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Do Christmas gifts count as child support?

The Christmas season is upon us again, which means that most people will be spending much more than normal -- especially on gifts for the kids. But don't make the mistake of thinking that your gifts are an adequate substitution for your usual support payments.

Child support is designed to benefit the child by providing adequate money to help the custodial parent pay for essentials like food, shelter and clothing. The amount of support you have to pay is calculated according to your income, the other parent's income and the percentage of time each of you spends with the child. No matter how well-intentioned (or even badly needed) your gifts may be, they aren't substitutions for your regular support payments because all those other essential needs still have to be met.

Can you reduce the cost of your divorce?

With all the other stress you're under during a divorce, your finances can quickly become the biggest stressor in your life once you realize how costly divorce can be. Experts say that the average divorce in 2019 costs each spouse about $15,000. That's a lot to handle on top of all your other expenses.

The good news is that you and your spouse can control your own costs by being proactive and committing to working together to end your marriage as peacefully as possible. Here are some tips:

Going through a divorce? Here are some rules for Thanksgiving

Are you absolutely dreading facing your extended family members this Thanksgiving because of your contentious divorce? Coping with the disruption and trauma of divorce is always difficult, but it can be particularly hard to handle when relatives (well-meaning or not) insert themselves into your situation in an unwelcome way.

For your own sanity and your children's peace of mind, you need to establish a few boundary rules with your family members -- before Thanksgiving arrives. Here are the things everybody needs to keep in mind:

What happens when a spouse gets caught hiding assets?

During a divorce, there's no time for secrets about money and resources. All of those things need to be sorted by owner, and joint assets must be divided. You know the rules. Your spouse knows the rules.

But what if someone decides to cheat a little -- or a lot? What happens if you hide a secret savings account from your spouse, but your spouse tracks it down? What happens if your spouse tries to keep money from the family business out of the marital split and gets caught?

How do stay-away orders differ from restraining orders?

In California, a "stay-away" order is just what it sounds like: Also known as a Criminal Protective Order (CPO), it's a court order that obliges one person to keep away from another. However, California courts also use something known as a Civil Restraining Order (CRO).

What's the difference?

Do the signs say you're on the road to a divorce?

There's no roadmap when it comes to life, so you're generally forced to watch for signs along your path that help you make good decisions. However, the signs that should be guiding you aren't always 100% obvious -- particularly in matters of the heart.

Could all the signs around you be saying that your marriage is over? If you're trying to puzzle out what step to take next on the path, here are the indicators that divorce is probably the route to go:

  1. Do you sit down together every day? Whether you share coffee at breakfast or have a nightly snack together, that communal time maintains your connections.
  2. You'd be gone if you didn't have kids. If the kids are the glue in your marriage, that's really a business partnership, not a romance.
  3. Your spouse has an addiction. If your spouse won't get help or has tried and failed several times, you have to decide where to draw the line and protect yourself from further harm.
  4. You're no longer intimate. Unless medical issues are causing sexual dysfunction, a lack of intimacy is a huge red flag.
  5. You're increasingly distant. If you don't even bother checking in with your spouse when you make plans with friends or to travel, you've already emotionally removed yourself from the union.
  6. There's a lack of respect. When you or your spouse start making "jokes" at the other's expense, constantly resort to sarcasm, belittle each other or mock each other in public, that's a sign that you just don't even like each other very much.
  7. You're unhappy and don't want to go home. Your home should be your refuge from the world. If you'd rather be anywhere but home, your marriage is damaging your emotional health.

Marriage, divorce and student loans: What you need to know

Are you ready to tie the knot but worried about how your student loans will affect your intended spouse? Does your intended have a lot of student loan debt that you're worried about taking on?

You aren't alone. These days, a lot of younger people have significant financial burdens, thanks to the high cost of repaying student loans. However, student loans don't have to be insurmountable obstacles to your happiness -- as long as you and your partner plan things carefully. Here are the things you need to keep in mind.

Woman takes a disastrous route to a divorce

Everybody going through a divorce ultimately hopes that it will be quick and uncomplicated -- but things don't always go that way.

Well, one 45-year-old Florida woman took an approach to her divorce that has now made national headlines. She and her husband had initially agreed to an uncontested divorce. However, her husband came home one day and announced that he wouldn't sign the divorce agreement. He was going to take their issues into court. Contested divorces have to be litigated in front of a judge and frequently stumble over issues like property division, spousal support and child custody.

Is it time to discuss the holiday visitation schedule?

The nights are getting longer, the air is getting colder and we're already in October. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas will all be happening before you know it. That means that it's time to discuss your holiday plans with your co-parent and make any necessary adjustments to your visitation schedule with the kids.

For a lot of divorced parents, the holidays are a complicated time. Given the importance of family at this time of year, no parent wants to be separated from their children during the festivities. More than likely, you also have out-of-town relatives who also want to see your kids during the year. Unfortunately, you essentially have two choices when it comes to the holiday schedule:

  • You can insist that the custody agreement be followed as it is written and refuse to deviate for any reason.
  • You can work with your ex to make the holiday more enjoyable for everyone -- especially your kids.

Leaving your abuser: What you need to know

If you're in an abusive relationship, you know that the only sure road to safety is to get out and put some distance between yourself and your abuser.

Unfortunately, the mere act of leaving can actually make your situation more dangerous -- at least for a while. Here are a few things that every abused individual needs to know about making their way out of the situation.

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