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.



San Fran­cisco Office
203 Wil­low St. Suite. 204
San Fran­cisco, CA 94109
Toll Free: (866) 957‑9966
Fax: (866) 855‑9737

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575 Air­park Road
Napa, CA 94558
Toll Free: (866) 957‑9966
Fax: (866) 855‑9737


None of the infor­ma­tion on this site con­sti­tutes legal advice. It is an ad for attor­ney ser­vices. The attor­neys at DeDecker & Meltzer are licensed attor­neys in the state of Cal­i­for­nia. The infor­ma­tion is intended to be gen­eral in nature as there are many laws and reg­u­la­tions not men­tioned on this site that may apply to your sit­u­a­tion.