Skip to main content
Category

Family Law Blog

I Can’t Afford a Legal Retainer, Can I Still Get Divorced?

low-cost-divorce

[This article has been updated for 2022]

Many people going through a divorce feel helpless, their first instinct is to reach out to an attorney. Family Law attorneys however, can be expensive and not everyone can afford to hire a divorce attorney.

San Diego has plenty of resources at everyone’s disposal to help in these instances. This is important now more than ever as many people have been impacted by global events this year.  Here’s a breakdown of options for affordable divorce resources.

Low or No Cost Divorce Options

All of the courthouses in San Diego have Family Law Facilitators. They cannot give you legal advice, but they will walk you through filing all of the paperwork you need, based on your situation. They provide assistance on a first come, first served basis, so it’s always beneficial to get there early.  

If you are looking for an attorney but cannot afford the sometimes $5,000+ for a retainer, there are attorneys who work on a volunteer basis. You can find those individuals here.

There are also pro bono attorneys, who work for no cost, in addition to legal aid. Both of these resources will have attorneys who can assist you, if you cannot afford one.

The Modest Means Program is designed to assist clients who are having a family law dispute and are able to pay for legal services but have limited financial resources available.

If none of these programs interest you or are the right fit, the San Diego court website has a full list of resources to assist in your Family Law matter.

 

How The New Pet Custody Law Works In California

pet custody law dog sleeping

This article has been updated for 2022

Most people consider their pet a part of the family, so it’s no surprise there are often disputes about who gets the pet when a couple splits up.

In January 2019, a new California law changed the way pet custody is handled in divorce cases. This new law gives judges the power to consider the care and the best interest of the pet (or companion animal) when making decisions in separation or divorce matters

Watch Kathy Explain More About It

Pets Are No Longer Just Physical Property

Up until the new law was enacted, California courts treated pets like other physical, inanimate property such as furniture, cars, and other belongings. The family dog, cat, or another pet would be considered a part of the property to be divided when the marriage ended.

Often judges would base their decision on which party purchased or adopted the animal. Judges had wide discretion in determining where the pet would be best placed or in arranging visitation schedules. The legal system, however, offered no official guidance.

Up until this year, only Alaska and Illinois had similar legislation. With the signing of AB2274, California courts must now view pet ownership differently from other possessions.

Putting a Pet First

Courts now have a much clearer direction and will award custody of a pet based on what is deemed best for the animal. They’re also able to create shared custody agreements and may enter orders that require one party to care for a pet prior to final ownership determination.

Pets are still technically classified as personal property, but the new law was crafted to reflect how most people view their pets. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, was inspired to introduce the bill based in part on his experience rescuing a dog.

The original bill had stronger language, for example, “requiring” rather than “authorizing” courts to act in the pet’s best interests. 

Changes notwithstanding, California’s law is groundbreaking in that it provides courts with much-needed guidance in distinguishing pets from other forms of property. 

Treating Animals Fairly

Family pet custody battles have been on the rise.

While they reflect a pet’s important role in the family, they’ve also added conflict to an often already stressful situation. If you’re involved in a custody case involving a family pet, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which ranked California #3 in the nation for its animal protection laws, may provide an amicus brief

Before getting into a lengthy, expensive battle over the family pet, remember that California’s law does not require a judge to make a conclusion, it merely gives guidance on what can be used to determine such situations.

Final Thoughts

Before this law was enacted, pets were simply treated as any other inanimate piece of property such as a TV or a dining room table. Now, there are much clearer guidelines as to how custody of a pet will be handled and is based upon what the court deems as best for the animal.

For those who have a family pet, this new law may help bring some peace-of-mind as they navigate the already-stressful divorce process.

•••••

If you’re concerned about what may happen to your pet during a legal separation or divorce, consulting with an experienced family law attorney who understands the issue and new ruling can help alleviate your worries.

 

 

[image courtesy of pexels]

Do I Qualify For Summary Dissolution

dissolution

Dissolution is the official term for divorce in California.

There are two ways you can obtain a dissolution in California: standard, which is the most common form of divorce, and summary, which is a shortened version of the divorce process.

Not everyone can use summary dissolution to end their marriage as there are very specific requirements that must be met for the court to approve your divorce.

Watch Kathy Minella Explain More

Who Qualifies for a Summary Dissolution?

There are strict eligibility guidelines for a California summary dissolution and all of them must be met to proceed. In addition to those listed above, it is required that:

  • At least one of you has lived in California for at least 6 months, and in your county for at least 3 months before filing the petition.
  • Both of you must agree to summary dissolution and the grounds of irreconcilable differences.
  • Neither of you may own real estate or hold a lease with an option to purchase.
  • Neither of you has more than $40,000 in separate, or non-community, property.
  • Neither of you has incurred more than $6,000 in debt, excluding car loans, since the date of marriage.

Both of you must also read and sign a summary dissolution booklet that is provided by the state. The booklet explains the entire process and contains helpful worksheets for dividing assets.

How to Obtain a Summary Dissolution

There is less paperwork required for a summary dissolution than there is for a regular one, but you must file with the superior court clerk a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution that includes a property settlement agreement.

A Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment must also be prepared. Six months after filing, your divorce will be final.

You do not have to appear in court and afterwards you are free to remarry. At any time during those six months either you or your spouse can stop the summary dissolution process.

If you are looking for a fast resolution to your marriage, summary dissolutions can be the right option for you as long as you meet the necessary requirements.

To learn more about whether you may qualify, or for help in starting the process, talk to a qualified California family law attorney.

[image courtesy of pexels]