Archive: Litigation Articles

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED SOLE PROPRIETOR

One of the biggest problems in divorce is determining the actual income of a sole proprietor. This person owns a small business, and takes draws from the business rather than W-2 income. Usually, this person also pays for their car and other expenses through their business. All of this can get very messy if there is a divorce because the other spouse will usually claim the self-employed sole proprietor is “hiding cash,” and “paying for everything through the business.” This can lead to a long and expensive discovery process, including but not limited to depositions, subpoenas and the hiring of forensic accountants and financial investigators. So, how do you avoid this? A little preventive medicine is the answer, whether or not you ever get divorced. The following are some suggestions for the self-employed sole proprietor. These are only suggestions and should not be considered legal advice. Further, I make no representations that these suggestions will work, because the old saying in the world of computer programers applies here: “Garbage in, garbage out.” You should always work with a CPA and/or tax attorney to make sure you avoid putting in “garbage.” With that in mind, here are some tips:

1. Hire an elite CPA. You need to make sure your business is set up properly, and that your taxes are prepared properly.

2. Hire a bookkeeper and get everything into QuickBooks or some other accounting software with back ups. You want to do this for reasons that I will explain, below.

3. Don’t “shuffle” or “shift” your income. Depositing money into a personal account and then transferring the same money into a business account does not pass the smell test. YOU NEED TO HAVE A SINGLE BUSINESS ACCOUNT WHERE YOU DEPOSIT ALL OF YOUR INCOME! You take your draws from your business account after you pay your expenses. Further, there is an accounting presumption that any checks you write from your business account are for expenses, unless they are draws. This is a rebuttable presumption. In my experience, having a single business account makes everything clean and tidy, provided you keep it that way.

4. You may find that your business account is low on funds. When that happens, avoid the temptation to simply pay business expenses from your personal account. Take the extra step of writing your business an advance and when you get more funds into your business account, then you need to repay yourself.

5. You need to hire a bookkeeper. YOU DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS YOURSELF. Why? Because if the other side takes your deposition, you don’t have to defend each and every entry and withdrawal. All you need to say is: “I give everything to my bookkeeper and she/he reconciles my books, etc.” This forces the other side to take the deposition of your bookkeeper as well, and assuming your books are in order, the other side won’t get anywhere.

6. Stop being cheap. Seriously, you’ve got to become financially sophisticated and buckle down and pay for professional services like an elite CPA and a bookkeeper. It is not that expensive and it provides you with a clean record if you ever end up in court.

7. You never want to be in the position of explaining your deposits. Only your earnings/income go into your business account. If your parents give you a gift of money that should be placed into your personal checking or savings account. If your parents or other parties lend you money for your business, discuss how to deal with that with your CPA and/or tax attorney.

8. If you are getting divorced, make sure your CPA adds back your perquisites and that you account for those perquisites on your QuickBooks or other accounting software profit and loss statement so YOU can tell the Court what you believe your perquisite add backs are, rather than let the other side take the high ground on this.

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IMPORTANT NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN PET CUSTODY AND DIVORCE

There’s big news in the world of animal law. The news comes from of the State of Alaska, and it could have a major impact on some divorce cases here in California. Alaska has become the first state in the country to require courts to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” and to give judges in divorce cases the power to assign joint custody of pets. In effect, Alaska family court judges will have the power to award custody and visitation of a pet on the basis of what’s good for the pet, not the human owners. This means pets will be treated more like children in divorces in Alaska.

Here in California, pets acquired during marriage are presumed to be community property. This means that in a divorce, the family court will divvy up pets similar to dividing furniture or vehicles. One spouse gets the pet, the other doesn’t.

Here’s the potential impact of the new Alaska law on California divorces: There is something called Secondary Authority in the law. When a State’s law is silent on a disputed issue, the courts of that State may adopt the law from another State to decide the disputed issue.

In at least one area of California law affecting families, pets have gained important legal rights. The victim of domestic violence can obtain a restraining order that will award them the sole possession, care and control of their animals. The victim can also obtain an order that the perpetrator of domestic violence stay away from the animals and not “take, sell, transfer, encumber, conceal, molest, attack, strike, threaten, harm or otherwise dispose of the” animals. The heading for this order states: “Animals: Possession and Stay-Away Order.” Although this law extends protections to animals, it does not use the words “sole custody” to describe that protection. This seems to put animals somewhere between property, such as a vehicle or residence and children. Or does it? Consider that the restraining order states that the alleged perpetrator of domestic violence is ordered not to “molest, strike, threaten, or harm” the animal. This language is the same language that is used to protect the victim of domestic violence and their children.

Will the California legislature look to Alaska and adopt a similar statute for our Family Code? California has already extended protection to our animals in domestic violence cases, so adopting a statute similar to the one in Alaska might not be much of a stretch for lawmakers.

And, while there is no published California Appellate Court case that directly deals with pet custody in divorce, the emotional link between humans and pets was recognized by former California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian in his dissenting opinion in the case of Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village Condominium Ass’n (1994) 8 Cal. 4th 361, 393, 394. At issue was a condominium association’s restrictive covenant which banned pets. Justice Arabian wrote:

“The value of pets in daily life is a matter of common knowledge
and understanding as well as extensive documentation. People of
all ages, but particularly the elderly and the young, enjoy their
companionship. Those who suffer from serious disease or injury and
are confined to their home or bed experience a therapeutic, even
spiritual, benefit from their presence. Animals provide comfort at
the death of a family member or dear friend, and for the lonely can
offer a reason for living when life seems to have lost its meaning. In
recognition of these benefits, both Congress and the state Legislature
have expressly guaranteed that elderly and handicapped persons living
in public-assistance housing cannot be deprived of their pets.
(12 U.S.C. §170r-1; Health & Saf. Code,§19901.) Not only have children
and animals always been natural companions, children learn
responsibility and discipline from pet ownership while developing an
important sense of kindness and protection for animals. Single adults may find
certain pets can afford a feeling of security. Families benefit from the
experience of sharing that having a pet encourages.”

Even the Court’s majority agreed with Justice Arabian when it came to the emotional bond between humans and pets, but decided the case against the pet owner on the narrow issue of whether the restrictive covenant was legal. Using the new Alaskan law as Secondary Authority, combined with the reasoning of former Justice Arabian, might be the starting point for a party who seeks joint physical custody or visitation of a family pet in a divorce here in California.

To avoid a pet property or custody dispute, parties might want to consider a pet prenup, which will dictate who gets Fido or Fluffy in a divorce. Or, if you received your pet as a gift from your spouse or a third party, make sure you get that in writing and keep the writing in a safe place, because a gift is presumed to be the separate property of the receiving spouse in California.

A final note about sharing pets. Animal experts tell us that if divorced parties decide to share a pet, they should make sure the pet eats the same food at each residence to avoid stomach upset and that discipline and care for the pet should be the same at each residence. Animal experts also tell us that shared custody may work for dogs, but probably not for cats.

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BUT IT ISN’T FAIR. HOW GOVERNMENT PENSION HOLDERS LOSE OUT IN DIVORCE

BUT IT ISN’T FAIR!

What happens in divorce here in California when one spouse contributes to a government pension and the other spouse contributes to Social Security? The answer creates what is arguably an inequitable result.
The case directly on point is In re Marriage of Peterson (2016) 243 Cal.App.4th 923: The genders of the parties are irrelevant, so I am not using the words “Husband” or “Wife.”
Here’s basically what happened: You are eligible to receive a government pension, which means you did not pay into Social Security. You are barred from contributing to Social Security pursuant to the Windfall Elimination Provision of the Social Security Act and the Government Pension Offset. You therefore will not receive Social Security. Your ex-spouse paid into Social Security. If you are getting divorced here’s what happens:
Your ex-spouse gets their community property share of your government pension, and you get none of your ex-spouse’s Social Security retirement, because Social Security is is separate property under Federal law. That may not be fair, but Federal law preempts California law, so your ex-spouse’s Social Security is their retirement alone. Here’s where it gets even worse: The current law in California does not even allow you to obtain a credit or offset from your ex-spouse’s Social Security retirement, which would potentially reduce or eliminate your ex-spouse’s interest in your government pension.
So, your ex-spouse gets what many believe is a windfall…their community property share of your government pension and all of their Social Security to boot, even though your ex-spouse paid into Social Security using income earned during the marriage, which was community property. In this situation, the community acquired no interest in your ex-spouse’s Social Security retirement.
This leaves you living on your share of your government pension, usually one-half of the full amount, and your ex-spouse gets to live on all of their Social Security retirement and their community property interest in your government pension.
The only current way to equalize this would be through spousal support payable by your ex-spouse to you, but that is problematic at best.
The Court of Appeal in Marriage of Peterson said the California legislature could craft a statute to direct family law courts to assign a portion of community assets to one spouse when the other spouse’s retirement is classified as separate property under federal law. Congress could also change the Social Security Act to eliminate this provision. The Court of Appeal said, however, that whether California or federal law should be changed to address the challenges presented here is a legislative policy decision that is beyond the purview of the Court of Appeal.

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HOUSE VS. PENSION

THINK TWICE BEFORE TRADING AWAY YOUR COMMUNITY PROPERTY RIGHTS TO HIS RETIREMENT PLAN FOR THE HOUSE. My articles are usually gender neutral, but this article is an exception. It is primarily written for women going through a divorce and addresses one of the most important choices they may be faced with making.

The headline was striking: Becoming a bag lady is feared by nearly half of U.S. women.

According to a recent poll by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, 49% of U.S. women fear becoming a bag lady—a homeless woman who wanders the streets lugging her meager belongings in a shopping bag or cart.

This fear may be unjustified due to the gains made by U.S. women in the workforce. However, it does bring to light that women—even those earning six figure incomes with generous benefits—have deep-seated financial fears. For women who have not worked or have limited work experience and skills, the fear is certainly justified. This is one of the main reasons I advise women going through a divorce to think twice about giving up their community property interest in their husband’s retirement plans, especially defined benefit pension plans, in exchange for the family residence.

The family residence comes with monthly obligations. The mortgage, insurance, property taxes and utilities are just some of the expenses. Even without a mortgage, the house can be financially draining. Consider plumbing repairs, heating and air condition repairs or replacement, roofing repairs or replacement, painting, repairing or replacing appliances, landscaping, etc. These will all occur during the course of home ownership. On the other hand, renters need only pick up the phone and call the landlord for repairs, a new dishwasher, etc. The boom line: You need enough cash flow to maintain the home you just traded for your community property interest in the pension.

The problem is that many women develop an emotional attachment to the house because that is where their children grew up or are still growing up. That is the place, especially for a full-time homemaker, that is their emotional foundation.

Women need to be prepared to give that up. As we saw in 2008, there is no guarantee that your house will appreciate in value forever. Even when you sell your house, the money you receive may not provide you a guaranteed monthly income such as a pension.

You’d like to earn 5% interest at the bank, but that isn’t going to happen in the era of low interest rates that currently exists. If you are nearing retirement age and going through a divorce, you need cash flow. Trading your community property interest in your spouse’s pension and/or other retirement plans for the house may trap you into an asset that you can’t afford. Instead of taking the house, consider the cash flow you will receive from your community property share of retirement accounts. If the house has equity, consider selling the house and putting your community property share into an income producing asset.

Having some cash at the ready, even in a low interest rate environment, isn’t a bad idea. Besides, you’ll probably sleep better at night knowing you have a cash reserve instead of trying to figure out how you are going pay to fix the roof. Finally, don’t assume that you will get by on spousal support from your ex spouse. Why? Because if your ex-spouse is also nearing retirement age, your spousal support may end or be severely reduced. In California, persons are not required to work beyond age 65 to pay current or future spousal support obligations.

If you decide to take your community property share of retirement funds instead of trading them for the house, make sure your divorce attorney is knowledgeable with respect to pension issues and brings aboard a pension expert to determine the best method of protecting your community property pension rights to your spouses’ retirement plan(s).

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SEPARATE YOURSELF FINANCIALLY FROM YOUR EX SPOUSE

SEPARATE YOURSELF FINANCIALLY FROM YOUR EX-SPOUSE

1. Don’t bank where your ex-spouse banks.  I remember receiving a phone call from an ex-husband who told me that his ex-wife was accessing his separate banking information through a friendly bank employee at the same bank where they kept a joint account during their marriage.  Of course, the friendly bank employee’s actions were both illegal and against bank policy.  Nonetheless, this stuff happens. So, after your divorce is final, separate your primary bank from your ex-spouse’s bank.   You can always have an account at the same bank if you are paying support via direct deposit.

2. Get new credit cards and cancel any credit cards you had with your ex-spouse. There should be no reason that I have to explain this one.

3. Don’t use the same tax preparer, accountant or CPA, because even though these professional are forbidden to comment about you to your ex-spouse, you don’t know about their lower paid and non-licensed staff.  Once again, separate yourself financially from your ex-spouse.

4. You don’t want to be using the same stock broker or financial advisor as your ex-spouse, especially if your ex-spouse is also a social friend or golf buddy of the stock broker/financial advisor.

5. Change your passwords on all of your financial accounts, and sweep your computers for tracking software.  Yes, ex-spouses spy on each other all of the time. They can probably even teach the NSA a thing or two about computer spying.

6. Finally, get a new cellular phone and a new cellular phone number.  I know this is chore, but your ex-spouse can also obtain financial information about you from your cell phone, which you are probably using to both text and connect to the internet.

These are some of the most common “backdoor” ways an ex-spouse can keep tabs on your financial affairs.  Now, all of this may sound like I’m advising you to be paranoid, but as the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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FOLLOW THE MONEY

“My spouse is hiding income!”  My spouse earns cash under the table.”  I hear these allegations often in my family law practice.  If your spouse is self-employed, or is able to earn cash, you are probably correct.  However, before you tell a family law judge that your spouse lies on his or her tax returns, think about this: How many times did you sign those tax returns?  Be careful if your family law attorney tells you that you’ll be treated as an “innocent spouse” by the IRS.  Remember, if there is a tax audit, or worse, you have the burden of proof to show the IRS that you are the “innocent souse.”  In other words, you’ve just bought yourself a bunch of work and probably the need to hire a tax attorney or even a criminal defense attorney, possibly at your own expense.  Dealing with unreported income, especially where parties have been filing joint tax returns for years, can be problematic.  One way to avoid this problem: Hire a private judge and keep all the allegations about failing to report income out of the public eye. And, if you are the spouse who has unreported income, think about this: Either you are going to be reasonable when it comes to child and/or spousal support, or you are going to put your spouse into a corner where they’ll feel they have nothing to lose by exposing you in a public courtroom. 

What if you need to follow the money?   Money almost always leaves a trail, but following the money can be expensive. Your attorney will need to do an extensive amount of discovery, including but not limited to Interrogatories, Demands for Production of Documents, and Depositions.  You’ll need to issue subpoeans to banks and financial institutions, lenders, etc., and you’ll need to hire a forensic accountant and perhaps even a private financial investigation team.  These costs can be prohibitive and are usually only justified in cases where large amounts of assets are being hidden. 
Remember, your attorney needs to present admissible evidence to a judge.

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CALIFORNIA DIVORCE MYTHS – PART ONE

I’ve placed the myth in italics and the reality follows.

1.   I am automatically divorced 6 months after I file for divorce.  No.

2.   I am legally separated once I file for divorce.  No.  Your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation only lists the date you contend is your date of separation from your spouse.

3.   If she/he withholds child support, I can retaliate by withholding visitation for him/her with our children.  NO!   Child support and visitation are not linked.  Even deadbeat dads and deadbeat moms get to visit their children.  However, the failure to financially support a minor child may be one of the factors a family court considers to decide primary custody of that child.

4.   If he/she marries a high earner, my child support payments will go down.  NO.  Your ex’s new spouse, even if they are a billionaire, has no legal duty to financially support your children.  This means your ex spouse could marry a billionaire who flies her/him and your kids around on a private jet and they all live in a large and magnificent estate with servants, and a private chef, etc., and you are still legally required to pay child support.

5.   If I buy a house with a fat mortgage, I can’t afford child support, so it will go down.  NO.  In fact, under the California child support guideline, your child support will probably increase because that fat mortgage gives you a bigger tax deduction and therefore you have more net money available for child support.

6.   If my name is not on the credit card, I don’t owe the debt incurred during the marriage.  Wrong.  However, there may be some credit card debts incurred by your spouse that a family court will confirm to them. It depends on the facts.

7.   I can be reimbursed for paying his/her premarital debts.  NO.  That was a good deed and no good deed goes unpunished.

8.   The Court can make the other parent chip in for the kids’ college.  NO.  In California, there is no legal requirement that a parent pay for the college education of their child.

9.   If I quit my job, I won’t have to pay support.  Are you kidding me?   Who told you that?

10. If we’re married more than 10 years, then he/she has to pay for me to get a college education.  NO, that is what your spousal support can be used for.

11. Children can make custody decisions at age 12.  Not very often, if at all.  However, there has been a major shift in California law regarding the custody of minor children age 14 and older.   Children 14 years and older now have the right to express their preference with respect custody to the family court.  How this will manifest itself is still being worked out by the family courts in California.  It is probably unlikely that we will see children on the witness stand in custody cases.

12. If we have equal custody, there won’t be any child support.  Wrong.  Child support in California is determined by a statewide uniform guideline and the timeshare parties have with their children is just one of the factors that is considered in determining child support.

13. I know we’ve been married for 15 years, but our child who was born 15 years ago, isn’t mine.  I want a paternity test.  You’re kidding me, right?  Sorry, too late to ask.

14. If the family court orders me to pay community debts, I can always discharge them in bankruptcy.  Probably not since the bankruptcy laws changed a few years ago.

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DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS, PART TWO.

     Parties going through a divorce in California have a duty to disclose all of their assets and debts.  California has created a form that assists you in disclosing your assets and debts.  It is aptly named a “Schedule of Assets and Debts.”  You can use this form and then add to it on additional pages. 

     The duty to disclose your assets and debts exists until the asset or debt has been divided, either through a written agreement or court order.  You must list all of your assets and debts, even if you contend that an asset is your separate property and even if you contend that an asset is held by a third party.  However, just listing an asset is not good enough.  You also need to disclose its value.  The case of Marriage of Brewer and Federici (2002) 93 Cal.App.4th 1335, illustrates this point.  Ms. Brewer listed her pension plans, but the Court of Appeal stated that she failed to provide accurate and complete valuations of those plans.  The California Court of Appeal stated that Ms. Brewer had a duty to provide accurate and complete valuations of her pension plans to her husband, Mr. Federici.  This led to the parties’ settlement agreement and judgment being set aside. 

     Obviously, some assets have so little value that you could bundle them together and estimate a value.  For example, all of the kitchen appliances, pots, pans, etc.  Normally, these items would be given “garage sale” or “swap meet” value.  Likewise, the big screen television that you bought last year is probably now obsolete and not worth anywhere near what you paid for it.

     What happens if you fail to disclose?   You don’t want to go down that road.  In the case of Marriage of Feldman (2000) 153 Cal.App.4th 1470, Mr. Feldman was sanctioned $250,000.00 by the Court for his failure to provide his wife with information regarding his financial dealings during their divorce.  He was also ordered to pay her $140,000.00 in attorney fees. 

     During the divorce process, nearly everyone who is paying child and/or spousal support immediately calls their attorney if they lose their job or their pay is reduced, because they want to make sure the support they are paying is likewise reduced.   Attorneys rarely hear from a client when they get a raise or bonus during the divorce process.  However, California law requires that you must disclose to the other party immediately upon a significant change in your income.  If your spouse discovers that during the divorce process you failed to disclose a significant change in your income  you could be sanctioned and also ordered to pay all of your spouses attorney fees and costs.  What is a significant change in income?  Unfortunately, we don’t have any guidance on that yet, so just to be safe…disclose.

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PET CUSTODY DISPUTES

      Can you have shared custody of a dog or cat?  Here in California, pets acquired during marriage are presumed to be community property.  This means that in a divorce, the family court will divvy up pets similar to dividing furniture or vehicles.  One spouse gets the pet, the other doesn’t.   In my experience, California family courts will not order a shared custody arrangement of a pet if the parties cannot agree.  California family courts have not adopted a best interest standard for pets, which is used to determine custody of children.  Children are almost always subject to some type of shared custody arrangement between divorced spouses or domestic partners, and custody can be modified when circumstances change.  However, with pets, one side wins and the other loses forever.  Still, family courts should not put a pet into a situation where it is likely to be mistreated.  Family courts should therefore consider the psychological attachment which each party has to a pet before making a decision on who gets Fido or Fluffy.  

      In at least one area of California law affecting families, pets have gained important legal rights.  The victim of domestic violence can obtain a restraining order that will award them the sole possession, care and control of their animals.  The victim can also obtain an order that the perpetrator of domestic violence stay away from the animals and not “take, sell, transfer, encumber, conceal, molest, attack, strike, threaten, harm or otherwise dispose of the” animals.  The heading for this order states:  “Animals:  Possession and Stay-Away Order.”  Although this law extends protections to animals, it does not use the words “sole custody” to describe that protection.  This seems to put animals somewhere between property, such as a vehicle or residence and children.  Or does it?  Consider that the restraining order states that the alleged committer of domestic violence is ordered not to “molest, strike, threaten, or harm” the animal.  This language is the same language that is used to protect the victim of domestic violence and their children. 

      Is the California legislature’s decision to extend protection to our animals in domestic violence cases a harbinger of expanded rights for our pets in future divorce cases?  That is a difficult question to answer.  With the exception of the aforementioned restraining orders, there is no California law that deals with pet custody in divorce.  A family court should, however, consider whether awarding a pet to one party would subject the animal to abuse, before making that award. 

     While there is no published California Appellate Court case that directly deals with pet custody in divorce, the emotional link between humans and pets was recognized by former California Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian in his dissenting opinion in the case of Nahrstedt v. Lakeside Village Condominium Ass’n (1994) 8 Cal. 4th 361, 393, 394.  At issue was a condominium association’s restrictive covenant which banned pets.  Justice Arabian wrote:

“The value of pets in daily life is a matter of common knowledge
 and understanding as well as extensive documentation.  People of
 all ages, but particularly the elderly and the young, enjoy their
 companionship.  Those who suffer from serious disease or injury and
 are confined to their home or bed experience a therapeutic, even
 spiritual, benefit from their presence.  Animals provide comfort at
 the death of a family member or dear friend, and for the lonely can
 offer a reason for living when life seems to have lost its meaning.  In
 recognition of these benefits, both Congress and the state Legislature
 have expressly guaranteed that elderly and handicapped persons living
 in public-assistance housing cannot be deprived of their pets.
 (12 U.S.C. §170r-1; Health & Saf. Code,§19901.) Not only have children
 and animals always been natural companions, children learn responsibility
 and discipline from pet ownership while developing an important sense
 of kindness and protection for animals.  Single adults may find certain pets can   afford a feeling of security.  Families benefit from the experience of sharing that having a pet encourages.”

     Even the Court’s majority agreed with Justice Arabian when it came to the emotional bond between humans and pets, but decided the case against the pet owner on the narrow issue of whether the restrictive covenant was legal.  The reasoning of former Justice Arabian might be the starting off point for a party who seeks joint physical custody of a family pet in a divorce.   Meantime, the idea that pets are merely property is being challenged in family courts across the nation.  Combined with numerous cases on pet custody from other States, so-called secondary legal authority that California Courts may consider, the time may be ripe for a California Appellate Court to consider pet custody. 

      To avoid a pet property or custody dispute, parties might want to consider a pet prenup, which will dictate who gets Fido or Fluffy in a divorce.  Or, if you received your pet as a gift from your spouse or a third party, make sure you get that in writing and keep the writing in a safe place. 

     A final note about sharing pets.  Animal experts tell us that if divorced parties decide to share a pet, they should make sure the pet eats the same food at each residence to avoid stomach upset and that the disciplinary rules should be the same at each residence.  Animal experts also tell us that shared custody may work for a dog, but not a cat.  Cat fans might disagree.

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HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO RAISE A CHILD?

     It is invariable that a party paying child support thinks they are paying too much and the party receiving child support thinks they are not receiving enough.  California has a statewide uniform guideline which determines the presumptively correct amount of child support.  It is a rebuttable presumption, but family law courts rarely deviate from the guideline.  The guideline begs the question: How much does it really cost to raise a child in the United States?  Obviously, the answer depends on which State the child lives in.  For example, the cost of living here in California is much higher than Iowa.  Since 1960, the United States Department Agriculture (USDA) has been providing estimates of how much it costs to raise a child from birth through the age of 17.  Those costs consist of the following categories: Housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care, education and miscellaneous expenses.  Importantly, the reports only cover through age 17.  In California, child support continues until a minor child reaches 18 and graduates from high school.  You can find the USDA’s report at the following web site:

 www.cnpp.usda.gov/calculatorintro.htm

     The bottom line is what every parent already knows:  Children Are Expensive and that expense doesn’t go away because parents are getting divorced.

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