Making the decision to divorce is not easy, but once you’ve made that choice, it is important to safeguard your interests and protect the well-being of any children you may have. A divorce attorney can help you understand your rights as well as any legal issues raised by the split.
Do I Need a Lawyer When Filing For Divorce in California?
Divorcing spouses are not required to hire a divorce attorney in San Francisco or elsewhere in the state of California. As with any court proceeding, you are allowed to represent yourself and there are many resources available to help when filing for divorce in California, if you want to go through the process alone. However, if your spouse has a lawyer, you may want to find one as well.
The Role of the Divorce Attorney
Your divorce attorney will represent you to the court throughout the divorce proceedings. The attorney will prepare for this by conducting a preliminary investigation to learn the facts of the situation and determine whether there are valid grounds for the divorce. He or she will work hard to gather information that supports your goals and use that information to develop a case.
Your attorney will be the one responsible for filing the summons and a complaint in court, or responding to these documents if your spouse has already filed. These actions are the official legal documents that advise the parties that a divorce is being sought. After the filing, your divorce attorney will respond to communications and actions from the other party. If the case is contested, it will likely go to court, but if it is uncontested, a divorce may be granted without court involvement. No matter if the case is contested or not, the attorney will represent his or her client and fight to make sure the client’s rights and interests are protected.
The attorney is also instrumental in crafting the terms of the divorce settlement. Attorneys must gather financial and personal data on both spouses, deal with the division of assets, custody arrangements and child or spousal support agreements. The completed settlement agreement will spell out the rights and responsibilities of each spouse. If there is any disagreement between the spouses on the terms of the settlement, the divorce attorney will represent his or her client at the trial or hearing.
The attorney manages the process from start to finish and should remain in close communication with the client the entire time, keeping him or her apprised of the case and any responsibilities the client may have.
What Do I Have to Prove to Get a Divorce in California?
California is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that either spouse can get a divorce in California without having to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. The two official grounds for a no-fault divorce in California are “irreconcilable differences” and “incurable insanity.”
“Irreconcilable differences” is used most often and is also the simplest to obtain. “Incurable insanity” is difficult to prove and the non-insane spouse may be obligated to financially support his or her former spouse for that person’s lifetime.
Irreconcilable differences as defined by California Family Code §2310 – 2313 are “substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.”
If you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences, you cannot agree on certain fundamental issues and it is presumed that you never will. Courts rarely ask what the actual differences are and rely on the assurance of the parties seeking the divorce that irreconcilable differences do exist.
Example of common “irreconcilable differences” include:
- The decision to have children or not
- Disciplining children
- Debt problems
- In-laws and extended family involvement or outside friendships
- Work/home balance
- Sexual intimacy
- Communication patterns
- Sharing household responsibilities
- Personal habits & idiosyncrasies
- Political views
How Can We Divide Our Assets When We Get a Divorce?
Spouses are generally free to divide their property as they see fit. This is typically done using a marital settlement agreement (MSA). An MSA is a contract between divorcing spouses. It divides their property and debts and resolves other issues of the divorce such as spousal support.
Once the parties agree to the terms of their MSA, the court makes it into an order. Once it is an order, if either spouse fails to abide by the terms of the agreement, he or she can be held in contempt of court.
If the spouses cannot agree on how to divide their property, the court must divide it equally. The rules of equal division have several exceptions, however. For a thorough explanation of how your property will be divided, contact a Heath-Newton divorce attorney in San Francisco.
Where Can I Find A Divorce Attorney In San Francisco Or A California Divorce Lawyer?
Contact a divorce attorney in San Francisco at Heath-Newton, LLP. Our lawyers serve the San Francisco area and other areas in California. We will help you understand the legal issues raised by your divorce and represent you during this challenging time. Contact us at 415.398.1290 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.