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Common Questions About Divorce
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Common Questions About Divorce In Los Angeles

  1. What are grounds for divorce?
  2. How do I protect my assets during a divorce?
  3. After the petition is filed, how long does it take for the Dissolution of Marriage to be granted?
  4. What about alimony?
  5. What about child custody?
  6. What is Mediation?
  7. Are Prenuptial Agreements valid?
  8. Can the provisions in a final Dissolution of Marriage be changed?

1.  What are grounds for divorce?
In California, divorce is referred to as a Dissolution of Marriage.  A Dissolution of Marriage is different from an annulment or the ‘voiding’ of a Marriage.  California was the first state to utilize the “no-fault divorce” concept.  In California, a Dissolution of Marriage may be granted if it is found that there are:

(a) Irreconcilable differences that have caused the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, or

(b) Incurable insanity.

What this means is that if one spouse wishes to terminate the marriage, he or she can do so even if the other spouse does not consent. 

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2.  How do I protect my assets during a divorce?
Sometimes it is necessary to obtain a protection order for assets even before a Dissolution of Marriage petition is filed.  Fortunately, there are certain restraining orders that can be sought in order to protect one’s assets or interests in joint assets.  Marital assets in danger of dissipation, concealment or conveyance to third parties can be “frozen” until a hearing is held.  Oftentimes, it is agreed that certain assets are frozen under a preliminary injunction, with certain allowances for either spouse to continue to deposit or withdraw monies for “the necessities of life,” and/or “the ordinary course of business.”  The injunction remains in place until all assets are fully accounted for and then divided pursuant to the terms of the Dissolution of Marriage.  Individuals who are afraid that certain valuable items may be taken or removed while the Dissolution of Marriage is pending should take pictures of those items and put together an itemization of said items. 

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3.  After the petition is filed, how long does it take for the Dissolution of Marriage to be granted?
Once the Summons and Petition have been served, there is a six month waiting period before the order granting the Dissolution can take place. 

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4.  What about alimony?
Either spouse may seek alimony.  It may be granted initially on a temporary basis during the pendency of the case and for a predetermined amount of time following the divorce or until the dependent spouse no longer requires it or remarries, whichever occurs first.  In many divorce cases, alimony is the largest asset that is awarded.  Yet, many divorcing spouses are simply unaware of this fact.  While many embittered spouses will fight over savings accounts, home equity, and pension plans, they simply do not realize how alimony can add up.  For instance, $4,000 a month in alimony adds up to $480,000 in ten years. 

There are a number of factors that the court considers in deciding whether or not to grant alimony and in how much the alimony will be.  These factors are governed by California’s Family Code Section §4320.  Such factors include:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • The needs of both parties,
  • The present and future earning capacity of each party,
  • The age and health of both parties,
  • Whether having a job will hinder the rearing of the child or children,
  • The standard of living established during the marriage,
  • Assets and debts of both parties,
  • Whether or not domestic violence was or is an issue,
  • Whether or not one spouse helped the other obtain specific education, training, career, or professional licensing, and
  • The tax implications for both parties regarding alimony.

As stated, alimony may be temporary or permanent.  If a spouse has been a full-time homemaker in a long-term marriage, he/she may be awarded alimony for an extended period of time if he/she can prove “helplessness.”  Such helplessness may include never having worked outside of the home, having no marketable skills, being elderly, or being mentally or physically disabled.  In some instances, permanent alimony may be granted if the recipient’s job does not allow for the maintenance of the same lifestyle that existed during the marriage.   

Because alimony orders can be complex and oftentimes have a huge financial impact on the paying party, it is crucial that you have an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney on your side.  

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5.  What about child custody?
Today, the current trend when it comes to child custody decisions is based on equality between both the mother and father.  No longer is the mother “automatically” looked at as the parent with whom the child should live.  In the state of California, most parents are awarded “Joint Legal Custody.”  Joint Legal Custody allows both parties to make decisions regarding the child(ren), including decisions pertaining to education, medical training, and religious training. 

California courts can award “physical custody” to one or both parents.  Physical custody refers to where children will actually reside most of the time.  The parent who does not have primary custody will generally be granted specific periods of time where the children will be in his or her custody.  Typically this consists of alternating weekends, one-to-two evenings per week and one-half of the school vacation periods.  

Custody disputes can often cause complex problems.  Each parent will try to present the worst of the other.  Oftentimes, this can have a terrible emotional impact on the child(ren) involved.  Settling such disputes requires an experienced and compassionate Los Angeles family law attorney. 

Don’t let things get out of hand.  Contact Los Angeles Family Law Attorney Sharman L. Brooks today!

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6.  What is Mediation?
Mediation is part of the divorce process.  It is where a neutral third party helps both parties come to agreements regarding child custody, support, visitation, and property distribution.  The divorce mediator helps both parties by identifying the needs of everyone involved, gathering pertinent information, and making recommendations.

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7.  Are Prenuptial Agreements valid?
Yes.  As long as they meet certain criteria, they are valid. 

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8.  Can the provisions in a final Dissolution of Marriage be changed?

Only under certain conditions can provisions be changed.  For instance, if one of the parties commits fraud, then a modification may be necessary.  California law also provides for modification of spousal and child support when a change in circumstances has occurred.    An experienced Los Angeles Divorce lawyer can help further explain when and how provisions can be changed. 

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