Puja Sachdev | July 5, 2022 | Divorce
When a couple seeks a divorce, the situation can escalate quickly. How do you resolve child support, child custody, property division, spousal support, and other matters while the divorce is still pending?
California courts issue interim orders, which are temporary orders concerning these matters. They apply until the divorce decree is final, at which point final orders replace interim orders. Courts can modify even “final” orders under the right circumstances.
California applies a strong presumption in favor of joint custody based on the idea that joint custody favors the child’s best interests. Despite this presumption, California judges frequently issue child custody orders that deviate from this principle.
Although California courts routinely order DCFS reports to help them decide child custody matters, there is simply not enough time to issue such a report prior to an interim order of child custody. Consequently, courts will rely on other evidence such as:
- School records: Does the child do better in school while living with one parent rather than the other?
- Medical records: Is there any evidence of abuse by either parent?
- Statements by witnesses Statements by neutral witnesses (teachers rather than relatives, for example) are more likely to be treated as credible.
The judge might order one parent to attend parenting classes, anger management classes, etc., as an alternative to deviating from the presumption of joint custody.
In many cases, the issuance of an interim child support order is critical to the child’s best interests. California applies the “income share” principle to child support determinations. Under this principle, the parents’ income is apportioned in a manner designed to prevent the child’s lifestyle from deteriorating on account of the divorce. The idea is that the child should not suffer a degraded lifestyle simply because their parents are divorcing.
This principle also applies to interim orders, except that the court does not have as much time to investigate each parent’s finances prior to issuing the order. Family courts consider the following factors when issuing interim child support orders.
- The parents’ relative incomes;
- The number of children; and
- The needs of each child.
Younger children who need daycare are often awarded more than older children, although individual circumstances greatly affect the amount of child support order.
Spousal Support (Alimony)
If the family includes only one breadwinner, the issue of alimony can be critical. How will a homemaker spouse survive until a divorcee decree is finalized? Even if the court awards child custody and child support to the spouse who needs alimony, courts treat the issue of alimony separately from the issue of child support. A judge will decide the amount of temporary alimony based on the principle of preserving the financial status quo to the furthest extent possible.
Property division is often the lowest priority in an interim divorce decree, if it is even included at all. Courts are particularly reluctant to change the title of property in interim divorce agreements If the couple cannot live together in peace; however, a judge might have to issue an interim order concerning the use of the family home while the divorce is pending. Under such circumstances, the children’s best interests are the paramount concern.
The Final Divorce Decree
A family law judge will issue a final divorce decree after each party has had a chance to be heard and present evidence. Judges encourage divorcing couples to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on the foregoing matters. Although even an agreement between divorcing spouses must be approved by the court, courts generally approve such agreements as long as they do not harm the child’s best interests.
Speak With an Experienced Family Lawyer Immediately
Circumstances can change quickly when divorce is on the horizon. With so much at stake, especially if you have children, you cannot afford to represent yourself or hire an inexperienced family lawyer. Speak with an experienced family lawyer as soon as you can so that you can tell your story, ask questions, and learn about your options.
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San Diego, CA 92108