Q. Tell us about yourself and your practice.
A. I have been an attorney for 28 years and have dedicated my practice exclusively to family law (child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony) and property issues most frequently in connection with divorce) for the past 10 years. Both my bachelor’s degree and my law degree are from UC Berkeley. My office is dedicated to doing everything we can to reduce the emotional and financial costs of divorce.
Q. How long do you take to process a divorce?
A. There are just too many variables to allow me to give a simple answer to that question. So much depends on the other side. Does your spouse want to make the divorce simple or does he or she want to fight it out all the way? Conflict (especially conflict about child custody and visitation) is the number one factor that adds time and expense to divorce. That’ s why my office is dedicated to doing everything we can, consistent with our clients’ wants and needs to reduce the anger and conflict in divorce.
Q. Does your office offer paralegal services to help with simple document filings?
A. No. We find that our clients appreciate the professional attention of an attorney, even when the issues in a case are simple. And we pride ourselves on being cost-effective.
Q. What should one do if served with divorce papers?
A. Give me a call! I can give you an idea over the phone, what issues will be involved in your case and can suggest approaches to resolution that save you emotional and financial wear-and-tear. And if I think you can handle your case yourself, I’ ll let you know.
Q. How does one begin the divorce process?
A. I suggest that you start with a call to my office. I’ ll point you in the right direction. You may not even need an attorney. I’ ll help you decide.
Q. What is a fault-based divorce?
A. In a fault-based divorce the judge decides which spouse is primarily responsible for the failure of the marriage. Typical situations where one spouse is found to be at fault include adultery, desertion and cruelty. When the judge determines which spouse is at fault he or she can order that the terms of the divorce (spousal support and division of property) favor the party who was not at fault.
California and most other states have stopped attempting to determine which spouse is at fault, reasoning that trying to determine with certainty where things went wrong in the give and take of a marriage is essentially a hopeless task. Instead they have adopted “no fault divorce” where the rights of the spouses are defined by law without any attempt to determine the party “at fault” in the divorce. That doesn’ t mean however that bad conduct in a marriage has no consequences. California law explicitly provides that domestic violence is a factor that judges must use in determining the amount and duration of spousal support, after a divorce is final. And domestic violence is often the deciding factor in cases where the custody of young children is at issue.
Q. Can either party prevent the entry of a divorce decree?
A. No. Virtually all divorces in California are granted on the ground of “irreconcilable differences.” All that is necessary is for one spouse to swear that differences have come between the parties and that they can’ t be resolved.
Q. What are the grounds for a divorce?
A. A California judge can grant a divorce on either of two grounds “Irreconcilable differences” or “incurable insanity.” The first ground is by far the most “popular.” Most lawyers have never seen a divorce granted on the basis of insanity.
And remember that since only one party has to swear that irreconcilable differences exist and since California has no-fault divorce, the only thing that spouse needs in order to get a divorce in California is the willingness to ask the judge to grant one. And divorce statistics prove that many people do in fact ask for divorce each year. I’ ll leave it to the readers to debate whether or not such easy access to divorce makes sense for families.