If you are ending a marriage or domestic partnership, it is emotional enough without having to figure out the courts on your own. I can help you fight for what is important to you. I encourage my clients to be open and honest about all assets because there can be severe penalties for hiding property from the other spouse or partner.
Is Summary Dissolution an Option?
If you have been in a marriage or domestic partnership for less than 5 years you may be able to take advantage of California’s system for summary dissolution, assuming you don’t have any children, have limited assets, and meet the rest of the criteria. This may allow you to enjoy an inexpensive dissolution. However, this is probably the only time that will be true.
But what if I have children?
If you have children, you are going to have to deal with child custody and support issues because courts won’t allow you to waive your child support obligations. This is because child support is set based on considerations of the best interests of the children. If you think you will be able to come to an agreement for how you will share time with your children, it is always best to consult with a mediator so that you can work out a detailed plan that the courts are likely to accept. If you plan to submit an agreement regarding the child support amount, you have to include a print out of the child support amount that would be ordered if you followed the court’s guidelines.
Is the Divorce process any different for same-sex couples?
There is no separate thing called gay divorce in California. One thing that you will have to consider is that many gay or lesbian couples are both registered domestic partners and married. In those cases, you need to make sure that you dissolve your domestic partnership and end your marriage at the same time. In most cases, this simply means that rather than just determining community property and spousal support issues based on the length of the marriage, the length of the domestic partnership is added on as well. So for example if you were domestic partners for 2 years and then got married and separated two years later, you would list both the date of forming the domestic partnership and the date of marriage and then finally the date of separation. The total length of the relationship would be four years.
OK so what is the traditional divorce process?
If you are unable to take advantage of the summary dissolution procedure, you are going to have to file a number of forms with the court at the start of the process. At minimum you need to file your petition for dissolution and summons. These forms then need to be personally served on your spouse. Once your case is under way, you have fiduciary duties that require you to disclose your assets completely to your spouse or partner both through the preliminary declarations of disclosure and the final disclosures at the end of the case, though most of the time the final disclosures are waived. Assuming you are able to come to an agreement between yourselves either informally or at mediation, you are required to file a number of forms with the court to complete the process. Most commonly a marital settlement agreement will be drafted to explain how all of the issues will be resolved and this will be filed along with the judgment paperwork.
Can’t I do it all myself?
In some cases, you may choose to figure out everything yourself to avoid paying the costs of an experience San Diego Divorce Attorney. However, the amount of time required for you to fully understand all the issues will be quite long. This is because in most divorces you will have to learn about the community property system California follows as well as the issues of spousal support, child support, child custody, and fiduciary obligations between spouses and partners.
In my blog post on divorce resources, I link to a few useful websites that will help you if you decide to take that route. If there are children involved in your divorce, I urge you to be forever mindful of the impact your actions can have on them. Once you realize that you need the help of an attorney, I urge you to consult with one sooner rather than later.