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Whether you’re facing divorce, legal separation, domestic violence, a child custody battle, or a child support issue, you have important decisions to make--decisions for yourself, your children, and your future. Core Law Group can help.
This page is designed to introduce you to family law basics. As you read, remember these are only the basics. Every person and every case is different, and this page is not legal advice for you or your particular case. Core Law Groups can help you go beyond the basics and outline a strategy/game plan that works for your specific circumstances.
Schedule an in-person meeting and see our individualized approach first hand. Meet with us, discuss your situation, your needs, and your priorities.
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Types of Family Law Cases
Family law cases generally involve people who have intimate relationships – spouses, amorous partners, parents, children, and family members. Because of the special relationships involved, the California Family Court has two unique qualities – (1) it is a ‘Court of Equity’ – meaning it has wide discretion to look beyond the law at what it is fair; and (2) it will deal with all types of law – civil issues involving money; criminal issues involving jail time; tax issues, probate, and guardianship.
Here are some of the cases that end up in Family Court:
- Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment. When spouses do not want to be together anymore. In addition to legally ending a marriage, these cases address custody, support, and property division.
- Paternity. When someone needs to be declared the parent of a child (usually in order to get child support or visitation). In addition to declaring parents, these cases address custody and child support.
- Termination of Parental Rights and Adoptions. When there are serious reasons why a parent should no longer have legal rights to a child or when a non-parent wants to become a child’s legal parent.
- Child Custody & Visitation. Parents have a legal rights and obligations to participate in decisions for their children. Parents and grandparents have the right to spend time with their children.
- Support. One spouse may have an obligation to provide financial support to the other spouse. Parents have a financial obligation to support their children.
- Domestic Violence. Victims of domestic violence can ask the Family Court to issue protective orders to keep their abuser away.
- Name Change. A child or an adult wants to legally change their name.
- Other Cases Involving Children. Depending on the county where you live, some cases involving family members will be addressed by a different Court (not the Family Court). If a child is facing criminal charges, if the government is trying to take a child away from a parent, if a family member or friend is trying to take custody of a child after a parent's death or because of serious concerns about the parent, or if a child is trying to become independent from his/her parents - the case may be placed in a different Court and may require an attorney who has specialized qualifications.
Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Whether you are part of an open case or looking to start one, Core Law Group can help you identify and navigate the type of family law case you're dealing with. Schedule an in-person meeting and see our individualized approach first hand. Meet with us, discuss your situation, your needs, and your priorities.
All relationship conflicts that enter the legal system leave the same way – with a signed order from a Judge. But there are many paths to that final order. Here are some of the options:
Court Litigation — Everything is resolved in the courthouse by a government judge. Each party retains an attorney to help present his or her case. The Judge considers evidence from both sides and makes a decision.
Court litigation is generally best for those who cannot resolve their disputes without a third party and who do not want to pay for a private judge. You get to present your side of the story, and you don’t have to settle issues that are important to you. But, court litigation can be slow and impersonal. There are so many people trying to access the Family Court, getting real time in front of a Judge can be a challenge. For Core Law Group’s nationally recognized trial advocates, the courtroom is a favorite place to be.
Private Judging – Private Judging is very much like courtroom litigation, but the judge is hired and paid by the parties. A private judge can be hired to resolve your entire case or to simply make a recommendation to the government judge.
Private judges provide efficiency and personal attention. You don’t have to wait in the public line to talk to the Judge, and the Judge will have the time to look at the specific facts and evidence of your case. But the Parties need to pay the private judges in addition to their attorneys.
For high asset or high conflict cases that could take two years or more to resolve, private judging can save time and money. Core Law Group can help you select a private judge and craft a presentation that will take advantage of this intimate setting.
Mediation and Settlement– Mediation and settlement require compromise. Core Law Group can act as your mediator (a third-party neutral that listens to both sides and helps parties reach agreements without involving a Judge) or Core Law Group can represent you at a mediation/settlement conference (a negotiation meeting between the parties and their attorneys).
Mediation and settlement are the most cost-effective and time efficient ways to resolve cases. Core Law Group specializes in finding creative solutions that don’t disregard what is most important to each side.
Timing and Cost – The most common questions asked about any legal battle are (1) how long will this take? and (2) how much will it cost? The answer to both questions is - It depends.
For California Divorces, the case will last a minimum of 6 months. The California Legislature created a mandatory 6 month waiting period. For those who have heard the rumor about the 'One-day Divorce', we're sorry to say it's a myth. Even if you get a full agreement done in one day, you still have to wait 6 months from the start of the case to be divorced.
Regardless of the type of case, the length and cost will depend on the people involved. If two sides work together and reach agreements, the case is quick and comparatively inexpensive. If the two sides cannot agree, it is going to take time and hurt everyone's wallet. Core Law Group's rule of thumb for hostile cases is 8 to 18 months at a rate of $1,000 per month per side, but there are circumstances where the Court will reduce costs or require one side to pay the other's costs. We can provide estimates and suggestions for managing costs when we learn about your case at an in-person consultation.
Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Core Law Group work with clients to find the dispute resolution path that works best for them. Schedule an in-person meeting and see our individualized approach first hand. Meet with us, discuss your situation, your needs, and your priorities.
Premarital & Post-Marital Agreements
Premarital and Post-marital Agreements are contracts between spouses. They outline how money and property will be handled before, during, and after a marriage (whether divorce or death). Premarital Agreements (‘Pre-Nuptial’ Agreements) are reached and signed before a marriage. Post-marital Agreements are reached and signed after two people get married, but before a divorce case is started.
Agreements reached after a divorce case starts are called Marital Settlement Agreements and are not covered by this section. Contact Core Law Group for information about settling your divorce case.
Benefits of the Agreements
Premarital and Post-Marital agreements can offer peace of mind, clarity, and security. They make handling finances predictable. In the event of a divorce, they can also save time and money by avoiding court litigation.
What Kinds of Agreements Can be Reached?
Premarital and Post-marital agreements can identify the couple’s property (assets, money, businesses, and debt) and whether it belongs to one or both spouses. They can determine what financial information spouses are required to disclose during their marriage. They can help determine what one spouse will receive if the other dies.
In California, agreements cannot punish spouses for infidelity or other legal conduct. Agreements cannot encourage divorce or provide compensation for marital services/companionship. Agreements cannot address child custody or how children will be raised in the event of divorce. There are also limitations on agreements regarding spousal support and child support.
Will the Court Follow the Agreement?
Whether a Court will follow a Premarital or Post-marital Agreement will depend on timing, thoroughness, transparency, and fairness of the agreement.
These agreements have to be in writing, and they have to be signed. The language should be clear and specific.
A premarital agreement should be prepared and signed weeks or months before the wedding; sign it too close to the wedding, and the Court may not enforce it. No matter when any agreement is signed, both parties must have plenty of time to review it and have the opportunity to consult independent attorneys.
Both parties should completely and accurately disclose their financial situations before signing these agreements. Hiding assets, debts, or other financial circumstances is not wise.
The agreement cannot be one-sided and significantly more advantageous to one spouse. The agreement cannot, intentionally or unintentionally, leave one spouse incapable of caring for themselves or children of the marriage. No one can threaten, deceive, coerce, or physically force one spouse to agree. If any of these things happen, the Court may not enforce the agreement.
Contact Core Law Group About Your Marital Agreement
Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Core Law Group will work with you to determine whether a marital agreement is in your best interests and whether it will hold up in the eyes of the law. Schedule an in-person meeting and see our individualized approach first hand. Meet with us, discuss your situation, your needs, and your priorities.
Paternity & Parentage
Most people assume children have two parents. That is not always the case. Depending on who provided the biological material, who signed the birth certificate, who cares for the child, and how involved all of these individuals are in the child’s life – the child may only have one parent; the child may have 3 or more parents; the child’s parents might have various sexes and genders.
Being a parent comes with rights and obligations. Parents have the right to see and spend time with their children. They have the right to make legal decisions for their children. They have the right to access medical and educational information. They also have an obligation to provide financial support. Having a court order identifying a child’s parents helps enforce these rights.
Timing Is Everything
Whether the law considers someone a parent is heavily dependent on the amount of time that has gone by since that person interacted with the child. For example, if you signed a birth certificate and discover you might not be the biological father, you usually have two years from signing the birth certificate to bring that to the Court’s attention. On the other end of the spectrum, if you have not seen your child regularly for more than a year, the Court could determine you abandoned the child and terminate your parental rights.
Contact Core Law Group About Your Paternity Case
Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. If you are interested in exploring your status or someone else’s status as a parent, do not delay. Contact Core Law Group to speak with an attorney and schedule an in-person consultation.
Custody & Visitation
Custody and visitation battles are the most challenging and emotional parts of Family Law cases. They involve when parents see their children, when extended family see the children, who makes decisions for the children, where the children live, keep children safe, and how parents interact with each other.
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody
Parents looking to resolve custody issues must learn the difference between Physical Custody and Legal custody.
Legal Custody: Legal custody refers to parents’ ability to make legal decisions for their children—school selection, medical treatment, religious practice, etc. Court’s generally prefer parents to work together to make these decisions (‘Joint Legal Custody’). However, there are some circumstances where the Court will give one parent tie-breaking authority (‘Final Decision Making Power’) or simply allow one parent to make all the decisions (‘Sole Legal Custody’).
Physical Custody: Physical Custody identifies which parents are responsible for a child’s physical care. Parents can be equally responsible and spend approximately equal time with the child (‘Joint Physical Custody’). The Court can also make one parent responsible for the child’s physical care most of the time (‘Primary Physical Custody’) while the other parent has less frequent time with the child (‘Visitation’).
The are a lot of different parenting plans the Court can employ. In one case, a Court may order that the parents have Joint Legal Custody (make all decisions together), but divide Physical Custody and Visitation so that one parent only sees the child on weekends. In another case, the Court may award one parent Sole Legal Custody (making all the decisions), but equally split the physical time the child spends with each parent.
Custody Laws in California
The California Legislature believes (1) children should have ‘frequent and continuing contact’ with both parents and (2) both parents should share in the rights and responsibilities related to their children. Those goals mean California’s laws and California’s judges will always work toward parents equally sharing the time with and decisions for their children.
However, equal time and decision-making power are goals, not rules. The Court cannot automatically order Joint Legal and Physical Custody in every case. Instead, the Court must look at each individual case and determine whether those goals are in the children’s best interests. The Court will focus on what it believes is best for the child over the specific desires of the parents.
If a child is particularly young or has not had the opportunity to get to know one parent, the Court could use a slow progression toward equal time and decision-making power. If one parent tries to turn a child against the other parent or refuses to involve the other parent in the child’s life, the Court may adjust the parenting time to try and lessen the negative influences. If one parent has a drug/alcohol problem, has been convicted of a violent crime, has physically endangered the child, or has committed domestic violence, the Court may ask that parent to do significant work on themselves and their parenting before increasing time with the child. The Court can also order parents and children to work with counselors, psychologists, and parenting time supervisors, if the Court believes it will help the children.
Modifying a Custody Order
All child custody orders can be modified. The question is whether the parent has the right evidence to support the modification.
Temporary Child Custody Orders (meant to be in place while the case is being litigated) and Visitation orders can be changed if the change is in the child’s best interest. A Permanent Custody Order (made at the end of the case) for Legal or Physical Custody can only be changed if one parent can prove (1) the circumstances have significantly changes since the permanent order and (2) the change is in the child’s best interest.
Contact Core Law Group About Your Custody Case
Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Core Law Group seeks to understand the specific dynamics of your children, you, and your family. The intimate knowledge allows us to show Judges what you and your children really need. Because what matters in Court is what you can prove, Core Law Group will also work with you to identify and collect the evidence that will prove the best interests of your child. Contact Core Law Group to speak with an attorney and schedule an in-person consultation.
Do Not Wait To Get Help
Your safety is most important. If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 911. Remove yourself from the situation, go to the police, or have someone contact the police for you.
If you want a restraining order, document evidence is very helpful. If it is safe, make an official report to the police with a report number. Tell the police about the abuse you suffered. Take pictures of any injuries.
No one should have to suffer physical, emotional, or mental abuse. Partners and children should not live in fear for their safety; and no one should have their family, work, and social lives destroyed by false domestic violence allegations.
California Law recognizes all manner of domestic violence – not just physical bodily harm. It also instructs California courts to resolve domestic violence allegations faster than other cases. A Judge’s finding that someone has committed domestic violence has broad ranging consequences – it affects jobs, living arrangements, spousal support, child custody, criminal charges, and immigration status. The serious attitude Courts take with domestic violence makes the laws a vital tool for protecting victims. It also creates strategic advantages for parents and spouses in custody and divorce cases.
More than 25% of Core Law Group’s Family Law cases involve domestic violence. Our attorneys have the courtroom skills, Family Law experience, and Criminal Law experience to guide you through the restraining order process.
How Restraining Orders Work
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders are restraining orders put in place by the Family Law system to protect people in intimate and family relationships. Though the criminal justice system is not involved in Family Law Domestic Violence Restraining Orders, the Family Law orders often alert criminal investigators and criminal prosecutors to potential criminal cases.
There are four types of Family Court Domestic Violence Restraining Orders:
Emergency Protective Order (“EPO”): This order is issued by the police department in cases where the victim may be in so much danger that he or she may not make it to the Courthouse. These orders generally last 3 to 5 days.
Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”): A Temporary Restraining Order is an order issued by a Judge. It can be issued based on the alleged victim’s side of the story alone. Its purpose is to provide immediate, temporary protection until the Court can hold a full hearing. It lasts for a period of 15-20 days or until the hearing for a more Permanent restraining order. In can protect the victim, friends, and family.
Domestic Violence Restraining Order (“DVRO”): A Domestic Violence Restraining Order is issued after a court hearing where both sides have the opportunity to present evidence and where a Judge decides domestic violence took place. It can last for up to 5 years and can protect the victim, friends, and family. It is registered in a nationwide database and may can appear on some background checks. A DVRO can also affect a Court’s spousal support and child custody decisions.
Renewed Restraining Order: A Renewed Restraining Order is issued after a DVRO expires. The victim has to prove he or she still has a reasonable fear of the aggressor. A Renewed Restraining Order can last either for 5 years or for the victim’s lifetime.
Victims of domestic violence can’t and shouldn’t work with just any attorney. You need an attorney who can support you legally and emotionally, who will work with you to progress your case in a way you are comfortable with, and who can advocate for you in both Family Law and Criminal Court.
Core Law Group’s attorneys use their trial experience to advocate for their client’s in Court, to procure restraining orders, and to ask that aggressors pay attorneys’ fees. They also work closely with clients to ensure their well-being outside the courtroom. Core Law Group’s relationships with domestic violence shelters, counselors, law enforcement, the District Attorneys, and the Criminal Victim Advocate’s office come together to ensure every client has the professional and emotional safeguards he or she needs.
It is, unfortunately, common for parents and spouses to make false accusations of domestic violence in an attempt to gain a strategic advantage in Family Law cases. Domestic violence changes the way the Court decides child custody and spousal support in favor of the victim. It gives the victim an opportunity to get control of a home. It can hinder the alleged aggressor’s ability to get a job, keep a job, and possess firearms. If the accusation is picked up by a criminal court, the alleged aggressor could face criminal penalties on top of the Family Law consequences.
If you are accused of domestic violence, it is important to remember that you can fight the restraining order.
The consequences for a false allegation are significant. If a Judge thinks a domestic violence allegation is false, it can fine the individual who made the false allegation and issue a Court order that the individual is not credible. Even if the Judge grants the restraining order, the restrained party can work to have it removed or modified. Taking self-help classes (anger management, parenting, and mental health counseling), submitting to drug and alcohol testing, or finding facts that could not possibly have been presented to the Court during the original hearing can help address the restraining order.
Hiring an experienced attorney to fight your Domestic Violence Restraining Order is extremely important. Core Law Group understands how Court’s evaluate domestic violence and has the courtroom experience to present your case effectively.
Contact Core Law Group About Your Domestic Violence Case
In Court, ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters what you can prove!’ Core Law Group will work with you to identify and collect the evidence we need to present to the Court. Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Contact Core Law Group to speak with an attorney and schedule an in-person consultation.
Child support is routine payments made from one parent to the other for the purpose of providing for a child. Determining the appropriate amount of child support can be emotionally and fiscally difficult. One parent might question the other’s true income or how much money the child actually needs.
At Core Law Group, our attorneys utilize their experience and skills to help clients negotiate a proper amount of support or, when necessary, litigate the amount in court.
Parents' Duty to Support Children
Any person legally found to be a parents has a legal duty to financially support his/her children. That duty generally lasts until the child reaches the age of 18, or graduates high school, whichever is later.
How is the Amount of Child Support Determined?
Child support is determined by a mathematical formula. The formula includes many factors—both parents’ income, the number of children, the cost of health insurance, the amount of time the children spend with each parent, etc.
The attorneys at Core Law Group have a comprehensive understanding of the factors necessary to ensure that the amount of child support accurately reflects the true income and expenses of the parents. We will thoroughly investigate the income of the opposing party. We will ensure the Court is aware of the financial effect paying support has on our client. In short, we will protect your interests to make sure that your children are cared for at the appropriate financial level.
Modifying Child Support Orders
While past income is often the best predictor of future income, it does not always predict the economic future. A parent may lose a job or a child may have unexpected (and costly) health issues. If one parent can establish a substantial change in circumstances, child support can be modified.
Contact Core Law Group About Your Child Support Case
In Court, ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters what you can prove!’ Core Law Group will work with you to identify and collect the evidence necessary for your child support order. Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Contact Core Law Group to speak with an attorney and schedule an in-person consultation.
Spousal support is reoccurring monetary payments made from one spouse to another. Many refer to it as ‘alimony.’
The goal of spousal support is to ensure both spouses maintain the standard of living to which the family had become accustomed during the marriage. However, splitting two household into one often has financial consequences, and both spouses are expected to make genuine efforts to support themselves. Thus, the amount of spousal support will vary from case to case depending on the specific financial circumstances of each party, each party’s ability and opportunity to work, the length of the marriage, and the amount of money the parties made during their marriage.
At Core Law Group, our attorneys utilize their experience and skills to help clients negotiate a proper amount of support or, when necessary, litigate the amount in court.
How is Spousal Support Calculated?
Like child support, spousal support can be calculated using a mathematical formula as a base line. The formula considers each party’s income, tax filing status, tax deductions, and a series of other income deductions. One formula is used for temporary order (orders put in place while a divorce case is pending). A different formula is used for final order that is put in place at the end of a divorce. Generally, the formula for temporary support results in a higher amount than the formula for final support.
For temporary support, the Court is required to look at the formula. Once the Court has the formula calculation, the Court has the ability to increase or decrease spousal support based on circumstances of the Parties marriage and separation.
For permanent spousal support, the Court can reference the formula, but is required to rely primarily on the circumstances of the Parties marriage and separation. Those circumstances include the amount of money the parties made during their marriage, the length of the marriage, whether both parties worked during the marriage, whether one party contributed to the other’s education, the age and health of the parties, each party’s marketable skills and opportunity to earn income, whether each party is making good faith efforts to support themselves, the needs of dependent children, tax consequences, whether one one party committed domestic violence against the other, and each party’s income, assets, and expenses.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last?
In marriages that lasted less than 10 years, the law expects the spouse receiving support to become self-supporting within half the length of the marriage. Once half the length of the marriage has passed, the Court can stop requiring one spouse to pay support. However, if one spouse faces extraordinary hardship without support, the Court can continue spousal support to alleviate that hardship.
In marriages of more than 10 years, the law assumes one spouse will support the other until the supported spouse remarries or until one of the spouse dies. However, where the supported spouse refuses to make good faith efforts to support themselves, the Court can reduce or eliminate spousal support.
Modifying Spousal Support Orders
All spousal support orders can be modified. The question is whether the spouse has the right evidence to support the modification. Support orders can be changed if one party can prove a significant change in one of the factors the Court considered when it made the support order.
Contact Core Law Group About Your Spousal Support Case
In Court, ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters what you can prove!’ Core Law Group will work with you to identify and collect the evidence necessary for your spousal support order. Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Contact Core Law Group to speak with an attorney and schedule an in-person consultation.
Property Characterization & Division
Overview - Separate vs. Community Property
The Court will divide spouses' property as part of a divorce. In California, the general rule is that anything acquired during the marriage with funds earned during the marriage is “community property.” It gets split in half during the divorce. Unless there is a written premarital or post-marital agreement, this equal split will apply even if the property is only in one spouse’s name and even if one spouse did not contribute to the acquisition.
Assets and debts that are acquired with money earned before a marriage, with money earned after a marriage, with inheritance, or with a gift to one spouse will generally be “separate property” belonging to one spouse.
Challenges in Property Division
There are two major factors that complicate property division – (1) determining when a marriage ends and (2) tracing the source of funds used to purchase property.
Property acquired after a marriage ends with funds earned after a marriage end is Separate Property. When a marriage ends depends on when a couple physically stops living together, when one spouse announces to the other the marriage is over, and when the couple objectively stops acting married. A court will consider all of these factors and all the circumstances of the relationship to decide when the marriage ended.
Money earned during a marriage is called 'community funds.' Money outside the marriage, by inheritance, or by gift to one spouse is called 'separate funds.' The type of funds used to purchase property will determine whether the property is Separate Property or Community Property. Identifying whether property came from community funds or separate funds is called “tracing.” Tracing requires meticulous records (bank statements, receipts, copies of checks, wills, loan documents, etc.). Certified family law accountants can often be helpful in reviewing and deciphering these records. Here are some examples of situations where tracing may be required:
- When one spouse received a gift or inheritance, that spouse needs documents to prove the money was not intended for both spouses.
- When separate property money is used to buy something during the marriage, one spouse has to prove the money used to make the purchase was actually separate property.
- When separate property money is mixed with community property money (perhaps in purchasing a house or in a joint bank account), the Court will split the money in half unless one spouse can prove exactly how much was separate property and where it went.
Whether a business is community property, separate property, or both will depend on when the business was started, the source of the funds used to support it, and whether both spouses contributed to the business. The contributions that can make a business community property can be community property funds, both spouse’s work at or for the business, or one spouse’s moral or logistical support in the marriage that allowed the business’s value to increase.
Certified family law accountants are often helpful in identifying whether and how much of a business is community property.
Personal Injury Settlements
Where one spouse is physically injured during the marriage and receives money as a result of that injury, the injured spouse will usually receive the monetary award so long as the award is not hopelessly mixed with other community property.
Duty of Loyalty, Honesty, and Disclosure to Your Spouse
Most people don’t realize the law sees their spouse and as their business partner in life. Spouses have the same financial responsibilities to each other as business partners. These responsibilities are called ‘fiduciary duties.’ Spouses have fiduciary duties to each other during marriage and during a divorce case.
Spouses are legally obligated to act in the financial best interests of their marriage before they act in their personal financial interests. Spouses have a legal obligation to inform each other of their finances and financial health. Spouses are legally required to consult each other before making huge financial decisions about marital property and finances.
If one spouse breached his or her fiduciary duties, the Court could impose fines or refuse to award that spouse portions of the community property.
Contact Core Law Group About Your Property Division
In Court, ‘it doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters what you can prove!’ Core Law Group will work with you to identify and collect the evidence necessary to protect your money and property. Please keep in mind that this page is not legal advice for you or your case. Contact Core Law Group to speak with an attorney and schedule an in-person consultation.