No Fault Divorce Do I Need Grounds for Divorce in California

No Fault Divorce: Do I Need Grounds for Divorce in California

Sarah felt it was time to end her marriage to Albert. They’d been together seven years. After the honeymoon, their relationship shifted, work tugged them apart, and they rarely spent time together any more. However, Sarah wondered if she needed grounds for divorce in California? She couldn’t just ‘dissolve’ their marriage without some big problem like infidelity or domestic violence, right? Let’s address this question and others you may have about no-fault divorce.

Should I have a reason for filing for divorce?

The fact that you want to dissolve your marriage is a reason. It’s not necessary to make allegations of adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Instead, you simply file the papers to dissolve your marital bonds citing something like irreconcilable differences or irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

California was actually the first state to pass a no-fault divorce law in 1969. All other states now allow no-fault divorce.

What does “irreconcilable differences” mean?

Well, it’s not just a 1984 movie starring Ryan O’Neal and Drew Barrymore. You’ve probably heard the term mentioned in the news, though.

A strict legal definition of irreconcilable differences means that the two parties face obstacles to continuing their marriage. Basically, their situation has become too bad to fix.

Before no-fault divorce, the party filing for dissolution had to prove to the court that the marriage should be terminated.

Is a no-fault divorce easier to get?

Divorces take at least six months to finalize. However, the length of time it takes to resolve all issues varies greatly depending on those issues. For example, a marriage with children or extensive financial holdings may take longer than a less complex situation.

Generally, though, a no-fault divorce is less complicated than a ‘fault’ divorce. It’s not necessary to gather evidence to present to the judge who would then decide whether or not your marriage could end.

You Don’t Have to Do This Alone

It’s not necessary to prove wrongdoing to get a divorce in California. However, a spouse’s bad behavior or misconduct may affect property division, child support, child custody, and spousal support. Talk to an experienced California divorce attorney to learn more about your options.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.

Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.
Military Divorces March to the Beat of a Different Drummer

Military Divorces March to the Beat of a Different Drummer

Divorce is hard enough for most people. However, when one – or both – of the parties serve in the military, the process may feel more like a 20-mile hike with full pack than a court proceeding. While military divorces do require a few extra steps, it’s usually possible to get over any obstacles that arise.

Residency Requirements and Military Divorces

In a California divorce, at least one party must meet the following conditions regarding residency:

  • Must have lived in California for the last six months, AND
  • Must have lived in the county where you plan to file for at least the past three months.

A military divorce can be filed in California if:

  • The service member’s legal residence is California; or
  • The spouse’s legal residence is California; or
  • The military member is stationed in California.

As with any divorce, the person who wants the divorce can file for legal separation if he or she does not meet the residency requirements.

Basic Issues in a Military Divorces

Branches of the military handle certain issues differently for servicemembers than civilians. For example, a divorced spouse may be able to use base housing in some circumstances. Benefits, including health care, may still be offered to some divorced spouses. Other benefits like commissary and exchange privileges may be appropriate depending on the length of the marriage and other factors.

Divorce is a civil matter handled by civil courts. However, active duty service members may be able to stop or delay an action taken in a divorce.

A Combination of State, Federal, and Military Law

California divorce laws govern much of the divorce proceeding. However, other laws relate to military divorces:

  • Service Member’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This law protects active-duty military personnel and their families from certain legal actions. For example, permanent custody orders may not be entered against service members who are deployed or otherwise unavailable because of military service.
  • Uniform Services Former Spouse Protection Act. This law relates to the division of military retired pay. Child support and spousal support are also addressed.

All Divorces Are Not Created Equal

To get through your military divorce, find an attorney with a deep understanding of California divorce law and military divorce procedures.

To discuss how to handle military divorce issues, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

3 Debunkable Myths About California Spousal Support

3 Debunkable Myths About California Spousal Support

Myths are widely-held beliefs that are actually incorrect. Even California divorces face a few myths, especially about spousal support. Fortunately, those myths are easy to debunk using California divorce laws.

Myth #1 – All Women Receive Spousal Support

This belief is false. According to California law, the court may consider the following factors when deciding whether either party will receive spousal support:

  • Each party’s ability to earn a living.
  • Whether one party helped the other party with education, training, career opportunities, and obtaining licenses necessary for employment.
  • If the supporting party makes enough money to pay spousal support.
  • The standard of living each party enjoyed during the marriage.
  • Each party’s obligations and assets, including their separate property.
  • How long the marriage lasted.
  • Whether the supported spouse can work without hurting the couple’s dependent children.
  • The parties’ age and health.
  • Whether the couple has a history of domestic violence, including actions taken against their children.
  • Any tax consequences the parties may face.
  • Whether the supported party can eventually become self-supporting.
  • Whether one party has a criminal conviction for abuse against the other.

The courts may decide not to give spousal support to a woman based on the factors listed above.

Myth #2 – Only Women Can Receive Spousal Support

Also easily debunked. California law does not state that women can receive support under the circumstances listed above. Instead, it refers to the parties to the divorce.

For example, it is uncommon for wives who earn more than their husbands to receive support payments. In fact, they may be ordered to pay spousal support to their ex-husbands if the conditions are right.

Myth #3 – Marriages of Over 10 Years Guarantee Spousal Support

This is a common misunderstanding. California law does mention marriages of long duration, which means marriages of 10 years or more.

However, the law states that the court “retains jurisdiction” indefinitely for marriages that meet the long duration test. Whether a party receives spousal support or not is still determined by the court’s consideration of the factors listed in Myth #1 above.

Learn More About Your California Spousal Support Options

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings, including spousal support. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Dads and Divorce

Dads and Divorce

There’s no denying that fathers are important in their children’s lives. In fact, studies have shown that a dad’s relationship with his children impacts their emotional and social development, as well as their future success. That important bond may become estranged when moms and dads split up. When it comes to dads and divorce, men have the same rights and obligations when it comes to custody and visitation agreements.

Custody and Visitation:  What Judges Want to See

In the past, mothers often were given preference in custody decisions. However, California courts famously rule ‘in the best interests of the child’ for child-related issues. Sometimes handing custody to the moms is not best. When considering moms, kids, dads and divorce, judges look at several factors to find the right custody and visitation arrangements:

  • The age and health of the children;
  • Emotional bonds between parents and kids;
  • Each parent’s ability to adequately care for the kids;
  • Family violence or substance abuse incidents; and
  • The children’s relationships at school, at home and in their community.

Fathers who bond with their children, who can support their children, and who have a clean record generally are likely to get favorable custody and visitation arrangements.

Father’s Rights Include Child Support

The financial obligations of raising children are not the responsibility of only one parent. In fact, both parents are expected to provide financial support for their kids.

When fathers have primary legal or physical custody, they have the right to expect child support from the children’s mother.

Parental Responsibilities in a Divorce

Kids should never be pawns sacrificed so one parent or the other can ‘win’ the divorce battle. Moms and dads alike should focus on what is best for their children. So, it’s important to remember what was mentioned above – fathers are important in their children’s lives.

Both parents have the responsibility of supporting their children. However, support comes in many forms, which includes just being there for the kids.

Dads may level the custody-and-support playing field by:

  • building and maintaining relationships with their children;
  • obeying all court orders regarding the kids;
  • make acting in the best interests of their children their top priority.

Learn More About Dads and Divorce

Dads, you don’t have to give up your kids just because your marriage ended. You can have awesome relationships and liberal custody arrangements. Considering a father’s influence over his children, it’s certainly a relationship worth protecting.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.
What to Do When Your Royalties Last Longer Than Your Marriage

What to Do When Your Royalties Last Longer Than Your Marriage

Joyce, a successful singer/songwriter, recently married her high school sweetheart. Aspiring novelist Kristen and her agent have been married for eight years. And Jack has spent countless hours in his garage workshop honing his creations hoping for a big payoff someday with the help of his wife of eleven years. Each of these people may find themselves facing a tricky issue if they decide to divorce – what to do with the royalties earned from their creative works or inventions.

Dividing Property in a Divorce 

California is one of nine states that use community property as the basis for property division. This means that property and debts obtained during a marriage are presumed to be owned 50/50. Splitting a bank account between two people is fairly easy. However, dividing less tangible assets – like royalties – typically is more difficult.

Royalties, as Property

A royalty is a sum of money paid to another person in exchange for using their property. Royalties may be paid to use someone’s:

  • Music,
  • Art and photographs,
  • Books, short stories, and other types of writing,
  • Minerals (sometimes these are called mineral rights instead of royalties), and
  • Items that are patented or copyrighted.

An item that generates royalties is an asset, as is the income generated. In fact, royalties typically are reported as business income.

Dividing Royalties

Property division can be a major part of a divorce case. A couple’s assets generally are separate property, community property, or commingled. How royalties are split may depend on when a royalty-producing work was:

  • Created – Was it before or after the wedding?
  • Patented – Was the invention developed during the marriage with contributions from the spouse.
  • Managed – Did the spouse contribute to the work’s success during the marriage.

Generally, work product or inventions created or developed during a marriage are community property. If the work was done prior to the marriage, but the spouse contributed to its success in some way, royalties could be split. Finally, an invention created during a marriage but not patented until after the marriage may still generate income for the ex-spouse.

A divorcing couple can certainly address royalty issues when negotiating their marital settlement:

  • Estimate the current and future value of an asset, then assign percentages to each party.
  • Swap ownership and royalty rights for property of equal value. For example, one spouse might keep 100% of a music portfolio and give the other spouse 100% of the Malibu beach house.
  • Agree on a split of ownership and royalty rights. This can even be done in a way that slowly phases out one spouse.

Complicated divorces involving royalty-producing assets typically involve more than state divorce laws.

Royalties May be a Double-Edged Sword.

They are an undeniably important asset and a potential source of income. The spouse who produces the intellectual property or work of art may want to keep all the royalties. However, that person’s spouse may be entitled to a percentage.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. She uses her extensive experience with business-related valuations to help clients with business and royalty properties. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

How to Prepare for Your Divorce Deposition

How to Prepare for Your Divorce Deposition

What happens from the filing of the petition to the final order that ends your marriage varies from case to case. Some divorces end quickly, with both parties in agreement and everything perfectly lined up. Others require a little – or a lot – more work. For example, some divorces go through what’s called ‘discovery.’ This is the time when the parties exchange information, ask and answer written questions, and take depositions. During your divorce deposition, you will answer questions posed by your spouse’s attorney. If this sounds a little scary, you have a good handle on the situation. However, with the right preparation, your divorce deposition does not to be a nightmare.

Review Docs

One way to prepare is to look over documents that you and your spouse have filed in your divorce action. The divorce petition is only a start. You may also want to review:

  • all financial disclosures and any exhibits;
  • lists of property, whether community or separate;
  • information related to child support, visitation, and custody;
  • documents related to any requests for spousal support; and
  • any documents your attorney asks you to review.

Ask Questions

Your lawyer is a great source of information about what will happen at the deposition. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Being well-prepared by your attorney before the deposition will help you during the deposition.

Listen to Your Attorney

We can’t stress this enough.

Your California divorce lawyer knows how to prepare you for your divorce deposition. So, listen carefully to instructions. For example, your attorney may tell you to answer briefly and to only answer the question you are being asked. This may be one of those times that ‘less is more.’ Take advantage of your attorney’s knowledge and experience.

It’s true that your spouse’s attorney may ask you some uncomfortable questions during the deposition. However, your lawyer is there to represent you and can object to inappropriate questions.

Take Care of Yourself

Here are some simple tips for reducing stress on the day of the deposition:

  • Try to get a good night’s sleep the night before your deposition.
  • Stay hydrated and eat a simple meal.
  • Plan out the route to your deposition.
  • Give yourself enough time to get to the deposition, park, and walk in.

Arriving a little early may give you some much-needed time to breathe deeply a few times before the questions begin.

We Can Help You Prepare for Your Divorce Deposition

The attorneys at The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger have the experience and knowledge to gently guide you through your divorce. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
Divorce by Default

Divorce by Default

Divorce, like marriage, requires two people. Or does it? Sometimes it may be difficult or impossible for both spouses to participate in the divorce proceeding. Sometimes one spouse may simply refuse to participate. Fortunately, California law allows for divorce by default.

When Both Parties Participate

In a typical divorce, one spouse takes the lead even if both parties want to end their marriage. For example, you may start the divorce case by filing the petition for divorce, then serving the petition and a summons on your spouse. He or she then files a response to the petition. Depending on the situation, you and your spouse may go through a discovery phase before negotiating a marital settlement. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, their divorce is heard by a judge who makes decisions for them. The divorce will happen either through negotiation of a marital settlement agreement or by court order.

When Divorce by Default Is the Solution

The responding spouse must respond to the divorce petition in 30 days. If no response is filed, the divorce may be concluded in one of the following ways:

  • A default or uncontested case. You and your spouse have reached a settlement agreement about ending the marriage. Final paperwork is filed and, if approved, you are legally divorced.
  • A true default. You and your spouse have not reached an agreement. However, your marriage still ends, as soon as your paperwork is filed and approved. In a true default, the non-responding party generally has forfeited any right to dispute spousal support, child support, child custody, and property division.

Final Thoughts

Opting for a default divorce may open a Pandora’s box of problems. If you are thinking of ignoring a divorce petition and summons, don’t. Never give up your rights without seeking proper legal advice first.

On the other hand, maybe you initiated the divorce and your spouse has refused to respond to the divorce petition. In most cases, you can still finalize your divorce.

Divorces, whether contested or default, are complicated. For assistance, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

Who Bears Financial Responsibility for the Kids?

Who Bears Financial Responsibility for the Kids?

It’s no secret that divorces where children are involved can be complicated. California divorce judges make decisions based on what is in the best interests of the children. But raising children is expensive. As a divorce nears finalization, one of the most important questions is who will take on financial responsibility for the kids? Mom, Dad, or is it split between the two?

Child Support Fundamentals

Parents generally are responsible for supporting their dependent children. When the parents are divorced, the court orders one or both parents to providing financial support for their children.

Child support generally ends if the child:

  • turns 18 and is not a full-time high school student
  • marries or registers a domestic partnership,
  • becomes emancipated, or
  • turns 19.

Deciding who will be financial responsible for the kids is not always easy.

Determining Child Support

A number of factors go into calculating child support:

  • What are the financial circumstances of both parents;
  • What do the children need;
  • Are there any special expenses like child care, special medical care, or therapy; and
  • Which parent has the most physical responsibility for the kids.

The parents file and submit an Income and Expense Declaration and provide proof of income. The judge reviews each parent’s submission, paying close attention to their net disposable income. The court also looks at all other sources or income or potential sources.

The child support order typically is based in part on how much time each parent spends with their children. Parents who spend less time with their kids may be ordered to provide more monetary support.

The judge also will consider expenses related to the children, including:

  • Basics like food, clothing, and shelter;
  • Health insurance;
  • Child care;
  • Extracurricular activities;
  • Travel costs related to visitation, and
  • Medical bills currently unpaid.

Of course, the judge will also consider California laws related to child support and California Child Support Guidelines.

The Answer to the Question “Who Bears Financial Responsibility for the Kids” Is . . .

It’s complicated. Both parents bear some of the cost of raising children. However, child support orders may order a greater financial support for the parent who has less physical responsibility.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

Residency Requirements Revisited

Residency Requirements Revisited

Christina just finished unpacking the boxes and setting up her new home in California. Now, she is finally ready to divorce her estranged spouse. Or is she? Before filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, she has to meet certain residency requirements.

What California Law Says About Residency Requirements

California Family Code, Section 2320 states:

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b) a judgment of dissolution of marriage may not be entered unless one of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of this state for six months and of the county in which the proceeding is filed for three months next preceding the filing of the petition.”

Note that only one of the parties to a divorce has to abide by this residency requirement. This is useful if your spouse lives in another state or country.

In Christina’s case, she has lived in Orange County, California, for only two weeks. She does not meet either residency requirement. She may still have an option, though.

What About Legal Separations?

You don’t have to meet any residency requirement to file for legal separation under California law. Maybe you need (or want) to get your divorce started quickly but have not lived in California long enough. Consider filing for legal separation. This gives you some important protections.

As soon as you meet California’s residency requirements, you then have the option of filing an Amended Petition to switch your case from a legal separation to a divorce.

Christina may consider filing for legal separation. She probably will retain certain marital benefits, including joint health insurance, and can start negotiating a marital settlement with her spouse. As soon as she has lived in California for six months and the county in which she wants to file her divorce for three months, she can decide whether to convert her legal separation case into a divorce proceeding.

Learn More About Filing for a California Divorce

We’re here to help. In fact, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced in all divorce-related issues.

Ms. Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. We assist clients in California’s Northern to Central Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Gold River, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities.
Domestic Violence and Your Divorce

Domestic Violence and Your Divorce

Are you the victim of domestic violence? Have you ever – or do you now – have reason to fear your spouse? If so, you are not alone. In fact, there are more than 100,000 domestic violence-related calls to law enforcement every year. In this blog, we will touch on some of the issues where domestic violence and your divorce intersect.

Acts of Domestic Violence

When we think of this, we often think of physical damage one spouse inflicts on another. However, the law defines domestic abuse as:

  • Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly;
  • Sexual assault;
  • Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt; OR
  • Harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone’s peace; or destroying someone’s personal property.

Domestic violence in a marriage also affects the dissolution of that marriage.

Domestic Violence Affects Child Custody Arrangements

When children are involved, the focus in a California divorce is on doing what is in the best interests of the children.

Judges always take domestic violence into account when deciding child custody arrangements. The safety of the child and other family members is critical. Courts will review evidence that backs up domestic violence accusations.

If allegations of domestic violence arise in a divorce matter, the court will assume that the abusing parent should not have custody. This is called a “rebuttable presumption” because the accused party can present evidence overcoming the assumption they are not qualified to care for the children.

Visitation may also come into play when domestic violence is an issue. Protective orders and restraining orders may be necessary. In some cases, the court may allow only supervised visitation to ensure the children’s safety.

Domestic Violence May Affect Your Spousal Support and Property Division

This issue is a little more of a gray area. The problem is that either party could have committed the acts of domestic violence. Sometimes both parties have crossed that line.

The court examines allegations of domestic violence. Criminal convictions of domestic violence set up a rebuttal presumption situation. Generally, unless proven otherwise, the injured spouse is not required to pay spousal support to the convicted spouse. The convicted spouse has the opportunity to successfully rebut the conviction and change the judge’s mind.

However, allegations and convictions of domestic violence are taken seriously by the courts. They may have a profound effect on your divorce – you may become ineligible to receive support if you have committed violent acts.

In addition, the courts may give up to 100% of the community property interests in retirement and pension benefits to an injured spouse. Here again, the court will consider other factors before making a decision.

Final Thoughts

Domestic violence has a huge impact on a couple’s relationship. It’s only natural that it would also affect their divorce.

To discuss how to handle domestic violence and your divorce, please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

If you or your children are in danger, call 911. You may also find local domestic violence organizations here or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).