When facing a complex family legal issue like divorce it’s natural to have a lot of questions. Learning the basics about proper proceedings, laws, and what to expect, can go a long way in helping you deal with this often emotional and difficult time.
We often get asked the same questions by potential clients in our initial consultation and though the specific facts of your case may vary, these commonly asked questions generally apply to most, if not all, divorce matters in California. We hope you find them useful!
1. How much will my divorce cost?
Beyond the $435 filing fees each for a complaint and first response, it isn’t possible to come with an exact figure, though there are some factors that control what it may cost. An uncontested divorce is almost always less expensive. If there are disputed issues over child and/or spousal support or division of property, there will be a greater time commitment on an attorney’s part which translates to higher costs.
2. How do I start the divorce process?
It begins with the filing of a summons and petition for dissolution of marriage. The forms have both boxes to be checked off and narrative sections. Once the paperwork is accurately completed it’s submitted to the proper county court.
People often ask, too, if it matters who files first. The short answer is no. There can be exceptions, such as gaining an advantage in jurisdiction, you need immediate custody or support orders, and/or if there is a potential risk to community assets.
3. How do I apply for temporary child or spousal support?
Once the petition is filed and served you can file a request for order with the court asking for temporary child and/or spousal support. The court will set a hearing date at which time the judge will determine if such an order is necessary.
4. Can the custodial parent move to another state or country?
The court must decide on the matter and it will always depend on the child’s best interest. If you’re a non-custodial parent who find themselves in this situation and opposes it, it’s important to take steps as early as possible so the court understands you want to continue visitation with your child.
5. How long will my divorce take?
Simple divorces can be finalized in a short period of time, sometimes days or weeks. A contested divorce can drag on for years. Working with an experienced family law attorney can help minimize the time your divorce takes as well as how much it will cost, all while protecting your rights and interests.
6. How is property divided in California?
In California all property is considered either “community” or “separate.” At your divorce, the court will divide community property (property acquired during the marriage), equally between the parties. Separate property, or property that’s acquired before marriage, after separation, or by gift or inheritance (even during the marriage) is deemed to be the sole property of the person who acquired it.
7. Can I handle my divorce myself?
Yes, it is possible to handle your own divorce. But divorce proceedings in California can be complicated and you may not be aware of all your rights. To make sure they’re protected, it may be in your best interest to work with a qualified divorce attorney.
8. Can I get my spouse to pay for my attorney fees and costs?
To ensure both parties have access to equal quality legal representation, the court has the authority to order one spouse to pay some or all of the other spouse’s fees and costs. Talk to a family law attorney about the ways you may be able to obtain funds from your spouse, so you have adequate representation.
9. What are the grounds for divorce in California? What if my spouse cheated on me?
California is a no-fault divorce state and most divorces are granted on the grounds the marriage bond has been broken. Citing wrongdoing of your spouse, no matter how egregious it might be, isn’t required or even permitted. The only other “ground” for divorce in the state is incurable insanity and the burden of proof is high.
Divorcing couples in California must also meet a residency requirement with at least one of them being a resident for at least six months and a county resident for at least three months before filing for divorce.
California is one of the few states that allows legal separation as an alternative to divorce. You still go through a legal process, but you remain married while living separately. This option is typically chosen for financial reasons.