John T. Medlen, Esq.

Family Law Attorney - A Member of Rosen and Loeb

Divorce

California is a community property state. What this means is that all assets acquired during the marriage, including the increased value of assets brought into the marriage, are considered part of the 'marital pot'. And dividing this pot in the event of divorce can be difficult to accomplish fairly without the help of an experienced California divorce lawyer.


Child Support

Child support is usually paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to contribute to the cost of upbringing of the child or children. The custodial parent is the parent with whom the child resides the majority of the time. If the child resides an equal amount of time with each parent, the parent with the lower income may still be entitled to child support.  Under California child support law, child support is determined under statewide guidelines. This formula is based on gross incomes of the parents, the amount of time the child spends with the non-custodial parent, the cost of childcare, and certain other factors, such as health insurance and other children living with either parent.


Spousal Support

Also, known as "Alimony", the court may order monthly payments by one spouse to support the other spouse pending a divorce or legal separation.  Formerly referred to as alimony, spousal support may continue after the conclusion of the divorce, depending on factors outlined in § 4320 of the California Family Code.  Spousal support is awarded in addition to any child support.  Either spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support to the other.  For couples married less than ten years, the typical length of spousal support to be ordered is one-half the length of the marriage.  In long-term marriages (ten years or more), permanent alimony can be awarded (until the supported spouse’s death or remarriage), depending on the circumstances.  In awarding permanent spousal support, the judge must consider many factors, such as: each party’s income and earnings; earning capacity; age and health of the parties; obligations and assets of each party; duration of the marriage; needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage; education, job skills or occupation of each party, etc.


Child Custody and Visitation

Legal custody (California Family Code § 3003) is generally shared by both parents even if the children live primarily with one parent. It refers to the ability to make decisions concerning the health, education and welfare of a minor child.  Physical custody (California Family Code § 3004) refers to the actual living arrangement of a child. Often, one parent has primary physical custody — the child resides with and is under that parent's supervision most of the time — while the other parent has visitation rights.  If the child resides for significant amounts of time in both parents' respective homes, both parents are said to have joint physical custody.


Paternity 

Paternity is defined as: the state or condition of being a father. This type of action arises when the parties, who were never legally married to each other, are the parents of a child. Either the mother or the father of the child may file the Petition to Establish Parental Relationship of a child. Once paternity is established, the court will make decisions on the issues of child custody, child support, and child visitation.  If the parties are able, at any time during the action, to reach an agreement with respect to the resolution of these issues, they then execute a Stipulated Judgment of Paternity, submit it to the court for the judge’s signature and entry, and do not need to appear in court. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, then the court will resolve the parties’ differences at a trial, and then will issue a Court Judgment of Paternity.


Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is defined as violence that occurs in the home, usually between family members, spouses, or partners. If you are a victim of domestic violence, the first thing to do is call the police.  Once the police have been called and you have been removed from any danger, you can request an emergency restraining order from the officer on-scene. This order may be issued at any time, day or night, and will usually remain in effect for several days. During this time, you should consider seeking out the advice and counsel of a domestic violence lawyer.


Pre and Post-nuptial Agreements

These agreements can be utilized by parties both before their marriage and after their marriage to define the rights and obligations of the parties if their marriage should end in divorce.  Used primarily for purposes of defining  property rights, these agreements can also be utilized to determine spousal support obligations, if any, of either party should dissolution occur.


Annulments

This is a special proceeding in which one or either of the parties seeks to "undo" the marriage and to return to the status of "single person" without going through the dissolution process.  In this proceeding, if proven, community property laws do not apply since the marriage will be deemed to have never existed.  Although rare, these cases can be based on an incestuous marriage, bigamy, polygamy, fraud, underage minor without consent, unsound mind, just to name a few.  (Family Code Secs. 2200, et. seq.)


Guardianship

Quite simply, a guardianship proceeding is a way in which a non-custodial parent obtains custody rights of a minor child.  As can be imagined, this procedure can be quite complex and difficult as a parent's right to parent a child is a fundamental right afforded to everyone by the Constitution.  So, there must be extremely good grounds to utilize this procedure.  It is normally utilized when both parents are unable or unwilling to care for a minor child due to hospitalization, drug use, or imprisonment. 


Name Changes

These proceedings primarily deal with children who are being raised by a biological parent and a step-parent with the other biological parent remaining absent from the child's life.  These proceedings are also available for adults who just have a need to change their name.  


Legal Separation

One of the biggest questions, and very often requested, is "how do I become legally separated?"  This procedure is rarely utilized because the law on legal separations does not necessarily require the filing of any paperwork.  While complex in nature the date of legal separation can have a dramatic affect on the outcome of the determination of the assets and debts incurred during a marriage.


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