Frequently Asked Questions
At Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law, we can fight to preserve your family relationships and help you move forward cleanly into the next chapter of your life. Beyond that, we can help to address the complex family laws that you are facing - providing accessible explanations of what you are facing and what you need to do. We can also make sure all of the proper steps are taken, as well as ensuring that paperwork is filled out and filed correctly.
If you have further questions and would like to learn how we can help, please do not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible.
What are some issues that will need to be resolved in my divorce?
Child custody, child support, spousal support, property division, and visitation are all issues which will likely need to be addressed if you are considering divorce. Any of these can be complex and difficult to deal with, and as such it is important to work with a San Fernando Valley divorce lawyer who can work to effectively represent your interests and protect your rights.
I was married in another state but want to file for divorce in California. Can I do this?
Yes. Regardless of the state in which you and your spouse were married, you may file for divorce in California as long as you or your spouse have lived in the state for 6 months and in the county for 3 months.
My spouse does not want to get a divorce, but I do. Can I still file for divorce even without their permission?
Yes. California is a “no fault” state when it comes to divorce. This means that you do not have to have particular grounds for divorce, such as adultery, abuse, or separation. You may file based upon “irreconcilable differences” even if your spouse does not wish to get a divorce.
What is alimony? Can only women receive it?
Alimony is another word for spousal support, which is a specific amount of money paid from one ex-spouse to another in the event of a legal separation or divorce. Either the ex-husband or ex-wife may receive spousal support, depending upon several different factors.
There are several factors that will be taken into consideration when a court is determining who will pay spousal support and how much they should be required to pay. Such factors include the income of both parties, the length of the marriage, and the general age and health of both spouses.
If the house my spouse and I purchased was put only under my name, is it possible that I may have to surrender half to my spouse in our divorce?
Generally speaking, any property acquired during a marriage will be deemed “community property” meaning it will almost certainly be subject to equal distribution in the event of a divorce. Even if a house is only under one spouse's name it is probably community property if it was acquired during the marriage from the joint efforts of both spouses.
Does an "uncontested divorce" mean my spouse and I have to agree on all issues?
No. Uncontested divorce simply means you and your spouse are choosing to complete your divorce by way of a mediator outside of the courtroom. No divorce is truly uncontested, as you and your spouse will inevitably disagree on at least some of the issues. The major difference between contested and uncontested divorce is that in uncontested divorce, the two parties will resolve their issues through a mediator. In cases of contested divorce, the court will ultimately decide the terms of the divorce.
In what cases does parentage have to be established in court?
In cases where two individuals are married, paternity is typically assumed. The husband of the woman is presumed to be the legal father, unless a paternity test is requested. Parentage most typically needs to be established in court in the case of unmarried parents. In these cases, a child will not have a legal father until parentage is established by way of a Declaration of Paternity.
Will the judge consider the children's wishes during the custody hearing?
In California, there is no specified age when the judge will be required to give heed to a child's preferences in a custody hearing. However, the law does require the court to give "due weight" to a child's preference, if the child is "of sufficient age," and new reforms to the law have added that a child of 14 years of age can directly address the court regarding their wishes pertaining to visitation and custody. The ultimate decision lies with the court regarding how much weight will be given to the child's wishes and whether their wishes are in their best interest.
How long does a divorce take in California?
Because no two couples are alike, it is almost impossible to correctly predict how long your divorce will take. The law does provide that a divorce cannot be legally finalized any earlier than six months from the date the petition was served. Factors that may lead to an even longer divorce proceeding include child custody, visitation, division of property, and child/spousal support.
Is there a faster way to obtain a divorce than a regular dissolution?
Yes, but it is limited to a very small portion of couples. Summary dissolutions are a fast and easy way for a couple to obtain a divorce if they mutually agree to it. However, there are multiple requirements that the couple will need to meet in order to qualify for a summary dissolution including the duration of the marriage, the amount of community property, and the absence of children in the marriage. If you don't qualify for a summary dissolution, there are ways you and your spouse can ensure there are no unnecessary delays in the divorce. This includes splitting joint banking accounts, changing titles, updating tax forms, and updating wills or trusts. You can also promote the efficiency of your divorce by hiring a divorce attorney to guide you through the process.
If I'm not the biological parent, can I still get custody of my child?
Yes, if you are a legal parent of the child. California family law gives more weight to legal status rather than biological relation. This means that if you adopted the child as your own during the marriage, you have the same credibility for custody as if you were the biological parent. For fathers of children born out of wedlock, you can only petition for custody of a child if you previously established as the father. Establishing paternity is extremely important because without it, biological fathers of children born outside of a marriage have no legal claim to the child.
Are there different types of custody that can be awarded?
California awards two different types of custody during a divorce - physical and legal. Physical custody involves the actual location of the child and where they will live. Legal refers to the decision making ability of each involved parent; for example, where they will go to school? What culture they will be raised in? What will their religion be? In some cases, both parents may have sole legal and physical custody or parents may share joint custody. In other cases, one parent may have sole physical custody while parents split legal custody and vice-versa.
I'm worried about attorney fees - can I make my ex-spouse pay them?
In some cases, depending upon circumstances, your ex-spouse may become responsible for paying for your attorney fees. This is largely left up to the discretion of the court and is based on several factors. For example, it may be awarded in cases where there is an abnormally large discrepancy between the pay grades of the parties or when one party is being largely uncooperative.
How much of the property will I be able to keep?
In California, property division is done in accordance with community property laws. Put into its simplest terms, this means that any property acquired during the duration of the marriage is considered community property and is subject to equitable distribution. This, however, is not concrete. For example, gifts and items bequeathed to one specific person may be kept. Similarly, something owned before the marriage but that later became used by both could technically fall under community property laws.
How much child support will I be paying?
This is a common question and it is one that is determined by a variety of factors. For example, child support may be determined by the court based upon the income of both parents, how custody has been awarded, and the amount of visitation time that the non-custody parent will be spending with the child.
Should I consider collaborative negotiation?
There are many benefits to entering into a collaborative divorce which should not be overlooked. For example, you will be able to avoid costly litigation, time wasted in court and can avoid handing over the decision making abilities to the judge. This can allow both parties to retain more power in the process so that they can have a greater say in the overall outcome of their family law case.
I'm trying to get full custody - is that possible?
It is the belief of California courts that children benefit from having constant and continuous contact and interaction with both of their parents. It is therefore unlikely that a court will award one parent sole physical and legal custody of a child unless there are extreme extenuating factors. In some cases, for example those involving domestic abuse, this is not unheard of. These cases are not considered the norm.
My spouse cheated on me. Will this affect the divorce?
Not likely. Because California is a "no-fault" state, an extramarital affair is not likely to cause a direct impact on the divorce process. There are, however, certain situations which may cause for the affair to become a factor. For example, if your spouse and the new partner are engaging in dangerous or risky behavior, it may be taken into consideration when determining child custody.
What is a legal separation?
In the state of California, couples are also given the option of seeking a legal separation instead of a divorce. This is very similar to a divorce except the legal status of marriage will not actually be ended and the parties will not be free to re-marry again. There are several advantages to doing this instead of a divorce. Many people will also choose to do this for personal and/or religious reason.
Do I need a family law attorney?
For many people, it is tempting to think you can handle your divorce on your own. Just a couple of minutes searching through the internet will bring you to countless sites that are touting "do-it-yourself" divorce kits and giving tips on how to forgo hiring a lawyer. This, however, could be a detrimental mistake. Sure, if everything goes perfectly, you may be able to pull off handling a divorce without an attorney. Perfection, however, rarely happens. If something does go wrong, you may find yourself without any form of protection and without any strong ability to fight for yourself.
An attorney is not only good for you - it's good for your family. By hiring a divorce attorney, you will be giving yourself an advocate on your side who is truly interested in the outcome of your case. If there are complications with property division or heavily contested issues (ex: alimony or child custody), you will better be able to handle them by working with an experienced lawyer. We can enter into negotiations in and out of the courtroom and present a case on your behalf - helping ensure you are not taken advantage of and your best interests are not forgotten.