Family Law Matters FAQs

Frequently asked questions about family law:

Q:What is the difference between Dissolution and Divorce?
There is no difference. The terms Divorce and Dissolution mean the same thing.
Q:How long does it take to get divorced?
In California, divorce takes a minimum of six months. This means that the earliest a Judgment for Divorce can be obtained is six months after the date the Divorce was filed.
Q:Can one party obtain a divorce if the other party does not consent?
Yes. The mere allegation by one party that “irreconcilable differences” has arisen is adequate grounds for dissolution. Therefore, consent of the other spouse is not necessary to obtain a divorce in California.
Q:How long does it take to receive child or spousal support?
Since a dissolution proceeding takes at least six months to complete, the Court has the jurisdiction to make temporary orders. Thus, once a party has filed for dissolution, they can immediately request a hearing whereby the Court has the ability to order the payment of child and spousal support, custody, visitation and various other special orders necessitated by the circumstances of the parties. The hearing date will generally be set 30 to 45 days after the request is made. However, in special circumstances the Court will allow an exigent matter to be heard in as little as 48 hours.
Q:If I file for divorce, who decides who gets custody of the children?
The parties have the ability to reach their own agreement and enter into a “stipulation” regarding the custody and visitation of the parties’ minor children. If the parties cannot agree, either party can request a hearing whereby the Court will decide the custody and visitation arrangement. However, when a hearing date is issued for custody or visitation, an additional date will also be calendared requiring the parties to attend mediation with Family Court Services. This mediation will occur before the date of the custody and visitation hearing. The purpose of the mediation is to assist the parties in reaching an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached in the mediation, the mediator will submit a recommendation to the Court. The Court will then take the mediator’s recommendation into consideration at the hearing.
Q:What is the difference between Community Property and Separate Property? Isn’t everything Community Property when you are married?
Generally, Separate Property is property obtained before marriage and after the parties’ date of separation (not divorce). Conversely, Community Property is all property obtained after marriage and prior to the date of separation with the exception of property obtained by gift, devise or bequest. Thus, income earned (not received) after the date of separation is the Separate Property of the party who earned it. Also, issues arise when Separate Property and Community Property are mixed. The mixing, or commingling, of Separate and Community Property requires a case by case analysis to determine the final nature of the property in question.
Q:Do we have to go to Court to get divorced? Can’t we go to mediation instead?
A Divorce can only be obtained from the appropriate Family Law Court. However, mediation is an excellent forum for reaching a partial or complete agreement on the issues relating to the Divorce. Thus, the parties are free to enlist the services of a mediator and to then enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). Generally, the Court will adopt the MSA. However, if the terms of the MSA appear to be inherently unfair, suspect, or questionable, the Court may require the parties to appear in Court in order to ascertain from the parties that the MSA was entered into voluntarily and free from undue duress or overreaching of one of the parties.
Q:Can I stop paying child support when my child turns 18?
That depends. The duty to support an unmarried child who is 18 years of age, is a full-time high school student, and who is not self-supporting, continues until the child completes the 12th grade or attains the age of 19 years, whichever occurs first. If the child is emancipated, married, or has graduated high school and is 18, the obligation to pay child support can be terminated.
Q:What is a summary dissolution?
A Summary Dissolution is a proceeding whereby the parties do not go to Court and are not represented by an attorney. It is available to couples that meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Married for five (5) years or less;
  2. There are no children;
  3. Neither party owns a home or other real estate;
  4. The value of Community Property is less than $25,000.00;
  5. There are no unpaid obligations in excess of $4,000.00; and,
  6. Each party waives spousal support

Both parties must agree to all of the terms of the Summary Dissolution. Also, either party can cancel it at any time before the dissolution is final.

Q:What if the parties are not married but they have a child?
The Family Law Court has jurisdiction to make orders involving child support, custody, visitation and others even if the parties are not married.