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WHAT IS FAMILY LAW?

Family law covers all matters related to the rights of spouses, parents, and children. Family lawyers typically assist clients with divorce, the dissolution of domestic partnerships, legal separations, annulments, paternity, child custody and visitation, child support, guardianship actions, spousal support (alimony), adoption, domestic violence, the emancipation of minors, family mediation, pre-marital and post-marital agreements, cohabitation agreements, contract actions between unmarried partners, and property rights between spouses.

SHOULD I HIRE A CERTIFIED SPECIALIST IN FAMILY LAW?

Family law impacts one of the most important aspects of our lives and California divorce laws are particularly complex, so the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization recognizes attorneys who successfully complete its certification requirements.

Fox & Bank specializes in family law—and it shows. Many of the lawyers at Fox & Bank have studied for and passed the extensive written examination—similar to the Bar Exam—and have the experience and training in family law proceedings required for certification. That expertise is both wide and deep.

Our family attorneys understand business, financial, accounting, tax, and investment issues in order to investigate and resolve support and property division disputes. We understand how various tax laws interact with family law. Wedelve into the psychology of divorce and child development issues in order to assist our clients with custody, visitation, and the varied and painful emotions brought on by the transition of a family.

WHAT IS THE DIVORCE PROCESS LIKE?

Divorce is a legal proceeding which is filed in the Superior Court, usually in the County in which you and your spouse live. California has a 6 month waiting period which means that you cannot be legally restored to a single person—divorced—for 6 months from when the Petition for Divorce and Summons are served. However, even if you and your spouse agree on everything, it is very rare for a divorce to be completed within 6 months. Although all cases present unique issues, most cases take longer to work through the issues of property division, support, and child custody.

CAN MY SPOUSE BLOCK ME FROM OBTAINING A DIVORCE?

No. California is a no fault jurisdiction. What this means is that you may obtain a divorce without showing a legal reason and without your spouse’s consent.

WHAT DOES COMMUNITY PROPERTY MEAN?

Community property means that, with the exception of separate property (i.e., gifts or inheritance to one spouse during marriage, assets owned prior to marriage, or agreed separate property pursuant to a Premarital Agreement), assets and debts acquired during marriage are presumed to be jointly owned by both spouses. Absent an agreement to the contrary, the divorce judge must divide the community property equally.

CAN I LOSE CUSTODY OF MY CHILDREN IF I HAD AN AFFAIR DURING OUR MARRIAGE?

Most likely, not. The reasons for the breakdown of the marriage are generally inadmissible because California is a “no-fault” state. Marital infidelity can occasionally be relevant to custody issues, but this is rare.

WHAT IS THE CHILD CUSTODY PROCESS LIKE?

California considers what is in the children’s best interest in any child custody matter. This includes an analysis of many factors, including the ages of your children, the role each parent has played in the children’s lives, as well as each child’s developmental needs at each stage. History of abuse against the children and the other parent, as well as alcohol and drug abuse by a parent are also factors. In arriving at a parenting schedule, the children’s needs should be considered first and foremost. Because child custody litigation can be expensive emotionally difficult, parents are encouraged to attempt to agree upon schedules as much as possible. Fox & Bank routinely works with experienced co-parenting counselors, parenting coaches, and experienced family law custody mediators to assist clients in the child custody process and to reduce the financial and emotional cost of litigation.

HOW DO WE TELL OUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE DIVORCE?

Consider carefully how and when to tell your children. Don’t assume you know how your children will react and try to allow your children to have their own feelings, even if they confuse, upset or anger you. Reassure your children that the divorce is not their fault and that you love them. Present a unified front and do not blame your spouse for the divorce. Studies show that the most difficult thing about divorce for children is conflict between their parents. Reinforce that you are still—and always will be—a family. If you are able to, tell your children the basics of the time-sharing plan to address their anxiety regarding unknowns. Answer difficult questions honestly, but do not overshare adult information. Communicate with your spouse in advance if at all possible—this takes planning and the two of you may want to seek the assistance and counsel of a co-parenting counselor, therapist or child specialist to discuss your individual situation and your children’s needs.

HOW MUCH WILL THIS DIVORCE PROCESS COST ME?

It is very difficult to predict how much your divorce will cost at the outset without knowing if you and your spouse will be able to reach agreements on the significant issues. Generally, the more you agree upon, the less expensive the divorce. Understanding the legal process, maintaining realistic goals, and remaining flexible to the outcome maximize your success in reaching agreements.

DO YOU KNOW WHO THE OPPOSING COUNSEL IS?

Maybe! The family law professional community often know one another in some capacity, which may include having worked as opposing counsel in the past, having served on a professional committee together, or simply by reputation. Most family law attorneys strive to have a collegial relationship with their opposing counsel in order to better serve both parties.

HOW DOES CHILD SUPPORT WORK?

California has a statewide child support formula based upon net incomes and certain other factors which is known as guideline support. Each family law judge and attorney has software to calculate guideline child support. This software is also available online. However, correctly inputting the information is critical to arrive at an accurate result. In addition to guideline child support, parents can be ordered to share the cost of their children’s uninsured health costs and to share the cost of their children’s sports, lessons and other extracurricular activities.

HOW DOES SPOUSAL SUPPORT WORK?

Spousal support, or alimony, is usually determined by a formula for temporary support pending the divorce. Longer term support, after the divorce, is based on many factors outlined in Family Code Section 4320, including the length of marriage, need and ability to pay, your ages and any disability, assets and liabilities, and the marital standard of living.

WHAT ARE PREMARITAL ASSETS?

Premarital assets are assets that you and your spouse owned prior to marriage. If you no longer own the asset at the time of your divorce, you may still be entitled to seek reimbursement, depending on how the asset was used during marriage.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LITIGATION, MEDIATION, AND ARBITRATION?

  • Litigation is the legal court process you are used to seeing on TV, where cases are decided in a formal court setting by a judge or commissioner after everyone has presented evidence and argument.
  • Mediation can take several forms, but in general terms, it describes parties in conflict sitting down with a neutral third party like a lawyer or mental health professional to work out an acceptable solution to a legal problem. Sometimes it is mandated by the courts (as is required in all custody disputes in California) and it may or may not be confidential.
  • Arbitration is a blend of both litigation and mediation. The arbiter (or decider) is given the power to decide, or judge, the question at hand by the people in mediation. This means that while arbitration does not take place in a court of law, the arbiter’s decisions are legally binding.