At Taylor, McCord, Praver & Cherry, our attorneys practice family law throughout Ventura County, assisting clients with divorce through litigation or alternative dispute resolution, as well as cases involving unusual issues such as international child custody or same-sex relationships. See below for a general overview of divorce in California as well as some of the more specific areas of practice in which we frequently provide assistance:
- Interstate and International Custody
- Domestic Partnerships and Same-Sex Relationships
- Appellate Practice
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
A California divorce can be granted on the no-fault ground of irreconcilable differences, without having to prove misconduct or fault by one of the spouses. The process begins with the filing of a petition for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, provided that the filing spouse has been a legal resident of the state for at least six months, and the county for three month.
If the spouses can work out the issues in the divorce between themselves, the court will usually approve their agreement and grant the divorce. If there is disagreement about how to dispose of these issues, the court will hold a hearing, and the parties, through their attorneys, will present evidence and testimony as to how the issues should be decided, and the judge will rule accordingly.
To the extent that it is possible, community property is divided equally by the court. Whether a particular asset is community property or separate property and its value are critical issues in obtaining a fair property settlement. Spousal support, also known as maintenance or alimony, may be ordered to be paid from one spouse to the other for a limited period to aid the receiving spouse in becoming self-supporting. If there are children involved, the court determines all aspects of child custody, including legal custody, physical custody, and visitation. The court may also order child support to be paid, in an amount to be determined according to statutory guidelines.
Interstate and International Custody
Divorce orders are generally final, although they may be modified upon a showing of changed circumstances. It is not uncommon for one parent to relocate to another state or even out of the country. This most often requires a significant change in the child custody order, which may have granted each parent roughly equal parenting time on a weekly basis. Obviously, a distant move would require a significant change to the custody order.
Whether distant relocations may be in the best interest of the children is a matter subject to much debate in the courts and the legislature. We help parents, including those in the military, seeking to establish or challenge such a change through move-away motions and orders in court. When an international move is being considered, we are sensitive to issues raised by the Hague Convention, which was established to prevent the abduction of children across international borders. If a Hague violation is alleged, we have the necessary background and experience to deal with the international legal issues involved, such as determining which country's laws will take precedence.
Domestic Partnerships and Same-Sex Relationships
We have been helping same-sex couples with relationship issues, adoptions, and other family law matters since long before California passed its domestic partnership or same-sex marriage laws.
The status of the state's same-sex marriage law and of couples married under that law continues to be debated in the courts, in the legislature, and at the ballot box. In the meantime, the Domestic Partnership law continues in effect, granting many rights and obligations to domestic partners that are recognized in the law for married spouses.
We help domestic partners and same-sex couples who are dissolving relationships in cases of combined wealth or financial dependence. We are also experienced in Gender Identity cases and have handled divorces initiated while one spouse is transitioning from one gender to the other.
At all times, our focus is on obtaining the best possible outcome for each client. We do not engage in litigation unnecessarily, or as a matter of course in every instance. In fact, most of our cases settle without the necessity for a full trial. However, when the situation calls for the courtroom, our lawyers are ready and able to achieve success through the courts. From the moment when our representation begins, we prepare a case with the prospect of trial in mind; we understand the value of a case and its likely outcome at trial, knowledge that informs our approach to negotiations and enables us to move into a litigation phase whenever appropriate.
As the firm's partner in charge of research and writing, Patrick Cherry is well-suited to appellate practice. Patrick handles all family law appeals for the firm, and also accepts appellate cases in other areas of civil law. Patrick served on the Committee on Appellate courts for the State Bar of California and has briefed and argued numerous appeals in the California courts.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
The amount of conflict and emotion in a divorce varies from case to case and largely depends upon the parties themselves and whether bitter feelings exist before they ever get to court. However, in any litigation a certain amount of conflict is unavoidable because of the nature of the system. Court proceedings are adversarial by nature, and it is hard to overcome the feeling that, for one side to win, the other must lose.
For couples seeking an alternative the courtroom, the many forms of ADR may offer a solution. In a mediation, the parties work together to resolve the issues in their divorce with the help of a neutral third party trained in the art of conflict resolution who helps the parties explore their interests, keep their emotions in check, and work toward a mutually agreeable solution. Mediation is usually a non-binding process, and the parties may always go to court or try another method if the mediation does not succeed. In a mediation, the parties are most often represented by their attorneys, who either speak for them or advise them. Since the mediator cannot offer legal advice, it is vital that the parties have access to an attorney throughout the mediation to ensure that any settlement fairly reflects their desires and protects their legal rights.
Collaborative Family Law is a newer form of ADR which is gaining in popularity as more attorneys and their clients find success with it. The collaborative model is similar to mediation, except that the commitment to the process is much greater. Although it is not necessarily binding, the attorneys agree up front that they will not represent the client in court should the process fail. This commitment removes a common criticism of mediation, which is that since it is non-binding there is no incentive to succeed, and the parties merely use the process as a free tool for discovery and to get all they can out of the other party before moving on to court. In the collaborative model, a successful outcome is the paramount concern of everyone involved.
Another benefit of ADR is that it is a private proceeding, as opposed to a court proceeding, where hearings and all documents filed by the court are accessible by the public or the press. People with a need to keep their financial affairs and other matters confidential may want to consider ADR. Parties who are not committed to the collaborative model of resolving their divorce but who still have a need for privacy may avail themselves of a private judge. Through private judging, the divorce proceeding may be handled in every respect like a courtroom litigation, except that the proceedings and their outcome are not open to the public.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation
For over 40 years, our lawyers have been helping Ventura County residents through complex legal issues at critical junctures in their lives. For help in a divorce, custody dispute, domestic partnership or other family law matter, contact Taylor, McCord, Praver & Cherry.
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