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Los Gatos cohabitation agreement attorneyMany people choose to live with a romantic partner on a long-term basis without becoming legally married. They may look and act like a married couple. They may share bank accounts, co-own property, and even have children together. However, when cohabiting couples in California separate—whether due to a breakup, death, or disability—they can run into serious difficulties, because California law does not grant cohabiting couples the same rights and responsibilities that are afforded to legally married couples. Unmarried couples can, however, sign a contract called a cohabitation agreement (also known as a “no-nup”), which is similar to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement signed by couples who do marry.

When Should I Consider a California Cohabitation Agreement?

If you and your partner both work and contribute fairly toward your household expenses but otherwise keep your finances separate, you may not see the need for a cohabitation agreement. However, over time, your circumstances might change, and your finances may become more intermingled. There are several situations in which a cohabitation agreement can be of significant benefit to you, such as:

  • You are the primary home-manager while your partner is the primary income-earner. In this situation, you could be sacrificing the opportunity to build your own career and income potential. If your relationship ends suddenly, you could find yourself in dire financial straits until you can find a job and rebuild your career. A cohabitation agreement can be written to provide protection in this scenario. For example, your partner could agree to pay you the equivalent of spousal support for some period of time after a break-up or provide you with a lump sum payment or inheritance in the case of their death.
  • You are the primary income-earner while your partner is working to obtain an advanced degree. Suppose that you agree to work and support your partner financially while he or she completes law school or medical school, with the expectation that you will both benefit financially in the future. In a cohabitation agreement, your partner could agree to reimburse you for that support if your relationship ends within a certain timeframe.
  • You and your partner buy a home together. A cohabitation agreement can document how much each partner shall contribute to the down payment, mortgage payments, and other costs. It can also define a process for managing or selling the property in the event that your relationship ends for any reason. 
  • You have significant assets that you want to protect. A cohabitation agreement can spell out ownership of assets acquired before and during the relationship. This can prevent disputes in the event of a hostile breakup. The agreement can also specify what you want your partner to inherit in the event of your death.

Contact an Experienced Los Gatos Family Law Attorney

You can enter into a cohabitation agreement at any time, even if you have already been living together for years. To make sure the terms of your agreement are clearly understood and legally enforceable, work with an experienced Los Gatos, CA cohabitation agreements lawyer. At the Law Offices of Benita Ventresca, we will help you understand the legal issues that your agreement should address and make sure that your unique needs are met. Contact us at 408-395-8822 for a free initial consultation.

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Los Gatos divorce attorney pet ownership85% of people with a dog, cat, or other animal companion reportedly think of themselves as pet “parents” rather than “owners.” However, divorce laws across the United States are just starting to catch up with this way of thinking. 

Illinois was one of the first states to enact legislation that specifically addresses the issue of pets in divorce. A law that took effect at the beginning of 2018 empowered Illinois judges to grant sole or joint “custody” of a pet as part of a divorce settlement and are directed to consider the well-being of the pet when making such decisions.

California has now jumped on the pet wagon with a new law that takes effect in January 2019. Rather than treat pets like a car or a piece of furniture, something that has only a financial value and must be awarded to one spouse or the other, judges will now handle family pets more like they handle child custody. 

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Los Gatos child custody lawyer same sex parents surrogate motherAs family structures have become more diverse in recent decades, child custody issues have become more complicated. Traditionally, the world has followed the “rule of two” and allowed a child to have just two legal parents at birth: the woman who gave birth to the child and her husband (or, if the woman was unmarried at the time of the birth, the child’s biological father could claim paternity). One parent would have to die or legally terminate their parental rights in order for an adoptive parent to take their place.

However, divorce, same-sex marriage, informal parentage, adoption, surrogate pregnancies, and assisted reproduction have all contributed to an increase in family structures involving more than two parents, and American courts are starting to adapt to the idea of tri-parenting.

In 2013, California became the first state to pass a law allowing for a child to have more than two legal, living parents, and a similar law was recently passed in Maine. Courts in at least 10 other states have approved specific cases of third-parent adoptions, dual paternity, “psychological” (non-biological) parents, or “tri-custody.”

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Los Gatos joint child custody lawyerMany divorced parents prefer the idea of joint physical custody of their children versus an arrangement in which one parent has sole physical custody while the other has scheduled visitation. However, when it comes to making it work in the real world, joint physical custody raises a lot of questions. Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions:

Does Joint Physical Custody Require an Exact 50/50 Split of Time?

Joint physical custody implies a relatively equal split of a child’s time between two parents. However, the law does not require joint custody to be an exact, 50/50 split of calendar days. A time split of 60/40, for example, may still be considered joint physical custody. There is no hard and fast rule. 

Parents should note that, according to the California Child Support Guidelines, child support payments should be calculated based on the actual percentage of time a child spends with each parent.

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Los Gatos legal child custody attorneyWhen making decisions about your post-divorce parenting plan, it is important to understand the difference between joint legal custody and sole legal custody of your children.   

Joint Legal Custody

Having joint legal custody, which is the most common choice in California divorces, means that both parents have the right and responsibility to make decisions about the children. It does not mean the parents have to be in 100% agreement about every decision, but they do have to be willing to discuss these issues calmly and compromise based on the best interests of the children. 

When joint legal custody is ordered, the court documents should specify the situations when the consent of both parents is required and the consequences if one party does not obtain the other’s consent. Such orders should also specify that both parents should have full access to all school and medical records, and that parents must keep each other informed about the children’s location and care decisions.

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