General information about family law matters in California.
UNPREDICTABILITY IN FAMILY LAW MATTERS
California law vests a large degree of discretion in trial judges deciding child custody/visitation matters, which makes it difficult or impossible to predict the outcomes of such cases. Remember also that there is more than one side to a dispute, and each disputant often cannot perceive important points that seem obvious to the other parties and later to the court, and such issues make the outcome of a family law case unpredictable. Attorneys' comments about the outcome of such matters are expressions of opinion only, are neither promises nor guarantees, and will not be construed as promises or guarantees. Attorney thus cannot guarantee any particular result.
ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS TO BE INCURRED
There is no way for an attorney to accurately estimate the total costs/fees that a client may incur in a family law matter because there are various factors that may impact such amounts, including but not limited to: length of time the attorney is required to spend on this matter; the conduct of the client, opposing party, and/or opposing counsel; the length of time for court hearings, including wait time and presentation time; the extent to which the proceedings are contested by the client and/or opposing party; the attorney's time spent traveling to/from court/meetings; the attorney's time spent corresponding with the client, opposing party/counsel, witnesses, and judges/court clerks; the complexities of the case/matter; etc.
AUTOMATIC TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS ("ATROS")
ATROS are statutorily-mandated temporary restraining orders that remain in effect until a judgment is entered, the petition is dismissed, or the court makes other orders. ATROS apply to PETITIONER when the Petition is filed and the Summons is issued, and to RESPONDENT once he/she is served with the Summons and Petition.
On a Petition for DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE, the ATROS, among other things:
---PROHIBITS YOU FROM: (a) Cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile and disability, held for the benefit of you, your spouse, and/or your minor children; (b) Transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, whether community, quasi-community or separate, without the written consent of each other or an order of Court, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life; (c) Creating a nonprobate transfer or modifying a nonprobate transfer in a manner that affects the disposition of the property subject to the transfer, without the written consent of each other or an order of Court. Also, before revocation of a nonprobate transfer can take effect, or a right of survivorship to property can be eliminated, notice of the change must be filed and served on each other; and (d) Removing your minor child(ren) from the state of California, or applying for a new/replacement passport for the child(ren) without the prior written consent of the other party or a court order.
---REQUIRES YOU TO: notify your spouse of any proposed extraordinary expenditures at least five (5) business days prior to incurring the expenditures and account to the Court for all extraordinary expenditures made after the restraining orders became effective. However, you both may use community property, quasi-community property and/or your own separate property to pay an attorney to help you or to pay court costs.
On a Petition for PATERNITY/PARENTAGE, the ATROS, among other things:
---PROHIBITS YOU FROM: (a) Removing the minor child(ren) from the state of California; and (b) Applying for a new or replacement passport for the child(ren) without the prior written consent of the other party or a court order.
CHILD CUSTODY/VISITATION AND CHILD SUPPORT
When filing a paternity/parentage action, or a dissolution of marriage action when there are minor children of the marriage, most courts automatically schedule the parents to go to Family Court Services ("FCS") for, depending on the county, either Child Custody Recommending Counseling ("CCRC") or Child Custody Mediation ("CCM"). At the meeting, the parents are supposed to try to work out a parenting plan, but if unsuccessful, the judge will decide on a parenting plan at a future hearing. If you attended a CCRC, as opposed to a CCM, then the Child Custody Recommending Counselor will submit to the court a written recommendation for a parenting plan, a copy of which will be given to both parents, and the judge will give a lot of weight to this report when he/she is ordering a parenting plan. If you disagree with the counselor's written recommendations, then at the court hearing, you will have to convince the judge why he/she should not adopt the recommendations and why your proposed order is in the best interest of the child(ren).
In California, child support is based on statewide uniform guidelines pursuant to a specific formula, which factors in the gross monthly income of both parents and the percentage of time each parent has the child(ren). There are additional factors that the court may consider, which may impact the amount of child support that the court orders, as the court does have discretion to deviate from the statewide uniform guidelines under certain circumstances (which can be more fully explained by an attorney if applicable in your case). If you would like a rough estimate of the amount of child support that may be ordered in your case, you can use the California Department of Child Support Services calculator, found at the following link: https://www.cse.ca.gov/ChildSupport/cse/guidelineCalculator. Keep in mind that various factors may impact the amount of child support that is actually ordered in your case.
In order for the court to enter a judgment of dissolution of marriage, one spouse must be a resident of California for the 6 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and a resident of the County for the 3 months immediately preceding the filing of the petition. There is no residency requirement for filing a petition for legal separation, thus, a party can file such a petition prior to meeting the residency requirements, and then amend the petition to request dissolution of marriage once the residency requirements are met.
PREPARING FOR DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE
Be prepared to gather various documentation to aid your attorney in the preparation of your case. Note that this list is not exhaustive and is included here for convenience purposes only:
PROOF OF INCOME: Tax returns filed for the last two years; If you are an EMPLOYEE: paycheck stubs from the last 2 months; If you are SELF-EMPLOYED: Schedule C from your most recent tax return or Profit & Loss Statements for the last 2 years.
PROOF OF ASSETS: Documentation identifying all assets owned individually and jointly with your spouse (e.g., cash/bank accounts; deeds; money market; stocks/bonds; real property; valuable personal property, employee benefit/retirement plans, royalty rights; copyrights; patents; etc.)
DEBTS/LOANS/GIFTS: Documentation identifying outstanding debts, loans, & gifts (in either & both parties' names), as well as any written consent by you/your spouse to dispose/gift/loan any real or personal property to another.
TRANSMUTATION: Documentation showing transmutation of community property to separate property, or vice versa.
WILLS/TRUSTS/ESTATE PLANNING documents.
RELATED COURT PROCEEDINGS: Documents from any related court proceedings, including but not limited to domestic violence restraining orders, child abuse, child custody, child support, etc.
MEDICAL RECORDS concerning a condition of you and/or your child that may be relevant to the determination of child custody/child support, and/or spousal support issues.
SCHOOL/CHILD CARE RECORDS relevant to a determination of child custody issues.
CHILD CUSTODY SCHEDULE: A written schedule outlining the current custody arrangement, how long the schedule has been adhered to, as well as descriptions of any problems that you have with the current arrangement and how you would change it.
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