1. How soon can I be divorced?
Legally as soon as six (6) months and a day. However, the actual process usually takes longer if there are children, support issues and property division.
2. I just moved here, can I file for a divorce?
You must be a resident of the State of California for six (6) months and of the County three (3) months immediately preceding filing your Petition. You may however file for a Legal Separation and later amend your Petition after the required passage of time.
3. How do I choose a good divorce attorney?
A referral from someone who has had a positive experience is often the case. More and more people are using the internet to locate an attorney. However, you should still make these inquiries, to list a few.
- the attorney's length of time in practice,
- percentage of practice devoted to family law
- experience with your type of issues
- familiarity with the judges in your court
- the office policy for returning your calls
- whether you will have input regarding decisions in your case
- the ability of the attorney to listen to you and his or her rapport
- beware of guaranteed outcomes or promises
- psychologically aware of family dynamics and children
- how many trials or hearings has the attorney had
- does the attorney's client base consist of both genders
The list is not all inclusive and you should be comfortable in relating to your attorney. Remember, your attorney is your employee.
4. What should I bring to the initial client attorney meeting?
At the initial meeting be prepared to discuss your issues fully. Supporting documents will greatly assist the attorney in evaluating your situation. The types of documents needed depend on the kind of family law matter you have.
Financial records: Tax returns, bank statements, money market account statements, corporate books, profit and loss statements, pension statements, and credit card statements, promissory notes, to name a few.
Real Property: If you own real property whether situated in California or outside, copies of deeds of trust, lease contracts, appraisals and mortgage statements would be needed.
Agreements: Any signed Premarital, Post-marital or Cohabitation Agreement is necessary as it defines and may limit your rights.
Custody: Records relating to custody vary. The children's school records, a spouse's criminal history, domestic violence or drug and alcohol abuse would be important in some cases where it's at issue.
5. I have a secret bank account, must I tell my spouse?
During the marriage and during the divorce spouses owe a fiduciary duty to one another. This duty is much like being partners in a business. You have a duty to disclose "all material facts and information regarding the existence, characterization and valuation of all assets in which the community has or may have an interest and debts for which the community is or may be liable", as well as all material facts and information relating to the income and expenses of each party. Moreover, each spouse must "provide equal access to all information, records, and books that pertain to the value and character of those assets and debts, upon request." Failure to do so may result in substantial sanctions.
6. What should I tell our children about the divorce?
Your discussions with your children will depend on their ages and what they have seen or heard in the household during the marriage. Foremost is to reassure them that they are loved by both parents. Both parents are to avoid discussing "adult" issues and must refrain from making disparaging remarks about the other parent. Parents should strive to avoid conflicts in the presence of the children or to use the children as messengers. The most damaging thing that a parent can do to their children is to ask them to choose which parent they want to live with. If one parent actively badmouths the other and tries to "alienate" the child, it is critical that your attorney be psychologically aware and have experience in "high conflict" divorce cases with parental alienation.
7. If I leave the house will the Court assume that I have abandoned my children or given up my rights to the house?
No. In fact the Family Law Code specifically states that there can be no negative assumption about a party leaving the home.
8. If one spouse has been unfaithful during the marriage can that be used to gain an advantage in Court?
No. California is a "no fault" divorce State.
9. If we agree on all the issues, do we need an attorney?
Maybe. Family Law is extremely technical. You should at the minimum consult with an attorney to be advised of your rights. A reputable attorney will encourage you an amicable resolution if the settlement is equitable and fair. If that's the case, the attorney can assist you in preparing the Judicial Council forms and you won't even need to go to Court. The forms themselves are daunting and easily rejected if improperly prepared.