FAQ: I have compiled a list of questions that people often ask me. Remember, there is absolutely no such thing as a dumb question. If you don’t know something, please ask it. I update this list frequently, so if you have a question, please submit it here. I guarantee someone out there has the same question Remember, any info on my website or blog in NO WAY should be construed as legal advice.
In addition, you may find information on my frequently updated BLOG helpful.
Working with Us – Top 5 Questions
Do we need lawyers to get a divorce?
It depends on who you are. Are you a dependable DIY person? If so, definitely. There is a wealth of information on the internet (and on our site!),and if you are in agreement, it is entirely possible to reach a settlement agreement, draft it up and submit to the court. If you have a contested divorce (especially issues regarding custody or property division), I would recommend that you seek a Certified Family Law Specialist attorney to advise you where you stand if it goes to court. There are several options, and you can read about it here.
What is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS)?
I am a CFLS. Being a Specialist means more than just “specializing” in an area of law. California Certified Family Law Specialists have passed a written exam in Family Law, demonstrated a high level of experience in their field, fulfilled practice requirements and ongoing Continuing Legal Education Requirements, and are evaluated by other Judges and Attorneys in Family Law. Currently, there are only approximately 305 Certified Family Law Specialists in Los Angeles County. Attached is a list of all the CFLS’s in Los Angeles County.
How much do you charge?
For UNCONTESTED matters and mediations, our fees are listed here. For contested cases, it depends on how many issues there are, and how long it takes to resolve the issues, and how many court appearances. There is good article here which may help you estimate costs.
For all cases, we require an upfront retainer, and we deduct our hourly fees (billed in quarter of hour increments) from it. Our hourly fees vary from 350 – 500, depending on work necessary, and the attorney’s experience assigned to your case.
What if I cannot afford you?
We work hard with our clients to make sure they are not left without representation. We will help refer you to low-cost clinics and legal aid. We accept credit cards. After you have established your credibility, we may work out a payment plan with you.
Do you prefer representing women? (or men?)
No. We work with all races, genders, and creeds. We value and honor your situation, whatever it may be.
Divorce – Top 5 Questions
I got married in Texas. Can I file a divorce in California?
Yes. No matter where you got married, you can file a divorce in California if either you or your spouse has lived here for 6 months, and in the county for 3 months.
I want a divorce, but my husband/wife won’t let me. Can I still get one?
Yes. California is a “no-fault” state, and “irreconcilable differences” is sufficient grounds to terminate a marriage. Thus, you don’t need the other’s permission.
What is common law marriage, and does that work in California?
In some states, if you live together for a certain amount of time, and hold yourself out as married, you can be legally considered married, without a marriage license or ceremony. Currently, only ten (10) states recognize this theory: Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas, and Washington D.C. California is not on this list. However, if you are previously considered married in one of these common law states, and later move to California, California will recognize the previous common law marriage.
How much will my divorce cost?
Answered in detail on my blog.
I filed for divorce. Now what?
After you file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and you properly serve the other side, they have 30 days to respond. Because the divorce takes some time to finalize, it is a good idea to file a Request for Order to establish temporary orders. This is a particularly good idea when one party has already moved out, and you have conflicts regarding custody and visitation, and support, and restraining orders. These temporary orders will remain in place until further orders or a Judgment is entered. After temporary orders are issued, the parties will engage in “discovery process” where you put everything on the table. After everything is made known, the parties will try and settle the case. If the case does not settle, it will go to trial. Remember, the divorce is not final until the Judgment is entered, and you receive a Notice of Entry of Judgment by the clerk. Do NOT get re-married unless you receive this form.
Child / Spousal Support – Top 5 Questions
What is alimony, and can men get it too?
Alimony, or spousal support, is support payments made after separation. Men and women can both receive this. This is based on the concept that during the marriage, you have an obligation to support your spouse. This obligation will last even after separation, depending on several factors. Unlike child support, which is based on a strict mathematical formula, spousal support is based on the factors enumerated in Family Code section 4320.
What is this 10-year rule?
A very simple answer to this question is that if you have been married for over 10 years, you may be entitled to support of indefinite duration. However, many many factors affect the outcome, so I would make sure you ask your lawyer.
I make $5000 a month, and my spouse makes 0. How much spousal support must I pay?
There is no simple formula to spousal support. In Los Angeles, the courts may use Dissomaster (child support program) to calculate temporary spousal support, but this is not for sure. The Los Angeles County Department of Child Support Services also provides a free child support calculator located here. For more information, please ask your lawyer.
How long does support last?
Child support lasts until the children are age 18, or if still in high school, 19. (Does not apply to special needs children). Spousal support depends. In a short term marriage (less than 10 years), Los Angeles County Courts will generally award 1/2 the length of the marriage. However, if there is a temporary order for support, and no termination date, this order will continue indefinitely. Be careful if you are the payor.
I want support from my husband. How do I get it?
Ideally, your husband will be paying support because he knows the law. However, if he refuses to pay, you must file a case and file a Request for Order. In most circumstance, the order for support will begin on the date you file, so do not delay.
Property Division – Top 5 Questions
I was smart and put the house in my name. Can my spouse get half of this?
Yes, if it was purchased during the marriage. Under California community property law, anything purchased during the marriage is community property.
What if it was with my own money, that I made before the marriage, and I can prove it?
Again, anything purchased during the marriage is community property. However, if you can trace the downpayment to separate property, you may be able to get the downpayment reimbursed. Please speak with your attorney.
I was really smart and I made my spouse sign a deed to me. Is it now all my property?
Perhaps. California law allows transmutations of property between spouses. However, there will be a presumption of “undue influence.” If your spouse can prove that he or she was under duress, and did not sign of their own free will, the transmutation will not be valid. In addition, the deed must be very clear and contain specific, unambiguous language establishing the separate nature of the property. Please speak with your attorney.
My spouse was a shop-a-holic and I never knew. All the credit cards are in his name. Am I responsible for half?
Yes. Same with community property, community debt is debt acquired during the marriage.
Now that I found out that she has major debt, and I want to invest in my own business, and it seems like our financial interests are different, how do we protect ourselves? Is it too late for a prenuptial agreement?
If you are already married, it’s too late for a prenup. However, you may consult your attorney about the possibility of obtaining a postnuptial agreement.