Friday, August 26, 2011
This link takes you to the California Department of Child Support Services home page.
Click "Calculate Child Support" in the left menu bar that begins "I Need To..."
You'll need some basic financial information for each parent, such as monthly gross income (see my "What If She Quits Her Job" post if your ex used to work and is now unemployed), new spouse's monthly gross income (if applicable), mortgage interest and property taxes (also if applicable), Federal tax filing status, health insurance premiums, and uninsured health expenses. If you've been going through this process for a while, you may already have a copy of the other parent's Income and Expense Declaration, which should contain all of this information. If you don't know the other parent's property tax rate, you may be able to find it on your county assessor's website (like I did). Or try Googling your ex's address...you may be surprised at what you can find online.
I highly recommend that you take the time to run your numbers on the State's calculator even if you've already had an attorney run your Dissomaster. Here's why...
My husband and I consulted with his former attorney to get her advice concerning the ongoing difficulties we've been having with his insane ex (a.k.a. "the devil"). We were sick to our stomachs at the end of our consultation. By her calculations, even though my husband's percentage of parenting time has increased, and the devil has remarried, her household expenses have been cut in half, and her income and lifestyle exceeds ours, if she took him back to court for increased child support (as she's recently been threatening), he would be ordered to pay an additional $500 a month!!!
Luckily, I remembered seeing something about a "future link" to a child support calculator on our County Court's self-help site, and thought it would be interesting to run our own calculations and compare the results.
Why? Because even though she's a terrific attorney and seems to genuinely have ours and my husband's children's best interests at heart, she's first and foremost a business woman. She may enjoy helping people, but - ultimately - she's in it for the money. She needs to constantly drum up new business (i.e. new lawsuits). She's not going to make money by simply advising us to leave well enough alone.
During our consultation, she first told us about the potential for a significant increase in child support, and then advised us that the only sure way to prevent this was to increase my husband's parenting time. (It should be noted that the devil is a nut job, and the children have been psychologically damaged by her, but we've "played this game" long enough to know that that's not enough to be granted sole physical custody, and maybe not even an increase in parenting time.) She further advised us that we, of course, shouldn't attempt this on our own: that the services of a good attorney would be necessary. (Of course.)
My husband and I are not made of money, and we're talking a $6K+ child custody evaluation plus at least a $10K attorney retainer just to get things started.
(As an aside, a close friend of mine went through this process last year. His child custody evaluator recommended that he be granted sole legal and physical custody of his two children, and that his ex have supervised bi-monthly visits. It made no difference. The judge in his case ordered that custody would stay as it had been: shared legal and 50/50 physical. All that time, energy, stress and expense...and no change.)
Anyway, our results were vastly different from those we'd received at his attorney's office, even though we'd supposedly run the same data. In one scenario, my husband's support would decrease $49 a month; in another, by $21. In a third, it would increase $173 a month; and in the last, by $380...versus our attorney's increases of $500 in the first three scenarios and $136 in the fourth.
We feel MUCH better today knowing that there's a very good chance that should the devil take my husband back to court yet again, that we may once again come away relatively unscathed. Whew!
Check out the site...it's so worth your time. And it's FREE!!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
This meant he would be acting "Pro Se" or "In Pro Per" (or representing himself) in any future divorce-related legal actions. Scary, but do-able.
If you plan to represent yourself in your divorce case, you may benefit from reading about our experiences.
The same Judge has been assigned to my husband's case from day one. I, however, had been present at only one of his multiple court proceedings. So when a friend of ours--who was also acting In Pro Per and who had been assigned to "our" Judge--asked me to accompany him to his Order to Show Cause hearing in fall 2010, I jumped at the opportunity to not only support him, but to observe the Judge so that I could get a sense of her style and expectations. I am SO glad I did!
During my friend's day in court, I observed that our Judge seemed to be no-nonsense and fair, and that she smiled a lot to help put the parties at ease (all good signs). I also noted that she didn't allow much in the way of explanations: she would ask direct questions and expect relatively direct answers (she seemed to have an idea in mind of what the response should be and wasn't very tolerant when the expected answer was not forthcoming).
Most importantly, I saw that even though my friend had gone to Court fully prepared with an organized 3-ring binder containing every sort of document to support each of his contentions, almost none of that information was brought to light. The Judge didn't have time to go in to that level of detail and wouldn't allow my friend to expand on most of his responses, so the majority of his hard work and thoroughness was for naught.
Applying Our Newfound Knowledge
My husband hadn't been to court in nearly 5 years, but not long after my friend's hearing (on 10/26/10 to be exact), his ex served him with a bullshit Order to Show Cause. The hearing was set for 11/23/10 (yes, Thanksgiving week!), but his Responsive Declaration had to be filed by 11/9/10...just 2 WEEKS away!
Knowing what I now knew about our Judge and how the process works in her courtroom, I spent the next 2 weeks immersed in the preparation of my husband's response...and I attached everything to back up each of his arguments! Explanations, rebuttals, transcribed excerpts of the devil's own emails, texts and voice messages. Boy, did I have one serious "documentation-fest"...which I'd been waiting to have for YEARS! (The devil is "off balance" [to put it mildly]. My stepdaughter's therapist advised us years ago to document everything, so we have...and it sure paid off! Read my post entitled "Document, Document, Document!" )
Well guess what? The Judge read it ALL before the hearing, so she was aware of all the bullshit the devil had been pulling over the last 10 months (and then some)...most of which wouldn't have been allowed if we'd tried to bring it up at the hearing. I wasn't sure if the Judge would bother reading it, or if she would get angry about the number of attachments. As it turned out, she did get angry...but not at my husband. She was really pissed off at the devil, though!
My Advice to You
(1) Learn all you can about your Judge's style and expectations before your hearing. Sit in on other hearings in his/her courtroom. Anyone can do this: courtroom presence is not restricted to the parties on the docket. Bring a notepad and pen. Sit quietly in the back and jot down your thoughts and observations for easy recall later on. Oh, and if the baliff asks which case you're there for (they sometimes survey those present to make sure all parties on that session's docket are in the courtroom), just let him know you're there as an observer.
(2) Attach every stitch of relevant information to your Order to Show Cause or Responsive Declaration that you can think of. Don't just throw out accusations: back them up with supporting evidence (emails, texts, voice messages, your documentation of the event when it occurred, etc.). Reference each attachment in the narrative of your declaration, and tab each attachment so it's easy for the Judge to locate within your response. (I bought legal index tabs from Staples [$6.29]; they come in packs of 25, numbered 1 to 25 and 26 to 50, so you should be covered no matter how many attachments you have.)
(3) Take advantage of your Court's legal self-help center. Check online for services offered in your County. Many (or all) of the forms you will need can be completed online and/or downloaded for free from your county's superior court website. Don't forget to find out how many copies you'll need to bring with you when you file your action or response (e.g. our county wants three copies [one for the court, and one for each party]).
(4) If you feel like you're in over your head, consult with an attorney. Some issues are just too big to go it alone!
Friday, January 1, 2010
Do you support your child(ren) in your household at or near the same level that your ex supports them in hers? ... Yes??
Does your ex now have a household income or lifestyle equal or nearly equal to, or even exceeding yours? ... Yes???
And despite all this, is your household deprived of a huge chunk of your taxable earnings each payday because they’re diverted from your paycheck to her household - tax-free to her? ... Yes????
Are you frustrated by having to support your child(ren) in your household and in hers? ... Hell yes?!!!!
Why are you paying so much?!
Because no one’s ever told you about shared residency! That’s not surprising: we’d never heard of it, either. Not even after 7 years of this crap! Nope...not until I stumbled across the term a couple of weeks ago while researching child support! You got it! My husband’s highly-paid attorney never mentioned it once even though he was granted 46% physical custody! It apparently never occurred to her! (By the way: be sure to see my What Does Child Support Cover? post for a breakdown of just what child support is supposed to be used for...it's eye-opening! And, yes, this is another area that no one--not even my husband's attorney--thought to explain! Ugh!!)
So in addition to shared legal and shared physical custody, my husband has had shared residential custody without knowing that such a thing existed, as we, too, have his kids in our care often enough that we have to buy them furniture, bedding, clothes, shoes, school supplies, over-the-counter medicines, toiletries, laundry and cleaning supplies, etc., etc., etc. In fact, we spend an average of at least $5,000 a year for these types of expenses exclusively...AND we've been paying for 50% of their extracurricular activities...$900 just this year!...because no one has ever explained to my husband that he didn't have to! (I've since learned that, in general, the Court only ever orders the "non-custodial parent" to share in the cost of extracurricular activities if he or she is a millionaire, which we are not!!)
And here’s the kicker: the court has no idea we're doing this (not yet, anyway)! It just never occurred to them that my husband would have to share in these expenses when the kids are at our house for days on end! They just stupidly assumed that their mom would be the only one to incur these types of expenses, and that they would be covered with the child support my husband pays each month. They never once gave a second thought to the fact that my husband would have additional expenses…like clothes for the kids to wear at his house, or tooth brushes and toothpaste to brush their teeth at his house, or beds to sleep in at his house, or…well…you get the picture.
Once the Court is made aware of our situation, my husband's child support obligation will be dramatically reduced—and in all likelihood eliminated!
So what is shared residency? It's the regular sharing of residential custody on an equal or nearly equal basis. To qualify, two components must exist:
• First, the blocks of time must be regular and equal or nearly equal between the parents throughout the year rather than based on extended visitation (e.g. summer visitation, holidays).
• Second, the parties must be sharing direct expenses of the child on an equal or nearly equal basis, which include (but aren't limited to) clothing and education expenses, but don’t include food, transportation, housing or utilities.
Does this sound like you? Yes? Then I suggest you research this further on your own, and then do something about it (e.g., contact an attorney or your family court's self-help center for advice and assistance).
Let me know if you have any specific questions...I may be able to help. And good luck!
8/25/11 Update: We consulted with my husband's former attorney to discuss shared residential custody (among other issues) and were told that California does not recognize shared residential custody; that guideline child support is based solely on each parent's income. That being said, while I trust my husband's former attorney, I'm not convinced that the information she gave us is accurate. First, when I research an issue, I limit my research to the State of California. Second, it has been our firsthand experience that factors beyond income are considered when setting guideline child support (e.g. percentage of parenting time, income-to-debt ratio). Third, between my extensive research and my personal observations and experiences, I've found evidence that completely contradicts her statement. Obvsiously there is more research to be done on this issue, and I will update this post with my findings. In the meantime, be aware that shared residential custody does exist, and be sure to raise this issue with your ex when discussing a fair support amount (if you're able to work things out between yourselves) or with an attorney if you choose to consult with one. Stay tuned...
Sunday, April 5, 2009
But here’s something CRITICAL to consider right off the bat: are your bonuses included in your W-2? This is important because your support payments are based on your gross W-2 earnings, and if your bonus is already included in your W-2 AND you’re ordered to pay her a percentage of your bonus, then you’re paying her TWICE for your bonus!!!
It’s not likely that anyone else will raise this issue (no one did in our case…or should I say, no one but ME!), so be prepared to raise it yourself.
Here’s our tale of woe:
My husband’s 7/23/03 Order After Hearing stipulated: “7. In the event Respondent receives any future bonus income as a result of employment, he shall pay to Petitioner an additional support amount equal to 23% of such bonus within 10 days of the date on which he receives any such bonus.”
He did as ordered and paid THE DEVIL 23%—or $1,120.79—of his 2003 bonus on 2/16/04, which he’d received on 2/6/04. But this order was stipulated in error. He should never have been ordered to pay THE DEVIL any part of his annual bonuses because they're already included in his W-2s and, as such, are already factored in to his monthly support payments. (!!!) This error wasn’t brought to his attention until I questioned it in 1/05. His attorney didn’t question it, the judge didn’t question it...and even he didn’t question it. In fact, no one considered that his bonus might already be included in his W-2!
This order was reversed in his 1/25/05 Order After Settlement Conference: "5. The order after hearing filed in this matter on 7/25/03, which sets forth the current support orders, requires Respondent to pay Petitioner 23% of any bonus income he receives. Respondent contends that his bonus income is included in the calculation of his gross wages and that to require him to pay an additional 23% of any bonus he receives results in a double calculation for that income for support purposes. Accordingly, Respondent’s obligation to pay Petitioner 23% of his bonus income is hereby stayed without prejudice…"
And while it is absolutely, 100% true that my husband's bonuses are, in fact, included in the calculation of his gross wages, it’s also very interesting to note that at no time was he ever made to substantiate this claim (note the language of his order: “Respondent contends that this bonus income is included in the calculation of his gross wages…”). Hmmm…
He, of course, was not reimbursed for any part of his $1,120.79 overpayment to THE DEVIL.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Note: Excerpts from two pertinent court of appeals cases are inserted in this transcript for further consideration and discussion with your attorney; they are not a part of the California Family Code.
Family Code Section 4320
In ordering spousal support under this part, the court shall consider all of the following circumstances:
......(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:
..........(1) The marketable skills of the supported party [your ex]; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
..........(2) The extent to which the supported party's [your ex] present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party [your ex] to devote time to domestic duties.
......(b) The extent to which the supported party [your ex] contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party [you].
......(c) The ability of the supporting party [you] to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party's [you] earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.
......(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.
In re the Marriage of RICHARD and BARBARA SIMPSON, No. B048099, COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION SEVEN, February 13, 1992, Decided: “After dissolution, a family may be entitled to be supported at what would have been a reasonable standard of living ... given what [Husband] would have earned had he worked at a reasonably human pace." … They are not entitled to continued guaranteed support at a standard of living which existed only because the supporting spouse ‘worked excessive hours during the marriage.’”
......(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
......(f) The duration of the marriage.
......(g) The ability of the supported party [your ex] to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.
......(h) The age and health of the parties.
......(i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party [your ex] by the supporting party [you], and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party [you] by the supported party [your ex].
......(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.
......(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.
......(l) The goal that the supported party [your ex] shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a "reasonable period of time" for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court's discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.
......(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4325.
......(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.
In re the Marriage of JEANNE and ROBERT H. ANINGER, No. B038780, Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, 220 Cal. App. 3d 230; May 11, 1990: “The only factor adversely affecting [Wife’s] ability to meet her needs was an increase … in her housing cost resulting from her purchase of a $280,000 condominium. … …it would defeat the intent and reasonable expectations of the parties that [Wife] would achieve self-support … by going into debt far beyond her means. … By undertaking a debt beyond her reasonable means to pay presently or in the foreseeable future, [Wife] failed to make a reasonable effort to become self-supporting.”
Otherwise, regardless of what your ex expects or demands, the good news for you is: YOU CAN’T. Not through your employer’s group plan, anyway. And not even if you wanted to! You can only insure family members through your employer’s group plan, and your ex is no longer a member of your family!
However, if you’ve been covering her up to your divorce date, and your employer has more than 20 employees, you might want to let her know (if you want to) that she’s eligible under COBRA for coverage equal to yours for 36 months after your divorce. She’ll have to pay for it out of her own pocket, of course…but at least she’ll be able to get health insurance if she can’t get it through her own employer.
And don’t go and try to be “Mr. Nice Guy” by keeping her on your health insurance even after your divorce is final, because it could bite you in the butt! A friend of ours did, and ended up having to reimburse his employer for every last penny that they’d spent toward her health insurance from the date his divorce was final! We were lucky: my husband waited a couple of months before dropping his ex, but because their end date was fuzzy (it was left open because it was based on her being seen by a specialist first), his employer let it slide. Same employer as his friend, but different circumstances...so, again, be careful!
My husband’s divorce took YEARS, and in all that time the devil was eligible for FREE health insurance through her employer. But she refused it out of spite…she wanted my husband to have to pay for her coverage because it was costing him an additional $5,000 a year! Well, as you can imagine, my husband took great satisfaction in finally being able to drop that bitch from his plan! But to add insult to injury, when he finally DID drop her--2 years after he should’ve been able to--she actuallly had the nerve to be petulant and insulting about it! What a surprise!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
WHAT IS A "BIFURCATION"?
When you bifurcate your marriage, you are no longer married...but you're not done with your divorce yet, either.
Under State law, you can "bifurcate" your marital status from all of your other issues (child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, distribution of property, attorney fees, and personal conduct) and return to the legal status of an unmarried (single) person. But because your other issues are unresolved, the court retains the ability to resolve them.
There are at least two reasons to bifurcate your marriage:
- Your divorce has been dragging on and on, and you just don't want to be married to that bitch anymore (which was my husband's case).
- It's well past the 6-month mark, and you want to get married again (to someone else, of course...not to your ex!).
CAUTION: The way the law is written (see the blue, bolded text below), even if you bifurcate your marriage, you could still be stuck paying for your ex's health insurance! So if you DO decide to bifurcate, tell your attorney that you want it stipulated that your ex will be responsible for obtaining and maintaining her own damn health insurance, whether through her employer or through COBRA (see my post "NOT Insuring Your Ex After Divorce").
My husband requested a bifurcation from the devil because even though they'd separated in August 2002, he and the devil were STILL married when they were ordered to a Status Conference in January 2005! Do the math...that's 2 years and 3 months after their separation date! His request was granted, and they were bifurcated in April 2005. Yes, I know...that's CRAZY! (Then again, so is the devil: Borderline Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, etc., etc., etc.)
Anyway, here's an excerpt from my husband's Order After Status Conference that you can use when talking to your attorney about bifurcation and healthcare insurance:.....“The parties stipulate and agree that the marital status shall be bifurcated and a judgment for dissolution of the marriage submitted to the court. ... In entering into this stipulation, each party acknowledges that medical insurance is available to him or her through their respective places of employment and upon entry of the judgment of dissolution contemplated herein, each party shall be responsible for obtaining and/or maintaining his or her own medical insurance coverage.”
So here's the kicker: after 6-2/3 years, my husband and the devil STILL don’t have a signed Judgment of Dissolution!!! And do you know, it doesn’t really matter because they're bifurcated! All of their other issues were settled at trial 8 months after their bifurcation, so - technically - they're done...but the devil won’t sign the final Judgment! Why? Because it's FAIR!
Family Code Section 2330-2348
2337. (a) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court, upon noticed motion, may sever and grant an early and separate trial on the issue of the dissolution of the status of the marriage apart from other issues.
.....(b) A preliminary declaration of disclosure with a completed schedule of assets and debts shall be served on the nonmoving party with the noticed motion unless it has been served previously, or unless the parties stipulate in writing to defer service of the preliminary declaration of disclosure until a later time.
.....(c) The court may impose upon a party any of the following conditions on granting a severance of the issue of the dissolution of the status of the marriage, and in case of that party's death, an order of any of the following conditions continues to be binding upon that party's estate:
..........(1) The party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any taxes, reassessments, interest, and penalties payable by the other party if the dissolution of the marriage before the division of the parties' community estate results in a taxable event to either of the parties by reason of the ultimate division of their community estate, which taxes would not have been payable if the parties were still married at the time the division was made.
..........(2) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall maintain all existing health and medical insurance coverage for the other party and the minor children as named dependents, so long as the party is legally able to do so. At the time the party is no longer legally eligible to maintain the other party as a named dependent under the existing health and medical policies, the party or the party's estate shall, at the party's sole expense, purchase and maintain health and medical insurance coverage that is comparable to the existing health and medical insurance coverage. If comparable insurance coverage is not obtained, the party or the party's estate is responsible for the health and medical expenses incurred by the other party that would have been covered by the insurance coverage, and shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting from the lack of insurance.
..........(3) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in a termination of the other party's right to a probate homestead in the residence in which the other party resides at the time the severance is granted.
..........(4) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in the loss of the rights of the other party to a probate family allowance as the surviving spouse of the party.
..........(5) Until judgment has been entered on all remaining issues and has become final, the party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences resulting to the other party if the bifurcation results in the loss of the other party's rights to pension benefits, elections, or survivors' benefits under the party's pension or retirement plan to the extent that the other party would have been entitled to those benefits or elections as the surviving spouse of the party.
..........(6) Prior to entry of judgment terminating status, both of the following shall occur:
...............(A) The party's retirement or pension plan shall be joined as a party to the proceeding for dissolution.
...............(B) If applicable, an order pursuant to Section 2610 shall be entered with reference to the defined benefit or similar plan pending the ultimate resolution of the distribution of benefits under the employee benefit plan.
..........(7) The party shall indemnify and hold the other party harmless from any adverse consequences if the bifurcation results in the loss of rights to social security benefits or elections to the extent the other party would have been entitled to those benefits or elections as the surviving spouse of the party.
..........(8) Any other condition the court determines is just and equitable.
.....(d) A judgment granting a dissolution of the status of the marriage shall expressly reserve jurisdiction for later determination of all other pending issues.
.....(e) If the party dies after the entry of judgment granting a dissolution of marriage, any obligation imposed by this section shall be enforceable against any asset, including the proceeds thereof, against which these obligations would have been enforceable prior to the person's death.