Divorce Lawyer in Santa Clarita
Work with a Board Certified Family Law Expert
Are you looking to end your marriage? At Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law, we want you to know that you are not alone. The divorce rates are staggering in the state of California and throughout the nation. It is likely that you have heard the oft-repeated statistic that almost 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Regardless of the circumstances that led you to this decision, our firm considers it our responsibility to help you through this difficult time in your life.
In some cases, getting divorced can be much more complicated than getting married - and much more stressful. Let our Santa Clarita divorce lawyers ease that burden for you. Call us at (818) 839-2533.
From helping with custody battles to determining just spousal support agreements, we will support and guide you through the process. We are known for our compassion and will do everything we reasonably and ethically can to help represent your best interests. If you have questions, we are prepared to answer them. If you have concerns, we can put you at ease. The law is complex, but you don't have to face it alone. Instead, you can lean on us and use our years of experience to your advantage.
Options for Divorce in SCV
Most people make the mistake of thinking a litigated divorce is the only option available. This, however, could not be further from the truth. In fact, there are many different paths you can take when you and your spouse are looking to split. Family law is diverse and allows for solutions that are adaptable to your solution - allowing for an end result that is the most appealing.
Below, we explain the three main options available to you:
- Collaborative Divorce: If you are looking to hold the reins throughout the divorce process, a collaborative divorce may be the best option. Essentially, this allows spouses and their lawyers to resolve conflicts instead of turning over the decision-making power to judges and courts. This is unlike mediation where there is an impartial third party mediator facilitating negotiations; instead, both parties are permitted to have their own lawyers. This is often a more peaceful way to resolve a divorce - encouraging the voluntary exchange of free information, as well as the commitment of all parties involved to keep the goal of amiable settlement.
- Legal Separation: In regards to the process, a legal separation is almost identical to a dissolution of marriage. It, however, has one key factor that makes it completely different - after the process is over, both parties will legally still be married to one another. Legal separation allows for both parties to move forward in their life without actually ending their legal marital status; they are not permitted to turn around and marry another person. Why would you choose this option? For many, it is a religious reason that keeps them married. For others, there are certain personal reasons or benefits that they achieve by remaining married.
- Annulment: Unlike other options, an annulment doesn't simply end a marriage - it nullifies it, making it as if the marriage never happened in the first place. This is also referred to as a "nullity of marriage or domestic partnership" and is where the court essentially declares that your marriage was never legally valid. The two main grounds for an annulment are incestuous or bigamous marriages. Other reasons which may result in an annulment include an underage party, an unsound mind, fraud, force, or physical incapacity. There are statutes of limitations on certain grounds, so it is extremely important that no time is wasted. For example, if the annulment is being sought on grounds of fraud must be filed within four years of discovering the fraud. If there is a prior existing marriage, an annulment can be sought as long as both parties are alive.
Overview of the California Divorce Court Process
When looking to file for a divorce—or when considering legal separation or annulment—it is important you have a broad understanding of the way that the court process will unfold. In the state of California, there are several steps which need to be completed in the correct order, by the correct time, for the divorce to proceed smoothly. The Judicial Branch of California recommends that the first step of any divorce is for the person who is starting the process, also known as the petitioner, to figure out several important details – such as how they want the marriage to end, whether or not the couple qualifies for summary dissolution, where they can file the divorce, how much money it will cost, etc.
Following this, the second step entails the petitioner talking to their spouse or domestic partner, also known as the respondent, regarding the above topics. In some cases, the couple may be able to come to a mutual agreement on some topics, which may save them the time, cost, and heartache of litigation. In some cases, they may be able to do this on their own or they may be able to save time by working with a professional divorce mediator to help work through these kinks. It is important to note that these agreements do not need to happen immediately – it is perfectly normal for couples to work them out throughout the process as the case moves from the initial filing toward the ultimate resolution.
Once the initial conversations have been initiated, the petitioner will then, with the help of their lawyer, gather all necessary forms and file them. The process of filing forms simply means that they have been filled out correctly and given to the court clerk at the appropriate courthouse. The clerk will take these files, stamp them as "filed," and put them in the new file to start the case. At this time, the petitioner will also likely need to pay for the court fees. These will depend on the actual details of the case, and, in some cases, the petitioner will be able to apply for a fee waiver to avoid having to pay these costly fees.
After the forms have been filed, someone will need to deliver copies of the forms to the respondent. The delivery person needs to be at least 18 years of age and must have no ties to the case; this is known as the "service of process." The person who delivered the forms are required to have the respondent fill out a "proof of service" upon receiving the forms, which is then filed with the same court clerk.
Following delivery, the ball is in the respondent's court, who must then determine how they would like to handle the case. If the respondent would like to file a response, they have 30 days after being served to gather all necessary forms, properly fill them out, and then file them with the appropriate court clerk. They will need to pay a filing fee and another individual over 18 years of age who is not involved in the case will need to serve the petitioner with copies of the respondent's forms.
After the response has been filed and served to the petitioner, both parties will need to gather and exchange documents outlining their financials, including what the personally own and what they owe. This is known as the preliminary declaration of disclosure and is crucial to the process of property division. The case will then move forward into obtaining a final court judgment. This in itself will differ depending on whether a divorce or legal separation is being sought, as well as whether or not issues are heavily contested. Regardless, it will take a minimum of six months after the case is filed before a marital status will be legally ended.
Contested Divorce in Santa Clarita
There are two processes that a couple can pursue when seeking to obtain a divorce: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. When a divorce is contested, it means the parties involved cannot come to an agreement about one or more areas of their divorce. This could be a disagreement regarding property division, child custody, spousal support, or any other part of their settlement. In order to obtain the settlement you deserve when a divorce is contested, you must hire an experienced and aggressive Santa Clarita divorce attorney to litigate on your behalf and fight for a fair settlement.
If you are looking to pursue a contested divorce, the first step is to file a petition for divorce against the other party with the help of a skilled lawyer. After that, the other part must respond to your petition and the discovery process can begin. This is one of the most important steps and involves investigating and obtaining information and documentation of all property and assets for both parties. This allows for the two parties to negotiate or, in contested cases, litigate for a fair division of all assets and property between the couple.
Just as there are two processes for divorce, there are two main ways to pursue an uncontested divorce. The first of these is divorce mediation. This process is possible when both parties are in agreement to pursue a divorce and believe they can come to an agreement regarding every area of their settlement. Divorce mediation requires that neither party be represented by their own attorney; instead, a specially-trained professional will work as an impartial mediator between the two spouses, providing legal guidance as they seek to agree upon their settlement.
Collaborative divorce is slightly different. This does not require a trained mediator. Instead, each party is allowed the counsel of their own attorney; however, there is no litigation involved and each individual must speak for themselves during the process of negotiation. Should both parties fail to agree upon any area of their settlement, the case must be taken to trial and the two collaborative law attorneys may not go on to represent their clients in court. The ultimate goal in collaborative law or mediation, however, is to obtain a fair settlement without the necessity of divorce litigation.
Helping Clients in Valencia, Newhall, Saugus & Canyon County
We view divorce as starting a new chapter in your life. Contact our firm and learn how we can help you wipe the slate clean to start anew. From helping preserve your relationship with your child(ren) to making sure that you will have the finances needed, we can address each and every detail. Remember, you are not alone in this - by contacting our firm, you will have an advocate on your side fighting for you.
Call Cutter & Lax Attorneys at Law at (818) 839-2533 to schedule your divorce consultation today.