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Family Law Resources

Family Law Attorney Carolyn Vandyk Family Resources

Department OF Child Support Services

Each county has its own child support agency that can help you obtain, modify or collect support. There is no charge for this service through the Department of Child Support Services also known as “DCSS”. For more information please visit their website.

Family Law Facilitator’s Office

The Family Law Facilitator’s Office helps self-represented people navigate their own cases through the court system by explaining court procedure, and helping with the preparation of Judicial forms for divorce, custody, parentage, visitation, and calculate support.

This is a no-cost service available at the civil/family law courthouse located at 3055 Cleveland Ave, Santa Rosa, 95403. Hours are limited, please see the Family Law Facilitator for more information.

Parent Guide to Separation and Divorce

Parents, children, and teens often have a difficult time dealing with changes that come along with divorce. A fantastic resource for many going through a divorce with children is offered through the California Courts website. See “Families Change” by clicking here.

This commendable Family Change website includes a Parent’s Guide, Kid’s Guide, and Teen’s Guide with an interactive game for the younger children.

We encourage you to familiarize yourself with this website BEFORE asking your teen to view it. Within the teen guide, click on “Rights & Responsibilities”.  This insightful article consists of a type of “contract” that in simplest terms assigns rights and responsibilities between parent and child. This gives the child a sense of control that he/she can express his/her feelings safely, while opening up dialogue that you may not otherwise have known about.

Restrictive Gatekeeping

Have you heard the word “gatekeeping” tossed around and wondered what the fuss is? “Gatekeeping” refers to attitudes or behaviors by either parent that affects the quality of the other parent-child relationship in a negative way.  Some examples of gatekeeping are:

  • Restricting access to phone calls or Skype
  • Withholding information regarding school functions, homework, and events
  • Being disruptive of the other parent’s custodial time by trying to control the activity or excessive calling, etc.
  • Communicating critical or disrespectful remarks to the child regarding the other parent.
  • Trying to replace someone else, such as your new partner, a child’s parent

Therapeutic Help

Children do not like to hear their parents say bad things about each other. It causes them great anxiety and could eventually lead to self-destructive behavior. Try to do everything in your power to avoid hostility between the parent of your child and yourself. Research shows that children who have a healthy relationship with both parents show the best long-term adjustment post-divorce. Counseling is available to help with this extremely difficult but important time in your life. Psychology Today provides a list of therapists in the Sonoma County, California area here.

Legal Lingo & Definitions

Alimony/Spousal Support:   A payment of support provided by one spouse to the other.

Annulment: a marriage can be dissolved in a legal proceeding in which the marriage is declared void, as though it never took place. In the eyes of the law, the parties were never married. It is available only under certain limited circumstances.

Appeal: A legal action where the losing party requests that a higher court reviews the decision.

Best Interests of the Child: Legal standard used to determine child custody, visitation, and support.

Custodial Parent: The spouse who has physical custody of the spouses’ child or children.

Custody-Sole & Joint refers to the legal arrangements for whom a child will live and how decisions about the child will be made. Custody has two parts: legal and physical. Legal custody is the decision-making part: physical custody refers to where the child lives on a regular basis. Generally, the parent the child does not live with will be allowed to have regular visits with the child. Parents can make any custodial arrangement that is in the best interest of their children. The standard for custody is “best interest of the child.”

Default: A party’s failure to answer a complaint, motion, or petition.

Dissolution: The legal end of a marriage.

Equitable Distribution: The division of property between the spouses, and usually only that property bought or acquired by one or both spouses during the marriage.

Ex Parte Orders: Orders issued without formal hearings. They are generally issued on an emergency basis because there will be irreparable harm to a party if the order is not granted.

Fiduciary Duties:  Throughout the marriage and after separation, spouses have a fiduciary duty to act in each other’s best interests in financial transactions.

Filing: Giving the Clerk of Court your legal papers.

Home State: The state where a child or children of the marriage lived with a parent for at least six months before a child custody, support, or visitation action was filed in court.

Judgment: A court’s decision.

Jurisdiction: The authority of the court to hear a case.

Legal Separation: A court order allowing spouses to live separate and apart while remaining legally married.

Maintenance: One spouse’s payment to the other for financial support; the same as alimony or spousal support.

Marital Property: Includes all property acquired during the marriage.

Motion: A request to the court.

Non-Custodial Parent: The spouse who doesn’t have physical custody of the spouses’ child or children.

No-Fault Divorce: A divorce that doesn’t require one spouse to prove the other spouse’s fault or misconduct before being entitled to a divorce.

Non-Marital Property: Property that belongs to only one spouse and won’t be included in any equitable distribution of property.

Notice: The formal legal process of informing one spouse about a legal action or proceeding involving that spouse.

Order: A court’s ruling or decision on a certain matter or legal issue, usually a decision on a motion filed by one spouse.

Paternity Test: Proving the identity of a child’s biological father through scientific methods.

Pendente Lite: Temporary arrangements for custody, child support, child visitation, alimony, and possession of the family home, etc., until a final hearing.

Petitioner: The spouse who filed the divorce petition.

Pro Per or Propria Persona: Acting on one’s own behalf, generally used to identify a person who is acting as his/her own attorney in a lawsuit.

Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO): A court order giving one spouse a share of the other spouse’s pension or retirement funds.

Residency Requirement: The amount of time a spouse must live within a state or county before that spouse may file a divorce action in that state or county.

Separate Property: Property or assets that belong to one spouse and usually won’t be included in the property distribution or division.

Service: Providing a copy of the papers being filed to the other side.

Stipulation and Order: A binding agreement of the parties signed by both parties and the judge. This eliminates the need to ask the judge to decide the issue.

Subpoena: A form issued by the court requiring someone to appear in court and/or bring documents.

Temporary Support: Payments made by one spouse to the other for financial support while the divorce action is pending.

Uncontested Divorce: When the Respondent is not going to try to stop the divorce, and there are no issues for the court to decide about the children, money, or property.

Venue: The county where the case is heard.

Visitation: The non-custodial parent’s right to spend time with the spouse’s child or children.

Contact Our Family Resource Attorneys Now

At Vandyk Law, you can reach out to a skilled Santa Rosa Family Law Attorney.  We have all the resources you will need in the case of legal separation or other family law situations.   Our experience together with our knowledge of California’s family laws will give you the edge in an already difficult situation. Don’t hesitate to call today at (707) 528-1100.