When a marriage with children comes to an end, both parties will need to consider the impact a divorce agreement will have on their children. Not just their children’s emotional welfare, but their quality of life as well.
Naturally you’re concerned about your own post-divorce standard of living. But if you’re like most of our Orange County clients, your biggest concern is mitigating the impact of divorce on your children. If you are the party receiving child support, you even have an obligation to pursue what is fair for them. And unlike alimony, child support cannot be waived.
Maintaining the Status Quo for Your Children
It’s not just adults who get used to a certain standard of living. And if the parties cannot agree on appropriate amounts of support, it can further complicate children’s ability to process a divorce.
Attempts to maintain stability and routine are important for children when their parents are separating or divorcing. Now more than ever your children will need your emotional and financial support.
If your ex is failing to maintain the status quo of your marriage during the duration of the divorce, then you may need to file a motion. Divorces can take months or even years to finalize, so it’s important to insist on the status quo during the pendency of the divorce itself.
Your divorce agreement itself should address issues beyond basic support. Important issues such as payment for private schools, college educations, and extracurricular activities may all be negotiated.
It can be difficult but not impossible to maintain a marital lifestyle once you’re residing in two locations. Throughout this blog post we’ll discuss how to maintain the quality of life your children are used to, even post-divorce.
How to Protect Your Children’s Interests in a Divorce
We’re not going to spend much time in this post on basic child support. The truth is child support alone will often be insufficient to maintain your children’s lifestyle. Child support is intended to provide only basic necessities for minor children. Things like clothes, food, shelter.
Although parental income is a factor in a child support award, the child support guidelines are often capped. When you talk about maintaining a lifestyle in a high net worth divorce, child support is just one of many factors to negotiate.
Children’s Quality of Life and Extracurricular Activities
Particularly in high net worth and high-income divorce cases, you can argue that child support should exceed the guidelines. Some of the factors that might allow a court to deviate from the standard child support guidelines model include:
- The needs of the children, including any special needs
- The marital standard of living
- High net worth
- Parenting time
- Existence of trusts
If a child has a particular interest, skill, or hobby, then it can be argued that your ex will need to continue contributing to same. For instance, if your child takes horseback riding lessons, then such an extracurricular should be continued even after the divorce. In some cases, that may even mean providing for equine ownership, care, transportation, and storage.
Children’s Quality of Life and Education
A guiding principle is that children’s standard of living should not materially decrease following a divorce. The same is true for maintaining the status quo for your children’s education expectations. If your children were enrolled in private schools pre-divorce, then absent a change in circumstance you may negotiate that they remain in private schools post-divorce. The education level and income of the parties will also determine to what extent each must contribute to their children’s college costs, and the selection of colleges. But note that California does not currently have a standard requirement that parents must pay for their children’s college educations.
Because neither parent is currently required to pay for college costs in California, it is important to negotiate same as part of a divorce agreement. In other words, the courts will honor an agreement to contribute to college costs but will not mandate it. This is another way to protect your children’s quality of life, both now and in the future.
And of course, if there are unique health or educational needs, this too will need to be considered as a factor in maintaining the appropriate level of support for your children.
A Quick Word on Prenuptial Agreements
It may seem like a good idea to negotiate child support in a prenuptial agreement, but California law does not allow child custody or support issues to be resolved in prenuptial agreements. However, whether via a prenuptial agreement or as part of divorce negotiations, ensuring that your needs are provided for is an important way to protect your children’s best interests.
Interplay with Alimony and Property Division
One of the most important things you can do to protect your children’s quality of life is to make sure you negotiate for what you are legally entitled to. If your spouse is not going to use their extra funds toward your children, then it’s better that you receive what is due. For instance, equitable distribution and alimony are two avenues where you can ensure that you receive a fair portion of the marital pie. You can then use your own form of familial “trickle down” economics to protect your children’s lifestyle post-divorce.
If you’re the parent of primary residence, then negotiating to buy out or remain in the marital home will help ensure your children’s lifestyle as well.
Another important consideration is enforcement of child support.
Interplay with Enforcement of Child Support
Another thing you can do to maintain your children’s quality of life is to consider enforcement actions. A large percentage of alimony and child support in California goes unpaid. If you have an ex that does not willingly pay support, then you may need to pursue an enforcement action. Remember, the more money you have at your disposal, the more likely it is that you can maintain your children’s lifestyle even post-divorce.
Fighting for Your Quality of Life, and That of Your Children
Retaining an experienced family law firm is essential to not only protecting your rights, but also your children’s.
If you’re facing a high net worth divorce case in Orange County or surrounding locales, call (949) 565-4158 or complete an online contact form to schedule a complimentary consultation with Burch Shephard Family Law Group. We are a compassionate and specialized law firm with more than one hundred years of combined family law experience.
We look forward to learning more about your important California divorce matter.