Family Law

 

WHAT IS FAMILY LAW?

 

The area of Family Law covers domestic violence, divorce or dissolution of marriage and legal separation, paternity matters and parental rights related to minor children, child support and spousal support (formerly known as “alimony”) and adoptions of minor children, both step-parent adoptions and third party adoptions, which includes adoptions of children by family members, legal guardians, and foster parents.

 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:

 

Domestic violence has been going on since the beginning of time, but has only become commonly known to the public in the last thirty years or so. “Domestic violence” in the legal sense refers to any physical, mental or emotional abuse that is inflicted by one co-habitant or family member upon another. Despite popular belief, domestic violence includes abuse inflicted by any family member residing in your household, such a sibling on sibling, child on parent, parent on parent, or spouse on spouse, but does not include roommates/housemates unless the roommate/housemate is or was in a dating relationship with the victim.

If you are the victim of abuse by a roommate or housemate, the correct procedure for you is “Civil Harassment” which is heard in the general civil Superior Court of California. It is, however, another area of law which this office practices, so please feel free to contact us if that is the type of representation you may need.

Please submit a case summary through this website if you believe you may be the victim of domestic violence or if you need help learning how to prepare evidence necessary to obtain or defend against a domestic violence restraining order. We will waive the fee for the initial, first time consultation if the purpose of the consultation is limited to one-time advice on how to handle your domestic violence issues. Whether you are the perpetrator or the victim, we are here to help you through the process.

 

CUSTODY AND VISITATION:

 

Custody and visitation refers to the physical and legal custody of minor children and dependent adults with disabilities. It also covers grandparent rights to grandchildren which the law pretty much limits to parental control unless certain criteria apply. If you are a grandparent who is being deprived the pleasure of spending time with your grandchildren, please submit a case summary through this website so that we can see what can be done to help you.

 

Special Case – The Move Away. If one parent wishes to move away from the vicinity of the other parent, the moving parent must have the other parent’s consent or a court order to take the child with him/her. Even in a situation where a parent has sole physical and legal custody of a child, he/she will need the other parent’s consent or a court order to move the child out of the area. The purpose of this restriction is to prevent parental kidnapping. If you have primary physical or sole legal custody of your minor child, do not move away or plan a long distance move without talking to an attorney about your rights and legal obligation to the other parent. A move away matter could take up to six to nine months or more to get finally resolved.

 

Special Case – International Travel. You cannot take your child out of the country for any reason without a court order or the other parent’s written and notarized consent. You do not necessarily need a lawyer for this one. The consent must be written (preferably typed) and signed by the other parent, but you can create your own if you make sure the consent has the following information: (a) the names of parent who is granting consent, (b) the name of the parent (or grandparent or guardian or other person who is taking the child on the trip), (c) the location for the international destination, (d) the dates of travel, and (e) the date signed. The document also must be notarized to prevent the fraud easily caused by one parent forging the other parent’s signature on the document. Like the move away order, this consent is necessary to prevent parental abductions.

 

CHILD AND SPOUSAL SUPPORT AND FAMILY SUPPORT:

 

Child support is only available to a parent with a minor child or a parent with an adult child with permanent developmental disabilities. Spousal support is only available to a person who is married and either is in the process of obtaining a divorce or legal separation or is included as part of the Judgment at the end of a divorce or legal separation proceeding. Family support, on the other hand, is only available to a spouse with a minor child who is found by the court to be eligible for both child and spousal support.

 

PROPERTY DIVISION:

 

Property division only applies in the divorce or legal separation setting. If you have been living with the parent of a minor child and now you are separating, your ability to divide jointly incurred debts or jointly acquired assets is limited and may need to be pursued in a non-Family Law civil proceeding. However, in the divorce or legal separation setting, property division is the characterization of all assets owned or acquired by the parties and the fair and equitable division of those assets that jointly belong to both spouses.

There are also special rules that apply to things like personal injury settlement or judgment proceeds, disability payments, and real property owned by either spouse before marriage but paid down during the marriage. If you and your spouse own any property that cannot be easily characterized, please seek legal counsel to determine what your rights and obligations are, if any, in that property or debt.