San Francisco Divorce Lawyer - An Interview with Dylan Miles
Q. Tell us about yourself and your practice.
A.. I am passionate about finding effective ways to resolve difficult situations. I am particularly interested in helping clients create solid beginnings and move gracefully through changes. Of course that looks different in each situation and with each person. As your attorney, I will carefully listen to your concerns and goals, offer you several different options and create an individualized plan that is cost-effective and protective of your interests.
Change can be difficult enough on its own and the legal system often adds yet another layer of stress. As your attorney, I aim to make the legal part of your journey be the least daunting and most productive for you. I will explain the legal process clearly, keep you informed every step of the way and always seek out the simplest route to your goals.
In all my services, I aim to make the legal process be as clear, efficient and beneficial as possible.I provide legal services in California in the following areas: Divorce/Dissolution, Custody/Visitation, Child Support and Spousal Support (Alimony), Divison of Assets, Modification of Orders, Pre-Marital Agreements, Adoption (Step-parent and Second Parent), Issues particular to Domestic Partnerships, Same-Gender Marriages and other non-traditional families and Mediation.
Before focusing my practice on family law and mediation, I was a civil rights advocate, grant writer and adjunct professor. I am currently a mediator for the San Francisco Community Boards and coach participants in the Community Boards mediation trainings. I also volunteer at the San Francisco and Alameda Bar Associations. In addition to my legal work, I currently teach students at Stanford and TouroUniversities how to communicate clearly and respectfully with clients.
I graduated from StanfordLawSchool in 2002, where I received a Public Interest and Equal Justice Fellowship.
Q. Do you offer a free initial consultation?
A. I offer a free ½ hour initial phone consultation.
Q. How long do you take to process a divorce?
A. The difficult part of working out the divorce is reaching an ageement. This can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks to several years. The divorce takes as long as it takes you and your spouse to reach agreement on all pertinent issues.
In divorces that involves children, decisions need to be made about custody, visitation, holiday schedules, schooling, health care, division of property, division of assets, division of debt, child support and spousal support to name a few.
I have found that in many cases mediation or a collaborative approach is more efficient, thus saving you time and money as well as the frustration and animosity that often accompanies a more adversarial approach.
On a technical note as soon as you reach an agreement all the final paperwork can be submitted to the court. However, you will not get your divorce judgment back from the court until 6 months and 1 day from the service of the initial papers. This is because in California there is a 6 month waiting period in case there is reconciliation.
Q. What is your billing and payment procedure?
A. I offer a free ½ hour initial phone consultation. My hourly rate is $250. I do offer a sliding-scale and a flat-rate fee for some cases. My goal is to offer you several options and help you find one that fits your budget.
Q. How does one begin the divorce process?
A.To begin the divorce process in California, one spouse files and serves the initial divorce papers, Petition Summons and UCCJEA Declaration, if there are children of the marriage.
How the divorce is initiated often sets the tone for the negotiations during the divorce. If you are on amicable terms with your spouse, you may want to let her or him know that they should expect the court papers. If on the other hand, there is domestic violence in your relationship or you are afraid of your spouse’ s reaction upon receiving the divorce paper, I recommend getting assistance from your local court domestic violence help center or an attorney. If you are worried that your spouse may take money from your bank accounts after being served the initial divorce forms, I recommend talking with an attorney before filing the divorce forms.
Q. How much will it cost to file for divorce?
A. In California the court filing fee is currently $350. This fee is changed by the state of California periodically.
Depending on your income you may be eligible for a fee waiver. If you receive public assistance the fee waiver is automatic. Otherwise the court will assess your income and expenses and make a decision. If you think you may be eligible for a fee waiver, it can’ t hurt to apply.
Q. Who receives custody of the children in a divorce?
A.The best custody and visitation decision is one that you reach yourself. In an ideal situation (which may not be possible – since it takes two to reach an agreement) you and your spouse will decide on a time-share schedule that works for you and your children. If you are having difficulty finding common ground on custody or visitation issues with your spouse, I recommend seeking the assistance of an attorney or mediator.
If you and your spouse do not reach an agreement regarding custody and visitation either on your own or with the help of a mediator or attorney, the court will make a decision for you. Going to court always involves some risk since it is impossible to know exactly how a court will rule.
That said the following are the key principles a court will consider in making a decision
In all cases a California court will consider the best interest of the child orchildren.
In California the law strongly favors both parents being involved in thechildren’ s lives.
A California court will never grant custody to a parent, solely because that parent has a higher income.
If one parent earns more than the other, the higher earner is likely to pay child support to the other parent.
The income affects the amount of child support, but not custody or visitation.
Q. What happens if one party refuses to sign the papers?
A. There are several ways in which one party can frustrate the divorce process.For instance one party who may not be willing to wholeheartedly engage in the negotiation may consistently make unreasonable demands, not provide necessary financial documents or stall the process. In those cases it may be necessary to file a motion for a hearing or a status conference. Getting the court involved is often helpful, when one spouse is not willing to participate in the divorce process. For instance if one spouse is not providing necessary financial documentation, the court can order the spouse to do so. Even if one spouse utterly refuses to cooperate, the divorce will still go through – but the process will take longer and instead of having an agreement that you reach between yourselves, the court will make a ruling.
Q. Can a spouse successfully prevent a court from granting a divorce?
A. No. In California if one spouse wants a divorce and files for a divorce – for any reason - the divorce will go through. California is a “ no-fault” state, which means that you don’ t have to prove, the other spouse did something wrong in order to get a divorce. The only way to reverse the divorce process is if both spouses agree to stop the divorce and reconcile.
This interview is for general informational purposes only. This interview is not legal advice, nor is there an attorney-client relationship established by you reading this interview. For advice on your specific case, please seek the assistance of an attorney.