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Divorce Laws in California and Divorce Lawyers in San Diego

What exactly is the dissolution of marriage?

A Dissolution of Marriage is a divorce.  It begins by one party using their San Diego divorce lawyer to file for the necessary papers to start the divorce. The other party cannot stop the process.  If one party does not want to take part in the divorce proceedings, the side filing for the divorce will be allowed to take the judgment by default. The main issues when in most divorces are the division of property and debts, retirement accounts and custody of children, child support, spousal support (alimony) and legal fees.

What are the grounds for divorce in California?

As the state has a “no fault” policy, you do not need fault- type grounds to get a divorce (adultery, mental cruelty, etc.). The person filing almost always simply states that “irreconcilable differences” exist and that is sufficient grounds for a divorce to go forward.

Where exactly does one file for divorce?

Many people mistakenly think that they need to get a divorce in the place that they got married.  That is not the case.  The state in which the person filing for divorce lives usually has jurisdiction over the issue.  But this can get tricky; the state may have jurisdiction over the filer and over the issue of the marriage (i.e., the ability to end the marriage) but not have jurisdiction over the other party who lives in another state or country.  That would mean that the court in California could make the parties single again, but not necessarily divide property or make orders related to support or custody.  The issue of divorce jurisdiction can be quite simple or very complex and it is important to have a divorce attorney familiar with the laws, rules and regulations.

If you have been domiciled (residing with intention to stay) in California for at least six months, California will have jurisdiction over the divorce itself.  Venue, which is different from jurisdiction and is the actual courthouse where the filing is made, is determined by what county you have lived in for at least the last three months.

How does one end a domestic partnership?

As of January 2005, you need to file for a divorce, annulment or legal separation to end a domestic partnership. If the partnership was started in the state, both parties are eligible to resolve the case in California, even if they never lived there. If it was made outside of the state, the usual restrictions apply.

Although the United States Supreme Court has now ruled that “same sex” marriages are valid in all states, domestic partnerships formed prior to that ruling remain in effect, absent a subsequent actual marriage.

There are often somewhat different issues for domestic partnership break ups than those of traditional marriages; federal taxes, for example. There are many different clauses and stipulations you need to consider which is why it is important to work with a reputable San Diego divorce lawyer.

How do I navigate through a divorce?

As with most things, it helps to plan ahead.  This means forming an excellent professional team, which starts by hiring an experienced divorce lawyer in San Diego. Before you meet with the lawyer, try to organize the relevant documents and think about what your goals might be in the divorce.  A competent divorce lawyer will be able to tell you what can and cannot be reasonably expected, what is worth pursuing and what is not (often applying a “cost/benefit analysis”).  This will help to prevent wasting time and money. You have a few options when getting a divorce in San Diego;

  1. Be fully represented by an attorney: In San Diego this divorce lawyer can help you with all of your divorce needs.
  2. Limited representation: a divorce lawyer can help you with certain stages of the process.
  3. Mediation: this is when you and your spouse use a third party to negotiate and solve your differences.  Oftentimes, one or both parties will also have their own attorney in addition to using the mediator.
  4. Self-representation: this is when you are your own attorney.  It is sometimes referred to as in pro per.

How do I prepare when meeting a divorce attorney in San Diego?

Choose and hire a divorce attorney: You need to ensure that you work with an attorney who is certified by the California State Bar as a Specialist in Family Law and who has a good record of practicing in San Diego.

Be well prepared: you should write down a list of all the questions you have for the lawyer. This makes sure that you don’t forget about anything (but not to worry; if you do forget, your divorce attorney will be there via phone or email for any new questions or issues that may arise).  It will also help you to find out if you and the lawyer are a right fit for one another.

Have all important documents with you: Make sure that you have a copy of all relevant financial information with you when visiting a lawyer so that the divorce lawyer can develop an accurate plan of action.

Don’t rush: even though you are paying an attorney, it is important that you don’t rush through your meetings with one another. Make sure that you both are very clear on your plans and what route you are going to take.  Your attorney should be able to give you various options and explain which might be best from a variety of aspects, including taxation.

Can I have some form of protection in a divorce?

Make sure that you are always dealing with a reputable lawyer who has a track record of practicing in the state. Check the lawyer’s record by researching the CA State Bar database.

Make sure that you keep accurate records of all relevant fees and expenses, such as medical expenses, daycare and travel expenses.

Keep a track of all the time you are spending with your children.  Get a month-at-a-glance calendar and pencil in the days the children are with you, the times and, if possible, the activities.

Always have copies of your records going back a few years. These include tax returns, bank statements and property papers.

Keep your bank account and credit cards safe. You should always separate your accounts and change or cancel any products that give access to both parties.

If you have any further questions about the paperwork involved, check out an information packet that is available on the Superior Court website.

What do I do when I’m ready at the Courthouse to file for divorce?

Your lawyer will arrange for all of the necessary forms to be prepared, signed, filed and served.

Make sure to double check with your divorce attorney about the process needed for your specific case. Your spouse will have 30 days to reply. If they do not reply and you can prove so, you will obtain a default judgement for the case.

Can I avoid court?

Of course!  Your competent and experienced divorce attorney will always take steps to try to resolve all issues without having to go to court.  If both sides are reasonable, that outcome is highly possible.  If one side cannot, or will not, agree then the courts are there for you to obtain a final resolution of the issues.  Oftentimes, many issues can be settled but some cannot and the court will hear only those disputed issues.  That still results in a cost savings, since it shortens the trial time and, accordingly, the attorney fees and, often, costs.

Settlement is always to be preferred, if at all possible.  It will usually save time and money for both parties, as will always help to minimize the stress and anxiety that is usually part of any divorce litigation.

How will I confirm that I am now divorced?

The earliest date you can be single is six months and a day after the papers were served on the other party.  That does not mean you will be single that day; it is not automatic.  Eventually, you will have a paper which will be titled Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and that will have the terms of your settlement or trial as well as the actual date you became or will become a single person.

Does it matter if I am an immigrant and I am in the middle of pursuing legal status in the country?

No, not in terms of the court’s jurisdiction to grant a divorce and make orders.  But, if you are not a citizen of the United States, you need to deal with an immigration attorney as a divorce may have an effect on your immigration status, now and in the future.  Your divorce attorney should be experience in working with immigration counsel.

Does my military status affect my divorce?

If one or both parties are part of the military, there are statutes, case law and rules that may have very important bearing on your case.  This includes issues related to custody, support and division of military retirement.  The wrong move can result in paying, or not receiving, significant sums.  You do need to talk with a lawyer with extensive experience in these matters.

Contact the Law Offices of Matthew M. Kremer with your divorce related questions. For answers to these and all of your family law questions call 858-278-8080.

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