Wail Sarieh
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How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Orange County?

Divorce

In the state of California, what is the cost of a divorce? Without any details, it’s just impossible to say. Every couple’s situation is unique, and every divorce is different. In Orange County and throughout Southern California, anyone who is seeking a divorce should consult an experienced Orange County divorce attorney who can discuss your individual case and then give you a rough estimate regarding what your divorce may cost.

However, you can have some influence yourself over what you may have to pay for a divorce. When both spouses are worried about divorce expenses, the best option may be to agree to an uncontested divorce – it’s usually the cheapest way, if that’s really what a couple needs. The problem, however, is that not every California couple seeking divorce will be eligible for an uncontested divorce – what the law in California calls a “summary dissolution of marriage.”

The rules for a summary dissolution, listed here, are quite specific:

– No more than five years elapsed between the marriage date and the separation date.

– One spouse must be a resident of the state for six months and a resident of the county where the divorce papers are filed for three months.

– There are no minor children; neither spouse seeks spousal support; neither spouse is pregnant.

– Both spouses agree in writing to a division of debts and assets.

– Except for car notes, no debts over $6,000 are outstanding; neither partner owns real estate; any lease agreements expire in less than a year of the divorce petition’s filing and do not offer any option to buy.

– Marital assets – except for vehicles – total less than $38,000, including deferred compensation and retirement funds, and neither partner personally owns assets worth more than $38,000.

If divorcing spouses can qualify for and obtain a summary dissolution of marriage in California, they won’t be asked to appear in court, they will face far less paperwork, and – in many cases – they should be able to divorce for under $6,000 – perhaps less or possibly just a bit more, provided that there are no disputes and that everyone involved continues to cooperate throughout the entire divorce process.

The requirements for an uncontested divorce in California make one thing clear – not very many couples qualify. In almost every divorce, there is some kind of dispute – over assets and property, alimony, or the kids. Each matter that is disputed adds to the expense of a California divorce, and the harder each dispute is to resolve, the more the divorce costs. When everything is disputed and it takes a courtroom trial to settle those disputes, the expense of a divorce can rise steeply.

WHAT WILL THE DIVISION OF DEBTS, PROPERTIES, AND ASSETS COST?

Even if divorcing spouses have no dispute regarding the division of their assets, properties, and debts, the legal paperwork alone can take hours, and course, the more a couple owns, the longer the process takes. Dividing properties and assets sounds easy enough, but if the assets and properties are extensive, the difficulties – and the costs – can go up.

When the liquidation of properties is required, the cost goes up. And if one spouse is hiding assets, there will be investigational costs to find those assets. Wherever divorcing spouses can find areas of agreement regarding the division of assets, properties, and debts, they can save.

Property and asset disagreements can take a great deal of time and dominate a divorce proceeding. When the marital property includes extensive real estate, those holdings can often be the most challenging matter in a divorce.

What will the process of dividing assets, properties, and debts cost in your divorce? Again, without any details, it’s impossible to say, but an experienced Orange County divorce attorney can probably estimate your cost after meeting with you and reviewing the details.

WHAT DO CHILD CUSTODY BATTLES COST IN A CALIFORNIA DIVORCE?

Nothing is more important than your child or children. When parents divorce in California, if they cannot agree on child custody, the lawyers can spend hours – in some cases, days – trying to find a resolution. The longer it takes, the costlier finding a resolution becomes. That’s why it is absolutely imperative for divorcing spouses to find as much agreement as they can early in the process.

Because the state has established formal child support guidelines, child support can be determined almost automatically in most California divorces, especially if both partners are honestly and fully disclosing their finances. California’s formal child support guidelines help judges determine the proper amount that the custodial parent should receive from the non-custodial parent subsequent to their divorce.

When divorcing parents can’t agree on an amount, a judge will order an amount based on the state guidelines. Usually, after reviewing the finances of both parents, your divorce lawyer can roughly estimate what child support will cost.

Alimony – called “spousal support” in California – is a different story entirely. Partners may dispute the standard of living the couple enjoyed while married. They may disagree regarding how long alimony should be required in the future. In many divorces, spousal support disputes eat up more time than any other type of dispute.

If emotions are highly-charged, and if a couple’s finances are complicated and extensive, there is no way to determine or guess the cost of an alimony dispute in the early stages of the process. However, every complication in a divorce will usually increase the expense.

WHAT DOES A DIVORCE TRIAL COST?

If divorcing partners can agree on nothing, a divorce trial to resolve those disputes can be costly – thousands of dollars – and if the couple’s assets are extensive and complicated, some couples may be looking at $20,000 or more for a divorce.

Finding areas of agreement is genuinely the only path to lowering the cost of a divorce in California. Expenditures for subpoenas, depositions, interrogatories, discovery requests, and transcripts – all routine parts of the process – can add up rapidly.

In most California divorces, judges will not require one spouse to pay the other spouse’s legal fees. That happens only when one spouse is at so severe a financial disadvantage that the procedure would be unjust if a judge did not “balance the scales” or “level the playing field.” In that situation, the disadvantaged partner can ask a judge to examine the couple’s finances and ensure the fairness of the proceeding.

After reviewing the details of your divorce, your finances, and all of your legal options, most divorce lawyers in California will work with you, and most divorce attorneys offer several types of reasonable payment plans.

Trustworthy legal help is available in Southern California from an experienced Orange County divorce attorney, but you must take the first step and make the call. Do not let any financial anxiety hold you back if you have made one of life toughest choices – the choice to divorce.

Wail Sarieh
By Wail Sarieh