At the Law Office of Derek J. King, we understand that this is possibly the most trying and painful time of your life. For that reason, we offer family law legal services with dignity and respect, paying attention not only to your legal needs, but to you as a person as well.
Most family law cases begin with what is called a “Petition,” whether the case is concerned with divorce, separation, parentage, custody, support, or guardianship. After the Petition is filed with the Court, it is normally personally served upon the other party. From there, the other party to the case usually has 30 days to respond by filing an opposing legal document called a “Response.” The person who initiates the case is called the “Petitioner” and the person who responds is named the “Respondent,” similar to “Plaintiffs” and “Defendants” in civil cases. Bear in mind that divorce cases are essentially lawsuits; most dissolutions involve orders for financial support, property, and debt division. If no Response is filed after 30 days from the time the Petition was served on the Respondent, the Petitioner may obtain a final judgment from the Court by way of default if the proper paperwork is filed.
Divorce cases usually involve some, if not all, of the following issues; child custody and child support, spousal support, property division, and domestic violence restraining orders. These cases may be resolved through mutual agreement, but often the parties may have to present their case in front of a judge in order to achieve a fair and just result if they themselves cannot agree on how to settle matters. Therefore, it is crucial to know what rights you have under the law with respect to custody, support, property division, and the prevention of future domestic violence. Typically, a court date called a Request for Order may be filed at the outset of a family law case if the parties cannot resolve their differences. In cases involving child custody, a mediation date may be set beforehand in an attempt to decide what type of custody arrangement should be made. If no resolution can be achieved after mediation and the Request for Order, the case may have to be set for a trial, otherwise known as a Long Cause Hearing. This overall process typically takes months… but it could take years in a particularly complicated divorce matter.
There are no juries in family court; only a judge will ultimately make orders deciding the custody of your children, your child and spousal support obligations, and the division of your marital property. Therefore, it is essential to have an experienced attorney at your side to assist you in navigating the family law legal system and to achieve a just resolution. Family law trials may be risky and unnecessarily expensive, and no guarantees can be made as to their outcome.
It is also important to consider that the reasons for the divorce are largely inconsequential within family court. California was the first state to enact “no fault divorce,” meaning that the parties usually cite “irreconciable differences” as the reason for their divorce. Only in cases involving domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, or child neglect do the personal issues which caused the divorce become relevant. Extramarital affairs and extraneous family problems usually make no difference in California divorce actions.
Personal conduct is relevant, however, in cases concerned with child custody. The Courts make decisions based on what is best for the children; therefore if parties to a child custody dispute have significant drug, alcohol, or domestic violence issues, it will affect who has custody and/or visitation of the children.
If you are embroiled in an unpleasant marital dissolution and/or need to establish custody and visitation rights regarding your loved ones, call Derek for a limited but confidential consultation in person.
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