Practice Areas

Our Areas of Expertise

Divorce, Legal Separation, and Domestic Partnership Termination

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

Parentage

Child Custody and Visitation

Child Support and Spousal Support

Property Division

Premarital Agreements

Modification of Prior Orders

Read on for answers to frequently asked questions.

Divorce, Legal Separation, and Domestic Partnership Termination

By law, the earliest is six months and one day from the date of filing the Petition or appearance by the respondent, whichever occurs first. Depending on the issues in your case, the case itself may take longer to finish. Call an attorney for more in-depth information.

First, you, or your spouse, must satisfy the residency requirements to file your case. Either you or your spouse must have lived in the county you are filing in for at least three (3) months and in California for at least six (6) months. If you satisfy these two requirements, then you may file your Petition and Summons with the family division at your local courthouse to start your case. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Unfortunately, no. California is a “no fault state” – the courts do not care why you are getting a divorce, only that you are.

Legal separation, under the law, is when you have an actual judgment from the court saying you are legally separated. All your assets, debts, support, and custody issues will have been finalized. However, your marital status will not be terminated. If you have a new person in your life and want to get married, you will need to get a divorce. Simply living separate from your spouse is not legal separation. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Unlike divorce, there is no time requirement. Whenever your judgment for legal separation is filed is when you are legally separated.

Yes. You can only get a legal separation if both parties agree to it. If one spouse wants a divorce, then you can only get a divorce.

There are two methods, depending on what you qualify for: 1) summary dissolution or 2) regular divorce. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Yes. The only difference is that you and your partner do not have to satisfy the residency requirement. So long as your domestic partnership was registered in California, you can terminate via divorce process.

No, you can terminate both in one case. Just make sure to indicate on your papers that you are ending both your domestic partnership and your marriage.

Domestic Violence Restraining Order

The word “abuse” is defined broadly and includes intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause:

  •  Bodily injury;
  •  Sexual assault;
  •  Placing a person in “reasonable apprehension” of imminent serious bodily injury; or
  • Engaging in any of the behavior defined in Family Code, § 6320

Unfortunately, no, you cannot. While you yourself can go anywhere, your kids cannot when the other side does not agree. Taking your kids and leaving with them may be viewed as kidnapping. (Pen. Code, § 278.5.) Instead, what you should do is call your county’s child abduction unit at the district attorney’s office to make a “good cause report” within ten days of leaving your home with the children. This report lets the authorities know that you are fleeing domestic violence and are not kidnapping your children. Thus, if the other parent tries to file a report for kidnapping, law enforcement will know you have not simply kidnapped the children. For further information, please contact an attorney.

Yes. Criminal court and family court have different requirements. Even if you do not obtain a restraining order in criminal court, you could still obtain one in family court. For further information, please contact an attorney.

Parentage

Yes, by starting a parentage case (aka “paternity case”) with the court. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

You may request a court order to conduct a DNA test. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Yes, you can ask the court to make a determination that you are a “presumed” parent. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Child Custody and Visitation

The right and responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.

Who the child resides with.

A schedule that details with whom and for how long a child lives/visits a parent. For example, alternating weeks or three dinner visits a week. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Child Support and Spousal Support

There are two ways: 1) divorce or paternity filing or 2) going to your local child support agency and asking the Department of Child Support Services to open a case on your behalf. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Yes, as long as you have been determined a parent of the child, you are required to pay child support by law.

When the child turns 18 unless they are still a full-time high school student. In such case, child support ends when the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.

If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement, you can file a request for a spousal support order with the court. Whether or not you will succeed on your request depends on the facts of your case. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

It depends. If your marriage is over 10 years, spousal support can last until death, remarriage of the supported party, or further order of the court, whichever occurs first. If your marriage is under 10 years, then spousal support is usually half the length of your marriage. But this is not always the case because the court can order otherwise, or the parties can agree to a different duration.

If there is a court order requiring you to pay spousal support, you could be criminally charged for contempt of court order. You will also owe all past due amounts that you have not paid. If you are not paying because you can’t, then you may seek a modification of your spousal support order. For further information, please visit the Self-Help Center at your local courthouse or contact an attorney.

Property Division

Anything you owned before you were married or registered your domestic partnership and anything you acquired after your date of separation. Inheritance and gifts acquired during marriage is also separate property.

Generally everything spouses or domestic partners own together that was acquired during the marriage or partnership. This includes earnings and debts.

No. All money earned by spouses or domestic partnerships during the marriage or domestic partnership is community property. This includes anything bought with that money.

Premarital Agreements

Yes. California law now requires both parties to have the prenuptial agreement be reviewed by their own attorneys.

Yes. It cannot contain terms pertaining to child custody, visitation, and child support. Nor can it be drafted in contemplation of divorce.

At a minimum, California law requires there to be 7 days between receipt of the final prenuptial agreement and the date of signing. It also must be done before you actually get married (hence “prenuptial”). It takes much longer to prepare the prenuptial agreement, because both sides must exchange financial disclosures, which is usually the most difficult part. Start preparing your prenuptial agreement at least a couple months in advance, preferably more.

Modification of Prior Orders

Yes, at any time.

It depends on the current spousal support order. For further information, please contact an attorney.

If the property has already been divided according to a judgment, then no, you cannot. However, you may be able to set aside the judgment. For further information, please contact an attorney.

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