Articles Tagged with california divorce law attorney

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contested divorce californiaThings can get complicated in a contested divorce. If you are ready to seek a divorce from your spouse or domestic partner, and anticipate their reluctance to proceed quickly and fairly through the divorce process, you may be headed for a thorny experience. Things can get sticky in these situations, requiring the help of a local Santa Rosa divorce attorney.

Putting Together the Initial Divorce Petition

As you and your attorney draft the divorce petition, you will go over relevant documents to make decisions relating to the division of marital assets and debt, issues related to child custody, child support, and spousal support. For example, if minor children are involved a form FL-105 (UCCJEA) must be filed, but those are items your attorney will take care of in addition to providing guidance as to the legal expectations of a fair settlement.

If You can Not Locate Your Spouse/Domestic Partner

In the event you do not know where your spouse/partner is, you will be forced to go through a process to notify them of your plans. A notice must be posted in local newspapers for several months before you can proceed any further.

The Papers Have Been Served, but are Contested

Your spouse or domestic partner has the legal right to challenge the request. If your spouse or partner agrees to parts of the document, but not others, they can simply write up their position, clearly stating what they support and what they contest. The Response form must be returned within  30 days of getting the Petition. From here, there are a couple of options:

  • Seek mediation as a way to come to an equitable agreement that both parties can accept;
  • Proceed to court and let a judge decide.

Contested Divorce and The Discovery Process

During the discovery process, both parties may request documentation and details related to assets, debt, income, and any other pertinent information. This may occur through depositions, written interrogatories, or requests for documents. There will be deadlines to respond to these requests, and, if there is foot dragging and/or deadlines are missed, your attorney can help to move things along. Meanwhile, the court may order temporary child support and/or spousal support until the divorce is finalized.

The Trial

Both sides will be able to call character witnesses or other experts, and will be allowed to cross-examine opposing witnesses. Both parties may restate their case in a closing argument.  At that point, it is all in the hands of the judge. Continue reading →

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divorce papersIf you have been thinking about leaving your spouse, one of the very first things that needs to happen is that your spouse must be served with divorce papers indicating your legal intent to divorce. These documents must be served within a specific time requirement of action in order to give the respondent adequate time to make a response, if so desired. What does this mean, and how long does it take? These, and all of your divorce questions, can be answered by an experienced family law attorney.

Divorce Papers – What Documents are Served?

There are three documents that will be served:

  • A family law summons;
  • The actual petition for divorce;
  • A response form.

Who Serves the Divorce Papers?

While many individuals rely on a professional process server to serve the divorce papers or the county sheriff to serve a summons, the law requires only that the server be 18 years of age or older and not be a party to the divorce action. That means friends, co-workers, and adult family members could all serve the divorce papers to your spouse.

How are Divorce Papers Served?

These documents may be served in one of several ways.  The most common means are outlined below:

Personal service:

When a server hand-delivers the divorce papers to a respondent, it can take place in any location including the respondent’s home, place of work, in a restaurant, or simply on a street corner. A server may schedule delivery of the papers, or may simply serve divorce papers spring them on an unsuspecting individual. As soon as the divorce papers are received, they are officially considered to have been served. For this reason, personal service is widely viewed as the best choice in serving process, since receipt is easily confirmed by the server.

Mail service:

A server may send the documents to a respondent’s home, P.O. Box, or work address. In this case, the server must document the service with a proof of service form indicating when and to whom the papers were mailed, and the location from which they were mailed. This proof will be provided to the petitioner, who then must file it with the court. The respondent is considered to have been served five days after the documents have been mailed.

Service by Publication

In some situations, a spouse may not be able to be easily located. Then the court may allow for an ex parte application of the order.  In this case, the summons must be published weekly for four consecutive weeks in an approved newspaper. In this instance, the service is complete after 28 days. Continue reading →

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grandparent visitationGrandparent visitation and rights in a divorce. A divorce can have far-reaching effects for people beyond the couple that is calling it quits. Children may be moved away from familiar neighborhood schools, friends, and extended family – grandparents, in particular. This can be devastating to not only the children, but to the grandparents, as well. In some cases, divorced parents are eager to include grandparents in their children’s lives, but what if parents do not view grandparents as a valuable asset to their children? Do grandparents have any rights to visitation following a divorce? Do grandchildren have a right to interact with their grandparents? The questions are more complicated than some people realize, and a solution may not be viable without the assistance of an experienced family law  attorney.

When One or Both Parents Object to Grandparent Visitation

The rights of parents are generally supported over those of non parents. When both parents prefer that grandparents not be granted visitation, or if only the custodial parent objects to it, convincing a judge otherwise can be extremely challenging. The court may grant visitation to grandparents only under limited circumstances:

  • When a relationship already exists between the grandchildren and grandparents that “has engendered a bond” wherein the best interests of the child would be promoted through such visitation;
  • The wishes of the parents and their right to make decisions about their children are balanced with the best interests of the child in allowing visitation with a grandparent.

These legal parameters may be interpreted differently depending on individual circumstances, of course. Preparing a strong case requires time and careful thought.

History of Judicial Thought on Grandparent Visitation

California courts have ruled on several general issues that have bearing on grandparent visitation.  The first has to do with whether or not grandparents must prove that parents are unfit in order to gain visitation rights. On this matter, the court’s ruling was that even a fit parent’s decisions ought to be subject to court review. Proving fitness or lack thereof is not necessary for grandparents to file a claim for visitation.

The second issue revolves around the potentially onerous stipulations parents might place on grandparent visitation. In such circumstances, the courts may rule in favor of grandparents.

Finally, the courts have stated that when parents refuse grandparent visitation out of spite or anger, they may rule in favor of grandparents.

How and When to File for Grandparent Visitation

If an active case for divorce or legal separation is pending, grandparents are required to join that family law case.  Otherwise, grandparents must complete several forms in order to file a new case. Continue reading →

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Divorcing missing spouseDivorcing a spouse that is missing? Is it possible to divorce your spouse when you have no idea where he or she is? The short answer is yes, but you will have to go through some extra work, wait about six months, and you may not get a final court order on the division of resources, child custody issues, and child support. In this situation, hiring an experienced divorce attorney is a must.

Divorcing by Publication

When a spouse disappears with no forwarding address, divorce may be obtained by publication. The Petitioner (the person seeking a divorce) must demonstrate that a diligent search has been conducted and the missing spouse was unable to be located. Therefore, that spouse cannot be served, nor can the divorce papers be delivered by certified mail.

Divorcing a Missing Spouse? What is a Diligent Search?

The courts expect that a sincere effort to locate the missing partner has occurred. Thus, a number of steps must be taken:

  • A thorough search of phone books and directory assistance in the area where the Petitioner lives and where the missing spouse was known to have lived last;
  • Talking to friends and relatives who might have knowledge of the missing spouse’s whereabouts;
  • Contacting the post office in the area where the missing spouse lived to ask for a forwarding address;
  • Investigating tax and property records to see if the absent spouse owns any property;
  • Communicating with previous landlords and employers about the location of the missing spouse;
  • Checking voter registration records;
  • Hiring a private investigator to try to find the missing spouse.

If, after completing these steps, your spouse still cannot be found, you may submit an Affidavit of Diligent Search to the court. This documents any and all steps you have taken to locate your spouse.

Filing for Divorce

At this stage, you must complete an Ex Parte (Without Notice) Application for Publication of Summons and several other legal documents in order for the court to issue an Order of Publication. The Order allows for the publication of the summons in the newspaper, and it must be published weekly for a total of four consecutive weeks. There must be a minimum of five days between each publication.

Your Spouse’s Rights

Following the four weeks of Publication of Summons plus 28 days, your spouse has another 30 days in which to file a response. Barring any response, you may file a Request to Enter Default Dissolution of Marriage. The divorce will become final six months from the date of the first publication of summons. Continue reading →

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abusive marriageAre you trapped in an abusive marriage? If you want to get out of the relationship, but have fears about how your spouse will react, you are not alone. Studies show that roughly 40% of women in California suffer from physical violence with an intimate partner at some time in their lives. If you find yourself in such a situation, an experienced, discreet attorney may be able to help.

Facts About Abusive Marriages and Domestic Violence

  • Women aged 18-24 are 11% more likely to have experienced physical violence in the past year than their older counterparts;
  • Women who were pregnant in the past five years are 12% more likely to experience violence than those who have not been pregnant;
  • Three-fourths of women who live in violent homes have minor children living in the home;
  • 5% of homicides statewide were related to domestic violence in 2008, with a total of 113 fatalities;
  • Of those fatalities, 88% were women.

Divorcing an Abusive Spouse – What You Need to Know

If you wish to extricate yourself from and abusive marriage, you may face an angry spouse who threatens your safety and that of your children. Be aware of several key points:

  • A contested divorce will take at least six months;
  • Courts are more likely to consider physical and/or sexual abuse than emotional abuse, which is an issue when seeking Abuse Prevention Orders;
  • The court can impound your address, meaning it will be blacked out in all court documents so your spouse will not know where you live;
  • Restraining/protective orders can be issued requiring your spouse to stay away from you and your children;
  • If there is not documentation of your injuries, you may be regarded as hysterical, or worse, vengeful in your pursuit to defame your spouse;
  • You may be asked to go through mediation prior to getting your divorce granted;
  • Your abuser will likely have some form of visitation rights with your children, meaning you may be in contact for years to come.

Protect Yourself Right Now

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799 SAFE. They can tell you about resources and local agencies that are set up to help women and children who need protection from abusers.  In the meanwhile, here are some things you should be doing:

  • Keep your plans hidden. Do not keep phone numbers, filers or other information related to domestic violence in the home where your abuser may find them;
  • Have an emergency plan to escape during an violent emergency; keep an overnight bag with prescriptions and other essentials ready to go if you can safely hide one;
  • Make your plans to leave permanently during an open window of time when your abuser will not be around to stop you;
  • Try to hide some money or get your own credit card, but make sure you have a PO Box to receive mail;
  • Find out about shelters that could accept you and your children;
  • Leave your cell phone behind so your abuser cannot track you;
  • Keep a journal, pictures, medical bills, and any other documentation if you can do so safely;
  • Keep online information safe;
  • File formal charges and get a protective order.

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During the divorce process, it is common for one spouse to receive sole ownership of the marital home.

What happens to the marital home in a divorce when an agreement or judgment provides the one spouse is to receive sole ownership? When a couple divorces, one of the common provisions outlined in their marriage settlement agreement or the court’s judgment concerns the award of the family home to one spouse. In order for the spouse who is awarded the marital home to be able to sell, refinance, or borrow money against the property without their former partner’s consent, the spouse who is awarded the marital home must obtain documentation which shows that their former partner has transferred ownership of their interest in the property and that they are the sole owner of the property.

A deed is used to show the transfer of interest in a property from one party to another.

The legal document used to transfer interest in a property from one individual to another is called a deed. There are various types of deeds including: warranty, grant, and quit claim deeds. Warranty and grant deeds come with the transferor’s promise that the title to the property is without any incumbencies such as, another party’s ownership of the property or outstanding taxes or debts. A quit claim deed does not come with these specific promises and only conveys property on an “as is” basis. In most cases, after a divorce, an ownership interest in the marital home can be transferred from one spouse to another using a quit claim deed.

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Each county in California keeps a record of properties and owners within their jurisdiction. A couple that is transferring ownership interest in the marital home will need to conduct a title search in order to determine how the property is held and property’s legal description, prepare and sign the deed as well as, a Preliminary Change of Title Report, and record the documents with the appropriate land records office.

The transfer of ownership in property between spouses is exempt from certain taxes.

According to California law, the transfer of ownership in property from one spouse to another is exempt from transfer taxes. In addition, the transfer in ownership of property from one spouse to another is protected from property tax increases.

Conveying ownership through a deed does not change a spouse’s obligation on a loan. In order for a spouse to end their obligation on a loan, the loan must be paid off or refinanced. In some cases, this is done along with the transfer of ownership during the divorce process.

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