The California state legislature enacted several pieces of legislation that went into effect in 2021. Many of the new laws are supposed to address new challenges that made previous family law legislation ineffective. While Californians have welcomed the majority of the new laws, they have also criticized some of them.
Here are the recent changes to California family law.
Visitation and Custody
The California law now forces trial courts to consider a child’s preference when determining visitation and custody.
In addition, children over the age of 13 can address the trial court and state their preferences. However, the child’s preferences can still be denied if the court determines that the child’s best interests will not be protected. Younger children can also address the court in some special instances.
The recent changes also advise the court to find alternative ways of knowing the child’s preferences. An investigator, evaluator, or child counselor can submit the child’s preferences to the court. The parents can also submit the child’s preferences.
Soliciting to Kill a Spouse
If a person is found guilty of trying to kill their spouse, the intended victim can claim all the conspirator’s pension benefits and retirement bonuses. This is also applicable if a conspirator was convicted of planning to kill their spouse.
Perpetrators also do not benefit from their spouse’s support, insurance payments, or any medical benefits.
Disqualification of Judges
A recent amendment to the California family code states that anybody who calls for the disqualification of a judge must send notice to all interested parties.
This notice must reach the parties no later than five days after their filing of the motion. If the disqualification motion is a peremptory challenge, the notice must reach all parties no later than ten days after filing the motion.
Nevertheless, this period can be extended to 15 days when the matter is before a direct calendar court.
Family Code Section 771
There have also been recent changes to estate planning law. The new law states that if a couple is living separately and apart, then their earnings during this time are regarded as individual earnings. This means that they cannot be divided if a divorce is initiated later on. Nevertheless, the courts has had a hard time defining what “separate and apart” actually means.
The consensus is that the separate and apart element is satisfied when the husband or wife consciously decides not to take part in marital relations. In addition, the spouse starts engaging in activities which they wouldn’t otherwise do if they were married to the other spouse.
There was an amendment in 2020 that now directs spouses to state the intention to end the marriage to the other spouse.
This new law has tremendous implications on estate planning. Estate planning lawyers must now know the details of this latest amendment and how it affects their clients. For instance, you may be planning to purchase a house after separating from your spouse. You may then intend to leave this house to somebody else once you pass away. Your spouse may come to claim the property after your death. This law may protect you and your beneficiaries from such claims.
It also means that you should state your intention to end your marriage as soon as you separate. Failure to do so may enable the court to award your community property to your spouse after your death. The spouse can easily claim that you were never separated or living apart.
California residents and estate planning attorneys need to know the implications of the latest changes to the California Family Code. This helps people to plan their estates using the latest law changes.
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