Experienced Stockton Divorce Attorney
Marriage and divorce are among the most important decisions that two people can make, and the consequences can be life-altering — not just emotionally, but also from a financial and legal perspective. Quite simply, divorce can be messy. The burdens imposed by a divorce have lasting consequences, particularly if they are borne of misplaced and inadequate legal advocacy. As such, the assistance of a Stockton divorce attorney is critical to securing a positive result.
Skilled divorce attorneys understand the highly sensitive nature of divorce and how best to compassionately — and relentlessly — advocate on behalf of the client, exercising diplomacy where beneficial and pushing for a favorable outcome through litigation where absolutely necessary.
If you’d like to speak to an experienced Stockton divorce attorney for guidance on next steps, we encourage you to contact the team here at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP at your earliest convenience. Our commitment to engaging closely with clients is particularly relevant to family law matters, where a deep understanding of the client’s goals, concerns, and expectations are fundamental to success.
What is the Difference Between a Contested or Uncontested Divorce?
Divorce in California can be either contested or uncontested. Ultimately, if you and your spouse disagree as to specific terms of the divorce (i.e., child custody, alimony, marital property division, etc.), then the divorce is “contested” and you can submit a response to the divorce filing. The case will then proceed to litigation: discovery and court hearings will necessarily follow.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse agree to the terms of the divorce, then a response may not be necessary and the default judgment can be entered to the satisfaction of both parties.
Of course, even if you and your spouse disagree, a response can be filed, but the courts prefer an amicable settlement under most circumstances. California courts encourage divorcing spouses to “change their minds” and come to an agreement through mediation. Thus, a contested divorce can transform into an uncontested divorce after an out-of-court mediation process through which a negotiated settlement is reached.
Both Options Can Still Reach a Divorce Settlement with the Help of a Stockton Divorce Attorney
Why choose settlement? Negotiated divorce settlements not only resolve the conflict sooner (thus saving on time, effort, and legal costs), but also enable the parties to reach an agreement on various issues that may be different than what the judge would determine within the bounds of California law. For example, in a contested divorce, a family law judge may split certain assets in accordance with the law, but if the two spouses prefer a different arrangement for splitting property assets, then a negotiated settlement will guarantee that preferred split.
Unique Challenges and Opportunities in California Divorce
Whether you are initiating a divorce, responding to a divorce filing, or interested in reaching an amicable, negotiated resolution with your spouse, it’s important to understand the basics of California divorce law. Our Stockton divorce lawyer outlines some of the more important legal considerations below.
California is a no-fault state. In other words, there are no prerequisite conditions necessary to file for and obtain a divorce. That isn’t to say proof of misconduct is worthless — in fact, such evidence could be quite useful to bring to the court’s attention, as they may consider that evidence when making spousal support, child support, and custody determinations.
For example, if you are getting a divorce because your husband has been physically abusive, then evidence of such abuse should be brought to the court’s attention, as it could factor significantly towards a favorable custody rights determination for you (and could limit visitation rights granted to your husband).
Community Property Explained by a Stockton Divorce Attorney
California divides property in a divorce on the basis of a community property system, whereas most other states operate on an “equitable” system that gives courts substantial discretion to determine what a fair division of property would be post-divorce.
California keeps it simple.
Community property is straightforward in that it entitles each spouse to exactly half of the assets (and debts) acquired over the course of marriage. This does not include separate property, such as inherited assets and gifts (except in situations where those assets were commingled with marital community property assets, such as a gift of money invested into a shared real estate purchase).
Unsurprisingly, children are the most common source of complications during divorce (although this is through no fault of their own). Decisions concerning child custody and child support are often the most challenging for divorcing couples because they can have lifelong effects on the children. Some parents may even attempt to use their children to seek revenge against the other parent, which can introduce unnecessary bitterness into the process.
Pregnancy is not an issue that comes up frequently in divorce, but it can add a wrinkle in the few cases where it does. In California, a spouse may file for divorce during pregnancy, but a court will not finalize the divorce until after the baby is born due to the need to determine the paternity of the child. If the couple was married when the child was conceived, the husband is presumed to be the child’s legal father. However, if the husband knows or suspects that the child is not his (a common issue that can lead to divorce), paternity will need to be established after the child’s birth.
Residency and Jurisdiction Issues
Only residents of California may file for divorce in the state. To file for divorce in California, either spouse must have lived in California for the past six months and in their current county for the past three months. Failure to meet those requirements can delay the divorce proceedings. Things can also get complicated when one or both of the divorcing spouses owns real estate outside of California, as California family law courts lack jurisdiction over those assets.
High Net Worth
Generally, the higher the net worth of the divorcing couple, the more complicated the divorce will be. Property division in high asset divorces can be significantly more complex not only because there are more assets, but because those assets are more difficult to divide (especially in the absence of a prenuptial agreement). Potentially problematic assets include businesses, intellectual property, artwork, jewelry, and antiques.
Domestic violence is a serious issue in any marriage and one of the most common causes of divorce. But filing for divorce from an abusive spouse carries its own risks, as it may enrage the spouse and cause him or her to seek revenge. Domestic abuse may thus require the victim to obtain restraining orders or make alternative living arrangements.
Mediation and Litigation Can Also Be Managed by a Divorce Lawyer
As a general rule, it is best to “settle” a divorce out-of-court, where possible. It is substantially less time-consuming and less expensive, and — perhaps most importantly — minimizes the emotional fallout associated with sustained litigation. It also empowers the parties to develop their own divorce-related conditions and to do so with certainty. If the matter were to proceed to trial, then the family law judge might make determinations on the basis of law that are inconsistent with what either party wants.
No Matter the Issue, A Stockton Divorce Attorney at Our Firm Can Help You Work to a Solution
Here at MCJG, we are skilled negotiators who recognize the value of diplomacy and mediation in high-conflict divorce and family law matters. In situations where communications have not completely broken down, we are often capable of securing an outcome that ensures a fair division of assets and support, and doing so in a manner that preserves fundamental respect between the two parties. Our law firm serves clients throughout Central Valley and California.