Divorce: What Your Attorney Needs to Know and Why: Divorce is a complicated situation, and it’s easy to overlook important facts in the heat of emotion. It’s also easy to get bogged down in unimportant details. You can make your San Diego divorce attorney’s job easier and minimize costs with a little advance preparation.
Basic facts include date of marriage, date of separation, and birth dates of children as well as some other information. Your attorney will also need current contact information for you and your spouse. If there was a prenuptial agreement, your attorney will need a copy of it.
What is the triggering factor for the divorce? California divorce is “no-fault,” which means that you don’t have to prove wrongdoing by either party to obtain a divorce. It also means that even an unfaithful spouse will not be subjected to financial penalties. However, some types of “wrongdoing” may be highly relevant, such as financial misconduct. This is one area where emotion can muddy the facts. All the attorney needs is the basic overview, a few examples, and any supporting documentation or evidence.
There are two types of asset ownership: separate and community. Community property equally owned by both parties consists of most assets obtained from the date of marriage to the date of separation. Separate property is property obtained by an individual prior to the marriage or after the date of separation. Quasi community property is property located outside the State of California that would ordinarily be considered community property. While most assets are easily categorized as separate or community, there are situations where personal assets become community property. This is one area where the advice of an experienced attorney can result in substantial financial benefit. While many spouses are tempted to conceal assets to avoid division by the court, this can result in severe penalties.
Debt will also be divided in the property settlement. In the current housing market, an upside-down mortgage can dramatically affect the division of property. Other common issues that can arise include a spouse quitting a job in an attempt to avoid responsibility for marital debt, late payments on joint debt having a deleterious effect on the other spouse’s credit rating, and bankruptcy.
If one spouse has been a “stay-at-home” spouse, there may be an issue of spousal support. This may be for a short-term (for example, while a spouse completes their education) or long-term.
One of the most contentious areas of family law is child custody, visitation and support. Both parties have a financial obligation to support children of the marriage. California law requires to court to use a set of uniform guidelines to establish the child support amount. If circumstances change, modification may be possible at a later date.
When addressing custody issues, most courts consider the best interest of the child. Older children may be asked their preference; however, the court will make the final determination. Be sure to let your attorney know if there is a potential international issue.
It is important for children to have an ongoing relationship with both parents. A clearly defined visitation schedule can avoid misunderstandings and provide continuity for the child.
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