Divorce Attorney Sacramento - An interview with Carol F. Delzer
Q. Tell us about yourself and your practice.
A. Before beginning my career as a family law attorney, I was a real estate broker in Sacramento. That career developed my skills in negotiation and collaboration which I now bring to my work as a Certified Family Law Specialist and Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. I have been involved with families-in-transition since 1991 when I founded the Law and Mediation Office of Delzer & Associates which is now known as Family Law Center located in Sacramento. I am a published author and my latest book is entitled 8 Weeks to Collaborative Co-Parenting for Divorcing Parents. (collaborativecoparenting.com.) I limit my practice to divorce mediation and collaborative family law cases exclusively.
Q. Do you offer a free initial consultation?
A. Initial consultations are offered at a discounted rate for the first half hour. Thereafter, they are charged at my regular hourly rate.
Q. I have engaged your services, what happens next?
A.I handle divorce mediation cases primarily. At the outset of a case, I provide my clients a handout entitled, “What to Expect in Mediation”, which outlines the mediation process for clients in detail. Further, the Family Law Center website (www.FamilyLawCenter.us) features the article, “How to Divorce on a Budget”, which offers some great tips for clients on what to expect in the divorce process and how to keep the costs down.
Q. How long do you take to process a divorce?
A.Generally, divorce mediation moves at the clients’ pace. Well prepared clients can complete the divorce mediation process in 1-2 months. Other clients who need more time to complete certain tasks or “homework assignments” may take up to one year. The average divorce mediation process takes less than 6 months, however, the earliest the divorce may become final in California is 6 months and one day from the date of service on the Respondent.
Q. How does one begin the divorce process?
A.In California, the divorce (aka dissolution) process begins by filing the initial paperwork, usually the Summons, Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, and if children are involved, a Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). These documents must be drafted carefully to assure that all requests for relief under the law are included, so as not to jeopardize the Petitioner's legal claims down the road. Once drafted, these forms must be filed with the court, along with the filing fee. After the forms have been filed, the Respondent must be personally served by someone over age 18 who is not the Petitioner. In some circumstances, the Respondent may be served by mail. Once the Respondent has been served properly, the earliest the divorce may become final is 6 months and one day from that date of service.
Q. Who will have to pay alimony in a divorce?
A. Alimony is referred to as spousal support in California and spousal support obligations are based on a number of factors. If the parties have roughly similar incomes, neither party may be required to pay spousal support to the other. However, if there is a significant disparity in the parties' respective incomes, the higher wage earner may be required to pay spousal support to the lower wage earner. The amount and duration of support vary based upon a number of factors, including length of the marriage, earning capacity of each party, the extent to which the supported party's earning capacity may be impaired as a result of long periods of unemployment (usually because of being home caring for the children), ability of the higher wage earner to pay, needs of each party, age and health of the parties, etc.
Q.How does one obtain support for herself and her child?
A.In order to obtain a temporary order for child support before the divorce judgment is entered in California, the custodial parent will need to file an Order to Show Cause (OSC) with the court requesting temporary child support (and even spousal support and/or child custody, if necessary) orders. When filing the OSC, a hearing date will be assigned. At that hearing, the judge will make an order for temporary support pending the final judgment of dissolution, at which time "final" orders will be made. Please note, however, that "final" orders for child support are never really final, because child support is modifiable at any time during the child's minority if a substantial change in circumstances can be demonstrated.
Q.Can a spouse successfully prevent a court from granting a divorce?
A. The short answer is no. California is a no-fault state for divorce, and only one of the parties must plead irreconcilable differences in order for a divorce to be granted.
Q. How long do you have to be married before you can file for a divorce?
A. There is no minimum amount of time one must be married in order to file for divorce in California. Theoretically, you could file for divorce the same day you marry. However, under limited circumstances one may be able to obtain an annulment from the court if they are able to prove that grounds for annulment exist. An annulment voids the marriage entirely, as if it never happened; however, it may only be granted upon proof to the court that fraud, bigamy, unsound mind, physical incapacity, or force existed at the time of the marriage. If a party is unable to prove that any of these grounds exist, they cannot obtain an annulment and must proceed with a normal divorce.