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The Divorce Process

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The divorce process is confusing and in order to understand it, you should take the time to learn more about the basics of divorce as you prepare for your initial consultation with a divorce lawyer.

An Overview of Marital Dissolution

In California, a divorce is technically referred to as “Marital Dissolution” and you will find this term used on many of the legal forms in Los Angeles County. It is also a term that can be used at the Los Angeles Superior Court by many divorce lawyers and family law judges.

The initial document used to begin a dissolution or divorce is called the “Petition.” The term “Complaint” is more commonly used in Civil Court and you will not find attorneys, judges and court personnel using this term in family law court in Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, you can essentially end your marriage or registered domestic partnership by obtaining a divorce (marital dissolution), legal separation, or annulment. One aspect to consider is it may also be possible to obtain custody, visitation and child support orders without terminating your marriage.

A lawyer from Castellanos & Associates, APLC, will discuss the divorce process in Los Angeles County with you, including other family law concerns such as child custody, child visitations, or child support during a free initial consultation.

Take your first step towards moving on & finding peace of mind. Contact us today to discuss your options and develop your divorce strategy! Call (323) 212-5599.

Registered Domestic Partner

If you are a registered domestic partner, please keep in mind that as of January 1, 2005, registered domestic partners can also file for legal separation, dissolution or nullity of marriage. Many changes are occurring under California law as the relate to gay marriage and other aspects related to family matters involving same sex partners, and you should not rely on anything you read on the internet to plan your options without first speaking to a divorce and family law attorney from our firm to better assess your rights.

Residency Requirement in California

Part of learning the divorce process in Los Angeles is understanding that in order to file a Petition to dissolve your marriage, you must meet California’s residency requirement, which means you must have lived in the State of California for at least 6 months. No such residency requirement is necessary for a Judgment of Nullity or Legal Separation.

In addition, a judgment of marital dissolution cannot be entered unless one of the spouses has been a resident in Los Angeles County (or the county where the proceeding is filed) for three months immediately before the filing of the petition. As stated above, the six-month/three-month residency requirement only applies to a martial dissolution case, and is not applicable when you file a nullity or legal separation petition.

The Proper Venue for Your Divorce

The term “venue” typically refers to the proper county where your divorce action may proceed. The proper venue for your divorce is considered to be the county in which either Petitioner (the party who files first) or Respondent (the party who responds to the Petition) resided for at least 3 months immediately before commencement of the case.

By filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, you are requesting that the court dissolve your marriage or registered domestic partnership, and restore you to the status of a single person. The Judgment of Dissolution will provide a definite date to dissolve your marriage or registered domestic partnership. It is important to remember that you are not considered divorced until you receive the final judgment signed by the judge. In practical terms that means you are not permitted to remarry before the judge signs off on your judgment.

The marital dissolution proceeding or divorce will also divide your assets and obligations. The most common ground for dissolution is irreconcilable differences. In California, fault (such as infidelity) is irrelevant for purposes of dividing assets and obligations because California is a “no fault” state.

Community Property

California is also considered a community property state. Generally, any property or obligation acquired from the date of marriage through the date of separation is considered community property. This includes any vehicles, bank accounts, furniture, furnishings, real estate, stocks, pension accounts and 401(k) accounts. This would also include any debts acquired from credit cards, car loans, home loans, or other obligations. When a divorce or registered domestic partnership is dissolved, the community property assets and obligations are divided equally between the spouses.

The soonest a Judgment for Dissolution can be finalized is 6 months from the date the other spouse is served. However, more often than not, if your case involves litigation you will find a dissolution action will take much longer. When minor children are involved, the court has the ability to make temporary orders concerning custody, visitation, and child support, pending trial on your matter.

In a divorce, domestic partnership, or legal separation, the court can award custody of the children to either spouse and award visitation to the other. The parties can enter into an agreement that is mutually satisfactory to the other concerning week days, weekends, holiday, and vacation periods. Whenever there is an issue as to custody and visitations in a case in California, the parties are required to attend conciliation to attempt to resolve these issues before you advance to a custody hearing. If the parties are unable to enter into an agreement in conciliation, the court will make an order taking the minor children’s best interest into consideration.

To learn more about property division in California, you can find additional information published on this website to better help you understand the divorce process in Los Angeles.

Getting Re-Married

You may find yourself in a position where you are truly anxious to move on with your life, and you may in fact be ready to get married again. At Castellanos & Associates, APLC, we understand the need to move on and your desire to put your divorce behind you as quickly as you possibly. However, you must move forward in your life responsibly to ensure you and your current partner can truly move forward in your lives together.

At times, your present divorce and the process for getting a final judgment from the court may become aggravated by a spouse who simply cannot be located, but if you do not follow the law you may ultimately place your future marriage in jeopardy. Therefore, it is extremely important for you to understand that as a divorcing spouse you may not remarry until you receive the Notice of Entry of Judgment signed by the Judge.

If you are at all unsure about your ability to remarry, if you are attempting to locate an absent spouse, or if you have any other concerns about your divorce, please contact one of our divorce lawyers to answer your questions in a free initial consultation. We look forward to helping you move on today!

Legal Separation

The grounds for filing a Petition for Legal Separation are similar to those of dissolution. A Judgment of dissolution dissolves a marriage, but a Judgment for Legal Separation does not terminate the marriage. The parties remain married in a Legal Separation proceeding. Reasons why parties may opt to file for a Legal Separation as opposed to dissolution can include religious, medical or other personal reasons. Although there is a breakdown in the marriage, the parties wish to remain married in name. A legal separation can preserve eligibility for medical insurance benefits as well.

Like a dissolution proceeding, a Legal Separation seeks to divide all assets and obligations obtained from the date of marriage to the date of separation. The parties remain married except after they have legally separated, they no longer have any financial responsibilities to each other, and have no rights to the assets of the other. However, even when parties are legally separated and remain married, neither spouse can re-marry until the marriage is dissolved.

Once you have a custody and visitation order in place, the Court can then make an order for child support. The Court uses a California imposed guideline to follow when making an order for Child Support. Child support is typically based on two main factors: the percentage of time the parents spend with the minor children, and the amount of income they each earn. Other factors to be considered are childcare while the parents are at work or school, amount of Child Support paid for a child from another relationship, if any, rental income, and necessary job related expenses. Lastly, you may request a hardship deduction for minor children living in your home from another relationship.

Summary Dissolution

When parties are married no more than 5 years, have no minor children from the relationship, and community property is less than $25,000, a spouse may qualify for Summary Dissolution in California. A Summary Dissolution seeks to dissolve a marriage by filing a joint Petition. After 6 months from filing the joint Petition for Summary Dissolution, the parties can then file a Judgment 6 months from the filing date. There are a number of conditions that must be met before you file a summary dissolution including maximum values of assets and obligations. Summary Dissolutions are only available for marriages and are not authorized when dissolving a registered domestic partnership.

Nullity of Marriage

When you choose to petition the court for a Judgment of Nullity of Marriage, you are asking the Court to determine that your marriage was never valid from the start. The Court must find that, for reasons that existed at the time of the marriage, no valid marriage ever occurred, and therefore the marriage is either considered void or voidable.

The grounds for a void marriage include an incestuous (All blood-relative marriages are illegal in California pursuant to Family Code section 2200) or bigamous marriage (situations where there is a living spouse and there is no reason to believe that spouse is dead under Family Code section 2201).

Grounds for a voidable marriage include being underage at the time of marriage, having a prior existing marriage at the same time, being of unsound mind, entering into a marriage by force or fraud, or a party having a physical incapacity.

Generally, a Court hearing will be required and the party filing the Petition for Nullity of Marriage must offer proof or evidence to the Court of the particular grounds. Individuals usually find difficulty in proving the grounds for either a void or voidable marriage, especially when they are representing themselves in Court. There are also statutes of limitations to consider in a nullity proceeding. It is advisable to carefully discuss this option with your divorce lawyer before you proceed to file, and it is usually not the type of legal option we would suggest you handle on your own. It is the policy of the Court not to grant a nullity of marriage and instead grant a dissolution of marriage. Therefore, if a nullity of marriage is what you are looking for, it is imperative that you satisfy all of the legal requirements.

Contact Castellanos & Associates, APLC!

You can learn more about divorce/marital dissolution by reading more on our family law blog today. If you need immediate help from a lawyer, call today to request your FREE initial consultation at (323) 212-5599.


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