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California Divorce FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a divorce?

A divorce is a common method for terminating a marriage relationship between two married persons. Entering into a marriage creates a binding legal relationship resulting in certain rights and obligations such as financial obligations, property rights, and rights to children. The financial and property rights created by the marital relationship cannot be altered without a legal proceeding. The most common such legal proceedings is a “Dissolution of Marriage.” A Dissolution is a legal process that ends the marital relationship and also ensures that each party maintains the rights that they deserve.

Are there any residency requirements in order to obtain a dissolution of marriage?

Yes. To get a divorce in California, at least one of the spouses has to have been a resident of the state for at least six months before filing the divorce petition. You must also live in the county where you file the divorce petition for at least three months before filing.

If you cannot meet these residency requirements, the attorneys at Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC can file an action for “Legal Separation” for you: this type of action does not have a residency requirement. Our California divorce attorneys can convert the Legal Separation action into a Dissolution action after you have been in California long enough to satisfy the residency requirements.

How does a divorce differ from a legal separation?

When a divorce petition is granted, the marriage is terminated. When the parties involved file for and are granted a legal separation, under the law the parties are still considered to be married and thus the marital relationship is still intact. Parties that are legally separated are not free to remarry. One major advantage of filing for legal separation in the state of California is that the filing party can be eligible to receive a legal separation even if they do not meet California residency requirements.

How long should a divorce take?

The biggest factor in determining how long a divorce process lasts is the level of cooperation that can be expected, a divorce proceeding can take between six to eighteen months to be resolved. If the divorce is high-conflict with lots of different issues involved, then the proceedings can take as long as five years to be resolved. Simple cases where no children are involved and there is little conflict between spouses can be resolved in as few as six months.

Beyond that explanation, this becomes a complicated question to answer. First, California has a 6 month waiting period, which begins form the time a divorce has “begun” to the first date at which a divorce can become “final.” This is the earliest date on which a married couple can be returned to a status of “single.” But that does not mean that the agreements encompassed in a divorce need to wait that long. Agreements can be reached and documents can be prepared formalizing the divorce agreement. With the proper help and formalities, the documents can even be filed with the court before the 6 month waiting period has lapsed. Then you simply wait for the minimum waiting period to pass.

Call and speak to one of our expert attorneys at (800) 689-0774 if speed is a consideration in your divorce process.

Can my spouse stop me from getting a divorce?

No. California is a “No Fault” state, which means that either spouse may file for divorce at any time, for any reason. If the other spouse does not wish to proceed with divorce proceedings and ignores the petition filed in court, then the filing party can take steps to obtain a default judgment of dissolution of marriage.

If we cannot agree on custody or visitation, who does the Court decide on the custody plan?

At Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC we take as much a psychological as a legal approach to child custody. This is because custody litigation boils down to essentially a single question: what is in the best interest of the child? This question is a psychological one posed by the court. Although we are not psychological professionals, we work closely with child development specialists, including consultants with decades of experience as court-appointed custody experts.

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Will I be entitled to child support? Will I have to pay child support?

One of the most nerve-wracking aspects of Dissolution is the financial uncertainty created by the splitting of the household—suddenly there are two sets of bills to pay. All divorces involve a reduction in the lifestyle of the family involved. At Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC, our goal is to minimize that financial impact on the children while obtaining a fair child support order.

Will I be entitled to spousal support? Will I have to pay spousal support?

The current state of California spousal support law is chaotic. There are two separate systems for calculating spousal support. There is little predictability: a Judge in one courtroom may rule one way, and a Judge in the courtroom down the hall may rule another way on the same set of facts. Rife with both potential unfairness for both Payor and Payee, going to court on spousal support issues in California is like spinning a roulette wheel.

Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC has been representing clients in spousal support cases since 1999. Our approach to spousal support is unique: we develop a strategy for resolving your legal issues at the very beginning of your case and lay the necessary legal groundwork to keep you out of court in the future.

How will the court divide our assets and debts? Will the court give me credit for the money I brought into the marriage or inherited?

At first glance California property laws can seem simple—and they can be, if you and your spouse agree. In fact many of our clients prefer “horse trading”—allocating their estate between them and their spouses without deep consideration of values, separate property claims, etc. And this is fine under California law, and can be fast and save on legal billing.

However, in some cases this “Cliffs Notes” version of family law can result in severely unfair property divisions. Sometimes the devil in the details, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars are in those details, too.

The expert attorneys at Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC have been obtaining a fair division of assets and debts for our clients since 1999 through peaceful negotiations when possible, and aggressive litigation if, when and only to the extent necessary.

If my spouse lives in another state, where do we file our divorce?

This is a complicated question whose specific facts must be analyzed by an experienced and competent divorce attorney—call the expert attorneys at Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC at (800) 689-0774 for more information.

What is the process for getting a divorce in California?

If you have been married for less than five years, have no children, don't own real estate, and have relatively limited property and debts, you may qualify for a “Summary Dissolution.” Contact the expert attorneys at Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC to see if you qualify. If you do qualify, make sure to find out whether actually filing for a Summary Dissolution is a good idea in your particular case. In many cases, it is not.

If you don't qualify for a summary dissolution, a typical dissolution of marriage requires the following steps (it helps to divide the procedure into the Beginning, the Middle, and the End):

The Beginning:

One spouse files a divorce petition and serves it on the other spouse (called the Respondent).

The Respondent then has thirty days to file a response to the petition if they wish to participate in the divorce process. Otherwise, they may be defaulted out of the divorce proceedings, leaving the Petitioner to get what they had specifically asked for in their initial court documents.

One of the spouses may request temporary court orders by filing for a hearing. At this hearing, the judge may make temporary orders for issues such as child custody, support, and restraining orders.

The Middle:

The spouses then engage in discovery, which is the process by which they exchange information and documents that are relevant to the divorce. One of the required aspects of discovery is the preparation of the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. This is process in which each spouse lists the community and separate property and declares their income and expenses.

The End:

After the discovery is complete, the spouses and their attorneys will discuss settlement of the case. If the case is resolved by agreement, one of the attorneys will prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement, which should include all of the terms of the agreement. This is a contract that is signed by the spouses and their attorneys.

If the parties are not able to agree on all of the issues in the case, a trial will take place.

After the parties sign the Marital Settlement Agreement or after the trial has concluded, one of the attorneys will prepare a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This is the document that contains all of the court's orders. The judgment is filed with the court, concluding the legal action in most cases.

Why should I hire Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC to represent me in my family law matter?

Divorce, legal separation and other family legal matters can be both stressful and expensive. When faced with a family law matter, the decisions you make will have a profound effect on you and your children, both emotionally and financially. The experienced California divorce lawyers at Nader, Naraghi & Woodcock, APLC understand the emotional and financial strain these cases can have on a family, and they will handle each family law matter with the utmost care to ensure that the best possible results are reached for each client.

“I have had an excellent experience with Bill Woodcock and his supporting staff while they represented me in a family law matter. Their billing and fee structure is reasonable and never did I get the sense that anyone was trying to over-bill me or that they were creating unnecessary work just for the sake of additional fees. Bill is extremely well versed in the Family Code and also relevant case law. More importantly, when it is appropriate, he is very much willing to help find solutions with the other side (much cheaper to find the middle ground where possible) as opposed to fighting over every little thing (extremely expensive). That said, when push comes to shove, Bill can be very aggressive and was always able to represent my position to the fullest extent possible because of his knowledge, experience, and preparation. Bill's supporting staff is also very attentive and detail-oriented. Before this I had no experience with the family court system or family law and it was very comforting to have Bill and Elvira (his paralegal / office manager) be able to explain things clearly in terms that I could understand (not just a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo). I highly recommend this firm for representation.”

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