Interesting facts and tips regarding Divorce in LA County

  1. Meeting Your Lawyer

When consulting a family law attorney, it is imperative that your initial meeting is informative, authentic and honest. Why? Because this is the attorney that is going to be navigating the waters of your divorce creating your future.
What does authentic mean? Most firms will have potential new clients (PNC) meet with the head partner. As a PNC, one should certainly ask "who will be working on my case?" One should understand what tasks are addressed by whom and whose billing rates apply. One should not be embarrassed to ask questions so that when they receive their first bill, the are not shocked.
How much will this cost? I very caution people when considering a flat fee divorce. Why? Because at the outset no attorney can predict how long the "divorce" will take, unless it is a summary dissolution.
Then, how long will it take? I generally tell people that a prompt and affordable divorce requires reasonableness by both parties and honest financial disclosure.

  1. Getting Started- I am not wasting time with the obvious procedural requirements-this is "really intersting stuff"

What is the shortest time within which I can remarry? California has a mandatory "cooling off period" of 6 months, within which time one cannot be divorced.
Will I be able to "mediate" the case if I file? In LA County, prior to trial, parties will be ordered to attend mediation. Parties who meet the requirements can also request a "voluntary settlement conference" with a sitting bench officer.
Parties can also pay to attend mediation. This is a great alternative if the parties do not want to go to trial but need the attention to settle their case from a person who knows the law. All that is required is that both parties agree. This does not take away your right to trial but it can certainly help settle the issues that can be settled.
What if some issues are resolved? It is possible to have a trial on certain issues which are "bifurcated."
what if I want to remarry but our case is not settled? If all procedural requirements are met and satisfied, the Court can terminate status.

  1. Temporary/Pendente Lite child and Spousal support

Los Angeles County is using the DissoMaster or some comparable support computer calculator. The main components are timeshare with the child(ren), gross income, and some expenses. All expenses are not included, only particular deductions such as healthcare, child care, medical expenses, etc. There is a clear exhaustive list that should be considered.
What if my expenses are higher than my income? One must reduce expenses to afford child/spousal support obligations. Personal expenses, even mortgage, do not take priority over spousal or child support. Courts will assume one can live beyond their means if they have a pattern of doing so, and will require one to continue to live in debt to make said payments.
Does support change? Permanent Spousal support usually goes down. It is not calculated using the computer calculation but based upon a number of factors per the CA Family Code.
Can we waive the Court's jurisdiction to determine child support? No.

  1. When and How does this end?

Family law matters conclude by Judgment, either by way of trial or settlement. As stated above, one cannot be divorced within 6 months. However, if everything is agreed upon, you can have the settlement documents filed so the Judgment of Divorce is entered soon after the 6 month mark.
If the parties cannot agree, the matter will be set for trial when the parties have complied with all procedural requirement necessary to have the Court set the matter for trial.

  1. Help! What can I change and what happens now that everything is "settled" and how do I get paid?

Some issues can be modified, such as spousal support, assuming that a party has not waived their right to support, either by a full waiver or by a permanent termination date.
The Court always has jurisdiction over the issue of child support, for as long as the child remains under the Court's jurisdiction.
In terms of collection of settlement proceeds or support, there are many collection remedies. A divorce Judgment is an enforceable contract with many available remedies for the breach of said agreement. In most circumstances following divorce and when support obligations are potentially due, one can demand that the other party provide limited current income information for the purpose of evaluating if there is any appropriate legal action.
It may be in one's best interest to have a family law attorney review a divorce settlement prior to signature because of the resounding legal implications once a Divorce Judgment is entered by the Court.

Additional resources provided by the author

The Los Angeles Superior Court has wonderful self-help departments such as in room 426 (111 North Hill Street, 90012); Also the website for the Los Angeles Superior Court has the link to the Judicial Counsel Forms Website which has every necessary form to litigate a family law matter in Los Angeles County Consult with an attorney-even if you cannot afford an attorney, some attorneys will consult with you so that you are aware of legal pitfalls and offer invaluable guidance.