As we start a new year and a new decade, and people start on their new years resolutions, we see the usual increase in gym memberships and a greater number of people starting on diets. Unfortunately for some unhappy couples, new year's resolutions may include getting a divorce. January tends to be a notorious month for increased divorce filings, both around the U.S. and overseas. This could possibly be due to a bad bout of holiday stress or many may view a new year as a chance to turn over a new leaf and thus this may be a good opportunity for a fresh start. Regardless of the timing, divorce is a common reality for many families. If you have recently filed for divorce in California, or are seriously considering divorce, be sure to get some good advice from an attorney who specializes in family law so that you know the basics.
Many of my clients have asked me to give a quick overview of the main points to know when proceeding with a divorce in California, so here's the basics.
When you contact an experienced family law attorney in California, they will verify that you meet the residency requirements. To be eligible for a divorce in California, one spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months and in the filing county for a minimum of three months.
Filing for Divorce
Your family law attorney will next help you file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in your local county court. This document gives information about the duration of your marriage, number of children and includes requests for property division, custody arrangements or spousal support. You will also cite your grounds for the divorce in the petition, which are typically irreconcilable differences in California.
Once your petition is filed, your spouse must be personally served with a copy and a court summons. He or she has 30 days to respond to the petition with his or her conditions or disputes.
As parents, you can agree on a custody plan to present to the court for approval. If this option fails, courts typically try to grant joint legal custody, usually with sole physical custody going to one parent. When this is not in the best interests of the child, one parent may receive sole legal and physical custody.
Visitation and Child Support
No matter what the custody arrangement, California courts encourage parents to maintain frequent and continuing contact with their children. The amount of time each parent spends with a child is a factor the court may consider to determine child support, as well as the income of both parents.
Spousal Support and Property Division
Income is also a key consideration of the court if one spouse qualifies for support. The financial potential of the receiving spouse, earning spouses' ability to pay, length of the marriage and standard of living are also considerations. When dividing property, California courts use the 50-50 rule, so each spouse gets one-half of all marital property.
Length and Cost of Divorce
It is difficult to estimate the length and cost of a divorce. If you qualify for a summary dissolution, which is a simple divorce, you may only have to pay a filing fee and a judgment could be reached within six months. However, the more contested and complex a divorce is, the more expensive and time consuming it will be. Costs for attorney fees, accountants and other support professionals can add up.
This is just a bare bones look at some of the information you should know if you are contemplating a divorce in California. For further assistance and to answer any questions you may have, contact a local family attorney who has knowledge and experience in divorce matters. I offer a free confidential initial consultation, where you can get all your questions answered that pertain to your particular circumstances.