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Family Law

What You Should Know About Divorce and Custody

     Divorce and child custody matters can be emotionally and legally complex, and understanding the legal landscape in California is crucial for those going through this process. California has specific laws and procedures related to divorce and child custody that must be followed to ensure the best outcome for all parties involved. This article will provide a guide on navigating divorce and child custody matters in California.

     Divorce in California: In California, divorce is referred to as dissolution of marriage. California is a no-fault divorce state, which means that a spouse does not need to prove fault or wrongdoing to obtain a divorce. The most common ground for divorce in California is irreconcilable differences, which simply means that there are irreparable breakdowns in the marriage that cannot be resolved. To file for divorce in California, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least six months, and a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months.

     Child Custody in California: Child custody matters are often one of the most challenging aspects of divorce. California courts prioritize the best interests of the child when determining child custody arrangements. There are two types of child custody in California: legal custody and physical custody.

  1. Legal Custody: Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of parents to make decisions about their child’s welfare, including health care, education, religion, and other important matters. California courts can award joint legal custody, where both parents share the decision-making responsibilities, or sole legal custody, where one parent has the exclusive right to make decisions for the child.

  2. Physical Custody: Physical custody refers to the actual physical care and residence of the child. California courts can award joint physical custody, where the child spends significant time with both parents, or sole physical custody, where the child primarily resides with one parent and has visitation with the other parent.

     Child custody matters in California can be further complicated by factors such as the child’s age, the child’s preference (if the child is of sufficient age and maturity), the parents’ ability to co-parent, the parents’ history of domestic violence or abuse, and other relevant circumstances. California courts encourage parents to work out a custody arrangement through mediation or other alternative dispute resolution methods. However, if parents cannot reach an agreement, the court will make a decision based on the best interests of the child.

     Legal Process for Divorce and Child Custody in California: The legal process for divorce and child custody in California generally involves the following steps:

  1. Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage: The divorce process begins with one spouse filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. The petition outlines the grounds for divorce and other relevant information, including child custody matters if applicable.

  2. Serving the Petition: The petition must be served on the other spouse, who then has the opportunity to respond to the petition.

  3. Disclosure and Discovery: Both parties are required to provide full and complete financial disclosures, including assets, debts, and income. Discovery may also involve gathering information about child custody matters, such as parenting plans, schedules, and other relevant details.

  4. Negotiation and Mediation: Parties may engage in negotiation and mediation to reach agreements on divorce and child custody matters, including custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. If an agreement is reached, it can be submitted to the court for approval.

  5. Court Hearings: If parties cannot reach an agreement, or if there are contested issues, the court may hold hearings to determine matters related to child custody, support, and property division.

  6. Judgment of Dissolution: If the parties reach an agreement or the court makes.

     To get specific information about your matter, please click the link below to schedule your free, no obligation consultation. 

Listed here are some of the legal matters that we handle in our family law practice


Our attorneys understand that clients face significant stress and anxiety. Our organized approach to divorce and related matters helps remove some of the uncertainty that is inevitable when dealing with challenges involving divorce.

Spouse Support

Also known as alimony, spousal support is frequently a negotiated matter in California, with the court having significant leeway when determining support awards. We work with financial specialists who can help assess the income available for spousal support awards.

Domestic Partnership Dissolution

So if you go to a legal document preparer – that person cannot give you any suggestions, answer any of your questions or even suggest to you what documents you need to file for your case. They can only do exactly as you instruct. Any document preparer who does anything of those things is practicing law without a license!

Distribution of Assets

Our attorneys have business and financial training that combines with legal education and experience to make this often-complex process go smoothly.

Child Custody

Child custody is often the most important issue in divorce. Our firm strives to develop solutions that benefit children and work for parents.

Child Support

We explain the California child support formula to clients and ensure that all relevant factors are included when the court determines the award.

Move-away Disputes

Parental relocations can be hotly contested matters. Our attorneys advocate for clients who are seeking to move or who hope to prevent the other parent from moving.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

Premarital agreements specify how couples will handle their assets during marriage and after a divorce or the death of one of the spouses. Postmarital agreements are similar, but are executed after couples are married

The process of bringing the details of a marriage or domestic partnership to an end is a sensitive, stressful and often highly emotional time for the individuals involved. We take pride on navigating our clients through the maze of divorce. From the outset, we will explain your different “process options” for your case – such as litigation, mediation, or collaborative law – and provide you a recommendation on the most appropriate option(s) for your case.

Divorcing couples can reach out of court settlement in a number of ways.

If the couple is able to communicate effectively, they can negotiate the settlement themselves. This is known as the “kitchen table” approach because the couple often negotiates these agreements themselves. Couples who negotiate their own agreements should consult with attorneys before they sign to ensure that they are fully aware of their rights under the law.

Alternatively, divorcing couples may choose to hire their own family law lawyers to negotiate on their behalf. When the parties are committed to settling the case out of court, this option can save each person significant expense while reducing the amount of direct communication with a former spouse.

In the mediation process, a neutral mediator, who may or may not be an attorney, meets with the parties to resolve a divorce. The mediator does not act as an attorney for either party and may not give any advice. If appropriate, the mediator may explain pertinent areas of the law to facilitate the discussion and resolution. Parties in mediation frequently retain consulting attorneys for advice during the mediation process.

Our attorneys act as divorce mediators and also serve as consulting attorneys to parties working with mediators.

In collaborative divorce, the parties use a team of professionals to reach an out of court settlement. The team often consists of one attorney for each party, one mental health professional for each party, a financial consultant, and when appropriate, a child psychologist

Typically the process begins with a meeting where the couple and their respective attorneys discuss the issues related to the divorce. The goal is for the group to act as a team even though each side is represented by his/her own divorce attorney. The couple is encouraged to lead the discussions but they may also have private consultations with their attorneys. Collaborative law encourages the couple to work together in a cooperative environment. If one or both members of the couple chooses to litigate, the divorce attorneys and all other team professionals must withdraw from representation.
Litigation is the final alternative when the couple cannot reach a negotiated agreement on all or some of their issues. Through litigation, the couple asks the court to make decisions they cannot resolve. Many people hire divorce attorneys to represent them in all aspects of the divorce. However, a person may choose to represent themselves or to hire an attorney for use as a consultant. It is important to consult an attorney early for legal advice during a divorce. Litigation is a highly adversarial process where the outcome is contingent on complex legal rules and the particular facts of the case.