Category Archives:Orange County Family Court


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How to File for Divorce

  
There are three main ways to end a marriage or registered domestic partnership in California: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. It is not necessary for both spouses or domestic partners to agree to end the marriage.  Either spouse or partner can decide to end the marriage, and the other spouse/partner, even if he or she does not want to get a divorce, cannot stop the process by refusing to participate in the case.
After you decide how you want to end your marriage or domestic partnership, you need to plan your case ahead of time.  Think about how you are going to handle your case.  Planning before you start and talking to a lawyer can save you time and money as you go through the court process.
The following chronology will give you a general idea of how the average divorce process works.  Your divorce may be a little different because of specific legal issues which may arise between you and your spouse.

How to File for Divorce:

  • To begin a divorce in California, one spouse must file a divorce petition in his/her local courthouse.  The local family law courthouse in the Orange County area is the Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange, California.  The person who files the divorce petition is called the “Petitioner.”
  • After the summons and divorce petition are filed with the court, the divorce petition must be personally served.  The person who is served with the petition is called the “Respondent.”
  • After the lawsuit is served, the Respondent has thirty (30) days to file a response to the petition with the court.  The Response tells the court that the Respondent intends to participate in the divorce proceedings and wants to be notified of any upcoming court divorce hearings.
  • If the Respondent fails to file a response to the divorce within 30 days, the case proceeds without the Respondent’s participation.  This is called proceeding by “default.”
  • If the case proceeds by way of default judgment, the Petitioner prepares a divorce judgment and submits it to the court and the case is concluded.  The parties become single after the statutory waiting period has expired.
  • If the Respondent files a response to the divorce, the parties exchange documents and other information about their property and incomes.  This is called “discovery.” By examining important documentation beforehand, sometimes the parties are able to settle their dispute without ever having to go to trial.
  • Sometimes one or both of the parties will need the court to make orders before the divorce case is concluded.  Either spouse may file an Order to Show Cause at any time before the trial.  An Order to Show Cause is a request for the court to make temporary orders. Usually these temporary orders concern child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, or attorney fees.  These orders are only good until the trial.
  • Sometimes the parties never have to go to trial because they agree on the terms of the divorce beforehand. If a divorce settlement is reached, the spouses will have a Marital Settlement Agreement prepared. This becomes the divorce judgment and the case is concluded. The divorce is granted after the six month waiting period has elapsed.
  • If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the divorce will go to trial.  Even if the parties cannot agree on everything, sometimes will be able to agree on some issues.  If this happens, the parties can prepare a Partial Judgment.  This becomes part of the final judgment after the parties have a hearing on the remaining issues in the case.
  • At trial, each side presents evidence and arguments. The judge decides all remaining matters, including child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney fees and property division.  The divorce judgment is prepared.
  • Once the judge signs the divorce judgment and the six month waiting period has elapsed, the divorce becomes final, and the parties are single and free to remarry.
  • Even after the divorce judgment is entered if the parties’ circumstances change, either party can later return to court and ask the judge to change certain orders in the divorce judgment.  However, the court’s power to change the orders in a divorce judgment are limited to child custody, child visitation, child support, and spousal support.
Legal updates brought to you by the Orange County and Riverside Law firm of Don Ho, LLP. 
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    Terrell Owens: Child Support Troubles Again

    English: Terrell Owens (T.O.) autographing for...
    Image via Wikipedia
    In California, there are many ways of enforcing child support orders.  Wages can be garnished and driver’s licenses or passports can be suspended or denied.  In fact, parents who do not pay child support they owe could even end up in jail.
    A well-known professional athlete is currently facing such repercussions after allegedly owing more than $20,000 in child support.  Six-time Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens is believed to be facing a slew of money problems, including owing back child support.
    According to reports, Melanie Paige Smith, the mother of one of Owens’ four children claims that child support for her daughter were not paid between December 2011 and February 2012.  She recently filed a petition in court asking that the football player be fined or jailed if he doesn’t start helping to support his daughter.  
    In the midst of the NFL lockout last summer, Owens reportedly tried to have the $5,000 monthly child support payments be lowered to $2,500, but the request was rejected.
    Owens has never been married, but has four kids with four different women, and each of them has taken him to court at one point.  A January article from GQ revealed that Owens owes close to $45,000 each month in child support for the children he has fathered.  He is also believed to have two Dallas homes in foreclosure.
    Since Owens’ contract with the Cincinnati Bengals was not renewed for the 2011 season and no other NFL teams have picked him up, Owens is playing in the Indoor Football League.  Owens can reportedly make up to $500,000 per year in this league, which would not be enough to cover child support alone.
    In California, child support obligation are determined on the current obligor’s ability to pay.  Although child support orders are viewed as permanent, when there is a change in circumstances, either the paying or non-paying parent can request a child support modification.
    Legal updates brought to you by Orange County law firm of  Don Ho, LLP.
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