• Annulment
  • Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution
  • Legal Separation & Divorce

The purpose of the divorce hotline is to provide a brief overview, so that you can decide for yourself which course of action is best for you without spending a lot of money.

Annulment.  Most people believe that short term marriage or that non- consummation of the marriage is grounds for annulment. In California this is absolutely false. The grounds for annulment in California are: being under age, bigamous marriage, force, fraud, inability to have children or sex, and unsound mind. Each of these grounds must be proved before a judge and as a result are both time consuming and expensive to achieve. Unless religious needs are an overriding factor this is usually a poor choice.

Joint petition for summary dissolution is the proper action for short term marriages. The requirements are easily met and therefore it is also very inexpensive and easy to do for yourself without attorney involvement.

The requirements are:  The marriage must be less than 5 years old. No children or real estate may be owned and both parties must sign the papers. No court appearance is required.

Legal separation is a choice that many people choose for religious reasons or because they need to stay on the spouses medical insurance. For most practical purposes it is exactly the same as getting a divorce except that technically you are still married. The paperwork is nearly identical. The down side is that if you later wish to divorce or remarry. You must go through the entire process all over again, and incur the costs of divorce in addition to the cost of the legal separation.

Divorce in California is no fault. That means that if you want a divorce, you get a divorce based upon irreconcilable differences. So long as you follow the default rules imposed by the court system, almost everything is automatic.

Default Rules:  Everything that you owned before the marriage and after the date of separation is your separate property. For example: if you owned a Honda Civic worth $5,000 before you married, it is still yours. If the car is financed, the loan on the car is yours too.

If you bought it during the marriage, it is community property and therefore is only 1/2 yours. If the car is financed, the loan is community property too and must be subtracted from the value of the car before the equity in the car is split 50/50.

Sometimes property is a mixture of separate property and community property. When this happens, the two types of property are separated in the following way:

Step 1. Determine the equity in the property at the time of marriage. This equity is separate property and belongs to the person who acquired the property.

Step 2. Determine the equity in the property at the time of separation.

Step 3. Subtract the equity value in Step 1. from the equity in Step 2. The remainder is community property and is also split 50/50.

Example: Petitioner owned a house at the time of marriage with $10,000 of equity.

At the time of separation the house equity had increased to $36,000.

The first $10,000 of equity is the petitioners separate property.

The next $26,000 of equity is community property. $13,000 goes to the petitioner and $13,000 goes to the respondent.

Net result: The petitioner has a $26,000 interest in the house and the respondent has a $13,000 interest in the house.

The house does not have to be sold. For the petitioner to keep the house, all that he needs to do is give the respondent $13,000 of value in something else (other property, payments, debt forgiveness).

If you would like free information on how this applies to your personal situation call Attorney Aid Divorce Centers at (562) 426-6444 or (877) 905-LAWS and we will be happy to help you work out your personal calculations.

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How Custody and Visitation are Handled

In California there are two forms of custody:

Legal custody refers specifically to issues of health education and welfare. That is the ability to authorize medical treatment, make choices about education and religious upbringing. The court prefers for both parents to be involved with the child as much as is possible and the courts default position is for joint legal custody, unless there is an overriding reason against it.

Physical custody is simply who the child primarily lives with.

Visitation is sometimes referred to as secondary physical custody.

Visitation can be done in two ways:

1. A specific pickup and delivery schedule. This is used when the parents can not get along with each other and need a written document to control the situation.

2. Right of reasonable visitation. This legal phrase means the following to the court. Visitation on alternate weekends and major holidays plus additional time by mutual agreement and any changes in the usual schedule at least 24 hours notice to the other parent.

How Child Support, Spousal Support and Family Support are Determined and How the Support Payments are Paid Automatically.

Child support, spousal support and family support are calculated in exactly the same way. The court uses a computer program called Dissomaster to calculate a number called the California Guideline Amount. Guideline is actually a misnomer because unless there is a written agreement between the petitioner and respondent to the contrary, this number is not a guide. It is mandatory.

All support payments, with few exceptions, are paid in the following way: when the court issues it's orders, one of the orders is a wage assignment order. The wage assignment order is presented to the payer's employer and the employer then takes the support payment out of the payer's paycheck just like his taxes and sends the support payment directly to the supported person. The payer never has to write a check and the payee never has to go begging. It's all automatic.

If you would like FREE information how this applies to your personal situation call Attorney Aid Divorce Centers toll free at (877) 905-LAWS or (562) 988-0885 and we will be happy to run a Dissomaster using your personal data to estimate the amount of support.

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Legal Tips

Nothing contained herein shall be construed as constituting legal advice and/or advice about your personal situation. This website is intended as an overview of various options available. This is not an exhaustive or comprehensive analysis of divorce or family law. Your personal circumstances should determine if and when to proceed. Call any of our offices and we will help you determine the appropriate strategy for you.