Law Office of Lily L. Huang
More Than A Decade Of Family Law Experience

San Jose Family Law Blog

Can I still deduct my sposal support payments?

If you are a divorced California resident who pays spousal support to your ex-spouse, you may have heard that you can no longer deduct the annual amount of those payments from your federal income taxes. Before hastening to your attorney’s office, however, to see about getting a modification of your support order reducing your payments so as to make up for your lost deduction, take a deep breath. This new law does not apply to you. You can still deduct the amount of your payments not only this year, but also in the future. Likewise, your ex-spouse must continue to declare these spousal support payments as income and pay income tax on them.

As reported by MarketWatch, it is true that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that President Trump signed into law late last year does indeed eliminate the “alimony deduction.” It also eliminates the requirement that ex-spouses receiving alimony declare it as income. However, these provisions apply to those paying and receiving spousal support, a/k/a alimony, under a divorce decree or legal separation agreement finalized after Jan. 1, 2019. It does not apply to you if your divorce is already finalized. But what if it is not?

Complications of property division

Dividing property may sound easy: "I'll take the house. He can keep the cars." When a family has shared life in and through that property, though, deciding who gets to keep what can be tricky. California families would do well to remember assets are often not simply property; instead, they include the meaning attached to that teapot or framed portrait. 

The New York Times reminds readers some of the possessions that have the least monetary value can actually cost the most in sentiment and emotional attachment. When it comes to dividing sentimental belongings, those involved need to keep this fact in mind, remembering different pieces will hold unique meaning for each family member. Voicing that a particular item has special value is an important action parties participating in asset division need to be willing to take. 

What kinds of property does California have?

When you and your spouse decide to divorce, one of the things you must agree on is how you will split up the property you have accumulated during your marriage. If the two of you cannot agree, a judge will determine who gets what.

You need to be aware that California is a community property state. As explained by the California Court System, this means that, with two exceptions, you and your spouse jointly own all of the property and debt the two of you have accumulated during your marriage. The two exceptions are your respective separate property and your quasi-community property; i.e., the separate property that you and your spouse commingled with community property.

Could a bird nesting living arrangement help your kids?

If your children seem to be taking your impending divorce especially hard or have a history of adjusting badly to life changes, one option to consider is bird nesting. For many families, it works best as a short-term or temporary solution, although some use it longer term. Basically, it is when the children stay in the family home. The parents are the ones who alternate living there.

Of course, this arrangement comes with pros and cons. 

Subtle signs schoolchildren are struggling with a pending divorce

No doubt, going through a divorce takes an emotional toll on spouses. Divorcing parents also recognize the challenges divorce brings to their kids. Schoolchildren in California and around the country are especially susceptible to the changes taking place in their homes when their parents separate.

Counselors at New York University explain signs of divorce teachers and school counselors may notice in kids at different points in their education. For example, at elementary age, they have a strong need for safety, and since parental separation tears away at the security of the home, young students may seem sad or even angry. They may lose interest in games they used to enjoy or have a hard time getting their schoolwork finished. 

What is collaborative divorce?

If you are a California resident contemplating divorce, you and your spouse, despite your differences, probably are dreading the prospect of an expensive contentious court battle. If you would prefer a more amicable approach, a collaborative divorce may be just what you are looking for.

Per FindLaw, one of the major advantages of a collaborative divorce is that you and your spouse each have your own attorney. However, all four of you will sign a “no court” agreement whereby you and your spouse agree to negotiate any differences you may have regarding the following:

  • Child custody, visitation and support
  • Spousal support
  • Property division
  • Any other relevant issue

Mediation: advantages and disadvantages

California couples contemplating divorce should seriously consider mediation as an alternative to a long, costly and contentious court battle. The American Bar Association points out that mediation usually costs 40-60 percent less than a traditional divorce.

The reason for this dramatic cost savings is that when a couple decides to mediate their differences rather than litigate them, they hire a neutral mediator rather than two separate attorneys. While either or both spouses can bring a private attorney into the mediation process, often this is not necessary.

Turning an unfortunate situation into a mutual win

You did not go into your marriage with the intent that it would eventually end in separation. At the California Law Office of Lily L. Huang, we understand that your expectations for success were high. We find that, in most cases, our client's spouse feels the same way— even if it is not immediately apparent.

We find that, in situations where both parties have a shared goal of ending the marraige, our clients benefit from careful pre-trial negotiation with their spouses. Ideally, this helps us avoid conflict at a trial. There are many reasons why we recommend this approach:

  • Your privacy might be at risk without mediation: Trial proceedings are often a matter of public record
  • Mediating your dispute might be less stressful for you, or for your children
  • The court might order you to negotiate, making it efficient to do so preemptively

What to include in a parenting plan in California

Although the stereotypical divorce is combative and drawn out, there are ways to make it more amicable. Trying these methods is worth it because a more cooperative divorce leads to a shorter duration, and thus lower costs and less stress for everyone involved.

One of these ways is devising a parenting plan with your spouse. The term refers to the care and living arrangements of your children after the divorce. When you two, instead of a judge, come up with the agreement on your own, it will better meet the needs of your family, and you both will be likelier to adhere to it. Here's where to begin.

How can I make my divorce amicable?

Divorces, unfortunately, do not always bring out the best in California couples. Anger, fear and grief are common when a marriage is in the process of being dissolved. Sometimes these emotions make the divorce a contentious process for all involved. However, it does not have to be this way. The American Psychological Association spells out strategies that couples can use to reach a more amicable divorce.

One way to handle a divorce is to pursue mediation. Sometimes it helps to have an outsider help you work through your problems. For one thing, if you try to work out the divorce yourself, you may end up causing the very problems that contributed to the divorce in the first place to resurface and interfere with possible solutions. On the other hand, opting for a court proceeding can take a lot of control out of your hands. Divorce mediation, since it grants you greater control over divorce solutions while allowing for an outside party to work with you, can offer greater benefits for the spouses and the children involved.

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