Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law

Here are a few of the more frequently asked questions about family law and divorce:

What are the grounds for dissolution in California?

There are two: irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. (Note - California is a no-fault state)

How is a divorce filed?

You or your spouse must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county for three months before you file. You or your attorney must file a number of papers, including a petition for dissolution, unless your spouse has filed first. If your spouse has filed, you will be required to file a response or otherwise risk a default judgment.

Do I have any options in how I handle my divorce?

Yes, there are several alternatives, including:

  • Full representation where an attorney represents you in court
  • Limited representation where an attorney will assist you in a limited capacity with certain parts of the process
  • Mediation where you and your spouse can reach a negotiated resolution with the assistance of an attorney/mediator in a non-adversarial setting and without going to court

What happens to our children when we separate?

The best solution is for you and the other parent to agree on who will take care of the children. In California, county superior court judges make the final decision if you and your spouse cannot agree. Because you probably will be under a great deal of stress during this process, it is best to keep your children's best interests in mind.

What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

Essentially, legal custody is the right to make decisions about education, health care and other important issues for your children. Legal custody can be sole (you make all the decisions yourself) or joint (both parents make these decisions).

Physical custody means that the child lives with you. Physical custody can be sole (the child lives exclusively with you) or joint (the child lives at both houses on a regular basis). The parent who doesn't have physical custody will usually have visitation rights.

Can my kids decide which parent they want to live with?

They may be able to voice an opinion in court if they are at least 14 years old. If they are considered old enough to reason, the judge is also expected to take their wishes into consideration. However, the ultimate decision is up to the judge.

Do I really need a lawyer to get divorced?

Technically, no; you can choose to represent yourself. However, it's important to realize that although the immediate financial cost may be less, the long-term cost may potentially be more. Without a lawyer on your side, you are at risk of making decisions that could negatively affect your financial future. Plus, if your spouse has a lawyer and you don't, you may find yourself at a serious disadvantage.

Get more answers to your questions by scheduling an initial consultation. Call Challoner Law in Santa Rosa at 707-304-5237 or toll free at 866-930-8642. You can also reach us online.