While all family law cases are unique, many fact patterns are similar. Attorneys who practice in divorce, paternity and legal separation encounter similar fact patterns which have similar questions. An attorney should always be consulted for any divorce, legal separation or paternity case no matter whether the issues are just child legal and physical custody or alimony and child support and division of debts and assets or all of these together. The more issues, often, the more complex the case can be. These are a list of some of the frequently asked questions a San Diego family law attorney can be asked in a consultation. A free consultation is a very good way to obtain accurate information as well as realistic expectations.
CAN I FILE FOR DIVORCE OR LEGAL SEPARATION IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY?
Always, there is an issue regarding jurisdiction of where the case should be filed. To file for a legal separation or divorce in San Diego, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the State of California for at least six months and a resident of San Diego County for at least three months prior to the filing of the petition and summons. This does not mean, however, that all issues would be heard in San Diego. For example, if you have minor children, the jurisdiction for custody and visitation orders would be where the children have lived for the last six months. It is possible to be legally able to file your family law case in San Diego however not have the requisite jurisdiction for any orders [absent emergency] for legal and/or physical custody per the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdictional Enforcement Act. An individual analysis of the case must be made to determine where the family law action should be filed. Sometimes, when concurrent cases in different states, the Judges have a UCCJEA Conference Call to determine where the proper venue is for the case. Also, as is common in San Diego Military Families, one spouse may be on deployment for more than six months however they could still be considered residents of San Diego County depending on the documentation.
WHERE WILL MY CHILDREN LIVE?
When there are children involved, these are always most difficult. The law places children with parents according to the best interests of the child or children. The best interests is defined in many ways and there are three Family Law Codes which contain information on how the State of California defines best interests. First, is Family Law Code 3011 which discusses factors for custody in making a determination of best interests. Second, is Family Law Code 3020 which details legislative intent toward parental conduct. Third, is Family Law Code Section 3040 which discusses best interest for custody and order for preference for placement of the children. California is a mandatory mediation state. What this means is that, if the parents cannot reach an agreement, then the parents must go to Family Court Services for a written recommendation [in San Diego County] prepared by a San Diego County Employee who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and hired by the Court to meet with parents prior to their court hearing before a Judge. The Judges, statistically, follow the mediation recommendations a majority of the time however this is up to each Judge and facts of each case.
The attorneys at the law office of Doppelt and Forney, APLC, APLC can assist with the preparation of your pleadings as well as filing with the Court Houses in San Diego County including Vista, downtown San Diego, Chula Vista and El Cajon. Their law firm offers a free consultation in their office to discuss where you should file as there are different court houses and depends on your zip code. You want to make sure to file in the correct court house.