You’ve heard of wedding planning but what about divorce planning? Just like any wedding, divorces can have multiple things that need to be taken care of before being finalized.
Have You Planned for Your Divorce?
Like a wedding, a divorce is not so straightforward. It’s not just a “sign the papers and you’re done” kind of thing. This is especially true if your marriage involves children, a mortgaged family home, and any joint property such as businesses or investments. Just like wedding planning is overwhelming, so is any divorce.
Divorce has many aspects, all of which need to be ironed out. This type of litigation falls under the title of family law. Family law covers the following aspects of divorce:
Divorce is the termination of a marriage or marital union and is also known as a termination of marriage.
California is a no-fault divorce state, which means that either party in a marriage has the right to file for divorce for no other reason than “irreconcilable differences,” and property settlements in CA divorce cases are not influenced by the behavior of either spouse, although child custody and visitation rights can be. Under California Family Code § 2320, in order for a judge to grant a divorce in California, one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for six months, and in most cases, the individual seeking divorce must file in his or her county of residence, where he or she must have lived for at least three months. Once the divorce papers have been filed, California law dictates that the filing party must wait at least six months from the date the other spouse received the paperwork before the divorce can be finalized.
Child custody is the legal and practical relationship between a parent and a child in the parent’s care, involving the duty to care for and support the child.
One of the most important considerations during divorce should be establishing parental custody and visitation rights. There are two main types of child custody under California law: legal and physical custody.
Legal custody (California Family Code § 3003) can be joint, in which both parents share the right and responsibility to make important decisions about their children’s health, welfare and education, or sole, in which one parent is granted the exclusive responsibility for making these decisions, though the other parent may still have visiting rights. It is the presumption of the court in most divorce proceedings that it is in the best interest of the child to have continuing contact with both parents. However, if the parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, it is up to the court to decide how they will share time with their children. Parents with legal custody are responsible for making the major decisions or choices about their children’s schooling or child care, residence, religious activities, mental health needs, medical needs, travel and extracurricular activities.
Physical custody (California Family Code § 3004) can also be joint, which means the children live with both parents, or sole, which means the children live with one parent for most of the time and may schedule regular visits with the other parent. California law favors joint legal and physical custody when both parents can agree to it. If they don’t agree, the court will establish a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests.
Determining child custody is a sensitive, stressful matter that can easily become a point of contention among couples who are unable to agree on a shared plan for co-parenting their children. Our family law attorneys at Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles have experience guiding divorce clients through productive child custody negotiations and can help you and the other parent create a workable, amicable custody agreement that meets the needs of the two of you and your children as well.
Alimony / Spousal Support
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is an individual’s legal obligation to provide financial support to a former spouse after divorce. In most cases of divorce in Los Angeles, one spouse earns more than the other, and during the marriage, the couple shared household income, which means the spouse who earns less suffers a far greater loss when the marriage ends.
Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, payments are ongoing, periodic payments made from one spouse to another under a legal separation or divorce order issued by the court. Spousal support is intended to help an economically disadvantaged (or lower-earning) spouse continue to enjoy a similar standard of living after he or she is divorced. In most cases in Los Angeles, the spouse who earns a higher income is ordered by the court to pay alimony to the other spouse, though whether you are entitled to alimony in California divorce proceedings depends on a number of factors, including: your earning capacity, the length of your marriage and any documented history of domestic violence between you and your spouse. There are two types of spousal support in California:
- Temporary spousal support – Set at your initial hearing and paid until a complete agreement is reached, or until a Final Order of Divorce is entered
- Permanent spousal support– Paid for an indefinite period of time in an amount that can be modified later, if and when the financial circumstances of either spouse change
To file for spousal support in Los Angeles, the party requesting the payment must ask the judge to make a spousal support order, and this order must be issued as part of either a divorce or legal separation, or as part of a domestic violence restraining order. You can either ask that the alimony be paid while the case is going on (temporary spousal support) or once the divorce or legal separation becomes final, as part of the court judgment (permanent spousal support). Under California law, spousal support payments are automatically terminated upon the death or remarriage of the supported party. In some cases, the spousal support agreements can be changed, if the spouse making the payments suffers a significant financial hardship, or if the spouse receiving the payments suddenly requires less support.
Child support is an ongoing, periodic payment made by a parent for the financial support of a child following the end of a marriage. The regulation of child support is an important issue among divorced or divorcing parents in Los Angeles, and the amount of child support owed by one parent to the other depends on a number of factors, including:
- How much money the parents earn or can earn;
- How many children the parents have together;
- How much time each parent spends with the children;
- Health insurance expenses;
- The actual tax filing status of each parent;
- The support of children from other relationships;
- Mandatory retirement contributions;
- Mandatory union dues; and
- The cost of sharing daycare and uninsured healthcare costs.
Child custody, support and visitation arrangements are often the most hotly contested issues in divorce litigation and settlements in Los Angeles. With the cost of living in Los Angeles being so high, establishing the appropriate payment of child support from one parent to the other is one of the most important steps divorced or divorcing parents will have to take.
The division of community property, or property acquired by the couple during their marriage, such as high assets, professional licenses, business ownership and other complex financial matters can be one of the most contentious issues to iron out during a divorce. In the state of California, complex property division involves the distribution of high-value marital assets, including retirement accounts, ownership rights to a business, professional practices and investment portfolios, among others, which can be a hotly contested issue for some couples.
California is a community property state, which means all property and assets (and debts) acquired by the couple during marriage is legally considered community property owned by both spouses equally and should therefore be divided equally in divorce. Some of the high-value assets at risk in high net worth divorces include:
- Stock options
- Corporate business assets
- Business valuations
- Professional practices
- Investment portfolios
- Residential and commercial real estate
- 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement accounts
Los Angeles divorces involving complex property division due to significant assets, professional licenses, business ownership and other complicated financial matters are often highly contentious and high profile, but they don’t have to end in a bitter legal battle.
An Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Help
Family law cases are inherently stressful and emotional, and it is normal to feel scared and uncertain about the outcome of your case, especially if it goes to trial. With a skilled family law attorney on your side, you can ease some of your stress, resolve your legal issues in a timely manner and move on with your life. Our attorneys at Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles are knowledgeable in all areas of family law and will represent your rights and interests with competence and compassion no matter what type of case it is. We often encourage our clients to attempt to resolve family law issues outside of court, as negotiation and settlement are almost always preferable to going to trial. However, our legal team wants what’s best for you and will be by your side every step of the way. If you do end up in court, you can feel confident that our family law attorneys will represent your case to the full extent of the law.
Free Family Law Consultation in Los Angeles
Legal matters that fall under the umbrella of family law tend to be contentious and therefore require a great deal of experience, compassion, communication and attention to detail. Far too often, family law cases that could have been settled amicably end up bitter court battles because the parties involved attempted to handle the matter on their own without reputable legal help, or they hired an attorney with no experience in family law. At Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles, we understand how difficult and frustrating the legal process can be, especially when dealing with sensitive family law issues, and our attorneys are committed to helping you achieve a favorable outcome, whether it is through private negotiation, third-party mediation or at trial. For more information about family law cases, the divorce process and spousal or child support in California, or to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable family law attorney, contact Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles today at (213) 550-4600.
Divorce Lawyers Los Angeles
5455 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: (213) 550-4600