FREQUENTLY ASKED DIVORCE QUESTIONS
Divorce can be incredibly stressful and many people don't know where to go for answers and advice. Gordon Family Law knows that every client's case is important.
The philosophy of Gordon Family Law is that we believe that in almost all cases, children should spend time with both parents; therefore, we do not take cases where the goal appears to be to punish or hurt the other parent or to deprive them of access. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions by clients.
1. HOW SOON CAN I GET A DIVORCE?
A divorce in California takes a minimum of six months. While it can take longer, it will never be less than 6 months. The clock starts after the other party has been served. California is a "no-fault" state. A no-fault divorce is one in which neither spouse officially blames the other for the breakdown of the marriage.
2. WHEN SHOULD I START THE PROCESS?
Divorce is a personal choice, so when you file is up to you. There are special rules about the length of your marriage and the “date of separation” in California and you should speak with an attorney to understand the implications in your specific situation.
3. HOW DO I FILE FOR DIVORCE?
You file for divorce by filing a Petition at your local Superior Court. The fee for filing a divorce is $435-$450 depending on your County.
4. I’VE BEEN MARRIED FOR 10 YEARS, DOES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Yes and no. The 10 year rule in California is used to determine what constitutes a long year marriage for spousal support. The 10 year mark is also used by the Social Security Administration for spousal benefits.
5. HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST?
The cost of a divorce is directly correlated to the cooperation between you and your spouse. Our office has completed uncontested divorces for $3,500 and contested issues for upwards of $10,000. To a large extent, the cost is controlled by the client. You can minimize your costs by accurately documenting and preparing your financial documents and working with your spouse to understand the sticky issues. I’ve seen complicated divorces with business valuations be resolved for $5,000 because the family was able to understand the major sticking points. And contested litigation go upwards of $25,000.
6. HOW IS PROPERTY DIVIDED?
California is a community property state and what that means is that all assets, as well as debts, acquired during marriage are owned jointly by spouses. Separate property includes all assets and debts owned before marriage, gifts received by only one spouse during marriage, or inheritances received during marriage.
Families are free to divide their property as they see fit if they agree on the division of assets and debts. If the parties cannot agree, the court makes a determination using rules of community property law.
7. HOW MUCH DO I HAVE TO PAY MY EX?
How much you may have to pay your spouse depends on the length of your marriage and the disparity of income between you and your ex spouse. Gordon Family Law is happy to run projections to help you understand the best and worst case scenarios.
8. WILL I HAVE TO PAY MY SPOUSE'S ATTORNEY FEES?
Attorneys fees can come from community property – this means that if you have joint savings (even if those savings are from your earnings), that those savings can be used to pay for an attorney. In some circumstances the Court can also require you to pay your spouses attorney’s fees.
9. AM I ENTITLED TO SPOUSAL SUPPORT?
Maybe. Spousal Support is determined by a complicated series of factors including the length of marriage, the income earned by each spouse, the separate property of each spouse, and the earning potential of each spouse. This question is very fact specific but we are happy to work with you to provide estimates.
10. AM I ENTITLED TO HIS/HER RETIREMENT?
Yes. Absent an agreement, no matter the length of your marriage, you are always entitled to retirement earned during the marriage – even government pensions. Clients often forget this and give up their rights to retirement benefits – so contact an attorney to get an assessment of the assets.
What about my kids?
You will have to make three decisions about your kids: (1) legal custody, (2) physical custody, (3) visitation.
Child support and custody are always modifiable and may be changed when either party's financial circumstances change or there is a change in the custody or visitation schedule. A consultation with an attorney utilizing a computer program will give you an idea of the possible increase or decrease in the amount of support you are paying or receiving.
Child support: California uses a guideline formula based on each parties' income (or earning capacity) and the amount of time each parent spends with the child or children.
Who makes the legal, health, education, and welfare of the child?
Joint Legal Custody means that parents make these decisions together.
Sole Legal Custody means that one parent makes these decisions.
Where the children physically live.
Joint Physical Custody means that the children spend a significant amount of time with both parents (but not necessarily an equal amount of time).
Sole Physical Custody means that the children live primarily with one parent, with a schedule to spend time in the care of the other parent.
Children, no matter what age, benefit from having both parents involved in their lives. Even if you are no longer married, there are many ways to be actively involved in your children’s daily life and a good divorce attorney will help your family plan for the new normal.