Interesting article regarding finances and blended families. You’re not “The Real Parent.” How many times do stepparents hear that phrase? It comes from stepchildren, biological parents, friends, extended family, teachers and generally anyone in society who hasn’t had the first-hand experience of being a stepparent. It’s a verbal reminder of what every stepparent knows: that we often have most—or all—of the responsibilities a “Real Parent” has, but without the inherent or legal rights of biological parents. We are expected to give our love, time and often money, as Real Parents do; to understand and always put the relationship of the biological parent and child first (sometimes above the marriage); to provide our stepchild with a positive role model but defer to the biological parent on matters of house rules and discipline. It’s a constant balancing act of being involved, but not too involved; loving, but respectful of the biological parent’s role and our place in the parental hierarchy. Raising children in a blended family can be challenging, frustrating, and overwhelming at times. It can be a real test of endurance to manage to stay together through some of the tough times that can erupt with your stepchildren. It can also be a time of growth and lasting relationships—but as every stepparent we know would agree, it’s not always easy. Related: How to get on the same page with your mate. Stepfamily Conflicts? 5 Ways to Keep Issues from Escalating Many stepparents feel resentful because they can’t stand an “Ex,” guilty for not liking their stepchild’s behavior (or sometimes personality) and frustrated with a spouse who just won’t get “on the same page” about parenting. Statistics show that the most common type of family in America today—65 percent of us—are part of a blended family where there are biological and non-biological parents present. Complex and often misunderstood, it offers unique challenges—and the opportunity for rich emotional rewards. The truth is, whether you’re co-parenting in an “original” or “complex” family, conflict is going to occur. It’s natural. You can’t live together without some disagreements occurring. These 5 tips can help you keep issues from escalating: Be mindful of your expectations. When blending a family, everyone has expectations. Unspoken or unrecognized expectations can set you up for conflict. Your spouse/partner may expect you to discipline their child at times, but their child may not be expecting that. Now who’s caught in the middle? You may be expecting your stepchild to love and respect you. That child may be feeling confused or insecure and actually behave in a way that communicates the exact opposite. Unmet expectations can lead to disappointment, anger, hurt and resentment. If you find yourself upset about something, take a moment to identify what expectation you had that wasn’t met. Ask yourself these questions: Was the expectation realistic or fair? Did the other person have any idea you had that expectation? Is it an expectation you can let go of, or is it important enough to discuss as a family? Remember, you can only control yourself and your own reactions. When you have expectations for others to behave or feel a certain way, you have no control over that. Also, be mindful of the expectations you have of yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all have expectations for ourselves as parents. Rarely do we always live up to them 100 percent of the time. If you don’t like how you’re responding to your stepchild, take steps to change things—within yourself. Related: Oppositional, Defiant child or teen driving you crazy? How to Parent more effectively. Give respect…even if you don’t always receive it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you respect a behavior, it means you respect your stepchild as a person. One biological parent said, “My son was always terribly disrespectful to my second husband. He would give dirty looks, ignore him if my husband said anything to him and in general just treat him with utter disrespect.” We recommend teaching your stepchild what you hope will be a lesson in morals and values, by remaining respectful toward them. This is extremely challenging and requires patience. When you’re responding, do not give in to requests that your stepchild hasn’t earned. Ex: This stepfather worked hard at treating his stepson with nothing less than respect. But when his stepson would ask for money or to get a ride to a friend’s house, this stepdad would simply reply, “You know, I’d like to do that for you. But you treated me pretty terribly earlier today, so I’m not going to be able to do that. Maybe next time.” Stay calm and polite but send the following message: In real life, if you treat someone disrespectfully, they don’t do favors for you. This is an excellent way to role model respect for both your stepchild and yourself. As in all parenting – with biological or stepkids – sometimes we don’t see the payoff in the short run, but these kinds of lessons last a lifetime. Identify your intentions. We’ve worked with couples where it’s clear there are different intentions. A biological parent may have the intention that “We’re all going to come together with everyone’s best interests in mind and build a family.” The new spouse may just plain dislike that stepchild and have the intention, “He needs to get out of my house as soon as possible.” These are competing intentions and expectations that will lead to conflict between everyone in the family, including within the marriage. If it feels like there are competing intentions occurring, communicate with your mate. You may need to speak with a therapist who can help you find common ground. Remember why you’re there. Many stepparents have expressed feeling trapped in a situation with a stepchild whose behavior is awful: the kids may break the rules constantly, be disrespectful, and possibly even physically aggressive. Whenever a child behaves this way, even biological parents can feel trapped and terrified. You’ve made the choice to come together with another person and form this family. Why? Most of the time it’s out of love. Remembering that you are choosing to be in this family—and focusing on the “why”—can help lighten feelings of resentment or helplessness and remind you why you stay. Related: Fighting with your spouse about parenting issues? Communication is the key. In blended families, you have the coming together of two sets of rules, discipline and expectations. If there isn’t some discussion ahead of time about things such as values and beliefs about limits and discipline, it can lead to conflict between parents down the road, which will trickle down to the relationship between children and their stepparents. These differences in parenting can have a very tangible effect. As one parent shared, “It’s hard to hold my son accountable for breaking a rule when my husband holds my stepdaughter to a different standard.” Agreeing on how you will discipline your kids—and coming up with a plan together—is a good way to go about getting on the same page. Many families have a system where the biological parent will discipline his or her own child, with the stepparent’s support. This works as long as the two of you agree on a fair method of discipline for all kids. But remember, all families are different and have different needs. One stepchild we saw in therapy actually complained about her stepfather never providing any discipline for her. She felt he favored her half-brother over her because he would discipline his own son, but avoided giving her consequences or setting limits with her. Although this is a rare case, it brings up the importance of finding what works best for you, your spouse and your stepchildren. Communication between you and your mate is essential for a successful family, in any situation. Do you agree on parenting styles, discipline techniques, rules of the house and expectations? If you can talk about these things before joining a family, that’s the best case scenario—but it’s never too late to start. Related: Does your ODD child or stepchild control the house? Blended and stepfamilies can be tough at times, but they can also be an opportunity for unique and loving relationships. If you’re lucky, you’ll get acceptance along the way. Sometimes, surviving through conflicts can bring people closer together, but it takes commitment, forgiveness and an open heart.
He looks wearily at her, shakes his head, and asks: "Whatever happened to us? We don't laugh any more; we used to always be laughing!" She looks at him, contempt leaking like a North Sea oil spill: "Yes, but not at the same time." This one line of comedy within a classic moment from the British sitcom Fawlty Towers illuminated an entire relationship. A happy long-lasting marriage: Really? Is it still possible? Well, I guess we'll have to wait fifty years to find out. Of course, no one should stay in an abusive marriage. If you're being abused and bullied then your spouse has defaulted on 'the deal' anyway (remember the 'to love and to cherish' part of the vows?). But our 'throw away society' may mean that perfectly good relationships are too quickly discarded because they don't seem ideal. The irony is that the modern obsession with 'personal fulfilment' - the importance of the self at the expense of the other - has left more people unfulfilled, sad, and lonely. Marriages crash and burn as spouses are updated for newer, 'better' ones. Have the ideas of commitment, duty, and responsibility been ditched at the expense of happiness? A happy marriage is healthy Marriage may seem as old-fashioned as sepia tone, but repeated research shows that people who remain married to one partner are the happiest (1) and that married people are statistically happier and live longer (2) than their non-married counterparts. Do we even know why some marriages work and some don't? Fortunately for this article, we do. We now know what happy marriages should avoid and also what needs to be encouraged to make marriages healthier and happier. Of course no marriage is perfect, but many are happy. Happy marriages have difficulties, but there is an abiding sense of 'us', not just 'you and me'. Follow these strategies (both of you) and who knows - maybe you'll be telling me fifty years hence of all the health, psychological benefits, and happiness you've enjoyed. So first: 1) Be realistic with your relationship expectations Romance is wonderful and seeing the best in your partner is a sure way to maintain love and intimacy. But you are going to have years with your spouse, so you need to be able to except some imperfections. In the first throes of passion, the object of our romantic focus may seem perfect but then we discover their 'feet of clay'. At this point, for the marriage to last we need to see beyond personal weaknesses and foibles - after all, no one is perfect. All marriages need work sometimes; expecting it all to be effortless or that it 'should' always be perfect creates disappointment (as unrealistic expectations always do). Idealize your partner, by all means - but remember they are human. 2) Sorry should not be the hardest word Ever noticed how some people can never apologize, never admit they were wrong, never say, "Sorry"? Yes? Well, those are the ones who are much less likely to become or stay married A survey conducted in San Francisco (3) found that people who stay happily married are twice as likely to be able and willing to apologize to their partners as divorced or single people are. The survey found happily married people are 25% more likely to apologize first, even if they only feel partially to blame. The harder divorced and single people found it ever to apologize or make conciliatory gestures, the more likely they were to stay single. Romance and passion may bring couples together, but compromise and respect will keep them there. Learn to say sorry. 3) Drive those relationship-ruining riders out of town Some couples argue passionately but still have a happy marriage. Others argue less but when they do, the relationship is severely damaged. What's the difference? It's not whether you argue but how you argue that determines the likelihood that your marriage will survive long-term. US psychologist John Gottman has spent almost two decades studying the interaction of couples. He can now reliably tell (with up to 95% accuracy!) which couples are destined for relationship breakdown and which are likely to stay together by listening to the first five minutes of a contentious discussion. Gottman highlights four factors that rot relationships. He calls these (dramatically) the 'Four Riders of the Apocalypse'. They are: 1. Contempt: Name calling, face pulling, cursing at and insulting your partner, and basically behaving as if you are revolted is 'contempt'. Gottman and his researchers in Seattle (4) found that if this was a regular feature in the start-up phase of a disagreement, then the relationship's days were very likely to be numbered. Women who looked contemptuous whilst their husband was talking were six times more likely to be divorced two years later. 2. Defensiveness: "Why are you picking on me? Don't look at me like that! What's your problem?!" "But I was just offering you a cup of tea!" Another major predictor of eventual relationship breakdown is over-defensiveness. If someone begins yelling as soon as their partner broaches a subject and feels overly threatened or attacked, and this is a continuing and regular feature of the couple's interactions, then the relationship is in crisis. Being defensive blocks communication and severs intimacy. 3. Don't criticize but do compliment Partners who criticize one another risk damaging their relationship beyond repair... This doesn't mean you should never complain if your spouse upsets you, but a criticism is much more damaging than a simple complaint. When you criticize, you attack the whole person (even if that's not what you mean to do); a complaint is directed at one-off behaviours rather than the core identity of the person. For example: "You are such a lazy £"*tard!" implies they are always like that and that it's a fundamental part of who they are. It's not specific or time-limited as is "I thought you were being a bit lazy today! That's not like you!" Some partners feel they are trying to 'improve' their spouse by constantly pointing out what is wrong with them. Even if the intention is good, the consequences are not. Criticizing partners publically is humiliating (for both partners), but saying nice things about them when in company is a wonderful thing to do. People in happy marriages feel appreciated, loved, and respected. Remind your spouse of their talents, strengths, and what you love and like about them much more. No one likes to feel they are under constant attack. 4. Withdrawal or 'stonewalling' Emotionally withdrawing or stonewalling, 'closing your ears' or 'shutting off' when a partner is complaining is another huge predictor of breakdown. Whilst criticizing was generally more of a female trait, men used stonewalling more. Men's biology is less able to cope with strong emotion than women's, so men may instinctively try to avoid entering arguments or becoming highly aroused by stonewalling. The partner may withdraw during conversations by 'switching off' or ultimately spend more and more time away from the relationship as a way of 'escaping'. The danger is that the stonewalling pattern will become permanent and the partner using this strategy will use it to isolate themselves from potentially positive parts of the relationship. Everyone needs space, but never responding to an emotional issue leaves the other partner out in the cold. Rather surprisingly, if even just one of these factors or 'riders' is present regularly in disputes, the outlook for the relationship is poor. Does your marriage contain any of these 'riders'? And how else can you make your marriage happier? 4) Know what not to talk about in your marriage Younger couples often want to 'dig deep' to unearth all their 'issues', to be entirely open with one another, and to 'talk everything through'. But studies of elderly couples who have been happily married for decades show that these couples often don't listen very carefully to what the other is saying when expressing negative emotion. They also tend to ignore their own feelings about the relationship unless they consider that something absolutely must be done. This threshold is set much higher than in younger couples. So the typical advice of agony aunts to 'air issues' and get 'everything out in the open' doesn't, after all, make for healthy long-term relationships. Agreeing to disagree and knowing which subjects to steer clear of is a key relationship skill. 5) Work out problems but keep a lid on them Another key factor in arguments within relationships that survive is the habit of changing the subject once the discussion has 'run its course'. This 'quick shift' lessens the amount of negative emotion experienced and decreases the likelihood of later rumination. It also conveys the message, "We can argue, and still get on with each other." Thus, the argument is contained and does not contaminate the whole relationship. Disagreements need to be 'one-off specials', not long-running serials. But fun is vital, too... 6) Laugh together, stay together Regularly revisiting romantic times from the past and alluding to them in conversation - "Wasn't it wonderful when we..." and "Do you remember..." - is a powerful way of staying bonded. But regularly laughing together may be even more powerful. According to recent research, couples who laugh together and regularly reminisce about funny times tend to be much more satisfied with their relationships (5). Create a reservoir of funny times and re-visit them often. Lack of fun can wilt a marriage like a flower denied water. 7) Ensure 5 good times for every bad time According to Dr Gottman, stable marriages need five good interactions for every not-so-good one. 'Good' could mean a loving hug, a fun afternoon spent together, or a nice chat about a movie, anything positive. A 'bad' interaction may be a row, disagreement, or disappointment. So make efforts to keep to the 5/1 rule. This will work even better if you follow the next tip. 8) Can you read (love) maps? Remember the old Mr. and Mrs. TV show? (I think it may have been updated.) Anyway, the idea was basically this: The host would ask one partner to go behind a soundproof screen whilst the remaining partner was asked questions about their partner's life and preferences. For example: "Where in the world would your wife most like to travel?" or "What drink would your husband most likely order in a restaurant?" The idea was that the more correlated the answers, the stronger the relationship. And research seems to bear this out: The more you know your partner's tastes, aspirations, whom they like and dislike at work, and so on, the better 'love map' you have. Knowing the details of your partner's inner and outer life (whilst allowing for some privacy) makes for a stronger bond. One woman I worked with didn't know the name of her (underappreciated) husband's company and one husband couldn't tell me the name of their family dog! (Much to his wife's consternation: "He shows no interest!") Strengthen and update your love maps to better navigate your relationship. Living within a happy marriage is one way to ensure long-lasting contentment for both of you. Follow these tips and ask your partner to read this, too. But if you want a fun way to learn how to have a happy marriage by seeing what not to do, watch Fawlty Towers reruns. - See more at: http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/happy-marriage-secrets/#sthash.n8yTYv4o.dpuf
After filing a petition or response for divorce in California, each party is required to serve preliminary disclosures. Preliminary disclosures include an income and expense declaration, a schedule of assets and debts, and other financial disclosures. Pursuant to California Family Code § 2104(f), the petitioner must serve their preliminary disclosures within 60 days of filing of the petition. The respondent must serve their preliminary disclosures within 60 days of filing the response. After serving your preliminary disclosures, you must file a declaration of disclosure with the court. Note, you don't file the financial documents with the court, only the declaration of disclosure. Here is a link to the declaration of disclosure to file with the court: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl141.pdf If a party fails to serve preliminary disclosures, a party can file a motion with court under California Family Code § 2107 to compel a party to serve preliminary disclosures. Cal. Fam. Code § 2107(a) requires a party to have actually served their preliminary disclosures before bringing such a motion. Here is a link to the Declaration of Disclosure, FL-140, which describes the financial disclosures which must be made: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl140.pdf Here is a link to the Schedule of Debts and Assets: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl142.pdf Here is a link to the Income and Expense Declaration: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl150.pdf If you have questions about preliminary disclosures, feel free to call Morales Law for a free consultation (805) 845-5405.
California Family Code Section 4330 (a) states, "the court may order a party to pay for the support of the other party an amount, for a period of time, that the court determines is just and reasonable, based on the standard of living during the marriage." California Family Code Section 4330(b) states, "When making an order for spousal support, the court may advise the recipient of support that he or she should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his or her support needs..." The later section is known as a Gavron Work Hardening Order. Essentially, if the court deems it appropriate, the court will issue a warning to the supported spouse that they must makes efforts to find work and support themselves, as the court intends to terminate or modify spousal support at a future date. See Marriage of Gavron (1988) 203 Cal. App.3d 705. It is the goal of California law that each party make good faith efforts to become self supporting and not need spousal support. Failure to make such efforts maybe be a reason for the court to modify or terminate spousal support. If you have a spousal support issue, call Morales Law today for a free consultation (805) 845-5405.
In divorce it is common for one spouse to live, and pay for, the community home after separation. If the spouse is using separate property to pay the community debt, i.e. wages earned after separation, then the payor spouse may be entitled to reimbursement from the community for paying the community debt. Beware, a spouse who resided in the community home exclusively may have to reimburse the community for the rental value of the home during the period of exclusive use. Typically, only the principal balance paid on the mortgage, not interest, will be reimbursable. If you are going through a separation, where here to help and answer your questions. Call Morales Law today for a free consultation.
A right of of reimbursement may arise when: (1) community property is used for payment of separate debts; (2) separate property used to pay community debts; or (3) when community property is used for payment of premarital debts. CA Family Code Sections 900-1000 governs reimbursement issues in California divorces, and Santa Barbara divorces. A right of reimbursement must be exercised not later than the earlier of the following: (1) 3 years after spouse who has the right has actual knowledge of the use of the property to pay the debt; or (2) in a dissolution action for division of community property or in proceedings for the death of a spouse. Thus, if you wait too long, you may lose your right of reimbursement. If you think you have a right of reimbursement, call Morales Law today for a free consultation. (805) 845-5405.
California Family Code Section 4057.5 (a) (1) states, "The income of the obligor parent's subsequent spouse or non marital partner shall not be considered when determining or modifying child support, except in an extraordinary case where excluding that income would lead to extreme and severe hardship to any child subject to the child support award, in which case the court shall also consider whether including that income would lead to the extreme and severe hardship to any child supported by the obligor or by the obligor's subsequent spouse or non martial partner." California Family Code Section 4057.5 (b) states, "For purposes of this section, an extraordinary case may include a parent who voluntarily or intentionally quits work or reduces income, or who intentionally remains unemployed or underemployed and relies on a subsequent spouse's income." In my experience, it is very difficult to get the court to consider a new mate's income for child support purposes. You will most likely have to show circumstances similar to part B where a spouse intentionally reduces income. If you have questions regarding child support, call Morales Law today for a free consultation (805) 845-5405.
There is no requirement that a party must make more then their monthly expenses to be ordered to pay spousal support. Spousal support is determined by the factors in California Family Code Section 4320. Both parties income, property, debts, etc. will be taken into account in determining whether a court will award support. In regards to your children's expenses, a review of your child support order would be needed. Typically, the parties are required to pay 1/2 of most of the children's expenses, including unreimbursed medical expenses, school tuition, etc. These obligation terminates when a child finishes high school and is 18 years old or turns 19, whichever occurs first. If you have questions about spousal support or child expense reimbursements in California, call Morales Law today for a free consultation (805) 845-5405.
Under Cal. Family Code Section 760, property acquired during marriage is presumed to be community property. This includes any economic value in a business created during the marriage, even if the business was started before marriage. The parties can agree to any valuation they please. Absent agreement, California courts will most likely use one of the following methods to determine the community interest in the business. PEREIRA BUSINESS VALUATION METHOD. This is called the Pereira method because the rule was made in a case called Pereira v. Pereira (1909), 156 Cal. 1, 103 p 488. First, calculate how much money one spouse contributed before marriage or through separate property. Then, a court will assess a FAIR RATE OF RETURN on the separate property investment. The value that is left is community property, split equally by the parties. VAN CAMP BUSINESS VALUATION METHOD. This is called the Van Camp method because the rule was made in a case called Van Camp v. Van Camp, (1921) 53 Cal.App. 17, 199 p 885. Essentially, the Van Camp business valuation method in California determines what the reasonable value of a spouse's services contributed to the business during the marriage. That is deemed community property. The balance is separate property. How do you determine reasonable value? Typically, what other people are earning in similar businesses with similar job responsibilities. An expert may need to be retained. If you own a business, or your spouse owns a business, and you are getting divorced or contemplating divorce, call Morales Law today for a free consultation. (805) 845-5405.
Unless an in kind property division is awarded or agreed to, courts are obligated to determine the value of a family business upon divorce. In a Santa Barbara, California, divorce, if a business was created during the marriage or community efforts were used to grow the business, the business, or a portion thereof, will be deemed community property. Typically, one spouse will buy out the other spouse's community interest in the business. Another option is to sell the business on the open market. Yet, most family businesses are cannot be sold as the efforts of the family members are the sole value of the business. In order to determine the value of a family business, typically a CPA or business valuation expert will need to be retained. The fair market value will be determined by the experts. Alternative valuation methods, such as investment value, may be used as well. If you are considering divorce and you or your spouse owns a business, call Morales Law today for a free consultation. We will vigoursly fight to ensure your value is retained. (805) 845-5405.