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Frequently Asked Questions: Family Law

Will I have to pay alimony?

Spousal support, or alimony, is generally awarded when one spouse earns significantly more money than the other and the lesser-earning spouse does not have sufficient income to retain the lifestyle that they had prior to the divorce. Often, this is because one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent or is in continuing education. Sometimes the judge will award temporary spousal support; this type of alimony is for a short time until the lesser-earning spouse is able to find gainful employment or complete his or her education.

Will my ex-wife automatically win custody of our children?

The family court considers a number of factors before awarding custody to one parent, and the mother does not have an edge over the father. The court's main concern in child custody cases is the best interests of the child; this means that the family judge will assess various facts before determining which parent is a more beneficial custodian for the child. Some of the factors that the court considers are the age and gender of the child, their relationships and bonds with both parents, the parents' lifestyles and schedules, the child's mental and physical needs, and whether there is a history of domestic violence in the family.

Can I move if I have custody of our children?

It depends on the agreement reached during the divorce. Especially in joint custody cases, a judge may decide that moving a significant distance will be harmful to the children's development. In this situation, the judge can order that you cannot relocate outside of a certain area. In sole custody cases, you may move out of state as long as the move is not purely for the purpose of limiting the other parent's role in your children's lives. For assistance in modifying your custody agreement, seek the counsel of an experienced Orange County divorce attorney.

Is there any way to have a court order changed?

Orders issued by the court are legally binding, but in some cases, one party is no longer able to uphold his or her responsibilities or there has been some change in circumstances that calls for a change in the original order. If you want the terms of your divorce, support order, custody agreement, or visitation plan adjusted, you can seek a modification through the court. The judge will consider a modification for certain reasons, including such changes as a sudden illness, the loss of a job, a change in either party's finances, the child's exposure to dangerous situations, the need to relocate, and various other situations. A knowledgeable attorney can help determine whether you have grounds to seek modification.

My spouse and I are amicably splitting. Do we have to go to court?

For couples who are in mutual agreement about their divorce, mediation can be very beneficial. This method allows couples to come to agreement on the terms of the divorce without intervention from the court. Both parties will work together to negotiate the terms of their settlement, with the guidance of an experienced mediator. In order for mediation to be successful, the couple has to be truly able to set aside their differences and respectfully team up to decide upon their family's future. If you believe you and your spouse can do this, mediation can save you money, time, and additional stress on yourself and your children.

My grandchildren's parent is keeping them away from me; do I have any rights?

A child's relationship with his or her family is crucial, and few things are more precious or influential then their bond with their grandparents. The child's parents know that they have distinct rights, but many grandparents do not realize that they also have rights under the law. California recognizes how important a child's bond to their grandparents is, and the family code provides certain rights for grandparents. Much like the noncustodial parent, you can file for visitation rights with the family court, and if your petition is granted you will have legally enforceable rights to see your grandchild. By discussing the specifics of your situation with an experienced attorney, you can determine what options you have to protect your relationship with your grandchild.

What types of assets are considered communal property?

Communal property is property that is owned by both you and your spouse. When you get married, unless you have a pre-nuptial agreement, the property that you acquire during the marriage is jointly owned. During a divorce, communal property is divided; divisible property can be tangible or intangible. Tangible property includes assets such as your home, vehicles, furniture, artwork, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. Intangible assets are generally the value of things such as a patent, celebrity status, or a professional degree.

Why do I need a divorce lawyer? Can't my spouse and I file ourselves?

Although you and your spouse are able to file your own divorce paperwork, it is important to note that dissolving a marriage is a legal process that involves complex laws and can have serious and widespread implications on your life. Divorce involves a number of sensitive and complicated issues, and affects the people you love and the possessions you value. The proceedings commonly take a nasty turn, and couples find themselves in contentious courtroom battles without anyone to assist them. By hiring an attorney, you can be confident that your rights are protected and that you are not taken advantage of during litigation. An experienced law firm can advocate on your behalf before the family judge and provide you with a powerful legal voice, all the while guiding you with detailed understanding of the law.

Why should I hire a family law specialist?

If you have a family law matter and need legal representation, it is best to hire an Orange County family law attorney who meets or exceeds the qualifications necessary to represent you. I am a board-certified family law lawyer who is certified as a family law specialist by the California State Bar. I have the experience, skill and knowledge needed to provide you with effective legal counsel in family courts. For 20 years, I have committed myself to this area of law and I believe that when you retain my services that you will be extremely satisfied with your case results. Please contact my firm today to schedule a free case consultation to discuss you case in further detail.

How can your firm help me?

I am a certified family law specialist who can offer experienced counsel in virtually any area related to family law. I represent clients throughout the Orange County area in such cases as child custody, child support, divorce, collaborative law, domestic violence, post-judgment modification, property division, restraining orders, and spousal support.

Do you have other questions? Contact Kevin B. Gibbs, APLC today to discuss your unique circumstances and learn more about your legal options!