The Basics of Epstein Credits and Watts Charges in a Divorce

If you are thinking about getting a divorce in California you may be discussing the logistics of the separation. If you and your spouse own a home you may decide that one of you will continue to live in the home while the other relocates. If your home is community property belonging to both you and your spouse, you may be faced with Epstein and Watts issues when you are settling your divorce.

Here, we provide a brief overview of Epstein Credits and Watts Charges to help you understand your rights and obligations during a divorce.

What are Watts Charges?

If you and your spouse separate and you exclusively remain in the family home after that separation, you may be asked to pay Watts Charges. Watts Charges are requested when one spouse exclusively uses community property after a separation.

Put simply: paying a Watts Charge is like paying rent. You are exclusively using community property (in this case, a family home) for your own personal use and enjoyment. Your spouse, who is generally entitled to 50% of the value of community property, is enjoying 0% of that property’s value and use. Watts charges compensate your spouse for your use of exclusive community property.

What are Epstein Credits?

If you and your spouse separate you exclusively pay the mortgage and/or rent for community property with separate funds, you may request to be reimbursed for your spouse’s share of that burden. These reimbursement requests are known as Epstein Credits.

If, for example, you pay the entirety of the mortgage each month, you may request that your spouse reimburses you for 50% of that payment each month. However, payments must be made from your distinct and separate financial accounts. Epstein Credits will not be applicable if payments are made from jointly-owned or jointly-used banking accounts.

Are Epstein Credits and Watts Charges Automatic?

No, Epstein Credits and Watts Charges are not automatic during a divorce. A spouse who is not exclusively enjoying specific community property must request Watts Charges and a spouse who is exclusively paying for community property from separate and independent funds must request Epstein Credits.

Even when requested, these charges and credits are discretionary and are not automatically awarded. A judge, when reviewing the request for Epstein Credits and/or Watts Charges, will consider several factors when determining the award is appropriate. Factors that may be important in a judge’s evaluation of a request for Epstein & Watts may include:

  • Each spouse’s individual income
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity; and
  • The number of children residing in the home.

Courts may also refuse to award Epstein Credits if:

  • Spouses have a preexisting agreement concerning payment and reimbursement;
  • Payments for the mortgage or community property were intended as a gift to the other spouse;
  • The spouse who made the community property payments continued to live in the home; or
  • The payments for community property were made to satisfy child or spousal support.

A judge will weigh and consider all factors that may be relevant to determining if an award of Epstein Credits and/or Watts Charges is appropriate. Contact an experienced California family law attorney to learn more.

How are Epstein Credits and Watts Charges Calculated?

The burden of proving why Epstein Credits and Watts Charges should be granted is placed on the party asking for the award. Epstein Credits are generally calculated by identifying the actual amount(s) paid for the community property by the requesting spouse.

If you are interested in asking for an award of Epstein Credits you must carefully and purposefully track the payments you make. It is crucial to document that payments for the subject community property are made from separate and exclusive financial accounts. Bank records, mortgage statements, and records of payment can provide the evidence that is necessary to establish cause for an award of Epstein Credits.

Watts Charges are generally calculated by determining the fair market rental value or use of a community asset. If the community asset is a home, the fair market rental value would be the most accurate and appropriate figure. While spouses may be able to speak to the rental value of your home, it may be appropriate to obtain the unbiased opinion of a real estate appraiser and/or expert. An expert can accurately assess the value of a home and determine the fair market rent.

Epstein Credits and Watts Charges may also be offset by one another. If, for example, you pay the entirety of your home’s mortgage payment, but also live in the home exclusively, you may not be awarded Epstein & Watts. This determination, however, will depend on the fair market rental value of your home and the amount paid each month toward your mortgage. A judge will consider these factors when determining if Epstein and Watts are appropriate.

Experienced California Family Law Attorneys

Epstein Credits and Watts Charges can be complicated and it is best to contact an experienced California family law attorney if you are thinking about separating from your spouse. If you’re looking for a divorce lawyer, make sure to check out our guide on finding a good divorce lawyer in California.


Tips for Talking To Your Children about Divorce

Divorce is one of the most difficult challenges anyone could ever face. Anytime a long-term relationship comes to an end, it can be a heartbreaking experience for everyone involved. Couples throughout Utah spend years building a life together, whether it is buying a house, having kids and balancing a career. Nobody is truly prepared to deal with this situation. But perhaps the biggest victims of divorce are the children. They are often caught in the middle and must make the huge adjustment to living with two separate families. Before you contact a divorce attorney, it is important to discuss these issues with your kids.

A Team Effort

Regardless of how difficult the situation, it is the responsibility of both parents to act in the best interest of the child. Having a conversation about divorce is never easy. When it comes to divorce, timing is everything. First, it is best to talk with your kids at least two or three weeks before the separation. Both parents should work together to formulate a proper plan on how to discuss this delicate topic.

Maintain a Caring Tone

When there is acrimony in a marriage, it can be easy for both parents to lose their temper. But when it comes time to talk with your kids, it is important to maintain a caring and sympathetic tone. Remember, they are also going through a difficult time. Choose a quiet place, where there are no distractions. Try to have the conversation during a weekend. During the week, kids are often stressed about their school work.

Communicate With Your Child’s Teacher

Teachers play a major role in a child’s development. During the course of a week, children often spend more time with their teachers than with their parents. In far too many cases, children of divorcing parents often decline in their academic performance. Before parents discuss divorce with their children, try to inform the teacher in advance. Tell the teacher to be sensitive and discreet about the family situation. Teachers can often spot when a child is going through difficult times. By being more understanding, they can help the child with any academic problems during a divorce.

Avoid the Blame Game

One of the worst things a parent can do is to blame their spouse for the divorce. It only makes the situation worse. Children should respect both of their parents. Blaming a spouse not only makes them look bad, it also makes you bad. Unfortunately, many children of divorce blame themselves for their parents splitting up. Try to convey to your children that divorce is strictly an adult decision between both parents.

A Salt Lake City Divorce Attorney Can Help

There are no easy solutions for divorce. Among the most difficult is helping your child through this turbulent period of their life. Salt Lake City divorce attorney Christopher M. Ault understands the challenges and obstacles many parents face. As a divorced father, he understands the unique perspective of his clients. He utilizes a compassionate and comprehensive approach to help place each client in the best position to succeed. Over the years, he and his legal team have provided representation for a variety of family law issues. To learn more, contact The Ault Firm and schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

Author Bio:

I am Christopher M. Ault, Attorney at Law. I am a Salt Lake City divorce attorney with a breadth of knowledge and skill in family law and divorce law. I am committed to helping protect and look after the best interests of each of my clients in every facet of family law.


5 Ways to Overcome Challenges of Co-Parenting After Separation or Divorce

Maintaining a strong relationship with your co-parent is a little like maintaining a strong relationship with your child – it takes patience, perseverance and despite all the planning, trial and error to see what works. Unlike raising a child, one parent cannot send the other to his or her room or take mobile phone privileges away..

So what works after separation or divorce? More than you may realize. Here are 5 ways that our California family law clients have overcome the challenges that come with co-parenting after separation or divorce.

Focus on the important issues to avoid unnecessary conflict

Handle family law cases long enough and you feel like you have seen it all. Parents unfortunately—and sometimes excessively—pick battles that aren’t worth the time, money, or stress they place on their family.

If you and the other parent have different parenting styles, you have to accept it. Yes, that means the children may stay up 30 minutes later at one parent’s house. The children may eat different foods, get to play different games on their phones, or be allowed to finish their homework in the morning, rather than before they go to bed.

Of course, if the different structures within a household begin to negatively affect the children, parents must communicate. We cannot have children getting poor grades, becoming unhealthy due to their poor diets, or become zombies as they stare into their phones and forget how to actually walk and talk at the same time.

Think with your head, not with your heart

It is difficult to be unemotional about your children. You care for them more than anything else in the world. You do not want any harm to come to them. You also want them to excel in just about everything they do.

But you must realize that control is an adolescent illusion. Other factors will affect your children’s lives as you go through a separation and divorce. These other factors may be the other parent’s new relationship, heavier involvement by grandparents or other family members, the children having difficulty adjusting to the new status quo and so forth.

A logical and reasonable approach to problem solving is better than an emotional one. If the other parent is highly volatile, this becomes easier said than done. Co-parenting classes sometimes offers effective solutions, as we will discuss below.

Become flexible as children get older

Compare your child at age 5 and his or her needs and I promise you it will be very different by the time your child is 15. While a predictable parenting schedule usually works best, once a child becomes a teenager, they usually need more flexibility.

Expecting older teenagers to live within the guidelines of every minute of a structured parenting plan without exception may end up causing the children unnecessary stress. And unnecessary stress on the children will inevitably result in more stress for the parents, which will put an undue strain on the co-parenting process.

There are no rules here. If a child is self-parenting or has too much discretion in their choices, communication and co-parenting must go to a higher level.

Streamline communication techniques

When parents are married or otherwise living under the same roof, communication is easier. One or more parents may work but throughout the day, they can speak by telephone, text message and then see each other in the evening. Once separation or divorce happens, that may all change.

Picking a communication method that results in the the least amount of conflict with the most amount of co-parenting return on investment of time.

Some of our co-parenting clients use software programs and websites such as Our Family Wizard or Talking Parents. These websites allow parents to have one place to communicate efficiently and review prior communications, unlike disjointed forms of communication like text messages and emails.

Invest in parenting classes and reading

You are not on your own. Spend some time looking for co-parenting tips online, or contact a local family law attorney in your area for co-parenting classes they recommend. You may be surprised to see how much helpful information is out there.

I know what you may be thinking. The other parent will not attend these with you and the other parent does not care as much as you do. That has nothing to do with you.

The more effective you become at parenting and co-parenting, the better you will become at communication and problem solving. You’ll will be far more empowered to deal with the obstacles that may come your way, including those placed by the other parent. This is one area where knowledge is truly power.

B. Robert Farzad is an experienced family law attorney and licensed in the state of California. He is the president of Farzad Family Law, APC, which is a multi-attorney firm with offices in Santa Ana, Mission Viejo, and Newport Beach in California. This article is not intended to be nor should it be construed as legal advice.