Family Law, Divorces and Separations

Very often people when are considering getting a divorce they have many questions about the process.  The divorce process in California can often seem confusing.

Family Law, Divorces and Separations

Below are some of the more frequent questions that often arise when people are considering a divorce.

If you wish, you can call my office an schedule a consultation to discuss specific issues in your situation.  The consultation is at a reduced fee (a required fee due to legal and privacy requirements).

Can I get a legal separation or an annulment instead of a divorce?

Yes. You can get a legal separation or an annulment (also called a nullity) without having lived in California for six months or your county for three months before filing.

  • Legal separation. You may have religious, insurance, tax or other reasons for wanting a legal separation instead of a dissolution. If you obtain a legal separation, you and your spouse will remain married, but the court can divide your property and issue orders relating to child custody, visitation, child support and spousal support, and, if necessary, a restraining order.
  • Annulment. If you are granted an annulment, it is as though your marriage never existed. You may be able to get an annulment if you married when you were a minor without the consent of your parents or guardian, or if certain types of fraud or deceit were involved. If you want an annulment, however, you will have to appear in court for a trial.

How do I file for divorce?

Your lawyer will have to prepare a Petition and a Summons. The process is begun by filing your Petition and Summons with the clerk of the superior court. You will have to pay a fee to file these papers unless you have a very low income and qualify for a fee waiver. To obtain the proper forms, purchase a dissolution form packet for a minimal fee from the clerk of your county’s superior court.

Copies of the Petition and Summons, and a blank Response, must be officially delivered (or, in legal terms, served) to your spouse by someone other than yourself who is over the age of 18. The Summons is a paper that notifies your spouse that you are filing for a divorce and that he or she has 30 days in which to file the Response.

In the Response, your spouse then indicates what needs to be resolved by the court. For example, he or she might object to your request for spousal support or sole custody of your children.

More information about divorces and legal separations visit the court’s website at

What happens to our children when we separate?

You can determine what happens. The best solution for the children is for the parents to reach an agreement on who will take care of them.

If you and the other parent agree on a parenting plan, a copy of the plan will be included in your dissolution papers. Your parenting plan can become a court order; in most cases, a judge will approve a custody plan agreed upon by both parents.

You and the other parent are both responsible for supporting your children if they are under age 18.

The amount of support to be paid by one parent to the other is based on established California State guidelines.  Computer programs are available for helping parents determine who will pay such support, and how much is to be paid.

Significant factors include each parent’s income and the amount of time each of you spends caring for the children.

Such support need not be reported as income for federal and state tax purposes, and the parent paying such support is not entitled to a tax deduction.

Family Law

If necessary, you may request a wage assignment order. This is an order that requires a parent’s employer to make child support payments directly to the parent entitled to receive support.

Do I need a lawyer?

Property settlements and child custody disputes can be very complicated. A lawyer can tell you how a judge may divide your property and help you put your property settlement agreement into writing.

A lawyer can help you understand your rights and duties concerning your children. A lawyer can assist you if an unexpected problem comes up.

And a lawyer can advise you on how much money, if any, you should pay or receive for spousal or child support.

Lawyers who handle dissolution and custody cases are called family law attorneys.

In addition, there are alternatives to hiring a lawyer who will represent you throughout all stages of your divorce.

You could, for example, choose limited representation instead—hiring an attorney who will assist you at particular stages of your divorce. Whether this would be a good option for you could depend on the complexity of your case and your financial situation. Generally, limited representation involves less cost.

While some attorneys will not work solely on portions of a case, others will agree to act as collaborative attorneys or consulting attorneys (also called coaches or providers of unbundled legal services).

Still Have Questions?

Having handled many many divorces, legal separations and child custody issues, I know that the reading of a web page does not answer all of the questions that you have.

Call my office to set up a consultation to discuss the specifics of your sitation.  While this consultation appointment is not free, I think that you will find that the reduced rate consultation will be worth the time and the small fee that are required.