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Divorce, Legal Separation, Summary Divorce / Dissolution, and AnnulmentsDivorce is an extremely turbulent and emotional time. As such you may find yourself thinking and doing things that you would not normally do. The most devoted of parents have been known to put their children in the middle. Often times you will hear somebody say, “I just don't know this person anymore" about somebody in the process of a divorce. They are right. Most people do go through some sort of metamorphosis during their divorce. We tend to be much more emotional and rash in our decision making. It's part of the process that we must watch very carefully. Try to always think before you act. What will be the effect of today's action tomorrow? This is especially true if you have children.
If you’ve either decided you are ready to get divorced, or you are seriously considering it - What is the next step? It is important to know what your options are, what rights you have, and what you can expect from the process. It is true that divorce is typically an adversarial process, and having an attorney to represent you and guide you is necessary to ensure you get the best possible outcome. California is a "no-fault" divorce state, which means neither spouse needs to prove that the other spouse is the reason for the divorce. Instead, parties may simply cite "irreconcilable differences" or an "irreparable breakdown of the marriage" when filing for divorce.
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DivorceWhere do you file for divorce? State courts have jurisdiction over divorce proceedings, so the spouse who files the initial divorce “petition” or “complaint” in their state court begins the process. Most states have their own set of residency requirements that you must meet before filing for divorce. In California, the residency requirement is six (6) months. Other states may require less time, and this varies from state to state. Before filing for divorce, you will need to meet not only the residency requirement, but potentially other local requirements as well. In California, no divorce decree may be finalized until six months after the divorce paperwork is provided to the respondent or the respondent's first court appearance, whichever comes first. The Johnson Law Firm specializes in Family Law and Divorce. We will guide you through the divorce process, including separation of assets, child custody and child visitation, spousal support/alimony, and any court appearances you need to make. Contact us today for a consultation, or call 661.575.9811.
Summary Divorce and DissolutionsThe summary divorce or “dissolution” process is less paperwork than a traditional divorce proceeding. It is also worthy to note that it is not the same as an Annulment. The requirements for a summary divorce or dissolution vary from state to state, but typically require that the duration of the marriage was relatively short, there are no minor children in common, there are no significant property interests, the total value of marital property is less than a specified amount, the total value of either spouses’ separate property is less than a specified amount, and both spouses agree to give up the right to any spousal support. This type of divorce, granted the strict conditions are met, is generally effective when both spouses are on amicable terms.
Legal SeparationLegal separation is a middle ground between being married and divorce. If you have decided you no longer want to live with your spouse, but are not certain you want a divorce, you may want to consider getting a legal separation. When considering a legal separation, you will still need to address the issues of child custody, visitation, and spousal support. You are still legally married to your spouse, although you will not be living together. Legal separation is an option for couples who oppose divorce for religious or moral reasons, you wish to maintain eligibility for government benefits such as social security, healthcare benefits, tax benefits or liability, you are not currently eligible for divorce due to state residency requirements but wish for legal documentation, or you believe there is a chance you can reconcile your differences. There are still considerations to remain eligible for certain benefits, which may not apply to a spouse who has legally separated. For more information, please contact a lawyer at The Johnson Law Firm to go over your specific case.
AnnulmentsAn annulment, contrary to a summary divorce, is when the court rules your marriage not legally valid. After an annulment, it is like your marriage never happened because it was never legal. A marriage is never legally valid if the relationship is incestuous – when the two parties are close blood relatives, or if it is bigamous – where a spouse is already married to someone else. Marriages can also be deemed invalid if one party was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage, either party was of “unsound mind” – meaning they were unable to understand the nature of the marriage or partnership, there was fraud involved – for example, marriage only to get a green card or hiding the inability to have children, there was a threat of force – either party consented to getting married as a result of force, or physical incapacity. For an annulment, you must be able to prove to a judge that one of these conditions is true in your case. Citing “irreconcilable differences” is not a valid reason for an annulment, but instead traditional divorce proceedings are appropriate in that case. The time limit for annulments vary between 4 years to no time limit depending on the circumstances. However, it still may be very difficult to prove any of these reasons are true. A divorce lawyer is vital for helping you understand the burden of proof you will be required to present to a judge. After getting an annulment, you will need to consider asking the judge to grant orders in relation to child support, as well as to make orders for custody and visitation rights.
Spousal or Partner SupportAs will all divorces and separations, determining spousal support is a central issue that must be resolved. You will need to consider how long any spousal support will last and how it affects your taxes. The divorce lawyers at The Johnson Law Firm will guide you in calculating the spousal support you are due, and preparing documentation for legal proceedings. Child support is also a major consideration, please follow this link to learn more about child support.
Divorce Do's and Dont's
This is a list of things that under normal circumstances most people would never do. This list was developed based on personal experiences, having had these things done to us, or as much as we may hate to admit it, having done some of these ourselves. If you can follow these guidelines you will find that you behaved in a mature rational way. Not only can you be proud but you will find that more things will be better in the long run. Easier said than done but give it your best try. The list is not exhaustive, but it is a start.
- DON’T put your children in the middle of your divorce or breakup. The divorce is between you and your spouse. The children are innocent victims.
- DO show them the love and attention they deserve. Make sure that they know they are not the reason for the divorce.
- DON’T stop the children from seeing your (ex)spouse during their scheduled visitation time because he/she owes you money.
- DO try to resolve the matter with your (ex)spouse. If the two of you can’t resolve the problem then contact your attorney to find out what legal actions you can take.
- DON'T put your spouse down in front of the children.
- DO show respect towards your spouse in front of the children. If you can't do that then do not say anything at all. It will only come back to haunt you as well as send the wrong message to the children.
- DON’T use your children as a negotiating ploy during the settlement process.
- DO be honest and upfront. Judges know when the children are being used and do not look highly upon such tactics.
- DON’T spend $1,000 on attorney fees fighting over a $150 piece of furniture.
- DO use good business sense when deciding what to fight for and at what cost should you fight for it.
- DON’T get greedy. It doesn’t matter if you wanted the divorce or your spouse did. Just because you’re hurt and your emotions are running high does not mean that you are entitled to more than the law allows. This attitude will cost you unnecessary attorney fees and the judicial system doesn’t care about your personal feelings.
- DO be reasonable and flexible. Find out from your attorney what you are entitled to by state law regarding entitled to by state law regarding equitable distribution, alimony and child support.
- DON’T use your children as a therapist. They are not equipped to handle the emotional strain being placed on them.
- DO get professional help if you need it to cope with your divorce.
- DON’T represent yourself. Not only will your inexperience backfire potentially creating devastating and long-term effects, you may come off as selfish and self-serving without intending to do so. Besides, judges generally prefer when attorneys are involved. Even experienced attorneys that are getting divorced use attorneys.
- DO use an experienced matrimonial attorney. Although you may feel like you will save money, it will cost you more in the long run by not having the proper representation and someone with experience and knowledge of the law looking out for your best interest.
- DON’T let your friends tell you what to do. Though they mean well they are not experienced in the coming and goings of a matrimonial courtroom. No two cases are exactly alike, so take advice from someone who is experienced.
- DO listen to your attorney. He/She knows more than your friends.
- DON’T depend upon your memory.
- DO document everything that you might think will be important later on. Also, keep a journal of important dates and events.
- DON’T pay you child support late.
- DO pay it on time. Not only will you avoid legal ramifications, you are also supporting your children. The money goes towards the rent/mortgage, food, clothes, utilities and other necessities.
- DON’T call your visitation with your children “Your time” and base things around your schedule.
- DO remember that the children have a social life too. They have soccer, birthday parties and friends. It is important that their social life be as normal as possible. They are not the ones who are divorcing, you are. So let them maintain a normal social calendar.
- DON’T pick up your children for visitation if have been drinking or have been doing drugs.
- DO arrange with your (ex)spouse for another time that you can spend with the children.
- DON’T let the children guess when they are supposed to be with you.
- DO keep a calendar for the children as to the regular visitation and special visitation such as holidays and vacations.
- DON’T make your children feel like a “guest” in your new home.
- DO make the children feel that your new home is also their home. That should include whatever chores they were responsible for at your prior home they should also be responsible for at your new home.
- DON’T let the children play one parent against the other.
- DO talk to your (ex)spouse when you feel this happening and make sure that the two of you are on the same page.
- DON’T question the children regarding the activities of your (ex)spouse.
- DO keep the children out of the line of fire between you and your (ex)spouse.
- DON’T use the children as messengers. This puts them right in the middle. Not only are you risking their love and affection you are also relying upon the child to get the message to your spouse correctly end in the manner you meant it.
- DO speak directly to your (ex)spouse. This way there is no miscommunication or confusion. If there is a restraining order in place that forbids contact then ask your attorney on how you should proceed.
- DON’T make promises to the children that you cannot keep, especially extravagant ones.
- DO make sure your promises are realistic, appropriate and that you are capable of carrying out the promise.
- DON’T rehash the things that have happened in the past, you can’t change what has already happened.
- DO learn from those things, fix what you can and then let them go.