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Family Law - California

Below you will find answers to some of the frequently asked questions concerning family law issues arising in the State of California.  Should you have any other questions or concerns, please contact the Law Office of Louis P. Dell, Tel.  213-385-8856.

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Table of Contents
  1. I'm interested in getting a divorce.  What concerns should I have?
  2. How will the court divide up the property and debts?
  3. How is child custody and visitation determined?

I'm interested in getting a divorce. What concerns should I have?

A divorce, or what is now called a marital dissolution, is a big step.  Matters which may be decided by the court include division of property and debts.  This often includes the family residence, family owned businesses, bank accounts, cars, boats, pensions or retirement, investments, furniture and furnishings.  Debts often include credit cards, and debts associated with property such as home mortgages and car notes.  The court may also make orders for alimony or spousal support, child support, and child custody and visitation.

Given the high personal stakes in a dissolution action, you should seriously consider having an attorney represent you at all stages of the proceeding. 

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How will the court divide up the property and debts?

In California, the court will generally divide all community assets and debts equally.  For example, if a car is community property the court may order it sold and the net proceeds divided.  Alternatively, one spouse may wish to keep the car and pay the other spouse one half of the fair market value.

An attorney will be able to guide you through the process of dividing assets and debts, providing you with various options and strategies so that you receive the fairest division possible.

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How is child custody and visitation determined?

Contrary to popular opinion, the courts do not prefer women over men, or vice-versa.  There is no longer any gender bias in the custody and visitation laws.  Generally, the courts expect the parties, through their attorneys, to first attempt to come up with a mutually acceptable parenting plan where the children have "frequent and continuing contact" which each parent.  The governing principle is to devise a parenting plan that serves the children's "best interests."  As you might have already concluded, what constitutes the children's "best interests" is highly subjective, and will mean different things to different people.  That is where your experienced family law attorney comes into play.  Your attorney will be able to guide you through various parenting plans and work with you to solve logistical problems like exchanges of the children, dealing with schools and health care providers.  If a court hearing is required, your attorney will handle all court procedures and speak on your behalf in court.

The family law judge can be thought of as the "super-parent," in that he or she will order a parenting plan should the parties not be able to reach an agreement.  Again, for anyone who has not had prior courtroom experience, your family law attorney more than likely will know the judge, the judge's policies and biases, and the attorney will speak on your behalf in order to present your case in the most positive light.  Likewise, the judge probably knows your attorney and will already have formed an opinion as to his or her reputation and advocacy skills.  If your attorney has a trustworthy reputation with the court, this will increase the odds of obtaining the parenting plan which best suits your needs.

The court has a child custody mediation program called "Conciliation Court."  Many times, the parties can agree to a parenting plan which takes into consideration each parent's work schedule, lifestyle, and the children's personal needs.

Parents and Children Together (PACT) is a mandatory program designed to help separating and divorcing parents work together more cooperatively and effectively. The goal is to help parents focus on their children's best interests.  In special seminars taught at the Court, parents learn how to communicate more positively and parent more effectively.

In those circumstances where there is high conflict between the parties or the children are at risk, the court will order either a fast-track custody evaluation or a full custody evaluation.

Follow this link for Ten Helpful Tips to make your parenting plan a success.

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