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California Divorce Frequently Asked Questions

This list of frequently asked questions and answers on issues of separation and divorce has been developed by Divorce Headquarters in conjunction with our professional members in response to the numerous requests for information we have received from our site visitors.

The answers to the questions provided in this section are general in nature and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship or to replace specific legal advice.

The authors and creators and any and all persons or entities involved in any way in preparation of the website known as Divorce Headquarters and/or divorcehq.com disclaim all responsibility for the legal effects or consequences of the interpretation of the information provided. Individuals intending to use divorcehq.com as an information resource should seek advice from family law professionals and experts familiar with the laws of their state. This website is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be relied on for that purpose.


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Return Can I garnish my ex-spouse's wages to pay spousal support?
If you have an order for support, you are also entitled to a wage assignment order. A wage assignment order is a document that is signed by the judge and served on your spouse's employer. It requires the employer to garnish wages in the amount ordered for support. Garnishing wages is a great way to avoid dealing with a spouse who pays late or does not pay at all.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How is spousal support calculated?
Temporary spousal support is calculated using the same Dissomaster program that is used to calculate guideline child support. A temporary spousal support order may be issued pending a final judgment in a dissolution case.

Permanent spousal support is a much more complicated issue requiring a detailed analysis of the factors set forth in California Family Code section 4320. These factors include: (a) the extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage; (b) the extent to which one party contributed to the career advancement of the other; (c) the ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support; (d) the needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage; (e) the obligations and assets of each party including their separate property; (f) the duration of the marriage; (g) the ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the needs of the minor children; (h) the age and health of the parties; (i) domestic violence; (j) the immediate and specific tax consequences to each party; (k) the balance of the hardships of the parties; (l) the goal of self-support; (m) criminal convictions of an abusive spouse; and (n) any other factors that the court considers just and equitable.

Given the complexity of the 4320 factors, a permanent award of spousal support can vary significantly and as a result, it is nearly impossible to provide an estimate of how much a judge will award a spouse.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How long will I/my spouse have to pay spousal support?
The length of time a party can be ordered to pay their spouse support depends, in part, on how long they were married. In California, if a couple is married for more than ten years, their marriage is deemed to be of long duration, which means that support can be awarded for life, or until the party receiving support remarries, dies. Some orders for long-term spousal support have no specific end-date while others set a limit on the length of time a spouse can collect spousal support. In some cases, the court will create a step-down system of support where the amount paid to a spouse automatically decreases over time. The judge has wide discretion to fashion an order for spousal support.

If a marriage dissolves in less than ten years, it is considered to be a marriage of short duration. In these cases, the court typically awards spousal support for a term of one-half of the length of the marriage. That is, if you and your spouse were married for 8 years, the court may award support to your spouse for up to 4 years. This example is only meant to provide a benchmark, and is not intended as a clear rule. Given the discretionary nature of permanent spousal support awards, each case will yield a different outcome and it is important for you to have an experienced attorney working for you.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return I can't afford to pay spousal support. What do I do?
Spousal support orders can be modified. In order to qualify for a modification, the requesting party must demonstrate a change in their circumstances to warrant a reduction. For instance, if at the time a judge ordered you to pay your spouse support you were gainfully employed, and since that time you have lost your job, then you could file a motion with the court requesting that they reduce or eliminate the order for support. This requires you to be proactive and to take prompt action. An order for spousal support will not be put on hold while you are out of a job or underemployed. The amount you are required to pay will continue to accrue unless you notify the court of your changed circumstances.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return My ex has remarried. How does this affect the issue of spousal support?
An award of spousal support is ordered after a married couple separates in order to help one of the spouses maintain the standard of living to which they became accustomed during the marriage. The need for spousal support is eliminated when, among other reasons, the supported spouse dies or remarries. Therefore once your ex is officially remarried, you no longer have an obligation to pay him or her spousal support.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return My ex-spouse moved to another state and stopped paying spousal support. What do I do?
Your ex-spouse is not absolved of his or her responsibility for paying spousal support simply because he or she moved to another state. Your order for support can be enforced out of state if you register it with the local court where your ex-spouse now resides. Once the order is registered, you can enforce it under the collection laws of your ex-spouses state of residence.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How Are Custody And Visitation Determined?
In any family law action, whether it be divorce, legal separation, paternity or any other type of case, when custody or visitation is in dispute, the matter must be mediated. The Court provides a qualified mediator to mediate these issues. In Sacramento County, and in most California counties, attorneys are not allowed to be present during the mediation process. It is the mediator's role to use his or her best efforts to encourage an agreement on these issues in accordance with what the mediator feels is in the best interest of the child or children.

In Sacramento County and many other Northern California counties, if an agreement is not reached, the mediator will make a recommendation to the Court. At that time, either party may request that the recommendation be made an order of the Court. Either party may also dispute the recommendation and request a hearing. No agreement or recommendation is legally effective between the parties unless it has been made an order of the Court. The mediator may interview the child or children during this process.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return How Is Parentage Determined?
Parentage is determined by either parent, mother or father, filing with the Court a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship. If there is a question of whether or not true parentage exists between a father and a child, blood tests will be taken of the mother, child and alleged father. Blood tests are usually sufficient to determine whether or not there is a parent-child relationship; however, if it is unclear, there are more sophisticated testing that can be done. Prior to parentage even being determined, the Court may make orders as to custody, visitation and child support. Parents who marry after a child is born can have parentage determined in dissolution proceedings.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Are My Rights As An Unmarried Parent?
In the State of California, the law provides that a parent, whether married or unmarried, shall have frequent and continuing contact with his or her child or children. A court may make a determination of custody and visitation in divorce, legal separation or nullity, paternity cases, and those involving domestic violence.

A parent, whether married or unmarried, also has the responsibility to support his or her children. The payment of child support however, is not a condition precedent to enjoying parenting time with your child or children.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Is Out Of State Custody?
The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJEA) was enacted to deal with our mobile society, and the UCCJEA deals with the specific question of where an action for custody should be heard. The general functions of the UCCJEA are:
  1. To avoid conflicting orders in different states;
  2. To promote cooperation between states to determine which state is the more appropriate state to make decisions affecting a child or children;
  3. To make sure that custody litigation takes place in the state where the child has the closest connection and where the more significant evidence regarding the child's care, education, etc., exists;
  4. To discourage continuing litigation over custody issues;
  5. To deter abductions or the removing of children in order to obtain custody awards;
  6. To avoid the relitigation of custody decisions of other states;
  7. To facilitate enforcement of custody orders of other states; and
  8. To promote and expand the exchange of information and other forms of mutual assistance between the courts.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return Can a child support order be modified?
Yes, if there has been a change of circumstances. Child support orders are modifiable if there has been a change in circumstances since the order was issued by the court. Job loss, wage increase, change in custody arrangement, and birth of a biological child are all examples of changed circumstances which may justify the modification of a child support order.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return He denies that he is the father of my child. How do I get him to pay support?
If you have a child with someone who denies he is the father, then you need to take legal action to protect your rights and make sure that you receive the support to which you are entitled. In order to collect child support from your child's father, you will need to file paperwork with the court to establish the father's parental relationship with your child. Sometimes a DNA test is necessary to prove paternity. Other times the father will concede that he is the biological parent.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How is Child Support calculated?
Child support is calculated based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the financial situation of each parent and the amount of time each parent has the children in their custody. The courts will often rely on the Dissomaster (a program used to calculate the amount of support) in order to determine the appropriate amount of guideline child support.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How is child support determined?
California law provides that both parents have a general obligation to support their minor children, both natural and adopted, whether or not the parents were married. Child support can be requested by one party from the other through an action for dissolution, legal separation, nullity, paternity or a domestic violence action.

In general terms, child support is based upon the incomes of both parties, which parent has custody and how much time the non-custodial parent has with the child or children. Once the information is collected, a computer program, used by both attorneys and judges, calculates support.

Child support is always modifiable and may be changed when either party's financial circumstances change or there is a change in the custody or visitation schedule. The revised law effective July 1, 1992 in most cases dramatically increased the level of support being ordered. A consultation with an attorney utilizing the computer program will give you an idea of the possible increase or decrease in the amount of support you are paying or receiving.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return I lost my job and cannot afford to pay child support. What should I do?
Losing your job when you have children to support can cause a tremendous amount of stress and worry. It is important to point out that your obligation to pay support continues even if you cannot afford to pay it. This means that if you fail to notify the court that you cannot pay support, you will accrue arrearages of back child support if you fail to make payments. Back support accrues interest and in some cases penalties. These amounts add up quickly. Child Support is a preferred debt, meaning that you cannot discharge it in bankruptcy. And the court has no authority to change the amount of your support unless you take action and seek a modification of your child support.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return The other parent got married. Does the new spouse's income count for child support?
Most of the time the answer is no, the new spouse's income is not included in the calculation of funds available for the support of your child. The one factor that is affected by your ex remarrying is that his or her tax bracket may change which is likely to affect the amount of support. Unfortunately, in cases where the new spouse has substantial income the change in tax brackets can actually cause your support to rise. Support calculations can be tricky, which is why it is important to consult an experienced attorney to discuss your options prior to filing a motion to modify with the courts

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return The other parent is not paying child support. What do I do?
If you have an order for child support and the other parent fails to pay you the required amount, you have options. You can ask the court to issue a wage assignment order which would allow you to garnish the other parent's wages. And you can file a contempt action to hold the other parent accountable for willfully failing to comply with the child support order. The best strategy will depend on the facts of your case.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return What Are The Advantages Of Collaborative Negotiation?
Since collaborative law is designed solely for the purpose for settlement negotiation, neither attorney involved may become the "attorney of record" and represent the client in court. This takes away "positioning," personal attacks and the threat of court as a weapon during negotiations. This is particularly important in cases where the parties are not on the same emotional and financial footing.

Collaborative negotiation has tangible benefits that are not readily seen until the process has begun. Since the parties make a commitment not to litigate, the parties and the attorneys devote all of their efforts to a negotiated settlement (agreement) in an efficient and cooperative manner. Further, the parties develop a rapport with both attorneys. This takes away from the mistrust and fundamental differences each party brings to the divorce process that can cause mediation to fail or create prolonged litigation. Both parties can actively participate in their cases while, at the same time, having their interest protected--thanks to the presence of attorneys. Each party can only benefit by a process that does not involve court intervention, requires full disclosure and exchange of information and provides an opportunity for the parties and attorneys to engage in effective problem solving in a totally confidential manner.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Are The Benefits Of Collaborative Negotiation?
Having two attorneys involved would seem to produce the same cost as litigation. It really does not. In a traditional setting of two parties, two attorneys, costs quickly add up with court appearances (and the time spent waiting for the case to be called), preparation for court, depositions and other formal discovery methods. Collaborative negotiation allows the parties to focus on their own issues and control the process as compared to the control attorneys and the court have in litigation.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Is Collaborative Negotiation?
Collaborative negotiation is a conflict resolution process also called collaborative law or collaborative practice. This relatively new process is a joint effort by both parties and two attorneys to work out the existing issues. Collaborative negotiation is very similar to mediation with many of the same benefits (particularly saving both parties time and attorney's fees). As with mediation, it is also voluntary.

Should collaborative negotiation prove not to work for either party, he or she may unilaterally, and without reason, terminate their role in the collaborative process and proceed along the more traditional path of individual representation and court intervention.

Either or both attorneys may also withdraw from the process. If that is the case, the other attorney and the parties may continue in the process without the former attorney or substitution counsel may be retained.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Is The Process Of Collaborative Negotiation?
The roles of the attorneys are very important to the process and are carefully defined and limited. The attorneys act to encourage and explore the entire range of settlement options and alternatives. The attorneys exchange information, research and ideas and commit themselves (and the clients) to resolving the issues.

It is very likely that the first meeting will be spent collecting information from each party, their positions and desires. The attorneys will then review the information to seek out possible solutions and explore the entire range of settlement options and alternatives. It is at this point that it is very important that you have chosen a qualified attorney, usually someone with specialization in family law, so that he or she may best analyze all options available to you and your spouse, including considering all tax ramifications of any agreement you may enter into.

After all of the information has been gathered and reviewed, negotiations can then begin. It is important that all of the information has been gathered and looked at so that any practical proposals for settlement can be considered. It would not be a good idea to agree to divide a 401(k) plan if there is no idea as to its value and what the potential tax consequences may be. It may even be necessary to seek outside assistance from a CPA, actuary, or real estate appraiser.

It is at this stage that it is imperative that each party and their attorneys take a pragmatic stance on the issues to encourage settlement and, if reasonable, compromise to reach this settlement. Recently approved Guidelines and Principles Governing the Collaborative Law Process and the Stipulation and Order Re: Collaborative Law have come into use in formalizing and completing the process.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return Can I get sole custody of my kids?
It depends on the facts of your case. Joint custody is the preferred custodial order so in order to get sole custody there need to be facts that demonstrate that it is not in the children's best interest to be in the physical and legal custody of both parents. Examples of circumstances where sole custody will be ordered: when the other parent has committed acts of violence against the parent seeking sole custody or the children, when the other parent has serious untreated mental disorders, the other parent is a registered sex offender, and/or the other parent suffers from untreated drug and/or alcohol addiction(s).

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How does the court determine custody rights?
The court's primary goal is to establish custody orders that are in the best interest of the child. With this goal in mind, the court considers the status quo and tries to avoid disrupting a child's day-to-day life. If a child has lived primarily with one parent for a significant period of time, then it is likely that the court will continue to award a majority of the custodial time to that parent. However, if it is shown that a change in circumstances warrants a modification of the existing custody order, then a judge may modify custody accordingly. Custody issues need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return I am concerned that the other parent is abusing drugs/alcohol. Will that affect custody?
If you have concerns that the other parent has a substance abuse problem which poses a risk of harm to your child, then you need to take action. Unfortunately, issues of drug and alcohol abuse are all too common and it is the children that suffer as a result. As a parent, there are many ways to protect your child from these kinds of situations. One potential solution is to arrange supervised visitation so the children are not left alone with the offending parent. Another potential option is to petition the court to require the parent to participate in counseling or undergo random drug testing.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return I want to move out of state. Do I need permission from the other parent?
The answer depends on whether you intend to move your child out of state. If yes, then you need to first review your custody orders to see if this issue was specifically dealt with by the court. If not, then the next question is do you have sole physical or joint physical custody. If you have sole physical custody, then the law presumes that it is in the child's best interest to move with you. In this situation the issue that often arises is whether the other parent's visitation schedule will be affected by the move. If not, then you have the right to move the child without seeking a court order. If the other parent disagrees with the move, then he or she will need to bring a motion for a change in custody. If you have joint custody, then you will need a court order or the consent of the other parent to move the child out of the state.

Move away cases are complicated. I would recommend speaking to an attorney experienced in move away cases before proceeding.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return What does joint custody mean?
There are two types of child custody - legal and physical. Legal custody concerns the right to make decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child. In California, it is common for parents to share joint legal custody, meaning that both parents have equal right to make these types of decisions. Under some circumstances, one parent may be unfit to make decisions for the child. If so, then the court will award the other parent sole legal custody, meaning that they have exclusive right to make decisions on behalf of their child.

Physical custody concerns where a child will reside after separation or divorce. In California, joint physical custody is preferred unless there are issues that would make joint physical custody detrimental to the child. Common issues justifying sole physical custody to one parent include but are not limited to domestic violence, child abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, sexual offenses, and mental instability.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How long does it take to get divorced?
This is one of the most common questions clients have. Unfortunately, there isn't a specific amount of time that it takes to get a divorce. What there is a minimum waiting period before a person can have their marital status change from married to divorced. That waiting period begins to run the day after one spouse serves the other spouse with a Petition and Summons seeking dissolution. How long it will take to resolve all the issues in a dissolution depends upon the complexity of the issues, the parties willingness to compromise, and the courts and the attorneys availability to tend to the needs of the parties involved. At the Jarratt Law Firm, our average time frame for resolving a marriage has been 1 to 2 years; however, we have noticed that as the budget constraints increase, the time that it takes the court to process cases has increased as well.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return How much does it cost to get divorced?
My response to this questions is consistently, it depends upon you (the client) and your soon to be ex and his or her attorney. The cost of litigation rises if there are many issues, if parties have unresolved emotional issues from the relationship, and when there are complicated custody and/or property disputes. Some issues are worth fighting even if they are expensive to fight because the value of what is at stake justifies the expense. Sometimes the money spent on litigation would be better spent on counseling. I think it is my job to help my clients see which issues fit into which category.

I ask for a retainer before we work on your case. A retainer is a deposit against future fees. For dissolution cases, our retainers range from $3,000 to $10,000 depending on the number of issues that need to be resolved. The more issues there are, the higher the retainer will be.

I also offer a number of services for a set fee. Please see our professional fee page for more information on which services are available for a set fee. It is important to me to give the client's a realistic view of what it will cost to get divorced. Information is power. Empowering our client's often goes a long way towards helping them find closure and the strength to move onto the next phase of their lives. And that is my ultimate goal, to help you realize that you are strong and capable of handling whatever life throws at you.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return I have been served with a Petition and Summons. How long do I have to respond?
If you were personally served, meaning the paperwork was given to you or left in your presence, then you have 30 days to file a response. If you do not file a response by the deadline, then the filing party may request that the Court enter your default which means that you will not be able to seek relief from the court on a number of issues to be decided in your dissolution case.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return I think my spouse is cheating. Does that mean I can get more money from him or her?
California is a no fault state which means that in a divorce proceeding, the court will not assign blame for whatever caused the marriage to end nor will it penalize either party for cheating. While it may have caused the breakdown of the marriage, a cheating spouse will not have to pay more or receive less because of having an affair.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return What Is A Legal Separation?
Another type of action, separate from a dissolution, is a legal separation. A legal separation greatly resemble an action for divorce except that the parties are not free to remarry. One major advantage of filing a legal separation action is that, unlike a dissolution, there are no residency requirements.

A legal separation is not to be confused with the date of separation as explained in "Facts About Divorce." A person does not have to obtain a "legal separation" before filing a divorce.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Is A Modification?
A modification is a change of an existing order. A party who wants to modify a court order must follow the same rules as in the initial action. The first step would be to file a motion with the court asking for the change. It is the burden of the party bringing the motion to demonstrate a change in circumstances that would justify the requested modification.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Is A Nullity?
A Nullity Judgment restores the parties to the status of unmarried persons and results in the parties being free to remarry immediately. While a divorce dissolves the existing marriage, a nullity judgment erases the marriage and its implications from the onset, as though the parties had never married.

A Judgment of Nullity, or annulment, may be obtained under any of the following circumstances:
  • Incest;
  • Bigamy;
  • Lack of informed consent to the marriage;
  • The husband or wife of the prior marriage was believed to be dead at the time of the subsequent marriage, but in fact was not;
  • Unsound mind;
  • Fraud;
  • Force, unless afterwards the party who was forced into the marriage freely cohabited with the other party as husband and wife; or
  • Either party, at the time of the marriage, was physically incapable of consummating the marriage, and the incapacity appears to be incurable.
  • Most people believe that time is a factor in obtaining an annulment. That is not necessarily the case. It is true, for most of the conditions, an action must be filed within four years of the discovery of, for example, the facts constituting fraud.
Also unknown to most people is that, even though a Judgment of Nullity voids the marriage, you may be able to obtain support, a division of property and restraining orders. Children do not necessarily bar a party from obtaining a Judgment of Nullity.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return How do I get a restraining order?
If you have been the victim of domestic violence you may request a restraining order against your partner or spouse to prevent him/her from coming within a certain distance of you, your place of business, your children, and your family members. Restraining orders may also limit the offending party's ability to contact you, your child, and your family. Filing for a restraining order requires you to file an application with the court. If granted, the restraining order will issue on a temporary basis until a hearing can be held on the matter. The restraining order will take effect on a permanent basis, if granted, after the hearing on your application.

In addition to family law restraining orders, there are also civil remedies available to prevent an individual from engaging in violent and/or harassing conduct.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return Do I need a premarital agreement?
There is a common belief in our society that only the wealthy can benefit from a premarital agreement; that is not true. Homeowners, single parents, business owners, grandparents and professionals are just a few who could benefit from a premarital agreement. Even individuals who are just starting out in life may choose to enter into a premarital agreement.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return How will our retirement funds be divided?
Like many other types of marital assets, retirement funds are community property if the funds were earned during the marriage. To divide retirement funds in a dissolution, we must identify the community's portion and then divide that equally. For example, if you starting working at your job in 1990, started contributing to your retirement in 1995, and then got married in the year 2000, your retirement account would be comprised of both separate and community property. You would retain the separate property interest that accrued between 1990 and 2000 and your spouse would have a 50% interest in the retirement funds that accrued between 2000 and the date of separation.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return I think my spouse is hiding money. What can I do?
Nothing stings quite like discovering that your partner is hiding money from you. It is both illegal and unethical for a spouse to deceive you. If you are concerned that your spouse is hiding assets or diverting funds, you need to take action to stop him or her. First, we suggest that you begin to track the marital income and expenses. Gather copies of all bank accounts, retirement and investment accounts, and any other accounts. Examine them to determine how much money is coming in and how much money goes out. Reviewing these documents may uncover a record of spending you were not aware of. Second, consider if there are statements that no longer come in the mail, i.e., has the quarterly statement for one of the investment accounts stopped coming to the house? Oftentimes a spouse will redirect mail to their office to prevent the other spouse from noticing. Third, consider the balances in your accounts and pay close attention if the total balances are dwindling down.

As your attorney, part of my job is to make sure that we identify any and all assets in which you have a legal interest in order to ensure that you get your fair share in a divorce.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return Should I Enter Into A Premarital Agreement?
You should not enter into a premarital agreement until:
  1. You have had an opportunity to read its contents;
  2. You have consulted with an attorney who specializes in Family Law to find out whether the premarital agreement is right for you. This should not be the same attorney who drafted the document; and
  3. You have had time to think about it.
This is a very serious matter. You should not sign the agreement on a whim or out of fear that the wedding will be postponed.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What are the advantages of a premarital agreement?
The premarital agreement is a powerful tool. With it, the parties can override California's community property presumption and keep separate property separate. A good example of this would involve earnings. In California, wages and earnings acquired after the date of marriage (and before the date of separation) are community property. However, the parties can stipulate in a premarital agreement that all wages and earnings shall be separate property.

Another area where a premarital agreement is helpful is where one party owns a house prior to the marriage and this is where the couple choose to live after they get married. The house is the separate property of the person who bought it. However, the community can earn an interest in the house by virtue of making the mortgage payments with the couple's earnings. In order to avoid this outcome, the parties can stipulate in a premarital agreement that the community will not earn an interest in the house as a result of community earnings contributing to the mortgage payments.

Many parties want to address support with a premarital agreement. A waiver of child support is not enforceable.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Is A Premarital Agreement?
Premarital agreements, more commonly known as prenuptial agreements, are agreements that are entered into prior to marriage and dictate the distribution of property in the event of a dissolution.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What is the difference between community property and separate property?
Community property is any money that is earned by either spouse during marriage. Once the marriage ends and the parties separate, the community ends as well. Both spouses have equal 50% interests in all of their community property. In divorce, the community property assets are identified and divided between the parties.

Separate property is money that is not subject to division. It is yours and yours alone. The community is not entitled to it and neither is your spouse. Some of the most common forms of separate property include assets and money obtained or earned prior to the date of marriage, inheritance, and certain legal judgments and settlements. Disputes over the characterization of property as separate or community frequently arise between the parties in a divorce. As your lawyer, we will fight to see that you are given your fair share of the community assets and that your separate property remains just that.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850  



Return What is mediation?
Divorce mediation is a non-adversarial means to resolve issues raised in a divorce or legal separation. Such issues include property division, spousal and child support, child custody and visitation. The parties meet jointly with a mediator to learn of their rights and responsibilities to themselves and their spouse. The contemplated result is a written agreement encompassing a resolution of all of the issues of the marriage. Mediation can be used by couples at any stage of the separation and divorce process - even couples who have previously divorced through the court system and wish to resolve new problems.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return What Is The Process Of Divorce Mediation?
Mediation allows the divorcing couple an objective forum in which to discuss their individual needs and work out a settlement of property, support, custody and visitation issues. The parties meet and work together with the mediator towards a settlement that is fair and agreeable to both parties. The settlement is then put in the form of a written agreement by the mediator. The written settlement agreement is then reviewed by another attorney of each party's choice and is processed through the court by that attorney without the need for intervention by the court.

This answer supplied by: Hal Bartholomew of Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP     (916)455-5200  



Return I am concerned about the safety of a minor child. Is there anything I can do?
If you have a reasonable suspicion that a minor child's safety has been or will be compromised, you should contact law enforcement to make a report. Child Protective Services is another resource used to protect children who are at risk of harm.

In addition to reporting your concerns, and most often in cases where the child is your family member, you may want to look into becoming the child's guardian or having a guardian appointed to them. Guardianships require the filing of paperwork with the court, and investigation, and notice to a child's family members. Your efforts to protect the child may save his or her life.

This answer supplied by: Amanda Jarratt, Attorney of Jarratt Law Firm     (925)480-7850