Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law in California
Answers from experienced attorneys in Pasadena
When facing a complex family legal issue, including divorce, it is likely that you will have a number of questions. Our attorneys will always be available to address the specific issues related to your case. There are also a number of common questions we face from our clients. If we cannot answer your questions here, please feel free to contact our firm directly. We offer free phone consultations to potential clients regarding similar legal issues.
How long does a divorce take?
When facing divorce, you may wonder how long it will take. A divorce could be finalized in a few days, if the parties already know what they want to do and have all their financial information in order for the attorneys, or could be drawn out over years, depending on the issues that you and your spouse face. Working with an experienced attorney can minimize the time and expense of litigation and ensure that your rights are protected.
How does a court divide marital property?
California is a community property state, meaning that all property is considered either “community” or “separate” property. At the time of divorce, the courts will divide all community property equally between the parties. Community property is property that is acquired during marriage, other than by gift to one or the other of the parties or by inheritance. Separate property is property that is acquired before marriage and after separation and by gift or inheritance during marriage. Although these definitions may seem to be simple, characterization of property as community or separate property, on divorce — especially accounts and other property that have been comingled — can be a complicated process.
Am I entitled to spousal support or will I have to pay spousal support?
If you are a dependent spouse, you may be entitled to spousal support. Spousal support determinations can be complicated because of the discretion given to the court. An experienced attorney can present your case effectively. The court will consider a number of factors including:
- The earning capacity of each party
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The earnings and marketable skills of each party
- Whether a party devoted time to domestic duties and child rearing at the expense of career pursuits
- The ability of the higher earning party to pay support
- The obligations and assets, including separate property held by you and your spouse
- The duration of your marriage
- The ages of the parties
- The ability of the supported spouse to obtain gainful employment
- Whether time is needed for the supported spouse to pursue further education and training to obtain employment
- Whether there is a documented history of domestic violence in the marriage
- The tax consequences of a spousal support order, taking into account that spousal support is taxable to the recipient and tax deductible to the person paying it
Can I get a modification to a divorce judgement or order?
If you have an original divorce order that establishes custody, child support or spousal support, you may be able to obtain a modification to that order based on a significant change in circumstances. Custody arrangements can be changed if one party relocates or if the child has different needs. A support determination could be adjusted based on an increase or decrease in income, such as losing a job, getting a new job with different pay, or retirement. We can help you obtain a modification or challenge a proposed modification. It is important to understand that support orders cannot be modified retroactively. Therefore, as soon as there is a need for a modification of a support order, you should immediately consult a family law specialist.
If I am not the father, do I need a paternity lawyer?
If you are an alleged father in a paternity case, it is important to challenge the assertion with experienced legal advocacy if you believe you are not the biological father of the child. Failure to challenge paternity after it has been presumed or established could leave you open to child support obligations even after paternity has been disproved.
Do I need a lawyer for my divorce?
Even divorces with minimal conflict can be complicated. You may think that you and your spouse are in agreement about major points including financial settlements, property and children. It is important that an experienced advocate review your settlement and work independently on your behalf to ensure that your immediate and future rights are secure.
Will I have to pay all my attorney’s fees and will I have to pay some of my spouse’s attorney’s fees?
In California divorces, the court has the authority to order a party to pay some or all of the attorney’s fees and litigation costs of the other spouse. The purpose of such orders is to make sure that both parties have access to quality legal representation to level the playing field so that the party who has more assets or income cannot overwhelm the other spouse. If you feel you cannot pay an attorney to represent you, you should still check with a family law attorney to see if that is really the case. There usually are ways that we can quickly obtain funds from the other side so that you can have appropriate representation to pursue your rights.
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