Family Law Issues
in Orange County, California

Frequently Asked Family Law Questions in Orange County

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in California?

Can I Get my Marriage Annulled?

What is A Legal Separation?

California Family Code §2339 allows a judgment for a divorce to be entered six months after the date the summons and petition is given to ("served") the respondent or six months from the date the respondent appears in court. If the parties settle the terms of their divorce, the judgment can be entered, but the parties will remain married until the six months have passed.
An annulment is granted if one of the parties to the Orange County divorce action can prove that one of the statutory factors exist for the annulment. It is up to the court to order that the marriage is annulled. The parties cannot agree between themselves to annul their marriage.  
A legal separation allows the parties to remain married, but divides all the assets and obligations. A legal separation can also award spousal support, child support, and attorney fees. Some people will get a legal separation in order to preserve medical benefits or for religious reasons. 

How Much Does a Divorce in Orange County Cost?

How Long Do I Have to Respond to a Petition for Divorce?

What is the Difference Between a Legal Separation and a Divorce?

It is difficult to determine the cost of a  divorce in California.  It depends on the issues involved, the reasonableness of both parties, and if there are kids involved. The more that the parties can talk and work together, the more likely the case will be settled.

After you have been served with a petition for divorce, the summons gives you thirty days to serve your response on the other side.  A family law lawyer should be consulted prior to the time that the response is due.  
A legal separation and a divorce (also known as a dissolution) look the same. However, with a legal separation the parties are still legally married and cannot re-marry other people. With a divorce, the parties are no longer married and can marry third parties. If an action is started as a legal separation, it can be changed to a divorce as long as a judgment has not been entered. Unfortunately, after a judgment for legal separation is entered, a legal separation cannot be changed to a divorce.  If the parties want to be divorced, they must file a petition for divorce. 

I just moved to California, can I file for divorce right away?

A person must live in the state of California for at least six months before a divorce can be filed.  However, a legal separation can be filed immediately and later amended to a divorce in Orange County.

More California Divorce Questions Answered

What are the steps in a divorce in Orange County?

How can I settle my family law case?

Should I hire a mediator to  settle my family law case?

There are three main areas in a divorce. The first is the filing of the pleadings which is the petition and the response. The second is the discovery phase. The third is the trial and judgment.  These areas may overlap, but they are the three main areas. 
The important thing to remember while settling a divorce is that you cannot force the other side to settle.  In a good negotation, both sides are working together for resolution.
Mediators are a great resource for spouses and can help settle a divorce. However, mediators only work when both parties are willing to settle. When one party will not compy with discovery, negotiations, or meetings, a mediator will be another expense in the divorce process.

What does no-fault divorce mean in California?

Are there any non-financial costs to a divorce?

No fault means that the court will not consider either party's bad acts which contributed to the divorce.  For example, if one party had an affair, the court will not consider the affair in awarding spousal support or dividing assets. 
A litigated divorce is not only finacially expensive, it is highly emotional and time-consuming.  When a couple divorces they encounter many emotions including anger, resentment, and frustration. The longer the litigation continues, the higher the emotional toll.  In addition, a divorce takes time to obtain documents, attend hearings, prepare for court, and review documents.

Your Place for Family Law Answers in California Divorce Actions



There are many issues in a divorce which should be addressed by a family law attorney.
In order to obtain a divorce in Orange County, one spouse must declare under oath that the parties have irreconciable differences which cannot be overcome through counseling. 
If the parties believe that through counseling they could stay together, then a divorce will not be granted. A divorce is rarely denied on the grounds that counseling could help the parties reconcile, because most parties have tried counseling. If at least one spouse states that there are irreconcialable differences, then a dissolution will be granted. 
Irreconcialable differences mean that the parties are no longer compatable for marriage. The court will not inquire as to the areas in which the parties are not compatible, it will only review whether one spouse states he or she has irreconcialable differences with the other spouse. 

When is the date of separation in Orange County?

What is the significance of the date of separation?

The date of separation occurs when one party decides to get a divorce or a legal separation and acts as if he or she is moving forward with the divorce or legal separation.  Acts include separating bank accounts, moving out of the family residence, informing others that it will occur, etc. 
The date of separation is important, because that is when the courts determine when the community estate ends.  It is usually more important as it relates to debts. Any charges made after the date of separation are the separate debts of either party.

Who pays for the debt acquired during the marriage?

What is an uncontested divorce in California?

Community debt is any debt acquired during the marriage and is equally divided between the parties. It is rare that one party is required to pay all of the debt. In most circumstances, the debt will be divided equally. 
A true uncontested divorce in California is when the Respondent does not respond to the divorce papers after he or she is properly served.  However, another form of uncontested divorce is when the parties have reached a settlement and enter a judgment based upon the settlement. 

In addition to attorney fees, what other costs are associated with a divorce?

What if I do not have enough money to pay the filing fee for the divorce?

Most people will have to pay the filing fee for the divorce. In addition to the filing fee, if an expert is required in the divorce, the expert charges for his or her time on an hourly bases. Experts can include therapists for custody, valuation experts for value of a business or home, and vocational examiners. Not all divorces require an expert.
If the party is below the poverty line, the person can file for a fee waiver with the court.  If the court waives the fee, then no court fees will be paid for one year.

If my spouse does not live in California, can I get a divorce in California?

What if I do not know where my spouse lives?

You can still file for a divorce in California, but the court may not have the authority or jurisdiction to make any orders in respect to property, support, or debts unless your spouse has significant ties to California. 
If you do not know the whereabout of you spouse, the court can order service by publication in an appropriate circumstance.  Usually the party requesting service by publication must exhaust all reasonable searches for the spouse before a court will grant service by publication. 
Why Hire a Divorce Attorney?
How Can I Ensure that I Get What I Want?
Will My Divorce Become Public  Information?
Divorce litigation is complex. An attorney needs to understand laws, procedures, rights, and rules. A working knowledge of the judge's preferences also helps form the case. Litigators spend hours researching issues, gathering evidence, and developing arguments. All the arguments require thought, information, and discussion from the parties and their attorneys.
The parties are more likely to get what they want if they settle their divorce. In most divorces, one party values something more than the other party. The parties can agree on how to divide particular assets. If the parties disagree and litigate the issues, then the judge decides. A judge will equally divide the value of the assets and distribute them to the parties. Both parties may have kept what they valued if they would have settled the case.
Documents filed with the court can be viewed by the public.  However, with a settlement, it is less likely that the documents will be disclosed. Very personal information does not require public disclosure. The more litigious the parties are, the more likely that "dirty laundry" will become part of the public documents.  One party may file a request to have the documents sealed, but it is up to the judge to determine whether or not they should be sealed.
What Areas of Law are Covered by a Family Law Lawyer?
How do I Know if I Have a Good Attorney?
What Are the Risks of Self-Representation?
The main reason an attorney is critical  is because the legal field is complicated. In California, a family law lawyer may consult statutes from the family law code, the civil code, the evidence code, the probate code, the criminal code, the California Constitution, and the United States Constitution. Every aspect of the litigation consists of rules and statutes. Rules also govern the types of questions asked, what types of answers are privileged, the form of the question, etc. An attorney understands the nuances of the law and knows where to find answers for complicated scenarios. In fact, law students spend several years intensely studying law only to learn that they have scratched the surface of the legal field.
It is difficult to know the main mistake that self-represented spouse's make but several people who have represented themselves in their first marriage have visited an attorney surprised to learn they are still married to their first spouse which makes their current marriage void.

If you are convinced that you would like to represent yourself in a divorce action, visit an attorney before you start the process. Make sure that during the meeting you take an honest note of things that you misunderstood about the law and rethink the decision to represent yourself.
A good attorney will explain the law, analyze the facts, and summarize the conclusion. The decision to move forward with litigation is the client's decision. If the client feels too pressured, the client should move on to a different attorney with whom he or she feels more comfortable. The attorney's role is to advise the spouse not force the spouse into more litigation. 
My spouse is mentally unstable, can I subpoena the therapist's records?
Therapist's records are protected by the doctor-patient privilege. If the parent holding the privilege does not waive the doctor-patient privilege or put his or her mental status “at issue,” the court will usually deny the subpoena to release the records. The privilege can only be waived by the party holding the privilege. If it is not waived, then the other parent cannot subpoena the records.
What is the significance of irreconcilable differences?
To obtain a judgment for divorce in California, one party must declare under oath that irreconcilable differences exist in the marriage. Irreconcilable differences occur when one spouse believes that the parties' differences are so severe that they cannot be overcome to save the marriage. The court will grant a divorce by one spouse's declaration under oath that the parties' differences cannot be reconciled and that no amount of counseling will help the spouses restore their marriage. Even if the other spouse disagrees and believes that the marriage can be saved, the court will grant the divorce. This requirement renders California a no-fault divorce state.

Also known as ATROS

Automatic Restraining Orders are In Effect on the Day that the Petition for Divorce is Filed.

When a petition for a divorce is filed in California, temporary restraining orders (often referred to as ATROs) are in effect automatically. The automatic restraining orders prevent either party from destroying property, borrowing against an asset, gifting an asset, or changing any property owned by either party. The rules are designed to preserve the property of the parties until the property is divided by a court order.

Once a petition is filed, property can be transferred, but only by written agreement of both parties or a court order. Without an agreement or order, the parties will have to explain to the judge why the property was transferred.  An order for a contempt of court may issue if property is improperly transferred

 When one spouse is knowledgeable about the ATROs before the divorce petition is served or filed, that party may try to circumvent the ATROs by transferring property before the ATROs apply. This tactic may seem like a good option but can backfire. For instance, if one spouse pays for the car insurance and that spouse stops the insurance before the ATROs are effective, then each spouse will be forced to obtain separate insurance. However, if one spouse gets into an accident before obtaining new insurance, then both spouses' property can be liable for the accident and the court could transfer all of the liability to the party that stopped the insurance.
Usually a unilateral transfer in property does not circumvent the system. One spouse cannot unilaterally transfer property without the consent of the other party. A maneuver to transfer assets before a divorce is started can be harmful. If one party gifts a piece of property to a third person, sells it, or tries to hide an asset, the court can order that spouse to reimburse the community for the value of the missing asset.  Even though the property is given away, the non-consenting spouse’s attorney can request that the community be reimbursed for the value of the property which was transferred. In the end, the circumventing spouse has to pay the non-consenting spouse for the property that was transferred.