Navigating a divorce can be difficult even under the most ideal circumstances. Completing the necessary paperwork, filing forms properly, and finalizing the divorce proceedings can all cause confusion and frustration without proper guidance.
Couples who wish to end their marriage in California must follow the correct steps to ensure that their assets are divided fairly. This could include child support, visitation, and spousal support, among other things. To complete this process in a timely manner, it’s important to understand how it works.
Making the decision to end a marriage is necessary for many couples. The factors leading to this decision may include abuse, infidelity, differences in goals, or simply growing apart. Whatever the circumstances, a divorce in California will either proceed as uncontested or contested.
An uncontested divorce typically involves minimal involvement with the court system. However, couples who have an uncontested divorce often hire an experienced attorney to help with mediation and legal processes. There are many benefits of an uncontested divorce, including:
- Less time required to complete divorce proceedings
- Less cost for both parties involved
- No need to discuss personal information in court
- Higher likelihood of agreeing to terms due to mediation
An uncontested divorce is often the best course of action for couples who do not harbor any ill will. It ensures that the divorce is finalized in a timely manner and all involved parties have equal say in the terms of the divorce. In some cases, however, an uncontested divorce is not possible, and the couple must proceed with a contested divorce.
A contested divorce is required when there are outstanding problems that must be resolved before the process can be completed. There are three reasons that a divorce in California may be contested. These reasons are:
- Factual disagreement
- Legal disagreement
- Refusal by one or both parties to negotiate
The process for a contested divorce is much longer and more involved. It involves full legal proceedings, including a trial. This means that all involved parties must follow a timeline established by the courts rather than their own needs.
One of the most challenging parts of a divorce, whether contested or uncontested, is determining what each party is entitled to. In California, several key factors determine what a wife is entitled to, including spousal support, child support and custody agreements, and division of assets.
Spousal Support in California
In California, a wife may be entitled to 50% of marital assets and 40% of her spouse’s income in various forms, but there are no solid guidelines to determine spousal support or alimony. Despite this, however, the aim of alimony in California is to maintain the standard of living for the lesser-earning spouse. It is important to note, however, that gender doesn’t matter in a divorce, and spousal support for either spouse will be determined based on finances and the couple’s unique situation.
Spousal support is a factor that will be considered in all divorce proceedings, but the outcome may be different for each case. Without specific rules determining spousal support, there are several key things that a judge will consider when determining the amount of alimony and how long it will be paid.
The judge may take the following things into account:
- The length of the marriage. Alimony may be required for half the length of the marriage if it lasted longer than ten years.
- What is required to maintain the established standard of living. This includes the higher-earning spouse’s ability to support themselves. It also takes into account how easily the lesser-earning spouse can become financially independent.
- The health of each spouse. Physical, mental, financial, and emotional health may all be taken into account.
- The assets and debts accrued during the marriage. Assets in a marriage may include possessions, investments, taxes, and property.
- Any history of domestic violence. This includes violence committed by or against the spouse paying alimony and the spouse receiving alimony. Any charges of domestic violence against the children from a marriage are considered as well.
The determination of spousal support can be a difficult process. Couples that choose to get married have a few options to protect themselves and make the divorce proceedings easier if their marriage ends.
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Most couples who choose to get married do not anticipate their relationship ending in divorce. It is important, however, for couples to understand what options are available to them in the case of a divorce. There are two types of contracts that couples can create to ensure a fair division of assets if their marriage ends: prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.
Prenuptial agreements are used to determine how future assets and wealth will be divided before a couple is married. Both parties must fully consent to and sign the agreement for it to be legally binding. These agreements can include various terms, depending on the needs of the couple. These terms often include such things as spousal support, property reclassification, and inheritance rights.
These terms may be deemed invalid if they are unfair to one party at the time of divorce, however. A prenuptial agreement in California cannot enforce marital conduct since California is a no-fault state or child custody because that is determined at the time of divorce to ensure that the child’s best interest is considered.
Postnuptial agreements are also designed to establish how assets are distributed in the event of a divorce, but the process is somewhat different. These agreements are created in an existing marriage and must be approved by the court before they are valid. Postnuptial agreements include many of the same terms but may also be used to protect a child’s inheritance or repair a relationship following infidelity.
Both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements offer many benefits for couples. Whether establishing boundaries prior to a marriage or ensuring security and equity within an existing marriage, having a legally binding contract in place can save a great deal of time and cost in the event of a divorce.
Legal Help for Spousal Support from the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires
Working with a trusted, experienced attorney can help to make the process easier. The Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires has over two decades of experience working personally with divorce cases. If you are going through a divorce or are looking to create a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, contact us today and let us guide you through the process.