The divorce process in California

When I first started practicing family/divorce law in California, I wanted someone to walk me through the process, start to finish, so I could understand it as a whole.  What is troublesome, unfortunately, is that all divorces differ in many ways, so looking at the process in general can be tricky.  But let’s try…

In California, the first step in getting a divorce is to file a Petition.  It’s fairly easy, and it doesn’t matter at all which spouse files the Petition (or files first).  There’s no advantage or benefit to filing the Petition over the Response (though there may be some advantages/disadvantages to filing sooner or later, but see an attorney on this…like me!).  To file a Petition in California you have to have lived in California for six months prior to the filing and in the county where you have filed for three months prior to the filing.

Once the Petition is filed (and the UCCJEA if you have children), you may need to file for an immediate court order regarding support, child custody and visitation, property or debt division, or some other urgent manner.  To do this, you file a Request for Order.  For any issues regarding support, you much file an Income and Expense Declaration, showing your – you got it – income and expenses so the court can calculate the appropriate support.

To complete your divorce, not only do you have to agree on child and spousal support, child custody and visitation, asset and debt division and any other issues you may have, but you have to complete your disclosures and obtain a Judgment.  The disclosures are forms: the Income and Expense Declaration and the Schedule of Assets and Debts (which is, you guessed it, your assets and debts), as well as a form showing you delivered these to your soon-t0-be-ex-spouse.  These are required in California, so you must be prepared to share all of your income, expenses, assets and debts with your spouse to get divorce.

You’re now in the home stretch: to obtain a Judgment, once you have everything resolved, you have to file a number of documents with the court.  It can be confusing, and most courts have packets at the clerk’s office to help you complete it.  Of course, a Family Law Coach can always help if you get stuck.  Need more detailed help? Click here to make an online appointment.

If you knew how hard California divorce was, you might reconsider…

I read an article last week, and it made me think of all of the couples out there who hastily file for divorce without thinking it through.  Or, perhaps they’ve thought it through, but maybe not in the right way.  Let me explain…

Divorce is hard.  It can take ages, and can be more emotionally taxing and draining than the actual marriage.  Financially?  It can be a disaster for both spouses.  Everyone suffers, not just the couple. The kids have it the worst, and other family members get into the mudslinging as well.  I have always told my clients that whatever you think it’s going to be, divorce is always much longer and much more expensive than you ever thought it would be.

Why does this happen?  I think mainly because most individuals divorcing haven’t taken the time to really learn about the process and how it works.  Most people know of and have heard stories from neighbors, relatives, and friends, so they think they have an idea of what they’re in for.  Sadly, every divorce is different.  Some actually are completed quickly, quietly, and somewhat painlessly – no lawyers, no high fees, no screaming matches and ugly custody battles.  Some are endless, and last until all of the children are 18 and out of the court’s jurisdiction (or longer!), and involve many lawyers, experts, and astronomical fees.  The rest are somewhere in between.

What can we do?  When someone is considering getting a divorce, take some time to learn about what that involves in your state/county/jurisdiction.  Don’t just listen to friends and co-workers.  Everyone’s situation is different.  Look on Nolo Press for books and articles.   Check out Divorce Source.  Consider a consultation with an attorney – tell him or her up front that you just want information because you’re considering divorce – or a Family Law Coach.  Just don’t go in blind, because you may be in for much more than you ever bargained for. Ready for some more information? Click here to make an online appointment.

Hiring a lawyer for your California divorce? How a Family Law Coach can help

Thinking about getting a divorce?  Already have one in process – with or without an attorney – and feeling lost?  Not sure where to turn, but are afraid to consult with an attorney and face thousands of dollars in fees?

These were the situations that I saw every day practicing family law litigation for five years.  So many divorcing parties needed help but couldn’t afford full representation.  Most were already quite savvy when it came to the divorce process, but there are some questions that you just really need an attorney’s help and expertise.  But there was no resource for those litigants who wanted help with one specific issue (and not anything else) or one hearing or one declaration.  The free services at the courthouse did the best they could, but were often crowded or couldn’t help with a specific legal issue.  Most traditional attorneys would only take the whole case.  Some litigants tried to do their own research on sites like Nolo Press or others, but still had trouble finding the specific advice needed.

This is where I come in.  My expertise is best used in these situations:

  1. You’re thinking about a divorce but have no idea how to proceed or how the process works or what to expect or what the law provides in your situation.  You can get all the advice you can hear from your neighbor, sister and cousin who got divorced, but they are not going to be able to give you specific legal advice.
  2. Your divorce is going fine, but you and your spouse are stuck on one issue.  Either you have a sticky area of your divorce that’s holding up settlement (custody, support, property division, etc.), a procedural stumbling block you can’t overcome (how do you move your case forward when the other side is stalling?), or you are having trouble completing documents (what are disclosures?  How do you file your Judgment paperwork?).
  3. You have a lawyer but can’t ever get in touch with him/her or feel that s/he is not giving you the attention you want or need.  Or, you think you can do something, and your attorney has said no, and you think that’s wrong.  Most clients don’t want to fire their attorney for fear of having to start over with someone else and pay a lot of money up front.  This is where a Family Law Coach can help to give you a second opinion on how to proceed, at a fraction of the cost of hiring a new lawyer.

Most traditional attorney consultations start blind, that is, the attorney has no idea what your story is.  I work differently as a Family Law Coach, taking as much information as I can in advance of my appointments so that we can spend as much time as possible not gathering the basic information, but rather answering your specific questions and giving you specific advice.  There is no pressure because I have no vested interest in “making the sale” and having you hire me for your case.  With Family Law Coaching services, I can work on a flat fee basis in some instances as well as work on a short-term hourly basis.  High on specific, experienced, attorney advice, low on cost. Make an appointment by clicking here.