Few areas of life can be as stressful as the initial stages of a marital dissolution. Because divorce formally dissolves a legal marriage, it can have broad implications across many aspects of a person’s life. The process has the ability to touch upon a person’s relationship with his or her children, home, earnings, retirement accounts, and all other assets. Often individuals enter into this process confused and knowing very little about their rights and obligations under the law. As a result, they often feel under siege and as if the entire world is working against them. At the Geraldi Law Offices, we strive to bring things into perspective.

There are some basic facts common to all divorce actions in California, which include the following:

To commence a dissolution proceeding in California, you must be a resident of the state for at least six months and a resident of the County that you are filing in for at lease three months. If you file for legal separation, there are no such residency time requirements.

The spouse that files a petition to dissolve the marriage will be called the “Petitioner” throughout the legal proceedings. The Petitioner serves his/her petition on the other spouse who has a certain number of days to file a response to that petition and will therefore be known for the rest of the action as the Respondent.

Either party may file an Order to Show Cause or motion requesting the Judge to make temporary child custody, support, property control or other orders.

Requests for restraining orders can be sought in emergency situations. Some reasons might include if one spouse is in fear of the other spouse due to domestic violence, if the children are at risk of abuse or neglect, if there is a risk that one spouse my abduct the children out of the jurisdiction, or if one spouse is about to misappropriate community funds or property without consent.

Both parties must at some point file Income and Expense Declarations showing all sources of their income and living expenses. They also must both complete and serve on each other a Schedule of Assets and Debts setting forth their complete financial picture. This last document is not filed with the Court.

When the parties have children under 18 years of age and their custody or visitation is in dispute, both parties may be required to attend Family Court Services Mediation in order to attempt to reach a resolution of the dispute. If the parties cannot reach a resolution of their dispute, the Court appointed mediator makes a recommendation to the Court regarding custody and visitation.

If the parties can reach agreements on their issues relating to custody and visitation of the children, child and spousal support, and also reach a settlement on the division of property, a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) can be drafted and signed by both parties. That document is then filed with the Court, which will enter it as part of the judgment. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to trial.

After signing a MSA, or after the trial, the attorneys for the parties will prepare and file a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. After a Superior Court Judge approves the Judgment and signs the order, the marriage will be terminated. It is absolutely crucial to have an attorney draft both the MSA and the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. A marriage will not be terminated if these documents are not adequately prepared and accepted for filing with the Court. You would remain legally married in that event. It is important to understand that the Court cannot enter a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage until six months have passed from the time the Respondent was served with the Petition and Summons.

If you are seeking a Family Law Attorney in the Bay Area concerning any aspect of separation or divorce, Daniel Geraldi can help you. He offers a free initial phone consultation. He will discuss your unique needs and possible solutions and explain how to proceed. He wants you to understand your matter and wants you to be comfortable with him before you hire him. Daniel approaches his family law cases with the client’s goals in mind. Upon meeting new clients, his first and foremost goal is to provide answers to the initial questions that clients often have about the process. He then works with his client to outline their goals and develop options and strategies for them to choose from. Regardless of whether the dissolution is one characterized as amicable or contentious, he approaches the case driven by the client’s instructions.

Daniel is well versed in all aspects of the dissolution process, from initial filing, through property disclosure and asset division, to final judgment. He has represented clients in all aspects of the dissolution process. Although his initial approach is to work cooperatively in order to reduce time and frustration, he has the ability and experience to aggressively try cases when necessary. If you have further questions about a dissolution process, contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741.

There is not merely one type of child custody, but rather a few. One type is legal custody and refers to the person who makes the legal decisions for the children, such as where the child attends school, medical treatment, and even driving privileges. Another type of custody is physical custody, meaning which parent the child actually lives with. Often, but not always, when one parent has primary physical custody the other parent will have visitation rights, which is another type of custody. Custody is often a very delicate area of the law that deeply touches parents.

In order to understand the process, it is important to appreciate certain overriding features of California law. The public policy in this state, which has been codified in the Family Code, is: (1) that children should have frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated, dissolved their marriage, or ended their relationship; and (2) to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy, except where the contact would not be in the best interest of the child.

When the parties are unable to agree on a parenting plan or schedule they both will be ordered to attend a mandatory mediation at Family Court Services. In both that mediation process and at any subsequent Court hearing, the focus will be on the “Best Interest of the Child” not on what is “fair” to the parents. Some of the factors that might be considered in determining the Best Interest of the Child are the following:

1. The child’s gender, age, physical and mental health;
2. The child’s established day-to-day schedule;
3. How changing the current living situation might impact the child;
4. The parent’s physical and mental health;
5. Domestic violence in the home;
6. Physical or mental abuse in the home;
7. The parents’ lifestyle;
8. Emotional connection between the parent and child;
9. The parents’ ability to provide for the child;
10. Each parent’s ability and willingness to foster contact and healthy communication between the child and the other parent.

Daniel Geraldi can assist clients in presenting to the Court why one parent should have primary custody or why one parent should or should not be denied joint custody. He is experienced in representing these interests in all aspects of custody proceedings. He regularly handles such cases throughout the East Bay and has even served as a court appointed minor’s counsel in custody disputes in Contra Costa County Superior Court. His experience in this area is broad. He has tried many high conflict cases that include difficult issues, such as special needs children, move away efforts, international custody disputes and substance abuse by one or both parents. If you have further questions relating to child custody, contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741.

California, as well as all other states, has adopted guidelines that must be applied in the calculations of the amount of child support. States have, for the most part, made a determination that every child has the right to the financial support of both parents consistent with the parents’ station in life. Based on these principles, states have adopted formulas for determining what the level of child support should be.
To calculate the minimum amount of child support to be paid by a parent, a judge makes a number of determinations, such as the following:
● How much money the parents earn or can earn;
● How much other income each parent receives;
● How many children these parents have together;
● How much time each parent spends with their children;
● The actual tax filing status of each parent;
● Child support paid to children from other relationships;
● Health insurance expenses;
● Mandatory union dues;
● Mandatory retirement contributions;
● The cost of sharing daycare and uninsured health-care costs; and
● Traveling cost for visitation from one parent to another, educational expenses, and other special needs.
The result of this calculation sets forth the minimum amount of child support. However, in the vast majority of cases, the court orders child support above the minimum level, as determined by local support guidelines.
If parents cannot agree on the amount of child support, the judge will decide the child support amount based on these guideline calculations. The guideline is based on a complicated mathematical formula. In fact, computer programs must be used to calculate child support under the guidelines.
Generally speaking, child support is paid until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, but not to exceed 19. There is also an exception to this rule if the child has special needs, such as physical or mental disabilities, but those are rare. In those cases, support can continue into adulthood.
Once set, child support can be modified or adjusted based on changed circumstances, such as an increase or decrease in a parent’s income, change in custody, or similar factors.

If you are a parent affected by a child support order or proceeding, it is important that you contact an attorney with the knowledge and experience capable of determining the appropriate amount of child support. Daniel Geraldi is that attorney. He has handled many such cases and he is very familiar with both the law and computer software programs relating to the calculations of child support. If you have further questions about child support, contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741.

A special DNA test is employed in order to determine whether a particular man is the biological father of a child. While this once involved drawing blood, the process now merely requires swabbing the mouths of both the child and the man in question and comparing the DNA results. The test is painless and the results are usually returned in a short amount of time. A positive paternity determination has lasting effects for everyone involved, including the father, the mother, and the child.

If a man is determined to be a child’s father, California law then looks to him to pay guideline child support, generally until the child turns 18 or graduates high school, but not to exceed 19. With those obligations arise certain perspective rights that the man may want to seek, such as custody and/or visitation rights. But in some cases those rights can be delayed until the man establishes that he is capable of playing a positive parental role in the child’s life.

Daniel Geraldi has represented numerous men and women in paternity actions throughout the Bay Area. He has helped mothers establish the paternity of their child, for the purposes of obtaining child support. He also represents men in cases where they doubt that they are the father and where they wish to avoid financial responsibility for a child that they believe is not theirs. If a man knows he is the father, he may also voluntarily admit fatherhood by signing a sworn declaration of paternity.

Daniel Geraldi approaches these cases with sensitivity and with knowledge of the lifelong impact these determinations have upon the parties involved. Contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741 if you have further questions relating to paternity.

Spousal support, sometimes called alimony, is often a very emotional subject for both parties. When a marriage ends, partners sometimes have a difficult time understanding why they have to support their former spouse, or why their former spouse is not required to support them at a higher level. Very often the stresses associated with the loss of their marital relationship limits their ability to appreciate the nuances found in California law on this subject.

The factors used to determine the amount of spousal support varies depending upon whether the issue is heard before or after entry of a judgment of dissolution. Prior to judgment, a computer program is used to determine what is called temporary (or pendente lite) support. The goal of this support is to maintain, during the pendency of the dissolution process, the marital status quo consistent with the parties’ respective earning capacities. Like child support, a number of factors are considered and entered into the computer software to determine the amount of temporary spousal support. These factors include the parties’ respective incomes, the number and timeshare of minor children, tax filing status, respective tax deductions, and a host of other factors.

In order to determine post judgment spousal support, a Court does not use the computer program. Rather, it is required to consider a range of factors that include the totality of the parties’ circumstances. Some of the considerations include the parties’ earnings, the presence or care of minor children, the amount of time and reasons behind one spouse being out of the workforce during the marriage, and any incidences of domestic violence. A judge is given wide discretion to set spousal support after considering all these factors.

In cases involving marriages of 10 years or more in which one spouse has not worked, the Court will typically order spousal support. In cases involving shorter marriages, spousal support may be permanent or temporary, and sometimes it will not be necessary at all. Court-mandated spousal support, like child support, can be modified due to a significant change in circumstances. But unlike child support, parties can agree to make the amount or length of spousal support non-modifiable.

Once a judgment has been entered and spousal support set, a change of circumstances is required to modify the spousal support order. Such changes could include the loss of a job, a new marriage, or a new child, among other things.

It is important that you find the right attorney, with the necessary experience, to help you navigate the issues surrounding spousal support orders. Daniel Geraldi listens to your concerns, answer your questions, explains California law as it applies to your situation, and works to achieve your goals regarding spousal support. He has represented clients in divorce and support matters for many years. If you have further questions about spousal support, contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741.

Few issues so traumatically impact relationships and families as does domestic violence. As with so many issues involved in divorce or cessation of a relationship, domestic violence may or may not play a significant role in the legal process depending upon the exact circumstances. In some cases criminal proceedings may play a parallel process to the divorce case and may need to thus be considered in the overall divorce process. Domestic violence can have a serious impact in cases involving child custody and visitation determinations.

Domestic violence has at its heart an on-going pattern of control of one party by the other. This control is demonstrated by physical, psychological and emotional abuse. Domestic violence may play a very significant role in the emotional and psychological aspects of divorce. Many victims of domestic violence leave a marriage because of the abuse. Alternatively, many other victims of domestic violence stay in the marriage because of the abuse, knowing that an attempt at separation might result in an escalation of all aspects of the violence. An experienced family law attorney must recognize these patterns and approach the cases with the emotional history in proper perspective.

If you or family members are victims of domestic violence, Daniel Geraldi can help obtain Court orders to protect you. These orders could include a “Kick-Out Order” or “Temporary Restraining Order” (TRO). They may direct the abuser not to approach you and/or your family members, your home, work, vehicle, schools and daycare facility. They may also prohibit a person from making any efforts to communicate with the victim. A kick-out order evicts the abuser from the family home. Generally, the TRO lasts until the next scheduled court hearing, during which time the judge will rule whether to continue or terminate the restraining order. If the person who is restrained violates the order, they can be charged with committing a crime.

If you decide to seek a restraining order, it is important to do so at the earliest possible time. Not only does this provide immediate protection, but the Court will consider any time lag between the violence and the request for orders in determining whether to grant the actual orders.

As with many other aspects in the law, a restraining order can be sought for improper or the wrong reasons. Occasionally, they are sought based on either false or inflated grounds in order for one party to gain a tactical advantage over the other party in their related legal proceedings. If a restraining order has been issued against you, you will be required by law to fill out and file an “Answer to Temporary Restraining Order” prior to the hearing. However, until that hearing it is vitally important that you adhere to all aspect of the temporary orders, even if you believe they have been wrongly issued or are unjust. This is something you need to take very seriously. If the allegations are proven, or if you have been found in violation of the temporary orders, it will most certainly affect any Court ruling on custody and visitation and could even result in an arrest and incarceration.

Hiring a competent attorney as soon as possible can make all the difference to the family law judge in making domestic violence restraining orders. Daniel Geraldi is very experienced at obtaining and defending against such orders. If you have further questions relating to this area of the law, contact him at (925) 364-4741.

Prenuptial agreements are agreements entered into before marriage whereby the parties state and affirm their intentions, after full disclosure, relating to the division of property and spousal support (alimony) obligations with respect to each party in the event of a divorce. Postnuptial agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements, except they are entered into after the marriage.

Although elements of our society view prenuptial agreements in a negative light, they can provide a positive and beneficial sense of security to both parties and eliminate uncertainty. In many instances, they can help rather than hamper a marriage.

For instance, issues regarding property division, asset and debt distribution and support obligations can add stress to a marriage because the parties lack the certainty and security they need to understand how those issues can impact their lives. Yet, a prenuptial agreement helps both parties to know their rights ahead of time in the unfortunate event that the marriage does not work. Such agreements thus help avoid anxiety during temporary marital spats that every couple experiences.

A prenuptial agreement can also be a great tool for protecting an individual who has significantly more property or assets than the other spouse. Life is uncertain, but that does not mean that you should accept complete uncertainty about your financial life if a marriage does not last. A prenuptial agreement can help protect you if that marriage does not last forever. For many individuals, this is extremely important if they have children from a previous marriage.

California law has very strict requirements concerning the enforceability of these types of agreements. They require that attorneys draft and advise clients in regards to how the agreement impacts their rights. As such, it is very important that you hire the right attorney to draft your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Mr. Geraldi has been drafting such agreements for years. He works cooperatively and constructively to protect his clients’ interest while at the same time delicately handling the feelings that naturally surround such agreements. If you are interested in having such an agreement prepared you can contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741.

Domestic partnerships in California are treated similar to traditional marriages. As such, they are subject to many of the same rules that apply in a divorce. Like a divorce, when a domestic partnership comes to an end, many legal issues will need to be addressed. These potentially include the division of community property, child custody, child support and domestic partner support. The law relating to domestic partnership dissolutions, although very similar to marriage dissolutions, has elements that are unique. These differences arise mostly because federal law views domestic partnerships differently than does California law. As a result, tax ramifications, the division of retirement plans, and other factors may be impacted differently when a domestic partnership, instead of a marriage, is being dissolved. The amount of support can also be affected depending upon whether it arises out of a marriage or out of a domestic partnership. Mr. Geraldi understands the stress and anxiety that comes with ending a domestic partnership. He is committed to helping you get through the process in an efficient and cost-effective manner. He is a skilled negotiator and will work diligently to resolve your case without a costly and lengthy court proceeding. However, if it is necessary to go to court, you can count on him to fight aggressively to protect your interests. Contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741 if you have questions about your rights as they relate to your domestic partnership.

Make no mistake about it, a dissolution is not an enjoyable experience. There is simply no way around that fact. Couples that aggressively litigate their divorce cases generally need to prepare themselves for an unpleasant and costly struggle. While not always the case, generally speaking the longer the process, the more likely it is that the parties suffer emotional wounds, which take time and effort to heal.

Mediation provides an alternative method to resolve differences and is becoming an increasingly popular method for couples to use in lieu of litigation. The process allows a divorcing couple to sit down with an objective third party and talk through their issues with a goal of reaching a mutually agreeable resolution of their divorce. While mediation is not necessarily without acrimony, the fact that it requires parties to sit down and mutually address their issues has been recognized to reduce tensions. Mediation also helps the couples get beyond the pain and thus helps in the healing process.

Daniel Geraldi has assisted many couples in the mediation of their dissolution. He is experienced in all types of family law matters including child custody, child and spousal support, and property division.

As a mediator, Daniel does not represent either the husband or the wife. He would be able to inform both parties of their legal rights but would not offer legal advice to either one. At the end of the mediation, both parties will have agreed to all stipulations of the divorce and Mr. Geraldi prepares a customized divorce agreement accordingly. If you have further questions about mediation, contact Daniel Geraldi at (925) 364-4741.