The answer, in a phrase, is "it depends." Either the family home may be put up for sale and the revenues from the sale split, or one spouse can buy out the other by paying the other spouse an amount equal to half of the equity in the property. Under certain circumstances, like when there are children who need to stay in the same school district until they graduate from high school, the sale can be put off. A party whose investment in the property is held by the other party may argue that a fair rate of return on the property be imputed as child support or spousal support, as if it were paid to the remaining spouse.
Stock options are a form of property. Property that is acquired during the marriage is community property. Even if it does not turn into actual money until later. Courts have broad discretion when deciding how to divide stock options. There is an appropriate argument for each situation and for each side.
“Man is made of dust. Dust settles. Are you a man?”
- Writer unknown
Your attorney will be able to advise you about whether or not it is in your best interest to voluntarily pay the attorneys' fees of the opposing side as part of a voluntary settlement. It can be necessary in some situations, especially when your lawyer thinks that a judge would probably give you a bigger amount if the case went to court. Your attorney will need to carefully consider the facts (both the facts known to you and also the facts known by the opponent’s attorney) and apply them to the attorney fees statutes in the Family Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, and even the Penal Code. The judge can only award attorney fees in situations where a statute specifically permits the award. When talking to a client about the possibility of a settlement, we are always expected to think about what a court might do if given the facts of the case. After that, we make an effort to negotiate a better bargain for you than what the court might provide.
There are attorneys fees statutes that are predicated upon unequal access to money, the necessity for attorneys fees as a measure to provide equal access to the courts, as a punishment for wasteful litigation techniques, or for the fair expense of enforcing a judgment or order. There may also be a requirement that the losing party pay the winning party's legal expenses in certain circumstances. However, if the person being ordered to pay does not have the financial means to do so, the Family Court cannot require them to pay the other side's legal costs—but only if the statute that authorizes the attorney's fee order is within the California Family Code.
Very likely, but not if the previous order for spousal support specifies that it is "non-modifiable." Chances are that you were not actually ordered to pay support for life. The duration, though, is usually expressed in the form of “until death of either party, remarriage of the supported party, or further order of the court.” That “further order of the court” is everything!
If there has been a "material change of circumstances," the court that issued the spousal support order may decide to modify the order. This happens often in situations in which one of the parties quits their employment, retires, or the payee significantly increases their wealth, or changes in any combination of the fourteen spousal support factors. It is even possible to find a material change of circumstances caused by the supported person failing to find employment when ordered to do so. Nevertheless, you need to be prepared to hold a trial over the matter. When deciding whether or not to alter spousal support, the court is required to consider all fourteen considerations. That may be a challenging situation, especially when the fourteenth component is "any other consideration" that the court decides to accept. When seeking to adjust or end spousal support, it is important that you acquire the services of an experienced attorney. Creativity at framing an “other issue to be considered” can be strategically important.’’
Every attorney has an opinion based upon their understanding of the facts and their understanding of applicable law. Senior lawyers usually recognize more issues than junior lawyers. You are always entitled to have your attorney write you a letter stating their opinion. Do not be surprised, though, if you have to pay for the letter. The attorney’s understanding of the facts and law may vary from your own. You can respond by clarifying your understanding – either verbally or in writing. If the attorney and client do not resolve their differences, then it is customary for them to part ways – even if it turns out that the attorney was wrong. It can be very difficult for an attorney to represent a client with whom he has a substantial disagreement.
When determining "guideline" child support, the court is required to use a formula that is standard throughout the state and is part of the child support "guideline." If there has been an intervention by the Department of Child Support, then they are obligated to utilize their its own computer program to determine the amount of guideline child support. Other programs, such as Dissomaster and xSpouse, are available for use in Family Courts and by Attorneys. The court considers each party's income and expenses, determines the most effective means of enrolling the child or children in a health insurance plan, determines how responsibility for uninsured medical costs should be divided, and decides whether or not the cost of child care should be allocated. Even though it doesn't happen very often, the court has the authority to issue orders that redistribute the costs associated with attending school and participating in extracurricular activities.
Well, there is the WATTS issue, that if a spouse occupies a community property house, then he or she is obligated to reimburse the community estate for the fair rental value. The equal and opposite argument is EPSTEIN credits. That's where a spouse pays a debt that belongs to the community estate, and then demands reimbursement of the payments. Epstein and Watts are discussed in Marriage of Jeffries. That dovetails into the Family Code 2640 reimbursement for separate property contribution to acquisition of a community property asset, e.g. paydown of the mortgage after the date of separation. A completely different way to look at it is described in Marriage of Bonvino, where the court of appeal addresses the commingling of separate and community property as it relates to the appreciation in a residence.
If there are more than a few thousand dollars at issue, then it's probably worthwhile to have an attorney figure out your best bargaining position, or best argument to present to the court.