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).

Uncontested Divorce: How Long Does It Take to Finalize?

Uncontested Divorce: How Long Does It Take to Finalize?

When Dave and Tiffani decided to divorce, time was an issue. They both wanted to move on as quickly as possible. New to the whole process, they consulted with their attorneys about how to achieve the speediest resolution. The term “uncontested divorce” kept cropping up.

Contested vs. Uncontested

A contested divorce is when the divorcing couple cannot hammer out a marital settlement agreement. This type of divorce tends to be more expensive, more stressful, and more time-consuming. If you are involved in a contested divorce, you probably will attend several court hearings, which also means frequent meetings with your attorney.

On the other hand, an uncontested divorce is fairly uncomplicated. Generally, this type of divorce resolves in one of two ways:

  • The divorcing couple reach a private agreement about all the issues that came up in their divorce.
  • The responding spouse simply does not respond to the divorce papers. After a time, the court gives the person who initiated the divorce a default judgment.

Sometimes, a divorce starts out uncontested but changes to contested as the parties begin to spar over issues like property division, spousal support, and child custody arrangements.

Timeline of an Uncontested Divorce

Generally, it is safe to assume an uncontested divorce might proceed as follows:

  • The Petitioner starts the divorce by filing a Petition for Dissolution (Form FL-100) and a Summons (Form FL-110).
  • Additional paperwork may be filed if children are involved.
  • The divorce papers must be officially served on the Respondent for the case to proceed or the Respondent can sign for the papers to save time.
  • Within 60 days, the Petitioner completes and serves Preliminary Disclosure documents on the Respondent.
  • The Respondent has 30 days to file a response.
  • Respondent will file his or her own Preliminary Disclosures.
  • The court usually holds one or more status hearings.
  • The Petitioner and Respondent formalize their agreement in a Marital Settlement Agreement and file it with the court, along with:
    • Appearance, Stipulations and Waivers
    • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation
    • Judgment
    • Notice of Entry of Judgment
    • Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure.
  • Final judgment is entered.

As always, additional documents will be filed if the couple have children.

It’s easy to recognize that uncontested divorce cases generally resolve more quickly than most contested divorces. Since the time spent negotiating is a variable, it’s impossible to give an exact time for finalizing an uncontested divorce. However, a California divorce cannot be finalized until six months have passed since the date the respondent was served with a copy of the petition and summons.

Are You Headed for an Uncontested Divorce?

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.

Your Partner Won’t Agree to a Divorce? That’s Okay.

Your Partner Won’t Agree to a Divorce? That’s Okay.

Sometimes love dies, but only for one person in a relationship. Maybe one spouse wants to stay married for the kids or for financial reasons, while the other spouse is ready to move on. If you are in a situation where your partner won’t agree to a divorce, it doesn’t mean the divorce won’t move forward. In this blog, we will explore how an individual can finalize a contested divorce without the cooperation of their spouse.

After the Petition Is Filed

Let’s say you have already filed your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and served copies of all documents on your spouse. Now, it’s your spouse’s turn to act:

The spouse must file a response to the petition, along with other documents and financial disclosures. There’s typically a period of discovery, where you produce documents to each other. The parties may attempt to negotiate a marital settlement agreement. If your spouse refuses to participate, this does not mean the divorce goes away.

If your spouse responds to your petition, but you are unable to negotiate a marital settlement agreement, your case likely will be set for trial. You and your attorney will present evidence, your spouse will present his or her case, and the judge will issue an order finalizing  your divorce.

Divorce by Default

The California Courts webpage about responding to a divorce or separation says this:

“In California, as long as 1 person wants to end the marriage or domestic partnership, the court can end it, even if the other spouse or domestic partner does not agree or want to get divorced or legally separated.”

If your spouse fails to respond to the divorce petition within 30 days of being service, your divorce may be finalized as a “true default.” To get a final order from the Judge, though, you will still need to complete a number of documents, including:

  • Request to Enter Default;
  • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation;
  • Judgment; and
  • Notice of Entry of Judgment.

Other paperwork may be submitted if you are requesting a child custody order, child support, spousal support, and division of community property and debt.

It Is Possible to Move on Without Your Partner’s Consent

An experienced California divorce attorney can help you finalize your contested divorce. Having someone on your side may make the whole process a little easier.

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.
Pets in a Divorce: Property or Part of the Family?

Pets in a Divorce: Property or Part of the Family?

About 68% of U.S. households contain at least one furry, scaled, winged, or gilled member of the family. That’s almost 85 million homes with something in common – they “own” at least one pet. In California, pets with squabbling ‘parents’ were considered to be just another asset to split up along with the furniture and the 401(k)s. Since many people consider their pets to be part of the family, this was problematic. A recent California law appears to be changing the legal status of pets. In 2019, will pets be property or part of the family?

Pets and Divorce Pre-2019

Since California is a community property state, everything a couple has accumulated generally is split 50-50. However, there are some exceptions. Pets were an unusual “asset” that was difficult to divide between the divorcing parties. In addition, animals often received spotty care while the divorce was pending.

A new California law that goes into effect in 2019 addresses the problem of pets in a divorce.

Pets as Part of the Family?

As of January 1, 2019, Section 2605 will become part of the California Family Code. It reads, in part:

“…the court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.”

The law also states the court may enter a temporary order requiring one party to care for the animal until the divorce is final.

So, what does this mean to a couple who both deeply care for their pet iguana?

Judges now may treat pets differently than other community property. Instead of just assigning a value and dividing it like many other community assets, the court may take other factors into consideration before assigning joint or sole custody. For example, judges may consider which party has the best relationship with the pet and who provides the majority of the pet’s care.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Rights – and Theirs.

Although this law may lead to a better life for pets, it also add another layer of stress to the divorcing couple. Fighting over Fido may prolong the process. However, we’re here to help. 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.

Getting Spousal Support in a Registered Domestic Partnership

Getting Spousal Support in a Registered Domestic Partnership

Ending a long-term or very close relationship is never easy. Spousal support is one sometimes hotly contested issue in a divorce. If spousal support is appropriate, then how much should be paid? This holds true for registered domestic partnerships, too. Partners embroiled in a breakup may also be facing spousal support questions.

How is a domestic partnership registered in California?

Couples who want to have an opposite-sex marriage must get a marriage license from the County Clerk’s office. Same-sex couples, and certain opposite-sex couples, do not buy a license to memorialize their relationship. Instead, they file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership or a Confidential Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State’s office. California Family Code Section 297 outlines the requirements for couples who form a domestic partnership.

To terminate or dissolve a registered domestic partnership, the partners may file a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership, also with the Secretary of State. Requirements for termination are laid out in California Family Code Section 299.

Can you get spousal support in a registered domestic partnership?

Filing the Notice under Section 299 means that both parties waive their rights to spousal support. To claim support, partnership typically must file a Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership with the California Superior Court.

Parties who file a Notice of Termination do not go through court hearings or mediation. When filing a Petition for Dissolution, however, the parties may attend hearings and ask a judge for temporary orders. Support is one issue that will be addressed by the court.

What does a partner need to do to get spousal support?

As noted above, the first step is to file the Petition for Dissolution. After that, the dissolution proceeds similar to a divorce. The partners will negotiate an agreement on community property and debt, arrive at child custody and support arrangements if necessary, and come to an agreement about support. If the partners are unable to do this through negotiation or mediation, their case may be heard by a judge, who will then issue an order about these issues.

Make sure you get the support you deserve.

Please call us at 415-293-8314. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger assist clients with dissolution of marriages and domestic partnerships from our offices in San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities.

My Spouse Lives in Another State. Where Should I File for Divorce?

My Spouse Lives in Another State. Where Should I File for Divorce?

There are times when a divorce crosses state lines. For example, Cynthia and George married in California, then moved to Iowa. After two years, Cynthia abruptly returns to California, leaving George, their condo, most of their furniture, and an automobile back in Iowa. She intends to file for divorce immediately. However, since her spouse lives in another state, she’s left wondering where she should file for divorce – California or Iowa?

Residency Matters

Each state has its own laws and rules about filing for divorce. For example, Iowa requires the person filing for divorce to live in state for 365 days to become eligible to file for divorce. There’s no in-county minimum residency. Had Cynthia stayed in Iowa, she could have filed for divorce since she had lived there more than 365 days.

However, in California, the rules are quite different. The person filing the divorce petition must meet the following residency requirements:

  • Must have been a resident of the state of California for at least six months prior to filing the petition.
  • Must have lived in the county where the divorce petition is filed for at least three months.

The rules are a bit looser for same-sex marriages. In some cases, neither partner has to be a California resident. A dissolution may be allowed if the parties live in a jurisdiction that will not recognize or dissolve their union.

Cynthia has not resided in California for six months, so she does not meet the residency requirement. However, she desperately needs to find a way to separate from George.

Other Options

In California, marriages may be terminated in one of three ways: divorce, annulment, or legal separation.

Unlike divorce, there is no residency requirement for filing for a legal separation. In addition, a legal separation may take place as soon as one party files the paperwork with the court. This option may provide some protection for the parties until they have lived in California for at least six months.

Cynthia decided to obtain a legal separation, then convert it to a divorce proceeding once she had lived in California for six months.

Long Distance Divorce Can Be Difficult

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.
Date of Separation: Changes to the California Family Code

Date of Separation: Changes to the California Family Code

A couple’s wedding day is an important date to remember. If the marriage ends in divorce, then the date the couple actually split is also significant. In fact, the California Family Code contains provisions about the date of separation. However, that code changed significantly in 2017.

What is the date of separation?

This might seem like a simple term, but the legal meaning can be complicated. The new California Family Code Section 70 states:

70.(a)  “Date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following:

(1) The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage.

(2) The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.

For example, Ted tells Mary he wants a divorce on December 12, 2018. However, they continue living together, share bank accounts, and even plan their annual vacation to Hawaii. A court will consider all relevant evidence when determining the legal date of separation. A judge may decide Ted and Mary had not satisfied both (1) and (2) noted above on December 12, 2018.

Why is the date of separation important?

It is the date beyond which a married couple’s income, debts, and so become separate property.

For example, still considering Ted and Mary, Ted gets a huge windfall on December 13, 2018. During the divorce proceedings, he claims it is his separate property because the date of separation was December 12. Prior to the change in 2017, a court may not agree with Ted, since Ted and Mary did not meet the “living separate and part” requirement.

How and why did the law change?

In 2015, the California Supreme Court handed down a decision in a divorce matter titled In re Marriage of Davis. The decision stated that spouses must be living in separate homes for the date of separation to apply.

However, on July 25, 2016, a bill was signed into law that countered that decision. Section 70 was added to the California Family Code, clarifying that date of separation was to be decided using the tests mentioned earlier in this article.

Let’s consider a different scenario for Ted and Mary. Ted does tell Mary he wants a divorce on December 12, 2018. He remains in the home but separates his financial and personal matters from Mary. From that point on, they behaved more like roommates than husband and wife. A court may consider December 12 to be their legal date of separation.

Simple terms may have unwanted consequences

The legal date of separation can make a huge difference in how your divorce plays out. Talk to an attorney about your divorce as soon as possible.

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.

Are Domestic Partnerships Registered in California?

Are Domestic Partnerships Registered in California?

Sam and Chris have a committed relationship that does not include a formal same-sex marriage. Jon and Julia have lived together for several years. Both aged 65, they don’t want to get married, but they do want some of the tax and financial benefits a marriage offers. Each couple may consider forming a domestic partnership but wonder whether California has a registration process for this type of bond.

What is a domestic partnership?

According to California Family Code Section 297:

Domestic partners are two adults who have chosen to share one another’s lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring.

A domestic partnership is a legally-recognized relationship between two individuals. California Family Code states that a domestic partnership is formed when both people file a Declaration of Domestic Partnership with the California Secretary of State. At the time of filing, the couple have to meet certain criteria.

Who can form a domestic partnership?

The domestic partners must:

  • Not be married or partners with another person.
  • Be at least 18 years of age, unless parents or guardians agree to the partnership.
  • Either members of the same sex or same sex if at least one of the partners is over 62 years old.

Does California require domestic partnerships to register?

No. The law says that partners may register their domestic partnership with the state.

However, registering gives the domestic partners the same benefits, rights, and protections that other California married couples enjoy.

What’s the process for registering a California domestic partnership?

The California Secretary of State’s Office accepts and processes Declarations of Domestic Partnership and related documents.

Couples that meet the legal requirements may register by filing a Declaration of Domestic Partnership (Form NP/SF DP-1). California also allows to keep their relationship private by completing a Confidential Declaration of Domestic Partnership (Form NP/SF DP-1A).

Have more questions about domestic partnership registration in California?

Talk to a California family law 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. Please call us at (415) 293-8314 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys. 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 Litigation: When Spouses Can’t Settle

Divorce Litigation: When Spouses Can’t Settle

Some divorces sail through divorce court with few if any problems. Everyone agrees on everything. For many people, though, that speedy divorce just doesn’t happen. The separating spouses just can’t agree on a settlement, even after several negotiation sessions and mediation. At that point, the case may be headed to trial. That’s what may happen during divorce litigation when spouses can’t settle their differences any other way.

Starting the Process

In California, a marriage may end in annulment, legal separation, or divorce. One person in the marriage or domestic partnership will file documents with the court clerk to get the divorce started, then file them on the other party. Both parties then file a Schedule of Assets & Debts, Income and Expense Declaration, and Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure.

If temporary orders for child support, custody, or spousal support are needed, one of the parties can request them at this time. In some circumstances, the parties will engage in discovery, which may involve answering questions, providing documentation, and giving depositions.

Exits on the Road to Court

Not all divorce cases make it to trial. For some, they find ways to settle their difference as their divorce proceeds. Often, the parties and their attorneys will meet with a mediator. The parties may negotiate a marital settlement agreement and a parenting plan, if one is needed.

Informal settlement negotiations are another option. Attorneys for the divorcing couple communicate demands and concessions until agreements are reached.

Sometimes issues are insurmountable, and settlement is impossible.

When Divorce Litigation Lands in Front of the Judge

Some marriages are complicated, the parties are unwilling to settle, or one of the parties is unable to participate in negotiations. A trial judge will review evidence and listen to testimony given in the courtroom. The judge then hands down appropriate orders that divide the couple’s property and debts, and settles the parties’ child custody, child support, and spousal support issues.

Divorce Litigation Isn’t Easy

But sometimes it is necessary. Make sure your legal representatives know how to guide your divorce case all the way to a judge if that is what it takes.

To discuss how to handle divorce litigation 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.