FAQ

 

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General Questions

 

How long will it take?


California law requires a minimum of six months before you can legally be an unmarried person. Generally, all of the paperwork can be completed in much less time. You can, of course, take longer than the six months if you need it. Normally you have up to five years to complete the divorce. If not completed within this time, the court will usually close your case.
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Do I have to retain an attorney?


Retaining an attorney is almost never a good idea, because it essentially forces your attorney to take your case and push it through the court system. This creates expenses that really have nothing to do with your actual divorce, but become necessary to pay for the court “process” itself.

When you hire an attorney, he or she will ask you for a retainer fee. This rarely covers the total costs involved, so it seems to get used up quickly and you are required to put up another retainer just to keep things going.

Fortunately, you do not need to retain an attorney (or go to court) to receive expert legal advice and obtain a fair settlement. Our attorneys work on a “use us as you need us” basis.

Getting good practical legal advice and a personalized “road map” are always recommended to at least start your divorce properly and also help you through any hurdles you may encounter. Our attorneys empower you with the knowledge and options you will need so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family.

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Do I have to go to court?


No. Here in California there is required paperwork that must be filed with the court, but there is no requirement that you actually appear in court. Depending on your situation, you may want to review our Divorce Packages, which offer a range of options that include having all of your paperwork prepared and filed on your behalf. We can also prepare your spouse’s paperwork. Each of our divorce packages includes a free initial attorney evaluation to help you decide which package is appropriate for you. We can help you with consultation, mediation or other services if our packages do not fit your specific needs. Call for an appointment today.
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What If I’m already involved in divorce litigation?


Divorce Helpline can still help by providing coaching and consultation services, offering a neutral second opinion, reviewing documents and settlement offers, or recommending other support or resources that might make the process easier for you. If you have questions or you are frustrated with the litigation process, contact us today at 1-800-359-7004 to find out how we can help.
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Same-Sex Couples

 

In California, are there any differences in the laws regarding same-sex couples seeking a divorce?

California state laws governing divorce for heterosexual couples are the same ones that govern divorce for same-sex couples. One common stumbling block for both same-sex and heterosexual couples are the residency requirements pertaining to divorce.  At Divorce Helpline, we have worked with same-sex and heterosexual couples, who do not meet the requirements to obtain a California divorce. If this is your situation, please call and speak with one of our attorneys who will explain how it works and what we can do for you. We can also help explain some of the tax implications impacting same-sex couples seeking a divorce in California, which are regulated by federal law, but may play a role in how you decide to structure your settlement.
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What if my same-sex marriage occurred in a state other than California?


If you or your spouse live in California and your marriage took place in another state or jurisdiction that legally recognizes same sex marriages, you may divorce in California. Depending on your circumstances, we can help you do this through our Divorce Packages, Mediation or other services. You are welcome to call us at 800-359-7004 to learn more about what services or packages may be the best choice for you.
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What if my same-sex spouse is living out of state or out of the country?


Divorce Helpline has helped same-sex couples divorce or dissolve a domestic partnership when a spouse is out of state, or as far away as India, France or Hong Kong. We can work with you and your spouse over the phone and Internet to complete all of the necessary steps, including filing all the required documents, mediation, coaching and more. Call us today and schedule a free appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your options.
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If I was married in California, but my same-sex spouse and I no longer live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage and we want to split up, do we have to get a divorce?


If you and your spouse were issued a marriage license by the state of California, then you are legally married and to validly end the marriage, you will probably need to divorce. Your divorce will be filed in the county where you were married. (In some limited circumstance, those with short term marriages might be able to have their marriages ended through a Summary Dissolution.) Divorce Helpline has worked with a number of same-sex couples who wish to divorce or end a domestic partnership. If you would like more information on legally ending a same-sex marriage, please call our offices and speak with one of our attorneys who will explain what we can do for you.
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Legal Separation vs. Divorce

 

What is the difference?


Legal is NOT a “trial separation.” Rather, legal separation may be an alternative to divorce if for one of a variety of reasons, a married couple would like to deal with the issues involved in their marriage, including child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), property division, debt division or legal fees, but would prefer to remain married.

There are several significant differences between a legal separation and a divorce. For instance, both spouses must agree to a legal separation. If not, a legal separation becomes a divorce. Second, there is no “waiting period” for a legal separation. In the state of California, a divorce requires a mandatory six month “waiting period” between when a divorce is started and the earliest possible date when a divorce can be complete. However, a legal separation can happen immediately. Another important difference is that legal separation does not carry the same six-month California residency requirement as divorce. In some cases, coupes file for legal separation and then later amend the petition for a dissolution of marriage, i.e., divorce, once the six-month residency requirement has been met. Consulting with an attorney regarding legal separation can help you determine whether this may be an option that would work best for you and your spouse.

The attorneys at Divorce Helpline can educate both spouses on the benefits, if any, of a legal separation, help you decide if legal separation is the right choice and then help you as much or as little as you need to make the process as fast and inexpensive as possible while making sure all of your legal rights are protected.

Contact Divorce Helpline today at 800-359-7004 for a free attorney evaluation of your situation.

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Why would someone choose legal separation?


Common reasons for selecting legal separation as opposed to divorce include religious restrictions on divorce or to overcome California’s six month residency requirement for divorce. In addition, legal separation often allows someone to maintain health insurance benefits obtained through a spouse. Legal separation gives couples a way to deal with issues related to their marriage such as child custody, spousal support and division of assets or debts, without terminating the marriage.
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Mediation

 

What is mediation?


Mediation is an alternative to traditional adversarial court-based divorce, which usually involves unnecessary stress, conflict, delays and expense. Mediation allows both spouses to speak with a neutral attorney at the same time in order to resolve any disputed issues and move toward mutual agreement and complete the divorce process. Mediation can cover a wide range of issues, and it can be done in person or by telephone.
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Do my spouse and I have to be in agreement to come to mediation?


No, you just have to agree to try it. Mediation works in most cases.
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Will mediation work even if there are some complex issues such as child custody or complicated assets and debts?


Absolutely. At Divorce Helpline our attorney-mediators will help to identify the immediate issues that, if left unresolved, often lead spouses into litigation. These can be extremely complicated, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be negotiated and resolved in mediation. If necessary, we will bring in the same experts, advisors, and coaches that are part of an experienced litigator’s team of colleagues, but at a vastly reduced cost to our clients. We can also provide private judge services to resolve any issues that are not settled through mediation, and provide a level of privacy that is not found in the court-based divorce process.
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What if my spouse won’t come to mediation?


If you ask your spouse to come to mediation, very often the answer will automatically be “no.” Your spouse might be worried that you have identified the mediator, and think it will be impossible for the mediator to be neutral. If you think that you would like to try mediation, give our offices a call at 1- 800-359-7004 and speak to a Divorce Helpline consulting attorney about the best way to invite your spouse to mediation and to identify what’s best for your situation.
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Property

 

Who decides how we divide our assets?


If you choose mediation to manage your divorce process, then you and your spouse work with the attorney mediator to reach an agreement about how to divide up your assets and property. There may be some assets that require some specific assistance because of special rules that may apply to a division during a divorce. An example of this is a pension. Divorce Helpline has an attorney mediator who specializes in this area of asset division, who can help with this.

If there are issues regarding your assets that can’t be decided upon by both spouses in mediation, you can still avoid going to court by using a Private Judge who will make the decision. Divorce Helpline offers this service and you and your spouse can interview and select your own Private Judge.

If you cannot come to an agreement in mediation, and you decide not to use a private judge or arbitration, then you will need to go to trial where the court will make the ultimate decision about the division of assets.

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Who is responsible for our debts?


In most cases, debts incurred before the marriage are the responsibility of the spouse who incurred them. Any debt incurred during the marriage is the responsibility of both spouses and viewed in much the same way as community property or assets. Debts, as well as income, acquired after the date of separation are separate property. The exception to this is debt acquired after separation related to common necessities of life such as food, clothing and shelter for a spouse and children.

One of the mandatory disclosure forms that each spouse must file with the court as part of the divorce proceedings is a schedule of assets and debts, providing a complete, factual inventory of each. This is one of the documents that Divorce Helpline can prepare and file for you as part of our Divorce Packages.

Final determination of who will ultimately be responsible for paying off any debts, as well as receiving specific assets, once you and your spouse divorce will be spelled out in your final settlement agreement, and is one of the key issues that couples often negotiate and decide through Mediation.

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