ANSWERS TO YOUR IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
What you need to know
To help you begin the divorce process, we have addressed the questions most frequently asked by our clients. If you have other questions, our complimentary 30-minute introduction will help you learn about the divorce process and how you can transition to the next chapter of your life.
How do I start the divorce process?
You have a choice for how you want to approach your divorce. You can choose to retain an attorney to represent you in Court, you can choose private Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, or you can represent yourself. All approaches will address key issues including child custody , child support, spousal support, and division of property. If you choose Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, we offer a complimentary 30-minute introduction to help you start the process and move on to the next chapter of your life.
To prepare for the divorce process it is helpful to have a sense of what is important to you as you envision your post-divorce life. Common areas to think about include whether to remain in your home, your income and your expenses, how to divide your assets and debts, support and child sharing. To assist you in making knowledgeable choices about your future, you will need to review the documents below and gather the necessary information to complete the forms. You are required to prepare these forms to complete the divorce process in California.
- Instructions to Complete Schedule of Assets & Debts and Income & Expense Declaration [download PDF]
- Schedule of Assets & Debts [download PDF]
- Income & Expense Declaration [download PDF]
- Monthly Expense Worksheet [download PDF]
- Statute – Disclosure of Assets & Liabilities [download PDF]
How is mediation different than
going to court?
When you go to court, you are represented by an attorney who presents your case to a judge in a public setting. Documents considered by the judge are maintained in a publically accessible court file and the scheduling of hearings is determined by the court’s busy calendar. Traditional litigation is the most costly way to divorce – both emotionally and financially. An alternative approach is Mediation where the parties work together in a private confidential setting with a neutral mediator who helps them craft a customized, mutually negotiated Settlement Agreement – the legal document that sets forth your agreements relating to all issues including child sharing, child support, spousal support, and division of property. In Mediation, the parties control the timing of each session, the issues to be addressed, whether to include attorneys or outside experts in the process, and the terms of the settlement. Also, because the two parties agree to work cooperatively to resolve their differences, Mediation is far less costly, both emotionally and financially, than litigation. For more information about Mediation, please see Practice Areas.
How much does it cost?
There are two costs involved in the divorce process; court filing fees and mediation/attorneys fees. The court assesses a $435 filing fee for each party. Additionally, there may be other filing fees for documents filed with the court during the divorce process.
Attorneys fees that you will incur to resolve your Family Law matter vary widely based on a number of factors including your approach to the divorce process, your preparation, schedule, willingness to reach agreement, and complexity of your family and financial situation. Mediation can be the most cost effective approach to divorce as you have more control over the process and you can minimize the costs if both parties reach agreement within a reasonable period of time.
If you choose Mediation, Hildy Fentin will assess the complexity of your family and financial situation and will provide you with an estimated timetable and cost for completion of the process.
How long will the process take?
In California, the soonest that your marital status can be terminated is six months and one day from the date the non-filing party is served with the Petition for Dissolution. However, if you reach an agreement before the six month waiting period, your agreement may become the basis of a court order immediately upon filing with the Court and your marital status will automatically terminate after the six month waiting period.
Do assets always get split 50/50?
California is a community property state. Generally, if you acquire property or incur a debt during the marriage it is characterized as community property and the community property assets and debts are divided equally. Separate property is the property that a party brings into the marriage that still exists or is received during the marriage by inheritance or gift. Separate property is usually awarded to the holder of the separate property. In the context of Mediation or Collaborative Divorce, the parties can reach a creative settlement to meet the needs of the family. In some cases that includes agreeing that property, normally considered to be separate property, be treated as community and that community property be unequally divided.
It is important to consider more than just the bottom line value of an item when dividing your assets and debts. For example, there may be tax consequences which may impact how to best divide your assets and debts. If you reach an agreement in Mediation or through the Collaborative Divorce process it becomes the basis of a legally binding court order.
Complimentary 30-minute Meeting
Learn how you can begin the divorce process and transition to the next chapter in your life. To request a complimentary 30-minute in-person introduction with Hildy Fentin, please contact us. You will find personal attention, creative problem solving and the efficient, skilled attorney/mediator you need to resolve your Family Law matters peacefully.
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