Seal Beach Family Law Attorney
Providing Your Family with Exceptional Legal Counsel
Just about anyone can get married or start a family with minimal outside intervention from the legal system. However, certain procedures that affect the definitions and responsibilities of the family unit must be pursued in a court setting.
While most family matters are very personal, the rights of noncustodial parents, laws regarding divorce, and the process of seeking alimony or child support are established by California law. Therefore, family law can be referred to as court procedures and state laws that involve and affect the family unit.
While legal matters that do not concern the family can sometimes be achieved without the help of counsel, family law cases are quite complex, and the skills of an experienced Orange County family law attorney is usually necessary. Read below for more information on the family law services offered by Stacy Campuzano:
Divorce or Legal Separation
Divorce is an extremely painful process for all parties involved. Seeking the advice of an experienced attorney can help you navigate this complex process and better understand your rights. If you wish to end your marriage or legal domestic partnership in California, you have three options: legal separation, annulment or divorce.
The divorce can be initiated by either partner, and both parties don’t need to agree to end the relationship. If one partner refuses to cooperate, the other person can still receive a legally binding default judgment.
Some jurisdictions require evidence that one partner committed a grievous mistake, such as fraud or adultery, for a divorce to be granted. California, however, is considered a “no-fault” state. This means that the couple simply needs to cite “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds for the divorce.
After a decision is made to end the relationship, you need to start planning your case by consulting with a lawyer. Please note that the court system does not give any preference to the partner who files the divorce proceeding. Both parties are treated equally in the eyes of the court.
California is considered a community property state, meaning that any property acquired during the marriage is jointly owned by both partners. Therefore, this property is divided equally in a divorce or legal separation proceeding. Except for gifts or inheritances, all property acquired during the marriage is considered joint property. This includes:
If a spouse wishes to challenge the community property provision, evidence showing the item was acquired before the marriage must be produced. Community property also dictates that debt acquired during the marriage is the responsibility of both parties. This debt includes mortgage debt, credit cards, personal loans and vehicle loans. Student loans are considered on a case by case basis.
- Real estate
- Bank accounts/cash
- Pension plans and retirement accounts
- Apartment security deposit
When it comes to child custody cases, two things must be resolved: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make decisions about the well-being of their child, while physical custody is the right to live with or visit a child. A visitation order allows a noncustodial parent to spend time with their child, either independently or under court supervision in certain cases.
A court can decide that it is in the best interest of a child to live with one parent exclusively, known as sole custody, or with both parents, referred to as joint custody. California courts tend to favor joint custody arrangements. Several factors, including finances, stability, criminal records and relationship status, are considered when custody is awarded.
Parents pursuing a divorce who agree on how custody should be split can agree to the terms of the arrangement without the assistance of a judge. The custodial agreement is defined and declared legally binding once the divorce is finalized.
Some parents choose to use the advice of a third-party mediator to help them reach a mutually beneficial agreement. If mediation attempts are unsuccessful, custody will be decided by a judge in a California courtroom. Custody orders made by an Orange county family law judge are legally binding and must be followed by both parties regardless of whether they agree with the case outcome.
Parents who do not have sole physical custody of their child are required to pay a monthly allowance, known as child support, to help the other parent pay for the child’s basic living expenses. Expenses that child support payments may be used to cover include food, clothing, housing and basic education. Other expenses may also be covered at the discretion of the court.
Child support orders are often integrated into paternity or divorce suits. The monthly payment amount is calculated using the noncustodial parent’s net income. Harsh legal penalties such as fines and jail time are often imposed for parents who fail to pay.
Let Us Help You Through This Difficult Time
Alimony is a legal order for one partner to provide monetary support for their spouse before or after a divorce. The amount is calculated by a California court after determining several factors. It is the responsibility of the petitioning spouse’s lawyer attorney to provide evidence in court that financial support is necessary. Below are some of the factors considered in the alimony calculation process:
- The ability of each spouse to earn enough income to maintain the standard of living established in the marriage
- The employment history and marketable skills of each spouse
- Periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to allow for childcare and domestic duties
- The ability of each spouse to pay alimony
Orange County family law courts are usually heavily involved in the alimony calculation process if both parties fail to agree independently.
Establishing parentage is often necessary to obtain child support, health insurance, government benefits or medical records for your child. California parentage laws are complex and require court orders, paternity tests and sometimes genetic testing if a judge is involved.
The simplest way to establish parentage is to complete a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity form. Parents acknowledge they are the legal parents of a child when a declaration form is signed. It is common for parents to sign this form in California if they are not married when the child is born.
Appearing before a judge is another way to establish parentage. In California, the mother of a child can request that a man believed to be the father of a child take a paternity test. Courts have the authority to order a paternity test. Paternity tests are typically ordered when the mother is pursuing child support.