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Marital Dissolution / Divorce FAQs

Is a dissolution of marriage the same as divorce?

For all intent and purpose, yes. The term divorce is associated with fault-based proceedings to end a marriage. California, like most states, are no-fault states and the courts have adopted the dissolution terminology instead. However, both terms are used interchangeably in California to mean the legal termination of a marriage. So, whether you wish to call it divorce or prefer marital dissolution, the divorce attorneys at Orange County Family Law will make sure you are always well represented.

How long does it take to get a court date for dissolution?

There is no preset timeline or schedule when it comes to getting divorced. Many factors may delay proceedings for months, such as the degree of animosity between the parties, whether there are many assets, and determining the character of the assets, whether the parties are cooperating, etc. If the parties are forthright in their disclosures of assets and debts, and they are willing to work together to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both of them, then the entire dissolution could happen without one or two court hearings. If, on the other hand, the dissolution is contentious, then it may take months, and even years before the case goes to trial. The divorce attorneys at Orange County Family Law understand that when getting divorced, you want it done as quickly and painlessly as possible, and as such, we encourage amicable settlement on our client’s terms. We also know that sometimes, settlement is not easily obtained and trial, even if only the threat of trial, is necessary in order to reach your desired goals.

What are the grounds for divorce?

By far, the most frequent grounds for divorce in California are “irreconcilable differences.” California is a no-fault divorce state and all a party must show in order to file for dissolution is a desire to end the marriage.

What is first step of getting a divorce?

The first and most crucial step in getting divorced is arriving at the decision that you no longer wish to be married. Although this is a decision you must ultimately reach on your own, the divorce attorneys at Orange County Family Law can arm you with all the necessary information to help you decide whether divorce is for you. Whether you have come to the conclusion that dissolution of your marriage is unavoidable, or whether you believe that dissolution of your marriage is something that you may wish to explore, meeting with the divorce attorneys at Orange County Family Law will help you understand and weigh your options.

Can you just go to the courthouse to file a divorce?

You may absolutely get divorced without an attorney. Representing yourself means you will be proceeding in “pro per,” meaning that you will be acting on your own behalf. Keep in mind, however, that the law, especially divorce law, is complicated and nuanced. Moreover, getting divorce is a very emotional time, and these emotions will frequently cloud your judgment, and will ultimately cost you more than a proper attorney would. So, while you have the right to represent yourself, you will likely be at a disadvantage by doing so, especially if your spouse is represented by counsel. There is a lot of truth in the old saying that “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.” And this even applies to lawyers.

How do you split assets in a divorce?

The division of assets may be as simple as splitting the community pie in half, with each party walking away with their equal share, or it may require extensive discovery, investigation, complex calculations, tracing, etc. This is especially true in high net worth divorces. There are many factors to consider when dividing assets during the dissolution of marriage process. What are the separate assets versus the community property assets? When were the assets acquired? How were they acquired? What were the surrounding circumstances? Is there a prenuptial agreement? If you have questions about the division of the assets in your case, the divorce attorneys at Orange County Family Law can help you not only identify your community property share, but also maximize your share of the pie.

Can a person get divorce without the other party consent?

The only person who can stop you from getting divorced is you. Regardless of whether your spouse consents to the dissolution, you have the right to end the marriage whenever you wish to do so. Keep in mind, however, that while your soon-to-be ex cannot stop you from dissolving the marriage, he or she can make the process very unpleasant. The divorce lawyers at Orange County Family Law have the necessary knowledge and experience to shield you from much of this unpleasantness, including obtaining restraining orders that will provide safety and peace of mind.

How long do you have to be separated before you are legally divorced?

You can only be legally divorced once a judge has ruled on a petition to dissolve your marriage. No amount of time separated from your spouse will lead to you being divorced. In the same way that steps had to be taken in order to get married, such as getting a license and participating in some type of ceremony, steps must be taken by at least one of the spouses in order for the marriage to end.

Can you deny a divorce?

Technically, a spouse may contest a divorce. For practical purposes, however, there is little point fighting to save a marriage in court. A spouse who no longer wishes to be married has a right to get divorced, and the courts will ultimately grant any dissolution request. If you wish to “fight to save your marriage,” you should do so without any reliance on the courts helping you out. The judge is not a therapist and will not counsel you or your spouse, nor will the court weigh in on whether the couple should get divorce or not. Whether you are the spouse wanting to get out of a marriage, or the spouse seeking to save the marriage, the divorce attorneys at Orange County Family Law are here to help you get the answers to your questions.

How long does it take for a divorce to be final after signing papers?

Once dissolution papers have been signed, filed, and signed by a judge, you are officially divorce, provided that six-months have passed since the filing of the petition for dissolution of marriage. This statutory six-month cooling-off period in California is there in order to give the parties a chance to change their minds about getting divorced. Once a divorce decree is issued, it is final. Should the parties change their minds after the divorce is final, there is no way to reverse the divorce and they will have to marry anew, with no credit for the years they were previously married.

What happens if you do not show up for a divorce court hearing?

If your spouse can show you were properly served and given the opportunity to respond, yet failed to do so, the court will grant your spouse a divorce by default. Unless there are no children and no assets, it is probably not in your best interest to ignore a summons and petition for dissolution. The divorce lawyers at Orange County Family Law can advise you on the best course of action after being served with dissolution papers. And perhaps, in very rare instances, you may be able to simply ignore the entire episode and let your spouse take the necessary steps to end the marriage.

Can you go to divorce court without a lawyer?

Absolutely! A spouse may represent him or herself in divorce court. The question is whether you should do so. Divorce law is complicated and nuanced. And getting divorce is emotionally taxing, and your judgment will be skewed. Ultimately representing yourself may cost you more than hiring the proper attorney to represent your interests. There is a lot of truth in the old saying that “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.” And this even applies to lawyers.

Do all divorces go to trial?

Very few divorces go to trial, and in fact, with the right attorneys representing both parties, consensus and compromise is frequently possible and a dissolution may happen without the parties even going to court. The divorce attorneys at Orange County Family Law strive for amicable dissolution through settlement whenever possible. It saves time, heartache, and money! This being said, we will not shy away from a fight to ensure you get everything you are entitled to, and more.

Child Custody FAQs

What does child custody mean?

There are two types of custody: Legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody involves the decisional power of the parents as it pertains to issues of education, health, religion, sports, etc. In most cases, both parents have shared legal custody, and through discussion arrive at a consensus regarding these issues. When consensus is not possible, however, then court intervention may be necessary. The custody attorneys at Orange County Family Law have the knowledge and expertise to prepare and present the best case to convince the judge your position is the correct position. Physical custody means just that, having actual physical custody of your child or children. In California, the starting presumption is that both parents share physical custody equally in order to maximize the time the child spends with each parent. But the reality is that often this is not in the best interest of the child. The parents’ work schedules, the child’s school schedule, the child’s age, the location of the parents’ residences, the child’s bond with one parent over another’s, these are only a few of the factors considered when deciding physical custody. Here again, the custody attorneys at Orange County Family Law can prepare the best case to ensure you have as much physical custody of your child or children as you want.

Can a man get custody of his child?

Absolutely! In California, there is no presumption that mothers are better caregivers and should therefore have primary custody of the children. This being said, there are many factors in determining physical custody of a child. The parents’ work schedules, the child’s school schedule, the child’s age, the location of the parents’ residences, the child’s bond with one parent over another’s, these are only a few of the factors considered when deciding physical custody. The custody attorneys at Orange County Family Law are knowledgeable and experienced in custody law and can prepare the best case to ensure you have as much physical custody of your child or children as you wish to have.

Why does mother get custody?

Mother does not necessarily get custody. In fact, frequently both parents share physical custody of the children equally. Mothers will often have primary custody of the child when the child is very young. This happens because a mother will often stay home following a pregnancy and is the child’s primary caregiver. Consequently, if a dissolution happens in the few years following the birth of the child, the mother will frequently be awarded primary physical custody of the child, while fathers will have visitation schedules, where they have custody of the child frequently, but for shorter periods of times, to minimize any anxiety a child may experience as a result of being separated from the primary caregiver. As the child gets older, visitation increases and eventually, both parties get to a shared custody schedule. The custody attorneys at Orange County Family Law are knowledgeable and experienced in custody law and can prepare the best case to ensure you have as much physical custody of your child or children as you wish to have.

How does custody work with unmarried parents?

The major difference regarding custody when the parents are unmarried is that paternity is not presumed. In California, when a child is born during marriage, the husband is presumed to be the father of the child. Conversely, when a child is born out of wedlock, paternity is not presumed and must be established via a parentage action. This is true regardless of the amount of years father has been caring for the child. Keep in mind that parentage is rarely contested and therefore easily ascertained. In those rare instances where paternity is challenged, DNA testing may be ordered by the court to determine paternity.

Is it kidnapping if there is no custody order?

Probably not. Usually, a parent who takes a child without the consent and knowledge of the other parent is committing an abduction, not a kidnapping. A parent taking a child away from the other parent without their knowledge and consent can potentially lead to criminal charges, and at the very least will draw the ire of the court for the apparent refusal to co-parent.

Can a parent leave the state with a child without the consent of the other parent?

It depends. Prior to the filing and service of a Summons and Petition for Dissolution or a Petition for Parentage, a parent can likely leave the state without the consent of the other parent. Once a proper summons and petition has been filed AND served, however, there are standard family law restraining orders that apply, restraining any party from removing the child or children from the state without written approval from the other party or court order. Keep ion mind, however, that a parent removing a child from the state without the knowledge and consent of the other parent can potentially face criminal charges for child abduction, and at the very least will draw the ire of the court for the apparent refusal to co-parent. If you are considering such actions, or believe your spouse is considering such action, the custody attorneys at Orange County Family Law are experienced in both criminal and family law and can advise you of the potential courses of action in your particular case.

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