California is a "No Fault State," meaning it does not matter what happened or who did what to cause the divorce, so long as a party seeks to end a marriage, the court will grant that request after a series of steps. All the community assets and debts are divided between the parties equally. In the case of child custody and visitation, the court will always consider what arrangement is in the child's best interest.
Even though legal separation in California is based on the same grounds as divorce, a judgment of legal separation does not terminate the parties' marital status. It is an alternative to divorce and is generally pursued where the parties do not want the legal status completely cut off for religious or other personal reasons.
One very common reason to seek a legal separation is to maintain eligibility for medical insurance that would otherwise be lost by the marriage termination. A legal separation proceeding is similar to any marriage termination proceeding. A judgment of legal separation resolves the issues of support, custody/visitation, and community property rights and obligations under the same standards and in the same manner as a divorce judgment. Unlike divorce, a judgment of legal separation leaves the marital status intact, and the parties remain married in name only, without the rights and responsibilities of a married couple. The parties to a legal separation action cannot enter into a new marriage unless the existing marriage is dissolved by death or divorce
A marriage could be annulled when the validity of the marriage is uncertain. Following are some of the grounds to obtain a Judgment of annulment:
Incest: A marriage between parents and children, ancestors and descendants of every degree, brothers and sisters (of the half or whole blood), or uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews is incestuous and void the beginning.
Bigamy: A subsequent marriage is illegal and void from the beginning if either party has a spouse still living.
Minority of A Party: The party who commences the nullity proceeding was under the age of lawful consent (under age 18) when entered into the marriage and did not obtain the requisite parental/court consent unless, after reaching the age of 18, the party "freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife."
Unsound Mind: Either party was of "unsound mind" (unable to understand the subject matter of the marriage contract and obligations) unless, after coming to reason, he or she "freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife."
Force: Either party's consent to the marriage was obtained by "force," unless the coerced party after that "freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife."
Physical Incapacity: Either party was "physically incapable" of entering into the marriage state (unable to engage in normal copulation), and such incapacity continues and appears to be "incurable."
Fraud: Either party's consent to the marriage was obtained by "fraud," unless the defrauded party, after discovering the fraud, "freely cohabited with the other as husband and wife."
The courts have the power to decide about custody and visitation of a minor child and must be guided by several basic statutory principles. Paramount among these policy considerations are Safety & Welfare of the child, and Frequent and Continuing Contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage or ended their relationship. This encourages parents to share child-rearing rights and responsibilities, except where the contact would not be in the child's best interest.
The court must consider several factors in making custody awards in contested cases. The court always takes into consideration the best interest of the child, and in making the "best interest" determination, the court can consider any "relevant" factors, which some are listed below:
Whether natural or adopted, or born during marriage or out of wedlock, all minor children of the parents are owed a statutory duty of support. The obligation is not tied to the existence of a marriage. In determining the appropriate amount of child support, all California courts must adhere to the "statewide uniform child support guideline" and depart from the guideline only in special circumstances. The guideline formula for computing child support is algebraically (California Family Code § 4055(a)). You could also visit the California Department of Child Support Service at:
http://www.childsup.ca.gov/Resources/CalculateChildSupport.aspx to use their online calculator to determine the amount of support.
A spousal support or alimony award is not mandatory in dissolution or legal separation proceedings in California. On the contrary, courts have the discretion to deny spousal support altogether or limit it in an amount and duration that reflects both parties' ability to provide for their own needs.
In exercising their broad discretion on spousal support, trial courts must consider and weigh several factors prescribed by California Family Code § 4320. Following is a list of these factors:
Although women are mostly victims of domestic violence, lately, men have been seeking help from our justice system to protect themselves and their children from an abusive spouse. Regardless of the gender of the victim, domestic violence is not something anyone should endure and suffer. Besides physical harm, domestic violence could leave lasting emotional scars on the victim and the children in an abusive and violent household. While obtaining a temporary restraining order, which generally lasts about three weeks, may not be that difficult. Still, obtaining a long-term restraining order may be challenging as the victim has to properly present her/his case and prove to the court that protection from the abuser is necessary to ensure the victim and the children's safety and welfare.
On the other hand, domestic violence allegations are false on some occasions, and the accused person must aggressively defend against such accusations. A domestic violence restraining order against someone could have a big impact. It may result in the loss of job, loss of prospect of future employment as some employers routinely conduct a background check to continue the employment of an employee or offer a job, to begin with. Also, a restraining order (CLETS) is entered into most if not all law enforcement agencies' databases to alert the officers that they are probably dealing with a violent person and take extra safety precautions if they confront that individual.
Whether you need a restraining order or you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, consult with an experienced family law attorney to find out about your legal rights.
Sometimes, a couple concludes that their marriage is no longer working and needs to go their separate way. Since there is little or no animosity between them, they choose to resolve all issues amicably, with the least amount of stress and expense. Under these circumstances and before taking any formal steps to start the divorce process, the parties reach a general agreement about custody, visitation, support, and division of marital assets and debts. The dispute about some issues that they then consult with an attorney to see their legal rights and who would be entitled to what. Once all the problems have been resolved, the agreement is reduced to a legally binding document and then it is filed with the court and other documents to finalize the divorce. This is the most cost-effective and least stressful way of ending an unhappy marriage.
This action is for determining child support, visitation, custody, and paternity of a child born out of wedlock. In most cases, both parents sign the Voluntary Declaration of Paternity and file it with the court admitting that they are the child's legal parents who are the subject of litigation. In these cases, parties agree to child support, visitation, and custody and reduce their agreement into a binding legal document and file it with the court. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, then one party petitions the court to resolve issues in dispute.
In some cases, the father denies having fathered the child to avoid paying child support or honestly believes that he is not the father. However, in other cases, the mother denies that the man is the father to prevent the father from having any contact with the child or for some other reasons. In either case, parties must seek the court's assistance to determine paternity.
After the final Judgment of Dissolution or other orders is entered, either party can petition the court to modify specific orders, such as custody, visitation, child, and spousal support. Generally, there has to be some change in the circumstance, and in case of a modification of visitation and custody, the change has to be "Substantial."
Suppose a parent wants to change an existing court order, and the other parent won't agree to the change. In that case, they must petition the court and show the change in circumstance that would justify a modification to the existing order. This requirement encourages arrangements and helps prevent the court from becoming overburdened with frequent and repetitive modification requests.