Family law is a broad topic that encompasses all matters that touch on family relationships. This includes nuptial agreements, divorce, adoption, child custody, child support, alimony, and domestic violence, just to mention a few. If you are dealing with any legal familial matter in San Diego, CA, a family law specialist can represent you in a family court and help you achieve an outcome that is in your best interests. At San Diego Divorce Attorney, we can provide just the assistance you need with any process, including drafting property agreements, emancipation, paternity, and enforcing child support, among other issues.
When dealing with family law matters, you cannot afford to lose. Irrespective of whether you want to adopt a child or end a marriage, much is at stake, and you want to ensure that your matter comes to the best possible conclusion. It remains imperative to work with a skilled family lawyer because family law issues often intersect with other legal practices. For instance, matters of child abuse or domestic violence often involve criminal investigations.
An Overview of Common Family Law Areas of Practice in California
Family Law is arguably the most diverse and complex area of the law. Emotions often run high because issues involve people with whom you share a close relationship. We handle just about every conceivable field of family law, and the below is merely an overview of our most common practice areas.
Marriage Law(California Family Code Sections 300-310)
A few aspects must be satisfied to enter into a legal marriage in California. Both parties involved must:
- Be of appropriate age (at least 18 years old)
- Consent to the union
- Be of sound mind
If the above aspects are satisfied, couples can obtain their marriage license. This document is available at the county clerk, and it is valid for 90. You have this much time to plan your wedding and sign the marriage certificate. The next step is to return the signed certificate to the county clerk's office within ten days following the wedding ceremony.
Nuptial Agreements (California Family Code section 1615)
There are two types of marital agreements: prenuptial contracts (prenups) and postnuptial contracts. While the first agreement is drafted and signed before marriage, the second is created during the union.
California is a community property state, and a marital agreement enables you to opt-out of these laws. Before drafting or signing any contract, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who can ensure that your best interests are well represented.
Nuptial agreements are deemed valid as long as they are on paper and signed by both spouses. However, they can still be challenged in court. While there is no guarantee that the document will hold up and serve its purpose, you have better chances of creating a solid contract if you have it drafted by a skilled attorney.
You must satisfy certain aspects for the courts to enforce a marital agreement. Both parties must:
- Enter into the agreement voluntarily.
- Have a complete understanding and full knowledge of the terms of a contract
- Be fair to each other in terms of the agreement and avoid being one-sided
Divorce (California Family Code Section 2300)
Before filing a divorce petition, it is crucial to understand that California is a ‘no-fault’ state. You don’t need to point out issues like abandonment or infidelity for the courts to grant a divorce. As long as couples have “irreconcilable differences,” the courts can consider your petition, allowing you to begin the divorce process.
In California, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period imposed by the law during divorce cases. You can only sign your divorce decree once this time has elapsed after filing your petition. It is also crucial to understand that divorce in California is not a cheap affair, especially when dealing with highly combative cases.
We can provide the legal counsel and representation you need during a divorce. Our skilled team specializes in different cases, including legal separation, executive divorce, law enforcement divorce, collaborative divorce, uncontested divorce, high asset divorce, and military divorce.
Child Support and Alimony (California Family Code sections 4050-4076/Code Section 4320)
California Family Code sections 4050—4076 define the child support obligations of the non-custodial parent. However, the courts have leeway to deviate from these laws based on the case’s specifics. This makes it imperative to seek reliable legal assistance when dealing with child support disputes. A skilled attorney can help ensure that your issue is resolved favorably.
It is also possible for a California family court to award spousal support (alimony) to one spouse. Some of the aspects considered when setting alimony include but are not limited to:
- The earnings of either spouse
- The length of a marriage
- Standard of living established during the marriage
- The health and age of either party
Child Custody and Visitation (California Family Code Section 3400, 3000)
If a marriage is blessed with children, the divorcing couples must also decide who enjoys physical custody of the kids. There is the option of one spouse enjoying the sole custody of the children or both spouses enjoying joint custody. The courts decide on child custody and visitation matters based on the kids’ best interests.
We can help you fight for the child custody of your kids. Other areas where we can lend a hand include child relocation, parental visitation rights, and child custody modification. In most cases, we simply need to ensure the courts see that your best interests are aligned with those of your kids.
Here are a few factors that the courts consider when deciding on child custody and visitation:
- A kid’s age
- The ability of a child to choose or express their preference
- How close a child is to either parent or other parties crucial to their welfare
- The probability of either parent cooperating in providing decent childcare
- Either parent’s history of domestic violence
- The safety and stability of the living arrangements proposed by either parent
- The expected impact on a child if one parent enjoys sole custody
- Either parent’s drive to provide a child with proper guidance, love, and affection
Each parent, irrespective of their financial status, has parental rights. In case of issues of concern such as a history of domestic abuse, the courts may decide to give one parent the sole custody of the kids. In this case, the other parent is entitled to visitation rights.
Some situations may warrant child custody and visitation modifications. They include:
- If one parent relocates to a distant location
- If the kid’s health, educational or extra-curricular needs evolve over time
- If the financial status or abilities of one parent changes
Property and Debt Division (California Family Code Section 2500)
California’s community property laws stipulate that each spouse owns half the assets and debts acquired during the marriage. When high-value assets or debts are acquired throughout the marriage, dividing them among the parties can be problematic without professional intervention.
Any inheritance or gifts are considered separate property. Likewise, the law allows you to keep all assets you acquired before your union. While it is perfectly okay for divorcing couples to decide how to divide their assets and debts, the courts may intervene if they fail to find common grounds during negotiations.
Without nuptial agreements, property and debt division issues can become highly contentious. This makes it imperative to seek legal assistance and protect your financial future. We have a team of skilled experts, including property appraisers and forensic accountants, who can help ensure you don’t end up with an unfair deal after settlement. You can also depend on us to fight nuptial agreements that don’t work in your favor.
Child Adoption (California Family Code Section 8500-9340)
California’s adoption process is complex and daunting. While most people seeking to adopt a child have all the right intentions, convincing the courts of your pure motives is never a simple affair. There are strict state laws that define who can adopt and seek the adoptee’s consent.
In California, adoptive parents must be not less than ten years older than an adoptee. This is unless they are related to the kid and are their stepparent, sibling, uncle, or aunt. The laws also require the child to be adopted to consent if they are 12 years or older.
It is legal for any married couple or single adult to adopt a child in California. Stepparents can also legally adopt their stepchildren to give them a sense of belonging. Moreover, gay couples are also eligible to adopt within the state.
The adoption process is often complicated because judges must consider the best interests of a child. Seeking the help of an experienced adoption lawyer can increase your chances of enjoying a quick and less problematical adoption process.
Same-Sex Marriage and Domestic Partnerships (California Family Code Section 297)
In 2013, California made it legal for gay couples to marry within the state. On June 16th, 2008, the state issued its first marriage license to a gay couple.
There have been numerous controversies about same-sex marriages in the state. In November 2008, voters passed an amendment (Proposition 8) that only allowed opposite-sex marriages. Those married between June 16th and November maintained the validity of their unions.
In 2010, Proposition 8 was ruled unconstitutional by Judge Vaughn Walker. This amendment was seen to violate equal protection clauses. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriages in California in 2013. Since then, same-sex couples have gained most of the rights enjoyed by regular married couples. This includes tax relief, state spousal benefits such as workers compensation and spousal testimonial privilege, and authority to make medical decisions in emergencies.
The current laws state that domestic partners are two adults who have decided to share each other’s lives in a committed and intimate relationship of mutual caring. This definition applies to both heterosexual and gay couples.
To qualify as domestic partners, both parties must:
- Be of legal age (at least 18 years or older)
- File a Declaration of Domestic Partnership"
- Share a common residence
- Not be married or in a domestic partnership with someone else
- Not be related (have blood ties that suggest incest)
- Consent to the domestic partnership
If you need assistance with same-sex marriage or domestic partnerships, give us a call for a free and confidential consultation.
Paternity (California Family Code Section 7611)
Paternity is the legal process of establishing the identity of a kid's father. Merely because a man’s name appears on a kid’s birth certificate does not make him the actual father. Cases where a mother pushes parental responsibilities to whomever she deems most appropriate for the task are not new.
There are two main types of paternity. They include voluntarily assumed paternity and involuntary paternity. Here are circumstances where paternity can be voluntarily assumed:
- A child is born to married couples.
- A child is born to unmarried couples who later marry and sign legitimation forms.
- A child is born to unmarried couples who don’t marry, but the father signs a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity.
- A father tries to marry the mother after the child is conceived or born.
- A father marries the mother once the child is born and supports the child or has his name added to the child’s birth certificate.
- A father takes responsibility for the child and welcomes him/ her to his home.
- A father and child maintain a close relationship, and the courts grant the father custody rights.
Sometimes, paternity is established using means that don’t involve blood or DNA tests. Through voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, a father can maintain his rights over a child. However, these rights may be shifted to someone else who makes an effort to become a child’s legally presumed father.
So, when does involuntary paternity apply?
Involuntary paternity is when a mother or the state files a paternity lawsuit against the alleged father of a child. In such a case, the alleged father must appear in court and possibly agree to DNA testing. If paternity is confirmed, the courts will order the father to provide child support.
By establishing the paternity of your child, you can force a father to take up his legal obligations. This includes paying child support to ensure the welfare of your little one. Like matters of child custody and support, issues around paternity are often contentious, making it crucial to work with a seasoned family law attorney.
Emancipation (California Family Code Section 7000)
California laws task parents to ensure that the basic needs of their kids are provided. This includes food, clothing, shelter, and education. Legally, a parent is only obligated to cater to these needs until a child reaches the "age of majority"—typically 18 years.
The emancipation process allows a minor (child below 18 years) to assume adult responsibilities and ensure their welfare legally. This frees their parents from their duties of care, allowing a child to enjoy the responsibilities, privileges, and rights of adulthood before they reach the age of majority."
The courts consider numerous factors before granting emancipation. This includes the ability of minors to ensure their welfare without any external financial support and their maturity levels. Again, the courts must rule in the child’s best interests and either grant or deny emancipation.
In California, any minor with the minimum age of 14 can petition the courts for emancipation. This process is often a lifesaver for minors making substantial personal income, such as child actors. By enjoying adulthood’s rights, duties, and privileges, they can protect their income from greedy or irresponsible parents.
Some of the benefits of emancipation include:
- Ability to enter into agreements, including rental and lease contracts
- Ability to sue
- Authority to sign up in your school of choice
- Power to keep and control all your income
- Power to make your own healthcare decisions
Even though the emancipation route is often not advised, it makes sense in certain circumstances. This process has numerous hurdles, making it essential to receive as much legal counsel and representation as possible.
How Can A Family Law Attorney Help?
If you have never set foot in a court before, even dealing with generally easy issues such as same-sex marriage may seem like an impossible task. Whether you want to dissolve your marriage, adopt a child or obtain a domestic violence restraining order, the bottom line is that you are dealing with a matter that touches on a vital part of your life, your family.
Family Law encompasses all legal matters that fall under the family court’s jurisdiction. Irrespective of the issue at hand, a family law attorney will have the knowledge to provide invaluable legal guidance. When you cannot afford to lose and require highly skilled legal representation, your best bet is to turn to the San Diego Divorce Attorney.
Find a San Diego Divorce Attorney Near Me
Family law issues are unique. Whether you are dealing with divorce, adoption, child support, or even emancipation, each case is unique. At the San Diego Divorce Attorney, we are dedicated to ensuring that each case receives the individual attention it merits. We will guide you through the due legal process and provide the tailored experience you deserve. Our team of attorneys understands the delicate nature of family law cases and can help shield you from stressful situations while ensuring your best interests are well protected. If you have any family law issues in San Diego, CA, contact us at 858-529-5150 for a free evaluation of your case.