A Dissolution of Marriage, often referred to as a Divorce, is the process by which a married couple ends the marriage and divides assets, debts and determines custody of children. You do not have a right to an attorney in your Divorce proceedings. However, since your life can be dramatically impacted by a Divorce you should always hire a lawyer to help you. Could you imagine your life without your children, income or without your home? If you cannot, then you need a lawyer.
California is a Community Property state which means that all income and assets acquired during the marriage are presumed community property. Generally, property acquired before the marriage or property acquired by inheritance are considered the separate property of that spouse. Though, separate property can change to community property under some conditions. California also recognizes any prenuptial agreements among the parties. Generally, it is the goal of the court to divide assets as equally as possible among the parties. However, the court usually will defer its judgment to the parties and allow the parties to work out an agreement that is acceptable.
A Divorce case begins upon the filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The party filing the petition is called the petitioner and the person responding to the petition is called the respondent. The respondent only has 30 days to respond to the Petition. If the respondent fails to respond within 30 days, the petitioner can seek a Default Judgment.
If the respondent responds to the Petition, the parties will then exchange a series of documents detailing income and assets. Each party will have the opportunity to negotiate and propose a distribution of the assets. The parties can also negotiate issues such as alimony, child support, health insurance and custody of the children. These issues can be quite emotional for the parties and as emotions run high it is best to have an attorney advocate on your behalf. If the parties are able to reach an agreement on all issues, they can notify the court which in most cases will enter the judgment accordingly. Upon the entry of the judgment, the marriage is ended and the parties are restored to their single status. However, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the parties can request the court conduct a hearing on the unresolved issues. The judge then has the power to decide the unresolved issues.
One of the most important issues in any Divorce case is custody of the children. There are two types of custody: legal and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability of a parent to make legal decisions for the child such as which school the child will attend and decisions about non-emergency medical treatment. The court can grant joint legal custody to the parties or give one parent sole legal custody of the child. Physical custody refers to where the child will live. The court can grant joint physical custody of the child and set a specific schedule for parenting time for each parent. The court can also grant one parent sole physical custody and order visitation for the other parent. The best interest of the child is always considered by the court in making custody decisions.
A Divorce case is usually one of the most stressful and challenging times in each spouse’s life. The issues which will be decided in a Divorce case can be life changing. You will need the help of a skilled lawyer to make sure that your rights and interests are protected. Contact our office immediately so that we can develop a sound strategy for your Divorce case.