Frequently Asked Questions About California Family Law

We understand that busy professionals often need quick answers to their questions. While we are available to answer your questions anytime, we want to give you a basis for understanding how your family law questions can affect your case.

To better assist our clients, we have compiled some of our most frequently asked questions in the following areas:

1What is a Divorce?

It is a legal end to a marriage. Each party is restored to the status of single person. The process is begun by the first party to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. He or she will be known as the Petitioner. The other party, who may or may not file a Response paper, is known as the Respondent. Without the spouses creating agreements to resolve the issues arising from their divorce, the court will decide them.

2What are Grounds for Divorce?

The State of California is a no fault divorce state. You can have a divorce simply by swearing that irreconcilable differences have arisen in the marriage that have caused its irreparable breakdown. Other grounds for ending a marriage exist, but require proof. Your spouse cannot stop you from obtaining a divorce in California.

3Where do I File a Divorce Case?

Generally, the State of California has jurisdiction over the marriage when one of the parties is a resident of the State, plus power over the property of the marriage after either party has at least six months residency immediately before the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and at least three months as a resident of the county in which the Petition is filed.

4How Long Does it Take Before I can be Divorced?

Six months and a day must pass from the date that the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is served on the Respondent before you can become restored to single status. Because so many cases take longer than 6 months to complete, the court can restore single status and later decide other issues.

5What About Legal Separation or Annulment Proceedings?

Separation: The difference between divorce and legal separation is that marital status is not terminated. At the end of the case the parties remain married. But, just as with a divorce, the issues of custody, visitation, support, asset and debt division, and so on are resolved in the final judgment.

While the Petitioner party may file to seek a legal separation, the Respondent party may elect either a legal separation or a divorce. A request for a divorce supercedes one for separation.

Legal separations are requested by a party who may be unsure that the marriage is permanently broken, yet desires to formalize the division of his or her assets and debts, and arrange custody, visitation and support issues. Legal separations may be filed while waiting to meet residency requirement times for a divorce. At times, religious reasons may apply. Or, a separation is requested to maintain medical insurance coverage for a spouse who could not otherwise afford or obtain it, or for a spouse who is otherwise uninsurable because of a pre- existing medical condition.

Annulment: An annulment is sought where the petitioning party believes the marriage was entered into because of fraud relating to the purpose of a marriage, lack of ability to consent, failure to consummate, and such grounds. The result of a decree of annulment is that the parties are immediately returned to the status of unmarried persons, the marriage is nullified, and the marriage is treated as if it had never occurred.

Legal cause and proof are required before the court, even if the other spouse does not respond. Complex legal considerations need to be considered before filing an annulment. Newport Divorce Attorney believes it is wise to request a divorce in the alternative, in case the annulment request is denied.

6What is a Parenting Plan?

One part is “physical custody”, which means where the child lives and how the child spends his or her time. Think about activities, overnights, and day-to-day parental care opportunities. “Joint physical custody” means each parent has significant periods of time with the child so as to assure a child of frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Newport Divorce Attorney knows what questions to ask and how to get a parenting plan that works for you and your children. Call us today if parenting is an issue.

“Legal custody”, means the right to make decisions promoting the health, education and welfare of your children. Be clear and specific about which decisions each parent can make on their own and which decisions must be made together. Call Newport Divorce Attorney today if legal custody issues are in your case.

Joint Legal and Physical Custody Considerations:

Generally: Joint custody is most successful when parents are consistent in dealing with their children, cooperate with and support the discipline (and other efforts) of the other parent, communicate about what is in the best interests of their children, are not in conflict around the child, share in parenting tasks, and the children’s possessions.

Specifically: The age, maturity, and temperament of each child, and his or her special needs; the parents’ work schedule and flexibility; the availability and affordability of child care, transportation distances, and how well the parents communicate and cooperate are typical factors that help create a parenting plan.

Parents with a low level of conflict will usually need less detail in their agreement while specific plans work best for parents in higher conflict.

7What Are Some Parenting Plan Considerations?

The age, maturity, and temperament of each child, and his or her special needs; the parents’ work schedule and flexibility; the availability and affordability of child care, transportation distances, and how well the parents communicate and cooperate are typical factors that help create a parenting plan.

Parents with a low level of conflict will usually need less detail in their agreement while specific plans work best for parents in higher conflict.

8How Will a Parenting Plan Work Best?

The Newport Divorce Attorney professional staff has more than 60 years of breakup experience.  Call on us to help create the best arrangements for your children, whether by court orders, or parent agreements.

You know your children, so:

    • Watch to see how they do with the schedule.
    • If they aren't doing well, talk to the other parent and try to find a way to fix things.
    • Make sure the children know that the separation or divorce is not their fault.
    • Tell them you love them, and that you will take care of them.
    • Let them tell you how they feel about all the changes and what they need from you. And try to listen without getting defensive.

Parents don't always agree on what's best for their children. This is natural. It happens in every relationship. When you and the other parent don't agree:

    • Listen to the other parent and respect his or her point of view.
    • Control your emotions, just like you do at work.
    • Do what's best for your children.
    • Don't put your children in the middle of your fights with the other parent.
    • Don’t use physical violence or be mentally or emotionally abusive.
9On What Does the Court Decide the Amount of Child Support?

If parents cannot agree on how much money is fair and reasonable to take care of their children, the court will generally order one parent to pay the other parent a sum of money every month to help pay for the children’s living expenses.

The judge must decide the child support amount based on a guideline calculation. California has established a formula to calculate guideline child support. Only in very limited circumstances can the judge order something other than the guideline amount. Basic child support does not include the cost of child care or uninsured medical expenses. These additional costs will be allocate by the Court, and ordered in addition to guideline support. The guideline calculation depends on a number of facts and data.

When you retain Newport Divorce Attorney, we get that information and calculate child support for payment by court order, if not by agreement. Income and time sharing are key data relied on.

10How is Spousal Support Calculated?

In considering the amount and duration of long term spousal support, the court must consider the following circumstances:

  • The standard of living enjoyed by the parties during their marriage;
  • The income or earning capacity of each party;
  • The skills, job training or education needed so the supported spouse can earn income;
  • The extent to which the supported party contributed to the education, training, or the career of the paying party;
  • The obligations and assets of each party after their division;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • Whether the supported party can work without interfering with the interests of children in that spouse’s custody;
  • The age and health of the parties;
  • Documented history of domestic violence or criminal conviction of an abusive spouse;
  • The immediate tax consequences to each party;
  • The balance of the hardships to each party;
  • That the supported spouse be self supporting within a reasonable period of time. (For marriages of less than ten years, this is generally one half the length of the marriage.)
  • Any other factors the court determines are just and reasonable.

In determining long term support, the court is not permitted to use a computer program temporary formula. The judge must decide after consideration of all of the above that apply.

11What Property Is Divided In Divorce?

Each spouse equally owns the community property assets and debts. Unless the parties agree differently, a court will divide these assets and debts equally between them. It takes creative and experienced counsel to foresee tax consequences and other reasons not to merely recommend slicing the community in two.

12Are You Ready for Your Initial Consultation?

You may choose a 20 minute free consultation over the telephone or in person. No legal advice can be given. Or, you may choose an hour to allow for gathering sufficient information to develop legal opinions the hour is at an introductory rate. The amount charged will apply to your retainer. We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or your check.

13How Are Legal Fees Set?

The cost of divorcing depends on many factors. Several of which include the urgency of the issues, their complexity, the cooperation of the opposing spouse and his or her attorney, the extent to which information is disclosed fully and promptly by each party, the need for experts, and the degree of conflict brought to the dispute.

Hourly rates for legal services are based on the training, experience and skill of the attorney, and the rates being charged by similarly skilled attorneys. More information about Robert Glasser’s extensive experience is available here. His legal services rate is $400 per hour.