divorce legal separation

Most people who want to end their marriage will go through a Divorce.  In a Divorce, the judge will make a final order called a “Judgment,” which includes the date you are legally divorced, the division of your assets and debts, custody and visitation orders and support orders.  A Legal Separation is an alternative to Divorce and involves the same legal process (division of assets and debts, determination of custody and visitation and so forth), but at the end, you are still legally married.  This is usually only requested if there are personal reasons such as religion or financial issues for not wanting to terminate a marriage. 


Although a Divorce is usually emotionally challenging, it doesn’t have to be as difficult a process as it may seem or you have heard.  Sometimes, if both parties actually understand the laws that apply to the issues or are in agreement about certain issues, they may decide it is not worth the energy or money to fight.  For example, one spouse may believe that he/she is 100% entitled to a car that he/she bought during the marriage and is determined to fight to get it, but under the law, it belongs to both of them.  So, in this situation (unless the parties can agree otherwise) the law actually determines how the issue is resolved. 


It is often best to come to an agreement, if possible, as this reduces stress and expense.  And,  at West L.A. Law, P.C., we can prepare one for you and your spouse.  However, we know it’s not always possible to agree; even when you may want to; your spouse may be unreasonable.  Therefore, we can also represent you in Court to fight for your property rights, pension benefits, custody/visitation, support and/or other issues, if necessary.


Whether you are thinking of getting divorced, have decided to file for Divorce or have been served divorce papers, it is important to consult with an attorney as early as possible to understand the process and make the best decisions.  You may lose your rights to certain benefits, property or even custody of your children if you do not take the right steps. If you are involved in a Divorce or Legal Separation or are interested in terminating your marriage, contact us at West L.A. Law, P.C. for a consultation.

 

Annulment

An Annulment is a Court order stating that you never had a valid marriage.  Many people assume they can get a marriage annulled, but in reality, this option is complicated and rarely available in most cases.  A spouse has to prove that there was never a valid marriage by showing it was entered into through fraud or force, that one spouse was married to someone else at the time of the marriage, that a spouse was not old enough to marry under state law, was not competent to marry, or a spouse was of unsound mind.  And, even if you can show the grounds existed to annul a marriage; there may be reasons the Court would not annul the marriage, such as determining there was a waiver of the right to annul the marriage.  In addition, your spouse may still be treated as if he/she was in a valid marriage (what is known as a “putative spouse”) despite that the marriage can be annulled, if he/she was unaware of the invalidity of the marriage.If you have been served with Divorce/Legal Separation or Annulment papers or believe you may have grounds to annul your marriage, contact us at West L.A. Law, P.C. for a consultation and we can discuss your legal options.

 
Paternity

Mothers and fathers who are not married to the other parent of their child may have to file a Paternity case in Court to establish (or in the case of alleged fathers who do not believe they are the biological fathers, disprove) the paternity of a child.  A Judge in a Paternity case can also make child custody and visitation orders and child support orders.  The issue of Paternity, in itself, can substantially impact the lives of all involved.  At West L.A. Law, P.C., we understand these cases can be emotionally difficult and sensitive and we handle them with the utmost confidentiality.  If you would like to file a Paternity case, please contact us at West L.A. Law, P.C. for a consultation.

 

Child Support

Child support orders can be made in divorce or paternity cases.  Each parent has a legal duty to financially support his/her child.  However, it is usually the Court that determines the amount of child support by using state guidelines that include monthly income and visitation.  In some cases, such as when there is joint physical custody, shared or split custody, the Court is not required to use the income guidelines. Instead, a Judge will look at the circumstances and determine how much support should be paid, if any.  In many cases, the custodial parent needs an order right away to ensure the child is properly cared for.  Therefore, the Court can make temporary orders pending a final Judgment.   However, any order, whether temporary or “final” can still be modified if there are changes in the guideline factors the Court considers.  If you would like to request, modify or terminate a child support order, contact West L.A. Law, P.C. for a consultation.

 
Division of Property

In California, the Courts can divide community and separate property in a divorce.  Community Property is generally any asset or debt acquired during the marriage by either spouse that is not inherited or given as a gift to one spouse. This includes a home, a pension, a car, loans, credit card debt, and other items.  It does not matter who paid for the item or got the loan.  Therefore, most property that is obtained during a marriage is considered community property and is divided equally during a divorce (absent an agreement).  Separate property includes assets or debts acquired before marriage, after separation, or property acquired through gift or inheritance, and any appreciation in value it has earned.  Each party generally keeps his/her separate property.  Some cases can be simple, others more complex depending on how much and what type of property is involved.  You could lose your rights to your financial interests without an attorney to help you. 
If you are involved in a family law case that includes property issues, contact us at West L.A. Law, P.C. for a consultation. 

 

Spousal Support

Spousal support (which is the same as alimony/palimony) can be ordered on a temporary basis in a divorce or legal separation or as part of the final Judgment.  Temporary spousal support is ordered to maintain the standard of living during the marriage and is based on the receiving party’s need and the paying party’s ability to pay. The temporary order usually remains in effect until the final Judgment.  A spousal support order made as part of a Judgment is determined based on several factors, including, the employment history of the parties, the health of each spouse, the marital standard of living, whether there was domestic violence, the educational levels of each party and whether one party stayed at home to take care of the children.  The Judge will determine if an order is needed and how long the order will remain in effect.  The parties can, however, come to an agreement as to support, but it must be approved by a Judge.   Spousal support orders can usually be modified (unless an order or agreement state otherwise) if the financial circumstances of either party or certain other factors have changed. If you would like to request, modify or terminate a spousal support order, contact us at West L.A. Law, P.C. for a consultation.