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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Redwood City, California Family Law Blog

How can I end my marriage or domestic partnership in California?

As much as we would like our relationships to last forever, sometimes that just is not possible. People who are in unhealthy marriages or domestic partnerships may decide that getting a divorce is the best option for themselves and their families. If you decide to end your marriage or partnership, there a few options available.

Once you have decided to go through with the divorce, you can start planning your case with a divorce lawyer to save you time and money in the long run. This is particularly true if you have high-value assets or property, or if you have minor children. In "no fault" states, like California, you do not have to prove that your spouse or partner did something wrong to end the marriage. The only thing you need to say is that you had "irreconcilable differences" and could no longer get along. It is important to note that once one spouse or partner has decided to end the marriage, the other has no power to stop the marriage from ending. If your spouse or partner refuses to go along with the divorce process, the court will grant a default judgment and the divorce will be finalized even without their consent.

As a dad, what should you know about fathers' rights?

California fathers want to have an active role in the lives of their children, yet sometimes, this is difficult for unmarried or divorcing fathers. If you are struggling to establish your rightful parenting time or want to protect your rights as a father, you would be wise to obtain the appropriate guidance as you seek to do so.

As a biological parent, you have the right to seek custody and visitation time with your kids. It might not be an easy process, but you may fight for time and access to your kids. Children do better when they are able to have a strong relationship with both parents, and it can be worthwhile to pursue the legal options available in order to protect the interests of your kids.

Tyrese Gibson regains custody over daughter after court battle

In an ideal world, divorcing or separating parents would agree on everything regarding their child's future, from where the child will stay to the visitation schedule. However, in the real world, many parents have a difficult time dealing with child custody and support issues. It can feel impossible to compromise with their ex-spouses when it comes to their children. When allegations of abuse come into play, a parent can temporarily or permanently lose custody of a child.

Tyrese Gibson, the "Fast & Furious" actor and singer, recently regained custody over his 10-year-old daughter after a hard-fought battle with his ex-wife, Norma Mitchell. Mitchell filed a restraining order against Gibson in September, accusing him of being unstable, as well as emotionally and physically abusing his daughter. Gibson denied the claims, stating that he never abused his daughter. His lawyer commented that Gibson disciplined his daughter with a spanking, in accordance with the law, when she visited her father one summer.

Tips for maintaining financial security post-divorce

One of the biggest concerns for people getting a divorce is how to maintain financial stability as a newly single person. There are a few easy steps you can take to ensure that your divorce causes minimal financial upheaval.

In many Redwood City marriages, one person often takes control of the finances, while the other is left in the dark. When it comes time for a divorce, this lack of knowledge and awareness can cause a number of complications. To avoid these issues, make sure you have a full picture of your current financial status before filing for divorce. You can collect information regarding your income, assets and investments, and consult with legal and financial advisors to determine what to do next.

Establishing parentage for child support

Before you can collect child support, you will need to determine who the child's parents are according to the law. If you were married when you became pregnant or when the child was born, California courts will automatically assume that you and your spouse are the child's legal parents. However, if you are not married to the child's other parent, you may have to establish parentage before moving forward with the child custody and support process.

In order to establish parentage, you will need a court order or a signed voluntary Declaration of Paternity. If a couple is unmarried, the father does not have any legal rights or responsibilities until parentage is established, even if he can prove that he is the biological father. If unmarried parents sign the Declaration of Paternity form and file it with the California Department of Child Support Services, courts will consider them the legal parents of the child. In cases where a father denies that he is the father, or if there is a doubt as to whether he is the father, he may request a DNA test or the court may order one. Based on these results, the court may enter an order establishing parentage.

How does property get divided in a divorce in California?

The most challenging part of a divorce can be dividing up the family property. All couples, but especially those with larger estates, may find themselves in a tug-of-war as they try to battle each other for both tangible and intangible assets. Couples should be aware that in California, property acquired during the marriage is often split equally between the spouses.

California is referred to as a "community property" state, where all tangible assets, such as houses, cars and artwork, and intangible assets, such as stocks and bonds, obtained during the marriage will be divided evenly between you and your ex-spouse. This is very different from property division in other states, where couples' assets are divided "equitably," or according to what the judge thinks is fair.

Create a parenting plan to handle child custody issues

"Breaking up is hard to do," the saying goes. And no one knows that more than couples with children. The most difficult part of many divorces in California is determining which parent should have primary physical custody and how visitation should work. Many parents want to be just as involved in their child's life as they were before the separation.

As you go through the divorce process, you may want to do whatever you can to spend as much time with your kids as possible post-divorce. To encourage this, you need to figure out what you want in terms of child custody and support, as well as visitation.

Uncontested divorce could be the right choice for you

For many California families, divorce is a lengthy, stressful and complicated process. However, it does not have to be like that in every situation. You may not see the need to draw out and overcomplicate your divorce when you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse agree on most divorce issues.

In your situation, you may find it useful to consider the benefits of filing for uncontested divorce. While this won't work in every situation, it could be a beneficial way for you to end your marriage with minimal stress and complication while moving on to a strong post-divorce future.

Can I modify my child support agreement?

Many former couples agree to a child support arrangement when they first breakup. A child custody and support agreement specifies visitation, living arrangements and the amount of money that the non-custodial parent must pay to the other parent to provide for the child's needs. However, as the years go by, custodial parents may determine that this amount is not enough to cover the child's expenses. In some cases, non-custodial parents may find that their life circumstances make it impossible for them to make their assigned payments. If you have a good reason to do so, California courts may allow you to modify your child support agreement.

To modify your child support agreement, the court requires that you establish a "change in circumstances." A change in circumstances generally refers to an increase or decrease in income, losing a job, a change in child's needs or other significant life changes. However, you do not need to establish a change in circumstances if the child support amount in your agreement is below the guideline amount.

What should divorcing couples do with the family home?

One of the most difficult parts of a divorce in California is splitting up the assets you have accumulated throughout your marriage. One of the most significant assets involved in the property division process for most couples is the family home. In addition to the financial value of the property itself, there is often emotional value given to the place where the couple built their lives together.

Dealing with real estate issues on top of everything else may be too much for divorcing couples to handle. Some people make the mistake of fighting for the house over other assets. Once the dust settles, they find themselves with an expensive house that they cannot afford to maintain. If you are considering keeping the house long-term, make sure you can afford the maintenance costs and mortgage payments. Stay-at-home parents and other spouses who did not work during the marriage may plan to rely on alimony payments to afford the property, However, when the alimony stops, they may find themselves in financial trouble.