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.