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Domestic violence not only includes those acts which most might believe to be restrained (physical abuse), but also includes virtually any act which disturbs the peace of another.

The California Domestic Partnership Rights and Responsibilities Act enacted in 2003, affords registered domestic partners virtually all of the rights and benefits, protections and obligations that apply to spouses.  As a result the process is the same.

At least one spouse must reside in the state for six months or 180 days, and reside in the County in which the Petition is filed for three months prior to the filing.

With a regular dissolution, the parties must wait six months before judgment can be finalized.  

The required discovery process requires Declarations of Disclosure, wherein each party identifies all assets they believe to be their own separate property along with the community property, and debts.  If an item is never disclosed, the disadvantaged party may present the issue to the same court even after a Judgment has been entered.  In addition, each party is entitled to those discovery mechanisms that are available in generally all civil litigation, e.g., subpoenas, and request for information and documents with the court’s power to compel production of those items.

For the standard dissolution (even when both parties are in agreement), one spouse must file a Petition for Dissolution in the appropriate county of residence and serves it on the other party.  The party who receives the Petition may or may not choose to file a Response.  If not, the matter proceeds by default.  Often the parties may enter into a Stipulated Agreement even though the Respondent never formally files a Response.

Wherein a dissolution seeks to terminate a valid marriage, a Petition for annulment (or nullity) contends that no valid marriage ever existed.  There are various reasons why one might challenge the validity of a marriage.  For example, a party may have been still married when that party married again, a marriage may have been induced by fraud or force, or a party was under the age of consent.

A spouse must initially file a Petition for Dissolution or Legal Separation.  The Respondent signs the proper documents accepting the court’s jurisdiction over the Respondent and stipulates to the uncontested terms of the divorce.  

Many times, parties accept the reality of the end of their marriage and prefer to end it on agreeable terms.  This is generally described as an uncontested dissolution.

Some of the benefits of an uncontested divorce is that they are generally less costly, and the parties may not ever have to walk into a courtroom.  Most important, such agreements provide the parties the greatest control over the outcome of their divorce.

Moreover, a once contested dissolution may become an uncontested once agreements are reached.  In fact, most dissolutions ultimately resolve in an uncontested form rather than by trial.  Once an agreement is reached,  the terms are prepared, signed, and submitted to the court.  As long as the parties are fully advised regarding the terms and ramifications of those terms, California Courts grant the parties a wide latitude as to the substance of those terms. 

Although divorces do not require you to hire an attorney, if you choose to represent yourself you are held to the same standard as an attorney when it comes to knowledge of the law and procedures in the court room. All divorces require at least one final hearing, maybe more, depending on the issues. You have to get it right the first time. There are many pitfalls in the negotiations and drafting of the decree. If you do not properly transfer title or provide for an enforceable parenting plan you may be stuck with a result that cannot be remedied.


It depends. It is within the discretion of the judge to have a spouse pay the attorney’s fees for the other spouse. It is not automatic. There are many reasons why a judge might order attorney’s fees paid such as wrongdoing or fault. The court can order the attorney’s fees to be paid from community property during the divorce.

Not necessarily. There are a number of factors that determine the percentages used on assets and debts in a divorce. The law states that the debts and assets must be divided in a “just and right manner”. An experienced family law attorney can maximize your division of property to help you get the most out of your circumstances.

Spousal Support, called Spousal Maintenance, and Alimony are two types of money paid by one spouse to the other spouse monthly, either during or after a divorce. The main difference between the two is tax treatment. Spousal Maintenance may be ordered during the pendency of a divorce for a number of reasons. However, spousal maintenance can only be ordered post-divorce if the factors in the statute are met. How much will be paid is also determined by statute.

One of the most common and immediate questions in a divorce is “who stays in the house and who must leave?”. Most courts will not permit a spouse to lock out the other spouse from the marital residence. However, if safety or sanity is a concern, it might not be in your best interest to stay in the home. There are many things to consider when deciding if you should stay or if you should go, such as:

  • who will have the custody of the children,
  • whether you plan to keep the house or sell it and;
  • whether you can financially keep the house.

The simple answer is NO. If the marriage is over it is time to file for divorce. One spouse initiates the process by filing a Petition for Divorce requesting a divorce and the relief that spouse wants. The Petition for Divorce is then served on the second spouse. It is normal for the second spouse to then file a Response to that Petition for Divorce and a Counter-Petition for Divorce requesting the relief that spouse wants. There is no legal advantage to being the first or the second spouse. It makes no difference to the Court. If you file first then you do have the benefit of selecting the timing. If you are the one being served be aware that you have a limited time to answer. If you don’t, a default divorce will be granted against you.

The initial consultation provides a time when the attorney can learn more about your situation and goals and can answer questions you may have about the process, likely results, your rights during the case and likely cost of your case. If you decide to hire the attorney your consultation fee is credited toward the cost of your case.

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