You have California Divorce Questions – We Have Answers!
How Much Will My Divorce Cost?
The number one question most people want to know before they hire a divorce attorney is how much their divorce will cost, and that seems like a reasonable question, but it’s not that simple. Divorce is not free, and unfortunately, there is no precise answer to how much your divorce will cost for a number of reasons. Typically, if you and your partner are on amicable terms, have little to no property to divide, little to no debt and have been married a short time, under the best of circumstances you may be able to complete your divorce for a nominal fee. The most expensive divorce cases in California are the ones that are contested and involve litigation.
To reduce the cost of your divorce, we will judiciously work with you in an attempt to reach an agreement on all of the issues without judicial intervention. However, we recognize that sometimes, that is not possible. In those circumstances, we are prepared to fight for you, to protect your interests while looking for the most cost-effective way to achieve your goals. Many factors can complicate the dissolution process, causing your attorney to spend more time, and money, to best represent your interests. Some factors involved in higher cost divorces are:
- Challenged custody;
- Challenged visitation;
- Division of property and debts;
- Financial tracing;
- Filing or responding to multiple motions;
- Going to trial;
In addition to attorney fees, each county determines its own divorce fees, such as filing fees, transcript, court reporter and copy fees. The court’s fee schedule can be found on your county’s court website. It is not to say that your divorce cannot cost less because, as we mentioned above, the more harmonious the dissolution, the fewer issues to be worked out, the less your divorce will cost in the end. See below for money saving tips.
How Do I Keep My Attorney Costs Down?
- Keep a calendar. because it’s being maligned, communicating with your spouse and opposing attorney can, at times, be overwhelming and daunting and it’s no wonder you let things slip! However, to keep costs down, your attorney will ask you to gather information useful to your case. keep a notebook or calendar to help you get things done and stay on track during your divorce
- Be prepared before you speak with your attorney. Keep notes of questions and or concerns you want to discuss with your attorney so that when you come in for an office meeting or telephone conference, you are prepared. is a much better use of your money than calling or emailing several times a day when a question pops up because your attorney may be unavailable at that moment, working on other client matters.
- Gather your financial documents. One of the of the dissolution process is financial transparency. You will be asked to disclose all of your assets and debts, both community and separate. The intention is that there be total transparency among the parties. If your attorney must trace funds or order copies of statements from financial institutions, it will add to the bottom line immensely. Work with your attorney’s staff by doing your best to produce what is requested up front.
- Try to keep the peace with your partner!
We see it time and time again, nasty text or email messages, child exchange disruptions, and allegations of harassing behavior. It is understandable that this is a stressful period and that tensions are high but remember that it is temporary. You will be divorced, and all the issues will get worked out! Please help us keep costs down by de-escalating conflicts before they get too high. The more cooperative or amicable you and your partner can be the better for you because your divorce will cost less and be finished in the least amount of time.
How Quickly Can I Be Divorced?
Mandated waiting period. California Statute requires a “cooling off” period before a dissolution can be completed.
California Family Code section 2339 states: “no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.” The purpose of the cooling off period is to give the parties time to decide whether they are certain beyond doubt that they want a divorce and to give them time to reverse their decision before the Judgment is finalized. Additionally, the waiting period gives the parties time to negotiate settlements such as, but not limited to; settlement of assets and debts, spousal support, child support, custody, and visitation issues.
Where Do I File? (Jurisdiction / Residency Requirements)
To file for a divorce in California you or your spouse must have lived in California for the last six months and you must have lived in the county in which you are filing for the last three months. The court will look at the following two requirements when determining jurisdiction:
- Physical presence in California;
- Intent to remain here indefinitely as of the time of filing.
If jurisdiction is challenged the court may look at the following issues:
- Home ownership or rental agreement;
- Voter registration;
- Tax returns;
- Business ownerships;
The above does not mean that you must live in California indefinitely. It just means that you intend to live in the state at the time of filing.
If you intend on proceeding with the divorce but have not met the above jurisdiction requirements you may consider filing a petition for separation. A petition for separation does not require the same jurisdictional requirements as a dissolution and can be amended to a dissolution when the requirements are met.
Who May Serve the Paperwork?
A summons may be served by any person who is at least 18 years of age and not a party to the action. (CCP §414.10). Check out our other informational pages in our resource section for additional details on Service of the Petition and Summons.
Do I Have to Hire an Attorney to Get Divorced?
The short answer is “no, ” but that doesn’t mean it’s the prudent approach. Divorce forms and proceedings are complicated. If you are considering representing yourself, you may find the Sonoma County Family Law Facilitator’s Office a helpful resource. The Family Law Facilitator’s Office will:
- Prepare forms for you;
- Explain court procedures;
- Calculate support if you have the appropriate financial disclosures;
- Explain how the court makes support decisions.
Located at 3055 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa, California 95403. This is a no fee option but it is first come-first serve and hours are limited. Please visit the Sonoma County Court website for more information at www.sonoma.courts.ca.gov.
Warning: You are responsible for finalizing your case. If you don’t finalize a Judgment within 5 years, your case may be dismissed.
Date of Separation: How Important is it Really?
First a little history:
Previously, under California Family Code, in order to establish the date of separation, in anticipation of dividing property through a divorce proceeding, a couple must demonstrate that they were “living separate and apart” see Supreme Court ruling In Re Marriage of Davis (2015) 61 Cal.4th 846. This caused a multitude of inadvertent issues such as:
- The Court’s ruling removed the ability for the couple to continue to co-parent living in one house during their divorce proceedings and still keep their finances separate;
- It forced at least one spouse to find and pay for another residence in pursuance of a clear separation date.
- Often, one spouse could not afford to move until the settlement of the divorce was finalized, thereby placing an undue burden on both spouses or by a spouse being forced to continue in a bad marriage or face being thrown out on the street.
Can My Spouse and I Live Under One Roof During Our Dissolution and Still Be Able to Establish a Separation Date?
The short answer is yes!
Beginning January 1, 2017, new legislation went into effect regarding the date of separation, amending Family Code section 771 and adding section 70. It re-defines the definition of date of separation to better reflect today’s divorces and giving discretion to the court to consider the entirety of each situation. Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), author of SB 1255, also known as the anti-Davis legislation argued that it was necessary to change the Family Code language to mean “..the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by the spouse’s expression of his or her intent to end the marriage and conduct that is consistent with that intent.” Now spouses who wish to separate legally in order to protect their personal finances, but also, wish to continue sharing a residence in order to save costs during their divorce can do so.
California Family Code §70 reads as follows:
(a)“Date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following:
- The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage.
- The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.
(b) In determining the date of separation, the court shall take into consideration all relevant evidence.
(c) It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to abrogate the decisions in In re Marriage of Davis (2015) 61 Cal.4th 846 and In re Marriage of Norviel (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 1152.
Why is the Separation Date Important?
The separation date that you and your spouse decide upon will be used to determine the length of the marriage, and to determine community and separate property interests and debts.
Why is the Length of Marriage Important?
California Statute addresses what is considered a long-term marriage California Family Code section 4336 reads as follows:
- Except on written agreement of the parties to the contrary or a court order terminating spousal support, the court retains jurisdiction indefinitely in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties where the marriage is of long duration.
- For the purpose of retaining jurisdiction, there is a presumption affecting the burden of producing evidence that a marriage of 10 years or more, from the date of marriage to the date
How Does Date of Separation Determine Property Rights?
California Family Code Section 760: Except as otherwise provided by statute, all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state is community property.
On the other hand, California Family Code Section 771 states:
(a) Separate property of a married person includes all of the following:
- All property owned by the person before marriage.
- All property owned acquired by the person after marriage by gift, bequest, devise, or descent.
- The rents, issues, and profits of the property described in this section.
(b) A married person may, without the consent of the person’s spouse, convey the person’s separate property.
In essence, anything that was acquired during your marriage but before separation can be community property and is generally divided equally. Any asset or debt that is acquired after separation is separate property, and that party owns it 100%.
It is essential that you can prove your separation date if it comes into question. If you cannot agree on a separation date, the court will be asked to determine it.
Examples of the importance of establishing a clear and legal Separation Date can be viewed here:
- In re the Marriage of BARBARA A. and RICHARD A. BARAGRY. RICHARD A. BARAGRY, Respondent, v. BARBARA A. BARAGRY, Appellant
- In re the Marriage of JUDITH A. and ACHIM von der NUELL. JUDITH A. von der NUELL, Appellant, v. ACHIM von der NUELL, Respondent.
If you think that there will be a dispute regarding the date of separation, or you have other divorce-related issues, it is imperative that you obtain legal counsel. Date of separation issues can be tricky and it takes an experienced family law attorney to know how to untangle the web that is sometimes unknowingly created. Contact a premier Santa Rosa Divorce Lawyer at the Law Office of Carolyn Vandyk today for a complimentary consultation. Call (707) 528-1100.