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Common Questions About Family Law

Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about family law.

1. What is family law?
Family law is the general term used to refer to the various actions regarding marital relationships and relationships between parents and children.

2. What is a Dissolution of Marriage action?
Known as a "divorce", this action is filed by a married person to end the marital relationship between a husband and wife. Along with restoring the parties to single status, the Court will issue orders for custody and visitation of the minor children of the marriage, child support, spousal support, and confirm or divide community and separate property assets and debts.

3. What is an action for a Legal Separation?
This action can be filed by a married person who wishes to maintain the marital status but separate and resolve all of other issues of the marriage. The Court will issue orders for custody and visitation of the minor children of the marriage, child support, spousal support, and confirm or award community and separate property assets and debts. If the other party, Respondent, responds to the paperwork and requests a dissolution of marriage, the Court will grant the dissolution of marriage.

4. What is an action for Nullity of Marriage?
Known as an "annulment", this action can be filed by a married person to restore the parties to the status of unmarried persons, as if they were never married. Certain conditions must be met before the Court will consider the marriage as void or voidable. Regardless of how the case proceeds, the Petitioner, the person who initiated the case, will have the burden to prove to the Court that one of the conditions for nullity has been met before the Court will grant the nullity of marriage. The Court can also issue orders regarding property and debt division, custody and support.

5. What is a Paternity action?
A Paternity action is filed by an unmarried mother or by an unmarried father who have minor children together. Through this action, the Court will determine paternity (or non-paternity if the father is found not to be the biological father of the minor children), and make custody and visitation as well as child support orders.

6. How can I get Orders for custody and visitation of my minor children?
Before parents can address the issues of custody and visitation of their minor children, there must be an underlying action. If the parents are married, either the mother or the father must first file an action requesting a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, nullity or file a petition for custody and support of minor children's action. If the parents are unmarried, either the mother or the father must file an action to establish the parental relationship or file the petition for custody and support of minor children. Once an underlying action has been filed, the Court can address the issues of custody and visitation. Based on your particular circumstances, our firm will help you determine which type of action you should file.

7. How can I get my child's mother/father to pay me child support for our minor child(ren)?
Before parents can address the issue of child support, there must be an underlying action. If the parents are married, either the mother or the father must first file an action requesting a dissolution of marriage, legal separation, nullity or file the petition for custody and support of minor children's action. If the parents are unmarred, either the mother or the father must file an action to establish the parental relationship or file the petition for custody and support of minor children. There is no legal obligation to pay child support from one parent to the other until there is a Court order. A Court order is obtained by requesting a hearing. Once an underlying action has been filed, the Court can address the issue of child support in the underlying action.

8. How can I get my spouse to pay me alimony ("spousal support")?
Once an underlying action for dissolution of marriage or legal separation has been filed, the Court can address the issue of spousal support in the underlying action. There is no legal obligation to pay spousal support by one parent to another other until there is a Court order. In limited situations, the Court can order spousal support in a nullity action. In order to obtain a Court Order for support, a Motion must be filed with the Court.

9. What is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?
A restraining order is a Court order issued to prevent the recurrence of acts of abuse by a batterer. Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, abuse is defined as any of the following: Intentionally or recklessly causing or attempting to cause bodily injury; Sexual assault; Placing a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another; Engaging in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined such as molesting, attacking, striking, stalking, threatening, battering, harassing, telephoning, destroying personal property, contacting the other by mail or otherwise, disturbing the peace of the other party.

The act(s) of abuse/violence must be recent, within thirty days, and the batterer must be a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend, someone with whom the victim has or has had a dating relationship, an immediate family member (mother, father, in-laws, siblings, adult children), or a person with whom a party has a child(ren) together.

The restraining order can include the following: restraints on personal conduct by the batterer; orders for the batterer to stay-away from the victim's home/work and/or children's school; orders for the batterer to be removed from the residence; child custody and visitation and support orders and other miscellaneous orders.

10. How will my property be divided?
California is a “community property” state. This means that any income earned by either spouse during the marriage, and all property bought with those earnings, are considered marital property that is owned equally by each spouse. In a divorce, the property is generally divided equally between the spouses.

11. Do I need to hire a lawyer to represent me in my family law case?
Many issues confront persons facing a divorce. Those issues include property rights, financial obligations to creditors, tax ramifications of a divorce, spousal support, and, most importantly, issues relating to custody of minor children. It is important and wise to educate yourself about these issues before making decisions regarding any of these issues. We strongly encourage people to have at least an initial consultation with an attorney to find out what your rights and obligations are before you make decisions that will affect the rest of your life, as well as the lives of your children.

Property settlements and custody disputes can be very complicated. Our firm will help you decide which of your belongings are community property and which are separate. We will protect your property rights, and tell you how the Court may divide your property. We can put your property settlement agreement into writing. We will advise you about your rights and duties concerning your children and your spouse. We will advise you regarding how much money, if any, you should pay or are entitled to receive for spousal or child support. We will effectively advise you regarding all other issues pertaining to your family law matter.

One of the most important decisions you'll make in your divorce or other family law matter, is choosing your lawyer, the person who will represent and protect your interests throughout the case. As you will be sharing very personal issues with your family law lawyer, you should look for a lawyer who has compassion, and with whom you are comfortable on a personal level.

Why You Should Choose Our Firm

As a solo practitioner, Susanne A. Coine will personally handle your case from the initial consultation through the conclusion of the matter. Your case will never get lost in the shuffle or handled off to another, less experienced attorney or paralegal. Susanne provides first-rate legal services, prompt responses and individualized attention to each and every client. Susanne will go above and beyond to protect your interests and strategize to help you find solutions with integrity, compassion and dedication.

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