San Diego Family Law Attorneys
Family Law Overview
"Family law" is an area of law that encompasses many different aspects of family life. Any situation that involves a marriage, children, or an extended family member can involve family law. Even a person who has been taken in by a family could be governed by family law if a situation or disagreement arises.
Areas of Family Law
Because this is such a broad area of law, there are many different scenarios it covers. Some of the most common are:
- Alimony/spousal support
- Child custody and parental visitation
- Domestic violence
- Name changes
- Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements
- Paternity tests
- Restraining orders
Some of these scenarios - for example, divorce and child custody - are more complicated than others; but each has its own legalities and you should have a lawyer with specific experience in order to achieve the best outcome.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need an attorney when I’m getting a divorce?
The short answer is no, you do not have to be represented by an attorney when filing for divorce. It’s legal to handle the proceedings on your own. However, even if it seems that both you and your spouse are in agreement, you should still consult with an attorney to discuss your situation and determine if going without an attorney makes sense.
If you are going through a high-asset divorce, need to reach a custody agreement, or feel like you are not getting a fair settlement, you will almost certainly be better off with an experienced family law attorney representing you.
What is a no-fault divorce?
California is what is known as a no-fault divorce state. This means that a spouse who is asking for a divorce does not need to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. He or she can file for a divorce for any reason whatsoever.
In California, it doesn’t matter if one spouse had an affair, for example. As a no-fault state, the circumstances surrounding the divorce do not mean that one spouse is more entitled to assets or child custody. The one exception is that the judge will strongly consider the best interests of the child when determining custody. So, for example, if one parent is filing for divorce due to the other parent’s drug addiction or abusive behavior, the judge may deny that parent custody in order to protect the children.
In addition, it should be noted that if your spouse wishes to file for divorce, there is nothing you can do, legally speaking, to stop him or her.
After a divorce, can my spouse move with our children to another state?
In California, even if one parent has been awarded sole physical custody, this does not automatically grant that parent the right to move the children to another state. Once a court has made a ruling regarding custody, it is necessary to petition the court to make a change, especially one as significant as moving to another state.
What happens if my spouse has stopped paying child support?
If your spouse has failed to make a scheduled payment, it may be necessary to contact Child Support Services. You will be able to initiate the enforcement process for payment. It may be helpful to consult with an attorney in such a case, who can help you navigate the process and ensure you get the money owed to you.
How long does it take to get a divorce?
There’s no exact answer to this question, but in general, California has a six-month waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. This means that while a divorce, especially a contentious one, may take much longer, even an amicable divorce will not take less than six months.
The Role of Family Court
Family court in San Diego plays a very significant role in family disputes, acting as a neutral third party to decide what’s best for everyone. Family courts conduct assessments and hold hearings on the matter at hand, then make decisions and issue court orders that must be followed.
In some cases, the people involved (along with their attorneys) determine that their case does not actually need to go to family court but instead can be resolved through mediation or alternative dispute resolution. This can save a lot of time, as the San Diego family courts are often overloaded, making most cases very lengthy before a final decision is made.
Choosing to go through mediation or dispute resolution with the help of a lawyer is a better alternative than fighting it out in family court. Still, sometimes it’s not possible for a couple to agree and a judge has to hand down a final verdict. In contentious cases, it’s important to have a legal advocate on your side to look out for you and your family’s best interests.
The Other Side of Family Law
When most people think of family law, they think of disputes among family members. While family law does often deal with the ugly nature of divorce, child support, and domestic violence, there is another side. That side works to help families and ease transitions; and to ensure that any agreements made involving family life are fair and will protect everyone’s rights.
This is the case for documents such as prenuptial and postnuptial agreements; as well as adoption applications. While family law does sometimes involve families breaking up, a lot of the time it also helps bring families together.
If your family situation is about to change due to a marriage, a divorce, or other circumstance, contact Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C., at (858) 458-9500. Thomas Huguenor is a family law attorney with over 35 years of experience. He and his associates can help you with whatever legal issue your family is going through.