Divorce
How to Survive the Break-up

Pain. Sorrow. Anger. Grief. Intense emotions can erupt during the break-up of a relationship. It’s difficult to make decisions. Planning for the future seems impossible. On top of everything else, it’s necessary to file a court case, or to respond to papers filed by your spouse. NancyStassinopoulos, a Certified Family Law Specialist with more than 35 years of experience, can help you.

In California, divorce was renamed “dissolution of marriage” in 1970. That happened when the fault-based system of divorce was replaced by a no-fault concept. Most people still use the term “divorce.” That’s the term used in this summary of the law.

Four ways to settle your divorce:

  1. A “kitchen table” agreement: You and your spouse sit down at the kitchen table and write out your agreement. You divide your property (furniture, automobiles, house, retirement) and your debts. If you have children, you decide how to share custody of your children. You discuss and agree on payments for child support and for spousal support (alimony). You can try to write up your own agreement to be filed with the court, hoping there are no expensive mistakes. To avoid future problems, it’s best to pay an attorney to write up your agreement in proper legal form to protect your interests.
  2. Litigation or negotiation with attorneys: You and your spouse each hire an attorney. You instruct your attorney how to handle your case. Not every case requires litigation. Most cases are settled through negotiation, with the assistance of attorneys. In some cases there are court hearings at which the judge makes temporary orders for custody of the children, payment of child support and spousal support, and attorney’s fees. A small percentage of cases require more intensive court involvement, ending in a trial at which the judge makes all the decisions. Sometimes the parties decide to pay a private judge to hear their case.
  3. Mediation: You and your spouse select a neutral person, usually an attorney, to serve as your mediator. The mediator is not a judge, and does not make the decisions. Instead, the mediator provides a forum for discussion, and suggests options for settlement. If mediation is successful, it will end with a written agreement called a Marital Settlement Agreement. It’s best for each party to have an independent attorney review the Agreement. Mediation makes it possible to end the case without going to court.
  4. Collaborative Divorce: This is a team approach designed to keep the case out of court and to help the family to heal. Each spouse has an independent attorney and a communications coach. If the financial issues are complicated, the spouses may agree to hire a financial specialist to analyze the assets and make suggestions for settlement. In cases with minor children, the parents may decide to hire a child specialist to assist the children with the divorce process. Like mediation, the Collaborative Divorce will result in a written Marital Settlement Agreement to be signed and filed with the court.

Same Sex Couples:

The state of the law regarding same-sex marriage is constantly changing, because more states have legalized same-sex marriage. As more and more same-sex couples enter into domestic partnerships or marriage, they encounter the same legal problems as opposite-sex couples if the relationship falls apart: child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of community property may be involved.

California law permits same-sex couples who were married in another state, or who entered into a domestic partnership in another state, to dissolve their marriage or domestic partnership in California, as long as California residency requirements are met. Couples who married in California, or who have a California registered domestic partnership, or both, can also file for dissolution of marriage and dissolution of the domestic partnership. There are tax complications in such cases, and it is important to get good legal and tax advice.

As a San Diego divorce attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist, I can help you decide the best path to resolve your case.