so it is up to states to provide definitions of what a “birth father” can be. Some states will use different terms, such as “assumed father”, “alleged father” or “putative father”. All of these generally mean someone who claims or is claimed by others to have a biological connection to a child. If the child is older, showing that the father has lived with or provided support for the child can also go toward asserting paternity.

Establishing Your Place in the Discussion

Remember that you cannot be involved unless you make yourself known. The laws vary from state to state, so be sure to consult your state’s Health and Human Services Department. provides a handy guide to what you may need in your state to get involved in the adoption process. For the most part, establishing paternity well before the adoption process begins, either through court orders, DNA testing, or voluntary admissions, will allow for a smoother and more equal process.

Additionally,some states have a putative registry. This registry provides fathers a  means of asserting their status as a father, even if this status is not recognized by a court. This database also allows men to receive notices if their child is involved in any court proceedings, such as being put up for adoption or the termination of parental rights. If your state does not have a putative database, you can establish your paternity by filing an affidavit or an acknowledgement of paternity with the court or the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The Centers for Disease Control can help you find the appropriate department in your state.

Keep in mind that some states have a limited period in which you can file your claim, and the time can start as soon as a child is born. Again, it is important that you check with your state about what you need to do. Some states allow for a notice in a local paper if the father is unknown, but there have been controversies over how likely a potential father is to receive this notice. Additionally, you may want to register in multiple states if you move or if the child could be born elsewhere.

If a father is unaware that he is a father, then his rights are limited. Filing the appropriate paperwork and being proactive are crucial to being an active participant in this process. It is also important to show examples of a commitment to a parental role, such as providing emotional and physical support. At this stage, consulting a family law attorney may be beneficial.

Emotional Considerations

It is a good idea to remember that emotions are high for everyone involved in this process, not just the birth parents. Prospective adoptive parents wish to provide a home for a child, while birth parents, their families, and their children can have feelings of loss, anger and powerlessness. Additionally, the lack of a “proper” way to address these feelings can make them worse and can create additional conflict. It is beneficial to avoid obstructing the process to show anger about not being involved earlier–remember, your goal is to provide the best possible environment for your children. Being cooperative and respectful can help you and avoid putting additional emotional pain on the child.


Being proactive in the adoption process is vital to asserting your rights as a birth parent. Remember that you need to make yourself known in a civil and considerate manner to maximize your rights. Having the goal of creating the best life for your children is the main focus of these tasks, and should be the aim for everyone involved.

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Establishing Paternity – Your Questions Answered

Establishing paternity is an important step in securing rights as a father to your child. Each state varies in terms of what men can do to be considered the father of a child, so be sure to check with your state’s Department of Human Services or Vital Statistics for what specifically applies to your situation. Keep in mind that states use different terms for their departments or court orders, so what happens in one state will not be exactly the same as in other states. The Centers for Disease Control can link you to your state’s department if you are unsure of who to contact.  

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Why Does Establishing Paternity Matter?

Establishing paternity helps a child learn who they are. This can be important for medical reasons, as many disorders are genetic. Additionally, establishing paternity ensures your child is entitled to benefits, such as inheritance, Social Security or insurance benefits. Acknowledging the child’s background allows for financial, emotional, and physical support from both parents to make sure the child has the best life possible. In some states, paternity must be established before the father can sign the birth certificate. Without formally establishing paternity, it may be more difficult to obtain rights as a parent later on. During custody proceedings, having paternity already established shows more of a commitment to the process. Finally, establishing paternity allows for custody rights should something happen to the other parent or if the child is subject to familial kidnapping.

What Can I Do Establish Paternity Before a Baby is Born?

If a couple is married the spouse of the mother is considered the legal father. Some states also assume an ex-spouse is the father after a certain number of days following a divorce. In the cases of unwed couples, the process should be started as soon as possible (even before the baby is born) to avoid additional paperwork and legal issues. Some states may not allow for submission before birth, but stating the paperwork early can save time after birth.

How Do I Add Myself as the Father After Birth?

In California, the father and mother must sign and submit a Declaration of Paternity stating that he is the biological father of the child. A notary public or qualified witness must witness the signing and fill out the final section of the form. Notary publics can be found at banks, post offices, and courthouses. There can be a time limit on when these forms need to be submitted, so make sure you get this document completely soon after birth. Some states allow for a father to sign the birth certificate if he is present at birth

What if I’m Not Sure if I Am the Biological Father?

While you can rescind a Declaration of Paternity, this can create additional legal issues. Additionally, there are time limits as to when you can submit this declaration. Before signing a Declaration of Paternity (or similar document outside of California), be absolutely sure that you are the biological father to the child.

What if I Signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity, but Now I Have Doubts About Being the Father?

Either parent can rescind paternity after submitting your acknowledgement by submitting a Declaration of Paternity Rescission (or similar document outside of California.) You also need to contact the other person who signed the original paternity declaration that you are filing to rescind it. Depending on your state, you may need to also have proof of mailing a copy of the rescission form using certified or receipt mail.

What Kind of Testing or Procedure Do I Need to Follow to Establish Whether or Not I Am the Biological Father?

Generally, the DNA test for establishing paternity uses swab samples from inside the cheek. The mother, the child, and the father all have saliva samples taken. You may have your picture taken, to ensure the tests are being done on the correct people. Then, the samples and photographs are sent to a laboratory for analysis. Results usually arrive about three weeks after submission. You may get results in the mail rather than over the phone to provide confidentiality. While at-home kits for testing exist, many courts will not accept these results. If there is doubt as to who the father of a child is, testing is vital to settling claims and securing the child’s support system.

What if the Mother Disagrees That I Am the Father?

If there is disagreement about the father’s identity, either parent can request genetic testing by filing a motion to the court.

Who Has to Pay for Testing?

This varies state to state.  In some cases, the father must pay, but is reimbursed by the state if he is not shown to be the father. If the state orders testing, then the state usually pays for the testing.  If one of the parties disagrees with the first test, they can pay to have a second test administered. Be sure to contact your state’s welfare agency to see what your options are.

What if I Refuse to Acknowledge Paternity?

Refusing to acknowledge your paternity can result in a paternity suit, which will require additional time and energy for court proceedings. Cooperating with all agencies, attorneys, and other officials will go a long way toward securing your rights as a parent and can avoid stress on all parties involved, including your child. At this point, genetic testing may be court ordered.   

What if I Live in a Different State Than the Mother and Child?

A child support specialist or a court order can request help from the agencies of other states to locate the father. Alternatively, you can contact a local child support or human services agency to establish a connection between interstate agencies. Working with a child services caseworker will also give you a better idea as to what you can do.

Once Paternity Is Established, How Is Custody Decided?

Once paternity is established, the parents can then go on to family court to establish custody and visitation routines. At this point, consulting a family law attorney may be beneficial for all parties to ensure a fair split of responsibilities and care for the child.

The process of establishing paternity can seem overwhelming, but there are resources to assist you. Above all, remember that following set legal procedures is the best route, and that providing a loving and caring experience for your child is your main goal.

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Love on the Rocks: 8 Common Causes of Divorce in the U.S. [INFOGRAPHIC]

Here we’ll take a look at some of the most common causes of divorce in hopes that these conflicts can be avoided, and you and your spouse (or future spouse) can remain together through thick and thin.

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Common Causes of Divorce


Infidelity is a nasty beast. It’s often initiated by underlying marital frustrations such as differences in sexual appetites, unrelated interests, resentment, or simply growing apart.

  • While statistics vary, it’s commonly understood that 60% of men and 40% of women participate in an extramarital affair at some point in their relationship (whether physical or emotional)
  • Infidelity breeds feelings of anger, rejection, insecurity, and depression – all of which can tip off the breaking point for divorce


  • Lack of money in a marriage often leads to incredible stress, lots of arguing, lack of communication, and even lying.
  • According to a 2014 Huffington Post Poll, spousal money fights are about:
    • 46% Frivolous purchases
    • 33% Household budgeting
    • 26% Credit card debt
    • 25% Insufficient emergency savings
    • 22% Insufficient retirement savings

Lack of Communication

Lack of communication or negative communication can be toxic to a marriage and quickly negate any feelings of love and respect. A 2012 article in the Huffington Post provides some negative communication trends you try to should avoid in your marriage:

  • Inauthenticity: saying “yes” or “okay” when you really mean “no” or you want to talk about it
  • Incongruence: saying one thing and having facial expressions that show the opposite
  • Win-lose attitude: responding with judgement, blame, or defensiveness
  • Interrupting: not allowing the other to talk by interrupting or not providing an appropriate pause
  • Impoliteness and negative comments: comments or questions that are phrased in a negative light

These things are good to be mindful of in any relationship, not just a marriage.


Physical, mental, and emotional abuse all play a part in this cause of divorce. According to a 2014 Huffington Post article:

  • Victims of intimate partner violence are 85% women and 15% men
  • Every minute 20 people are victims of intimate partner violence
  • Those who do not divorce their spouse are often facing financial abuse as well and feel that they do not have enough resources to make it on their own


Unhappiness in a marriage might be wholly unrelated to the actual relationship. Unhappiness often stems from the individual, and relates to things they need to deal with inside themselves such as feeling fulfilled, productive, purposeful, important, confident, loved, etc.

When unhappy inner turmoil takes place, it can result in:

  • Weight Gain
  • Addiction
  • Laziness
  • Apathy
  • Generally negative demeanor

All of which affect your spouse and the success of your marriage.


The average age of marriage in the U.S. is steadily increasing – and for good reason. Getting married too young can be troublesome, here’s what young couples have to watch out for in a marriage, or consider before they get married:

  • Lack of money
  • Lack of maturity
  • Low-quality communication
  • Growing apart
  • Changes in goals and aspirations

Parenting Style Differences

Kids bring a whole new dynamic to a marriage. You’ll face changes in priorities, overall lifestyle, sleeping habits, etc. It’s important to communicate with your spouse before a baby comes into the picture, consider the following:

  • Define your parenting roles
  • Create a clear outline of responsibilities
  • Discuss expectations
  • Communicate about parenting styles


As the general U.S. life expectancy rises, so does the length of our relationships with one another. This means that overall compatibility with our spouse becomes a huge part of marriage.

Compatibility is closely tied to commonality which is found to make marriages easier and more enjoyable in terms of:

  • Everyday activities
  • Conversations
  • Vacations
  • Lifestyles preferences
  • Location decisions
  • Parenting
  • And more!

Of course there are areas where you will have to compromise with one another, but having things in common doesn’t hurt. 

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How to Stop Divorce From Derailing Your Career

Stress is a factor that finds its way into most people’s lives. 

When a marriage breaks down and calls for divorce, stress is a constant companion throughout the entire legal process – regardless of whether both parties considered ending the relationship to be the right choice. According to the Holmes-Rahe inventory for stress, divorce is the second most significant stress in life – just below the death of a spouse and just above serving jail time or suffering from a personal injury. So how can you stop the negativity and havoc caused by divorce from working its way into other parts of your life – such as your career?

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Divorce can mean reorganizing your life and your work schedule in some ways – such as creating time to pick the kids up from school or taking long lunches to attend meetings with your lawyer. However, this doesn’t mean that you should let it derail your professional future. Here’s how you can avoid allowing divorce to damage your career, and instead utilize it as a catalyst for future success.

Take Risks and Seize the Day

It may seem like a cliché, but a significant life event such as a divorce can push you to take stock of your life and the choices that you make. Rather than focusing on the past, and what went wrong – consider whether your divorce could be the push that you need to reinvent yourself.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine being at work and taking new risks when you’re worried about the consequences. But, ask yourself what the realistic outcomes could be. If you request a new project – what’s the worst that will happen? If you consider a transfer to a new place where you’ve always wanted to be – how can it impact your life on a negative level? The uncomfortable silver lining of divorce is that significant disruption can be a surefire path to success.

Focus on Your Health

We all know that divorce is a stressful event in anyone’s life – and for some it will be the most anxiety-provoking issue they ever experience. Unfortunately, although the chances are that you’ll already have enough to deal with, studies have shown that such a high level of stress can compromise the immune system – making you more prone to illness.

The worse you feel – the more tempted you may be to allow your work to slide – permitting yourself numerous sick days and reducing your productivity around the office. This is why, during a divorce, if you want to protect your career, you need to devote some time to looking after yourself. By putting your mental and physical health at the top of your list of priorities, you will begin to experience improved focus, more energy at home and work, and even a lighter, more positive outlook.

Find Your New Identity

When you’re no longer part of a “couple”, but a single entity, you’ll find yourself equipped with space that you never had before. Although it might be tempting to use that extra space as a place to dwell on the past, remember that it can be a force for good – helping you to discover your new identity and determine what you want out of life.

Learning how to be alone is both exciting and frightening at the same time. Some people move through the process easily, whereas others find every day to be a challenge. Although you may want to seek help from a professional therapist if your depression doesn’t lift, remember that the frame of mind you adopt can be important too. Take the time to think about what you want to achieve in your future:

  • Could you imagine asking for a promotion in your current position?

  • Do you think a change in career has long been on the cards?

  • Are you ready to adjust your professional life and demand happiness?

The space and clarity afforded by divorce can allow you to think about strategic decisions that you may have struggled to make before.

Keep Moving Forward

Although divorce is common, it will always have implications that affect your career. However, it’s important to remain positive. Assert your independence in a positive way – and you could make changes in your professional life that permit you to flourish and grow.

How did you deal with the repercussions of your divorce, and have you found it to be a positive or negative effect on your current career?

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Understanding the Basics of Alimony

Spousal support, maintenance, and alimony all refer to the same concept: one spouse paying another after a divorce takes place. For people who are required to pay alimony to their ex-spouse, the idea is usually a frustrating one. Alimony exists to provide help to low-earning spouses, or individuals removed from the workforce while caring for a household and/or children to make the transition to a self-supporting lifestyle. In recent years, alimony has grown less common as judges offer it in fewer cases, and when it is offered durations are often short. In California however, an exception to this trend exists in divorces where the marriage has lasted for more than ten years. In these circumstances, alimony can be automatic unless the earning capacities of the spouses are highly similar.

 Understanding the Basics of Alimony

How Does Alimony Work?

When the court orders an individual to pay alimony, they will be required to give a specific amount of money to their ex-spouse on a monthly basis, up to a certain time. This time could be:

  • When one of the spouses dies

  • When a significant event—such as retirement—takes place, thereby convincing a judge to modify the payment amount

  • When a judge determines that the receiving spouse has not made sufficient effort to transition – at least partially, to a self-supporting lifestyle

  • When children no longer require a parent to be at home full-time

  • When the receiving spouse remarries

  • When a date arrives that was set by the judge in court

Typically, in most divorce procedures you will have the opportunity to come to an agreement with your spouse about the amount of alimony to be paid, and the duration of the payments. If a couple cannot come to an agreement regarding alimony, then a court will set the terms on their behalf. Unfortunately, this often means dealing with a costly and time-consuming trial.

Calculating Alimony in California

The laws and rules of alimony in California are applied in almost every case concerning divorce. Whether it’s a long-term marriage of more than ten years, a short marriage, a case regarding individuals of high income or low – divorce alimony laws will influence the length, complexity, and settlements within a case. Regardless of the State, setting the right amount of alimony to be paid is a complicated matter, which requires judges to consider a wide range of factors, including:

  • Whether an alimony amount would allow an ex-spouse to continue with a similar lifestyle to the one experienced during marriage. In divorce law, this is “the standard of living” consideration.

  • What the reasonable expenses for living may be for both parties involved.

  • How much money each person on a monthly basis could reasonably earn.

  • The length of the marriage.

  • The physical condition, age, and financial condition of the spouses.

The Duration of Spousal Support

When calculating alimony in California, it is not only the amount of support that must be considered, but also how long payments will continue. Generally, the duration of alimony in California ties directly to the length of the marriage. When a marriage in California lasts for less than ten years, courts typically don’t order support for longer than half of the duration of the marriage. On the other hand, the court may not set a definite termination date for alimony in marriages that lasted for longer than ten years. The ten year rule allows for both spouses to retain the right to indefinitely request modification unless both parties specifically agree to a termination date.

Although a number of attorneys and courts will refer to spousal support as “permanent”, it’s unlikely that a judge will order true permanent support – even in marriages lasting longer than ten years. California courts require spouses seeking support to make the effort to become self-supporting, and those that claim inability to work must support such claims with evidence. Truly permanent alimony is for spouses who cannot become self-supporting as a result of disability or age.

The Impact of Alimony

Although there are numerous different types of alimony available depending on the purpose for which support is ordered, all alimony seeks to serve the same purpose: alimony acts as a flexible financial tool for couples in the midst of a divorce procedure. It can offer some tax advantages for individuals that help to improve the wellbeing of both spouses, and ensures that a low-earning spouse is cared for when a marriage ends.

Do you think that alimony is an important part of the divorce procedure? Do you believe that the calculation of amounts and durations is fair, and do you believe that longer marriages demand higher levels of support?

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How to Prepare for Your Child’s First Time Driving

teen driving How to Prepare for Your Child’s First Time Driving

He screams. You scream. You all scream for high beams! Or a full stop at a stop sign. Or more distance from the car ahead of you. Is there any parent/child interaction more stressful than driver training? Parents (and parenting experts) know that putting a teen into what’s potentially a two-ton weapon equipped with an accelerator sends stress levels through the sunroof. Many California parents don’t realize that the driver’s training hassle entails more than sitting in the passenger seat while the teen handles the wheel. California law requires several steps and a decent amount of studying and paperwork before freeing parents from chauffeur duties. This countdown to your child’s first time driving takes the stress out of the process.

When Your Student Driver Turns 15:

Find and Take Online Driver’s Ed Course Start exploring (or have your child start exploring) the various online drivers’ education courses appropriate for your state. They are a series of online lessons that take the student through the state’s driver’s handbook. Signing up is easy, but don’t be duped: the $9.99 courses work just as well as those charging $60. Driver Education must consist of at least 30 hours of instruction and be California DMV approved.

In California, once your student has completed all the lessons and passed the tests involved, the course will send you a packet containing the application for the California driver’s license, a goldenrod-colored form saying the student has taken and passed the course, and some instructions on how to obtain a permit in California.

Hint: Getting this done in the summer or over another break not only helps the student structure vacation time, it frees us as much time as possible during the school year for classes and activities.

Also, start setting good driving examples. Think about how much sensory stimulation will be coming in to your new driver as he or she begins. Don’t run red lights, speed, or make illegal moves. He or she is watching you closely at this time!

When Your Student Driver Turns 15.25:

1. Call the California Department of Motor Vehicles to Set Up the Permit Test

As of December 2014, all California driver permit tests must be scheduled ahead of time via the phone or Internet. No walk-ins allowed!

On the other hand, you can’t call the DMV TOO early (as in once your child just turns 15) because they don’t schedule that far in advance. Your best bet is to call the number for your closest DMV and select the option of having them call you back. It may take them three or more hours to do so, but it’s better than you listening to their Muzak all that time.

Write down the permit test appointment several places. Also, at this time, make sure you have the documents that will pass as proof of identification. There is nothing more tantrum-provoking than showing up at the DMV without an original birth certificate or passport. And of course, dad, it will be ALL YOUR FAULT!

2. Gather All Documents Needed:

Drivers License Application 44 or DL 44 which is NOT AVAILABLE AS AN ONLINE DOWNLOAD. Hopefully, your drivers’ education service sent you this form. If not, a parent will need to pick this up at the DMV. Each blank document has an original bar code on it. It cannot be printed out at home or photo copied. You can also call the DMV’s Automated Telephone Service at 1-800-777-0133 to have a form mailed to you. (Another reason to jump on these tasks now). It will need original signatures from a parent and from the driver.

Social Security Number

The card itself isn’t necessary if you have the number memorized.


The passport is enough to prove your identity.


Original or Certified Copy of Birth Certificate

If the original birth certificate is lost, you can acquire a new one through the County of San Diego Recorder’s office. Call 619-692-5733 if you have questions.

Documents Proving Change of Name

If your name is now different from that on your birth certificate, you’ll need your marriage certificate or a name change document that contains both your name before and after the change.

Other Proof of Citizenship

Original military identification, permanent resident or temporary resident cards also suffice.

When Your Student Driver Turns 15.5:

Take the Permit Test at the California Department of Motor Vehicles In California, teens can take the permit test six months before their sixteenth birthday. Bring your child to the DMV fifteen minutes before your appointment time. With the test passed, you can now sign up for driver training, which is different from driver education.

Find and Take Driver Training

Get recommendations for good, in-person driver training schools in your area. Your student will take three lessons with a driving instructor in the driving school’s car. Most likely, this car will be equipped with over-ride steering and brakes. For a fee of between $250 and $400, your student will take three lessons, one of which must be taken before the student driver can start driver training with you. With this first lesson over, the driving instructor will sign your child’s permit. Now he or she is ready for mom and dad lessons!

Provide Teen Accident Preparedness Training

Put copies of the car registration and insurance in the car AND in the teen’s wallet or purse. Explain how to refrain from claiming responsibility right away and how to exchange information in a reasonable, calm manner. Talk about the accidents and fender benders you’ve had and how you handled them.

Prepare for Your Child’s First Time Driving

At last! Your teen is behind the wheel and before you know it, driving to his or her own activities and social events. Hurray!

The best place to start driving lessons is in an empty parking lot. Business park parking lots tend to be deserted on the weekends. It’s in the empty parking lot where you build a solid foundation of driving skills. There, he or she will get used to the pedals, gears, parking brake, gear shift, mirrors, seat height, and more. Familiarization with the car itself and moving it along a road and a curb, turning and stopping is enough to tackle before moving to a street full of bad drivers, distracted pedestrians and street lights!

Help them Get to Know Their Limits:

Teen driving stress comes from their inexperience. Help them understand how space and time interact as they drive by using these time rules. Again, an empty parking lot is the best place to practice the following rules:

The 2-Second Rule: Student drivers should always stay at least two seconds behind the driver in front. To gauge whether or not your car has safe trailing distance, you both can watch the car in front pass a stop sign and then count “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand.”

The 4-Second Rule: Student drivers should be able to stop within four seconds, even at speeds over 60 miles per hour. Experiment with your student and count “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three -one-thousand, four-one-thousand” as you come to a stop. As you pass four-one-thousand, are you at the point you expected to be?

The 12-Second Rule: Drivers should be aware of their surroundings to the extent that they’re driving to accommodate for anything they may reach within 12 seconds. Drivers should scan the scene and be ready to adjust speed and position for pedestrians, traffic lights, other cars, and more that they may reach within twelve seconds.

Review Your Attitude:

Determine to share with them what they should be doing and what they are doing correctly, rather than just what they’re doing incorrectly. Refrain from constantly correcting. When they’re moving along nicely, signaling at the right time, and estimating appropriate stopping distance, put those successes into words. They need to internalize proper movements and choices as much as ineffective ones.

The tried and true “Smith System” helps student drivers know what they SHOULD be doing with their eyes. It’s tenants include:

  • Watch the horizon, but keep your eyes moving
  • Avoid staring at one point for too long
  • Try be aware of whether other cars can see you
  • Consider what you would do should the car in front turn suddenly, stop suddenly, or make any number of other unexpected movements
  • Watch other cars and draw conclusions on what they may do

Suggesting all of these at once can overwhelm the new driver. Try to work them in over the six months you have while training your child.

Remind the student that driving can be stressful for a year or more. No one expects the student to be an excellent driver right away. They have a “provisional” license even for the year after they get the license because they’re still in training.

Set small, realistic goals that can be achieved reasonably quickly.

Use Your Words:

Plan some words you’ll use to get the desired results.Will you use “stop” or “brake?”

Consider narrating what’s going on ahead as you drive along. Saying “light turning yellow,” “car slowing ahead,” and more can help get the student driver to develop his or her own way of navigating the many things going on at once. Try to say these things in a calm voice, however.

Utilize silence. If the trip is going along well, don’t always jump in with instructions. Give them the control.

Don’t yell: although this is easier said than done.

Save More Challenging Driving Practice for Later

As you and your student driver moved from the empty business park parking lot to the neighborhood streets, driving tasks became more complex. Experts caution parents to keep their drivers in training in the neighborhoods for three to five months before bringing on the tough stuff. You may even want to wait until after your child has passed the behind-the-wheel driving test at the DMV and has earned a provisional license before venturing into these tests. Making a left on a green light only when no oncoming traffic exists

  • Margining into traffic from the on-ramp on the highway
  • Changing lanes on the highway
  • Merging onto the carpool lane on the highway
  • Driving in harsh weather conditions (slowly build up with light rain and snow first)
  • Driving at dusk when the sun interferes with line of sight
  • Riding with passengers (illegal until driver moves beyond provisional license at 17. AFTER ONE FULL YEAR DRIVING ALONE. NO FRIENDS IN THE CAR).

Review When Mistakes Happen

When you and your teen experience a near-collision, traffic-light-run-through or any other heart-stopping event (which you will), take time to debrief on the event. Particularly if you or your teen was yelling and your pulses were racing, it’s best to leave traffic and calm down. Go over what exactly happened; what you saw and what your teen saw. Talk about why he or she made those choices. Talk about “next time” and what to do instead.

The Teen Driving Lesson: Stressful? Perhaps. Bonding? Absolutely!

Most teens are SO excited to learn to drive. With their emotions so heightened, they’re sure to remember driving lessons with mom or dad for decades. Make these memories good ones when you understand how you can BEST teach your little road warrior to rein it in when necessary and overcome his or her fears, too. If you read a bit about the ages and stages our “seasoned” attorneys are in now, you’ll know we’ve experienced these trials and joys ourselves! In fact, read our post, “14 Tips for Staying Involved in Your Child’s Life” lists volunteering for driver training as an ideal opportunity to spend one-on-one, uninterrupted time with your teen.

If you or a friend is undergoing a divorce, marital dissolution or custody battle, we can help. We’re happy to provide a complimentary consultation to clear up your most pressing questions and concerns.

Image courtesy of pakorn

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10 Helpful Tips to Manage Single Parenting

According to the Pew Research Center’s American Community Survey in December 2014, just 46% of American children now live in a home with two married parents in their first marriage. Conversely, in 1960, 73% of children existed in the traditional “nuclear” family. If your family is embarking on single parenthood, know that neither you nor your children will be alone. Divorce and births to unwed parents have lost the negative stigma that once made falling into these categories so hard. When you invest in your child and in your parenting education (as you are by reading this), outcomes improve for all family members. 

Still, juggling the many responsibilities that come with being a single parent in this era of “over-parenting” and “helicopter parenting” can be daunting. We hope these tips help make single parenthood manageable–even joyful!

Use a Sharable Online or Mobile App Calendar to Communicate With Your Ex

Newly divorced parents report that talking to the ex-spouse challenges them more than most other aspects of the divorce. With children’s schedules these days packed with doctors’ appointments, sports, playdates, and family events, cutting the other parent out of your life entirely is impossible. The tech savvy already know to create a separate Google calendar with only the children’s dates on it, but developers have created more user-friendly calendars that solve additional co-parenting difficulties. CoParently, for example, comes with the calendar, but also easy places to share:

  • medical contacts and information
  • other parent contacts
  • communication
  • expenses
  • important documents
  • photos

Similar scheduling tools include: 2Houses, CoFamilies and OurFamilyWizard. CoParently charges around $10 per month or $99 per year. The free ones subject users to advertisements.

Kill the Guilt

Because overwhelming guilt diminishes parenting skills, parents must get it under control.

While many couples endure conflict-ridden or unsatisfying marriages for the sake of the children, universities and religious and governmental organizations continue to come out with studies revealing that most children in a divorce situation do NOT suffer long-term effects directly related to divorce. An American Psychological Association review of scores of individual studies on the effects of divorce on children concluded, “Research indicates that marital conflict rather than divorce or post-divorce conflict is a more important predictor of child adjustment.” Some researchers speculate that any maladjustment adult children of divorce exhibit may not stem from the divorce itself but from the manner in which parents behave after the divorce. Involved parents who invest time and energy into their children and co-parent effectively reap the rewards of happier, well-adjusted kids.

Embrace Your Right to Discipline

Kill the single parent guilt so you can discipline effectively. Studies indicate that single parents have a harder time disciplining due to time limitations and the desire to have positive interactions. But the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with every doctor and psychologist you meet, explains that children need, want, and even crave discipline. The APA’s review of the literature above explains, “Appropriate parenting includes providing emotional support, monitoring children’s activities, disciplining authoritatively, and maintaining age-appropriate expectations.” Establishing limits and then enforcing reasonable consequences when children cross limits reassures them that you care enough to keep them from spinning out of control.

Establish Chores

Establishing chores not only asserts your authority, it provides children a sense of meaning and contribution as they work with you and siblings on a project larger than themselves–the family. And even without two parents, make it clear that you ARE a family. Creating a chore sheet where they can pick which tasks they prefer gives them a sense of some control. Still, you can make it fun. Consider having a day or afternoon where you all do household chores together to music with a movie reward at the end. Keep in mind, too, that children who’ve just recently lost a parent due to death or divorce will struggle with anger and upset that could emerge when chore time rolls around. Hold your ground, treating their inevitable chore-resisting complaints as expected noise.

Smart Cooking for the Single Parent

We get it: you get home at 6:00 (or later) with homework, baths, dinner and dishes still ahead.

Single parents who embrace the raw food and slow food movements may find dinnertime easier. Doctors and nutritionists applaud parents who serve simple baby carrots or celery. Prep? Open bag. Wash. Throw on dish. Fruit makes an excellent side dish as well and takes very little prep. Buy small resealable containers to keep individual portions of ranch dressing, poppy seed dressing, Nutella, and peanut butter at the ready for children who like dipping their fruits and vegetables.

Fresh, raw foods create shortcuts, but so do a few select healthy food gadgets. The crock pot, smoothie blender, and outdoor or indoor grill all get lots done with limited hassle. Finally, when it comes to main dishes, some busy parents double the recipe of meals they make, saving half for leftovers later in the week. Others marinate and cook large portions of steak or chicken on weekends and then serve it throughout the week.

Build Your Back-Up Team

As self-sufficient as Americans like to view themselves, the results are in: social connections translate into better physical and emotional health. As a single parent, you will need a team, each member of which contributes in a special way.

  • Babysitter: The first backup you need, particularly if you’re working, is a babysitter. While, SitterCity, and other online sources deliver scores of options in your neighborhood, finding babysitters through your church, friends, and neighbors works, too. Still, when these people are not available and you have a sick child, you can also depend on sick child daycare. While there isn’t one website listing these services, your pediatrician may know of special daycares that specialize in caring for sick children. 
  • Parent Network: Stock the refrigerator, roll out the slip-and-slide, and be ready with  playdate offers. Taking initiative will prompt other parents to reciprocate. A group of parent friends supports, informs, and entertains you as well as your child. Creating a dedicated “black book” or contact list of parents keeps phone numbers and emails handy.
  • Teachers and other school staff: Your tax dollars pay for an amazing amount of education and even emotional support for you and your child. If you have any concerns, you are entitled to have a meeting with the school psychologist, the teacher, the resource teacher, and even the vice principal. These professionals can help you gauge how your child is reacting to the changes in your household. They relate how he or she behaves in class and recommends appropriate strategies and solutions.
  • Religious or spiritual backup:  Churches, synagogues and spiritual centers have all kinds of kids’ activities; they may even have quality daycare! Sunday school provides you an hour away from constant demands, giving you time to listen to an inspiring message while your children meet new friends and have fun. These centers also organize great holiday events and activities so that you don’t have to feel alone and disconnected.
  • Parenting experts: Having a therapist or parenting support specialist from your local hospital or church on call feels reassuring. Locally, San Diego Dads Corps provides free counseling services to fathers once a week for 12 weeks, classes, and more. Read how involved dads bring benefits to their children’s lives that no other individual can bring and other proven truths about fatherhood. 

Carve Out Regular Rejuvenation Time

Caregivers get stressed. Time alone to relax and focus on your own needs and interests renews your energy and mood. Health clubs, churches, and parent events offering child care help parents take a break from constant responsibility. Single parent expert and author Leah Klungness, PhD, recommends that once your children are beyond the toddler stage, they’re ready to be trained to leave you alone for three to five minutes at a time. During that time you can do some deep breathing exercises, return phone calls, or take a shower. Need a little push to take care of yourself? Try this article: “I’m Done Making My Children’s Childhoods Magical,” which went viral last year.  

Manage Your Money with Apps

Apps like the free Mint from Intuit (maker of QuickBooks), GoodBudget, and PocketExpense all track your spending, keep you on top of your bills, and provide more than you could ever need. As apps on your phone or tablet, they’re always handy and users claim that they can even feel addictive. Getting control of your cash flow reduces a significant portion of single parent stress.

Devote 20 Minutes to an Hour Each Day Focusing Solely on Your Children

Think of this time as vitamins for your relationships, keeping them healthy and preventing any number of conflicts, surprises, and disappointments. Those who find themselves relentlessly driven to accomplish things every moment rather than just being present for a period of time should consider mindfulness and meditation training. Mindfulness practice helps people concentrate their focus on the present moment, holding off bad memories and suspending worry about the future. The University of San Diego’s Center for Mindfulness and Meditation offers introductory sessions that can get you started. Interested in what mindfulness and meditation can do for your brain? Read Harvard researchers’ recent amazing conclusions from their eight-week study using MRI technology. This research from December 2014 received widespread news coverage.

Model a Positive Outlook for the Future

Compared to you, your children are newcomers to life. They look to you to gauge the potential danger or benefits of new situations. Make it clear from the beginning that while life is changing, all of you have the skills to manage these changes and even grow through them. Demonstrate your confidence in their resilience and coping skills. While tears and anger arise from time to time, these do not have to become the norm.

You and Your Children Can Succeed and Thrive

Divorce or the death of a spouse stands at the very top of the life stresses list. Still, research reveals that one year after the divorce, most ex-spouses and their children are coping adequately. The tips above help set your new life on the right track. Remember to rely on friends, family, and professionals who want to help you through this difficult time. Keep behavior and energy expectations for yourself, your ex-spouse, and your children reasonable and remember that both will even out with time. 

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Father Figures: Demographics of Single Fathers in the U.S [INFOGRAPHIC]

Single fatherhood is on the rise in the U.S. Let’s take a dive into learning more about who these dads are in this infographic.

1412 graphic fathers rights stats about single fathers v3 Father Figures: Demographics of Single Fathers in the U.S [INFOGRAPHIC]

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