An article in today’s New York Times (Kramer.com vs. Kramer.com) discusses the benefits today’s technology provides parents in difficult custody matters.
Last week, US News reported on a University of Michigan study that found tens of thousands of women each year lose their private insurance after divorce
View the report here.
The study results come as no surprise to most family law attorneys. Making sure that every family member (husband, wife, minor children and college-aged children) has adequate health insurance is a significant issue for all divorcing couples. If a client has been on his or her spouse’s insurance plan, then s/he must navigate through the rights and options to health insurance post divorce. Those rights and options are limited in terms of cost and length of coverage by both federal and state laws. Private health insurance for individuals can be extremely expensive and sometimes not obtainable especially if the individual has had a pre-existing condition. In those cases where affordable health insurance is not possible, divorcing couples sometimes agree to delay the date of their divorce judgment (to extend health insurance benefits) and sometimes they pursue options that are available other than divorce (i.e. post-nuptial agreements rather than divorce).
Autumn has arrived, and with the children settled back in school, it is time to take a proactive look forward to the upcoming holiday season. Many families have custody and visitation Orders that include designations regarding where children will spend each of the coming holidays. It is a good idea to take out your final Judgment of Dissolution or current custody and visitation Order, if it is not part of a Judgment or has been revised since your Judgment was entered, and review it to re-familiarize yourself with the holiday schedule for the next four months. This will allow you to properly plan for the holidays and to deal with any anticipated issues before they arise. Taking care of this well ahead of time will reduce stress and conflict and if necessary, allow enough time to bring a specific issue before the Court if necessary.
When re-familiarizing yourself with your holiday schedule, you should look at the following:
- Note all of the upcoming holidays that your family celebrates and make sure that each holiday is addressed in your Judgment or Order.
- What, if any, travel plans does your family have? If so, what type of travel information do you need to provide the other parent regarding your travels and by when?
- Do any of the plans that your family has for the holiday season conflict with the Judgment or Order?
- Are there any holidays for which there are no Orders or pursuant to which your Judgment or Order designates that you and the other parent will work out an Order?
- What information do you need to communicate to the other parent in order to finalize the holiday schedule and/or work out any issues that you see now?
After reviewing your Judgment or current custody and visitation Orders, you should make a list of all issues that need to be addressed. If you are represented by counsel or wish to contact an attorney regarding any issues, you should have your list ready when you speak to them along with any proposed communication to the other parent suggesting solutions for dealing with scheduling issues.
All communication with the other parent on any issue, including custody and visitation, should be succinct, professional, and non-provocative. It should address only the issues at hand and should avoid touching on any other unrelated subject, issue, or idea. Finally, it should always be devoid of accusation, name-calling, recollection of past wrongs, arguments, difficulties and the like.
Families with children already have a lot going on during the holidays. Taking the time to deal with your holiday schedule now will save you stress, helping you to avoid the possibility of trying to get into court at the last minute in the middle of an already stressful holiday season.
Wondering whether or not you may be divorced before the end of the year, even if there are many unresolved issues in your case?
Often times, people who are divorcing would like to be divorced by the end of the calendar year. The most common reason for wanting a Judgment for Divorce entered prior to the end of the year is for tax filing purposes. One may not file a “single” tax return if she remains married on December 31st — That inability to file as “single” may lead to the person paying more state and federal income taxes. Others have very personal reasons for wanting to start the following year as a single person, but because the hay unresolved issues in their case like custody and support, they incorrectly believe that they do not have the option to get divorced. California law, however, has a process that allows divorcing parties to obtain a Judgment of Divorce returning them to “single” status, even if all financial or custody issues in their case remain unresolved. This process is called “Bifurcation of Marital Status.” Bifurcation may be reached by an agreement of the parties. However, if one party does not consent to a request to the bifurcation, the decision on whether or not to grant a request for bifurcation may be decided by a Judge. While Judges do not automatically grant a request for Bifurcation of Marital Status, if a party requesting the bifurcation agrees to certain conditions that are set forth in California Family Code Section 2337, it is more likely that the Judge will grant that request. Some conditions for bifurcation include, but are not limited to the following:
- The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must have been served at least six months before the requested status termination date;
- The person requesting the bifurcation must provide proof that she has given the other party full disclosure of her assets, debts, income and expenses; and
- Generally, the person requesting the bifurcation has to make certain guarantees, that include accepting all negative tax consequences that might arise as a result of the bifurcation, agreeing to pay for the other party’s health insurance until all remaining issues in the case are resolved, indemnifying the other party from any potential loss of retirement benefits that result from the bifurcation.
Anyone who is contemplating bifurcation of marital status must keep in mind that if she or he believes the other person will not agree (stipulate) to the bifurcation, that the motion requesting the bifurcation should be filed with the court well in advance of December to ensure that a Judge may decide the issue prior to the end of the year (if the matter is set after December 31st, then the parties cannot be divorced in the year the request for bifurcation is filed).