California Divorce 101

NEW Year, new resolutions, new life. For some of you, the New Year is a time for reflection, and to realize that changes are needed to be able to lead and live the life you’ve always wanted to lead. Sometimes, divorce happens.

The following seeks to address or clarify some common misconceptions about divorce.

“What if my husband/wife does not want to sign the divorce?” or “My husband/wife does not want to sign the divorce papers, what can I do?”  California is a no-fault divorce state. A party filing for divorce does not need the consent of the other in order to file a Petition for Dissolution (Divorce) or, in some instances, to get a judgment of divorce.

Perhaps the confusion lies in the part where the other party (your soon-to-be ex-spouse) needs to be served with process. In proceeding in an action for divorce, there are procedural requirements dictated by law that must be followed to ensure that the other party has notice of the action (that is, that s/he is being brought to court for an action of divorce) and that s/he is given time to respond. However, there is no requirement for the other party to respond. There is no requirement that s/he sign any document at all. All that needs to happen is that s/he is properly served with process according to the rules.

“What? I have to share my retirement earnings? This is mine, I worked hard for it!!” Generally, all of your assets prior the marriage is just your own separate property. However, California is a community property state and so once you get married, all property acquired during marriage is community property. And if anything out of the community property is used towards separate property, the community might turn out to have a claim on part(s) of separate property. Separate property are “all property acquired before marriage; all gifts, bequests, devise, or descents. All property acquired or exchanged with traceable separate property; and all property acquired after separation.”

“S/he is the one who left our family. I shouldn’t have to pay support.” Again, California is a no-fault divorce state. There is no assignment of blame or fault; fault does not factor in the equation in the issue of support. Some of the factors that the Court will look at to determine whether there is basis for support, and if so, in what amount, are – length of marriage, age of parties, if there are minor children in the marriage, income of both parties.

“I’m smart enough to handle my own divorce. Why do I need an attorney?” You don’t need an attorney. There is no requirement that you must have an attorney. However, in cases involving issues such as domestic violence, custody disputes, child support, spousal support, and division of community property assets it would be wise to seek advice from a licensed and experienced attorney so as not to waste your time and money, not to mention the court’s time and resources, especially when you have to keep going back to court because of incomplete or missing documents that could have been addressed from the very beginning by a competent and knowledgeable attorney.

Not all divorce cases are the same. It is important to be properly informed about your rights and responsibilities under California law in divorce proceedings. The wrong advice or information can and will hurt you, and waste your time and money. Consult a licensed and experienced family law attorney to help you navigate through your divorce.

 

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Atty. Lilli Berbano Baculi is an associate attorney with Chua Tinsay & Vega, A Professional Legal Corporation (CTV) – a full service law firm with offices in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Philippines. The information presented in this article is for general information only and is not, nor intended to be, formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Call or e-mail CTV for an in-person or phone consultation to discuss your particular situation and/or how their services may be retained at (619) 955-6277; (415) 495-8088; (916) 449-3923; lbaculi@ctvattys.com. For general information visit www.chuatinsayvega.com. 

 

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