Family Law includes a range of issues specific to the rights and obligations of spouses and children, and DP Legal Services assists many Bay Area families with the following matters:
- Divorce, Legal Separation
- Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship
- Joinders of Retirement Plans & QDRO
- Child Custody/Visitation
- Child Support
- Spousal Support
For many people, Family Law is synonymous with Divorce for a reason; while the number has stabilized, an estimated 50% of U.S. marriages end in Divorce.
There is a misperception that if a couple is contemplating Divorce, they need to hire attorneys. If the couple cannot come to an agreement on division of property or a parenting plan, then they do, indeed, need to hire attorneys to represent each spouse. If, however, they can work out a way to equitably divide property and reach agreement on how they will share the responsibility for raising their children, this is an uncontested Divorce, and a couple will save a significant amount of money by working with DP Legal Solutions.
The Divorce process begins with a meeting in our offices to explain the Divorce process and how we work with our clients. While unraveling a relationship can seem overwhelming, Divorce is actually a very methodical process. Our Family Law Specialists are compassionate and knowledgeable, available by phone and email throughout the process to answer questions that help keep the process moving forward.
Fill out one of our attorney-approved workbooks
Our process involves our clients’ filling out our attorney-approved workbooks with their account and financial information. Many of our clients take our workbooks home where they have access to account information. In those cases where there are complex financials, it may require consulting with a financial adviser to help identify an equitable solution for the family.
Couples also need to give careful thought to a parenting plan, the more detailed the better, making an effort to maintain routines as much as possible. Remaining in the family home and going to the same school go a long way toward normalizing a new family situation for the children of divorce.
Once the workbook is completed, we prepare the legal documents for client signature, notarize and file them with the court. In California, it takes six months and one day for a Divorce to be final.
ADDITIONAL FAMILY LAW MATTERS
A Legal Separation is for those couples whose marriage troubled, yet they are not ready to completely sever their relationship with a Divorce. In a Legal Separation, a court order mandates the rights and duties of a couple that is still married, but living apart. Just as with a Divorce, a Legal Separation requires division of property and development of a parenting plan. If a couple decides to go through with a Divorce, they must start from the beginning with a new case. Circumstances change, and one or both spouses may be making more—or less—money, which affects the mutual property that needs to be divided. It will likely also affect custody and the parenting plan.
Petitions to Establish a Parental Relationship
Establishing a parentage case begins with filing a Petition to Establish a Parental Relationship with the court. Once you pay a filing fee and serve the other parent, that respondent has 30 days from the date he/she was served to file a response with the court. The next steps will vary depending on whether the respondent responds.
With an open court case, you can ask for court orders for custody, visitation, or child support. A parenting case quickly becomes complicated if child support and child custody are part of the arrangement. We assist our clients with this process, including preparation of legal documents and filing with the court.
Joinders of Retirement Plans and QDROs
The courts split retirement plans and pensions between divorcing spouses in the same way they divide any other property.
- Retirement plans require an additional process, commonly referred to as the Joinder of Retirement Plan, in order for a retirement to be legally divided.
- A qualified domestic relations order (QDRO), is a judicial order that is part of a property division in a divorce or legal separation that splits a retirement or pension plan by recognizing joint marital ownership interests in the plan—specifically, the former spouse’s interest in that spouse’s share of the asset.
In California, either parent can have custody of the children, or the parents can share custody, known as Joint Custody. If parents have Joint Custody, they are collectively making decisions about the wellbeing of their child—his/her education, healthcare, recreation, travel, etc. In cases of Joint Custody, the child generally lives with both parents. In sole or primary custody cases, children live with one parent most of the time, with visits to the other parent.
The judge makes the final decision about custody and visitation but will generally approve a parenting plan on which both parents agree. If they cannot agree, the judge makes a decision at a court hearing.
As part of our Divorce process, couples develop parenting plans, but circumstances change, and it is not unusual that it becomes necessary to revisit that parenting plan.
Child support may be one of the most highly contested family law matters we see. In many cases, when a couple divorces, they reach an equitable arrangement for child support.
Changing circumstances can alter the financial landscape
Consider a situation where one spouse makes partner at his/her law firm and is now making significantly more money. Circumstances can leave people with less money as well—loss of a job and inability to find another position with comparable compensation. Renegotiation of child support may be necessary in each of these cases. Child support payments are generally made until children turn 18, or 19, if they are still in high school full-time, living at home, and cannot support themselves. The Court may also order that both parents continue to support a disabled adult child who is not self-supporting.