Whenever you can avoid going to court, spending unnecessary money and time, and getting yourself stressed out, you’re doing well. As divorce attorneys in Orange County, we know an uncontested divorce in California may help you avoid court, save money and time, and miss out on some of the stress that comes whenever someone chooses and initiates the divorce process. In California, when divorcing spouses can reach agreements on matters like the distribution and division of marital assets, that couple may qualify to proceed with an uncontested divorce.
Uncontested divorce is often the right legal option when spouses do not have strong, bitter feelings toward each other, are concerned about fees and costs, and are ready to move forward with their lives. An uncontested divorce also reduces or eliminates the hostility and anger that are a part of so many divorces – a real plus when you are a parent seeking to shield your child from suffering emotional damage in the divorce process. Parents in an uncontested divorce are able to focus on parenting plans and strategies that advance the child’s best interests.
State law in California makes a child’s best interests the court’s highest priority whenever a child’s parents seek a divorce. The child’s best interests will be the goal of any decision by a California judge regarding joint or sole legal custody, physical custody, visitation, and child support payments. Parents who divorce in this state should know that the courts will put always children first.
WHO QUALIFIES FOR UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
This discussion of uncontested divorce in California is a general overview of the topic and should not be considered or taken as legal advice. If you are considering or anticipating a divorce in southern California, obtain the sound legal advice you that you’ll need regarding your own case and your personal circumstances by consulting an experienced Orange County divorce lawyer. In California, an uncontested divorce is called a “summary dissolution of marriage,” and not every divorcing couple will qualify. In fact, the qualifications for obtaining an uncontested divorce are quite specific. Those qualifications include but are not limited to:
• One person involved has to be a resident of California for a minimum of 6 months and a resident of the county where the divorce papers are filed for a minimum of three months.
• The cause of the divorce must be “irreconcilable differences.”
• Less than 5 years have passed from the date of the union to the date of separation.
• A settlement agreement to divide all assets and debts needs to be signed by both parties.
The truth is that not that many California couples will qualify for an uncontested divorce, and uncontested divorce is not for everyone. If child abuse or domestic violence is a factor in a divorce, or if one spouse is hiding assets or diverting income, an uncontested divorce probably won’t be possible, and couples will need to consider alternatives such as arbitration, mediation, or going directly to court.
WHAT ABOUT CHILD CUSTODY AND SUPPORT IN AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
When divorcing spouses are parents, resolving the child custody question early and without dispute is essential to an uncontested divorce. The best way to resolve child custody is simply for the parents to come to a mutual agreement that allows both of them to have frequent and regular time with the children. California family law favors joint legal and joint physical custody, so parents should begin any custody discussion with that legal provision in mind.
When there’s no disagreement regarding child custody, there should also be no disagreement regarding child support. When both parents are W-2 employees and income can be verified by pay stubs, determining the monthly amount of child support – by using the state’s guidelines – is easy. Child support in California is determined by a computerized program that can provide the parents with a precise child support amount. Generally, but with occasional exceptions, child support payments are made until the child’s 18th birthday. If your child is 18 and still a full-time high school student, then child support continues until the child graduates or reaches age 19.
WHAT ABOUT THE DIVISION OF PROPERTY IN AN UNCONTESTED DIVORCE?
The division of property in an uncontested California divorce depends on the honesty and accuracy of each spouse’s disclosures. The division of property process should equalize all of the community property so that neither spouse obtains an unfair advantage. If the couple have a home, cars, bank accounts, and a 401(k) and retirement plans to divide, the task should be made easier, because all of these can be verified easily and straightforwardly.
In the event that the communal home was purchased with joint funds, dividing the home could be as easy as getting an appraisal, establishing the equity, and sharing it. A buyout can be made by paying cash or with an offset of another property. If either partner is unable to afford or is interested in a buyout, the property must be sold. It is always recommended to hire a seasoned real estate professional who can work with both partners in an effort that neither party gains an unfair advantage in the sale process. If a buyout or a sale doesn’t seem feasible due to the fact that the property lacks any equity and could be upside down, each partner has other various options including the short sale process.
Vehicles are usually simple to divide. If two spouses each have their own vehicles, each can keep the vehicle they have. When one vehicle’s equity is greater than the other, an equalization payment can be made that offsets the difference. The payment can be made with cash or through the offset of property. Of course, a mere agreement to divide the vehicles is not enough. Spouses must also see to it that that the appropriate changes are made with the registration, car insurance, loan, and title.
If a divorce is genuinely uncontested, it’s possible that one Orange County divorce attorney can handle the paperwork for both spouses. You are not required by law to hire an attorney for your divorce, but any mistakes you make could delay or seriously prejudice your case. Most importantly, an experienced California divorce lawyer will help you understand your legal rights and options in a divorce. An attorney may cost a little, but the right attorney can you from losing a lot in a southern California divorce.