Divorce is a topic that no one wants to consider much less discuss. The sad bottom line for a couple is that all-too-often after trying alternative methods to save the marriage – long discussions with friends and family, counseling and therapy – their final solution is the dissolution of the marriage. In other words, divorce.
Divorce rates hover around the 40-50 per cent rate each year. According to the CDC, there will be three divorces for every 1000 people in the U.S. That’s a lot of misery and hardship. In California, however, the divorce is higher than the national average, hovering around 60 per cent. To minimize the rocky road that is divorce you first must ascertain how you’d like to settle the marriage.
There are three ways to proceed in legally ending a marriage:
Where each party is represented by an attorney, but the divorce is finalized by mutual agreement rather than a court order.
Where no attorney needs to be present and a third-party mediator makes the decisions based on facts presented.
The last straw where the parties cannot agree on certain outcomes of the divorce, and their attorneys present their case before a judge whose word is then final in the decision-making process.
Hiring a Family Law Firm like Leon F. Bennett in Woodland Hills can more smoothly navigate the choppy waters of divorce. A legal divorce specialist can paint the broader picture of the large and small details entailed in ending a marriage.
No matter which divorce strategy is chosen, it’s wise to understand all the issues that could arise for the need of negotiating and start with a prepared list of things that both parties will need whether they settle out of court or in front of a judge. Here are the details to consider:
Step 1 – Protect Yourself, Your Children and Your Finances
If a spouse has a tendency for a bad temper or, worse, has shown a propensity for violence in the past, make sure the children and even pets are located in a safe place with adult supervision. A place like a parent’s house or with a trusted friend would be ideal.
If there is a chance for violence it would be wise to meet with a family lawyer and look into obtaining a domestic violence restraining order.
You should also make your children’s school teachers aware that your child can only be released or picked up by you. Explain the situation and ask for help if the unwanted or potentially violent spouse shows up to school.
Next, if you live in an affluent community in Southern California, before beginning any divorce proceedings or even notifying the spouse of impending divorce litigation in, say, Calabasas or Malibu, lock down your assets.
Contact your financial institutions, credit card companies, financial advisors and any investment company and see about freezing the account or permanently removing the spouse’s name and access due to the potentially volatile circumstances.
Step 2 – Check Whether You Meet California Residency Requirements
To file for divorce in California, you must have been a resident of California for at least six
months. You also must have been a resident of the county where you will file for at least three months. So if you’re looking for a divorce attorney in Los Angeles county, but recently moved from Ventura County in the past month, you’ll either need to wait two more months before filing or file back in Ventura.
Step 3 – Collect Pertinent Marriage Info
“You need to get your ducks in a row before seeking out the help of a Family Law attorney,” recommends Woodland Hills divorce lawyer, Leon F. Bennett, Esq. “In California, for a divorce to proceed, you will need to show earnings for both spouses and any outstanding debt.”
Just some items to collect include:
- Copies of W-2 forms and income statements
- Tax returns from the previous year
- Pay stubs
- Financial statements from stocks or real estate holdings
- Mortgage and loan documents
- Credit card statements
- Automobile titles
- Any pertinent ongoing bills like utilities
- Life and health insurance forms
- Your spouse’s Social Security and driver’s license numbers
Lastly, spend a few moments making an estimate of your monthly living expenses.
Step 4 – Will You Need Alimony or Child Support While the Divorce Is Processed?
You will need to support yourself, and possibly your children, during the divorce process. This can be done with temporary spousal support and child support orders, which will require completing and filing additional forms.
Step 5 – Hire A Family Law Attorney
There are several divorce forms that will need to be obtained in the state of California to file for a divorce. Depending on the type of divorce and county in which you reside, you’ll be best served with hiring someone near you. Leon F. Bennett, a Calabasas divorce attorney can walk you through the forms needed and the filing process.
In addition if children are involved there are separate divorce forms relating to them that will also need to be filed.
Step 6 – Notify Your Spouse
After consulting with a local family law firm, you must notify your spouse that you are filing for divorce and if, in fact, you have already filed forms. A form can be filled out and signed by both spouses showing awareness of the proceedings. You can also serve your spouse with copies of the court filings.
At this point a determination should be made about the type of divorce you’d like to pursue. If the parties are acrimonious and it seems like a battle will be waged then Divorce Litigation may be the only reasonable action where a judge will make the ultimate ruling on the nature of divorce as it relates to all matters of splitting assets, spousal and/or child support and so on.
If the parties have reasonable expectations that their divorce can be settled without bitterness and fighting, then Collaborative-Mediation or Divorce Mediation may be a time and money-saving avenue to pursue where only an outsider mediator – and not a judge – helps the parties resolve any and all issues with the details of post-married life.
Again, a family law attorney can advise you on all the circumstances and details of divorce under California law. There is an assumption that California has a ten-year rule pertaining to ongoing spousal support. While oftentimes a marriage that exceeds ten years will create a permanent spousal support policy, so long as the receiving spouse does not remarry, there are other factors that a judge may consider when decided on the spousal support amount and duration.
Marriages lasting less than ten years often see spousal support limited to one half the duration of the marriage.
Step 7 – What To Do While the Divorce Is Being Finalized
Until the final outcome of the proceedings develop a clear separation plan that includes where both spouses should live and how they will attend to their children. Now is also the wrong time to enter into a new relationship with someone else as that will only complicate the already delicate emotional state of the parties involved. Entering into a new relationship before a judgement or mediation agreement has been finalized could also affect the alimony amounts and duration.
And if the couple hasn’t already, consider engaging in counseling to either try to work through the differences and also ease your children into the reality that separation is inevitable, and protect their emotions and understanding of the situation.
The most important aspect of any divorce is protecting the children, and trying to end the union with dignity, calmness and respect.
About the Leon F. Bennett Family Law Firm
With over 35 years of experience as a divorce attorney in Woodland Hills, the Family Law Firm of Leon F. Bennett and his seasoned legal team have helped families reach mutually agreeable decisions regarding matters of divorce, custody, support, and the many rights and agreements associated with family law services.
We handle cases of divorce in Southern California and the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Riverside and Orange County areas. We represent clients in communities such as Woodland Hills, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Westlake Village, Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Camarillo, Moorpark, Oxnard, Pacific Palisades, Ventura County, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita, Valencia, Northridge, Tarzana, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Contact us today to help find a suitable family law solution with compassion and closure.