If you are considering dissolving your marriage, you must plan for your case in advance to ensure you are fully prepared to meet all the legal requirements and reach the best solution for your family. Many couples can resolve their issues outside the courtroom with mediation or attorney-led negotiations, but unfortunately, some cases require involvement from the court to reach a fair settlement. There are various legal issues involved in getting a divorce, from child custody and support to property division, and a couple that is already struggling to communicate and cooperate will likely find it extremely difficult to handle these issues without help from a legal expert. Hiring a divorce attorney is the first step you should take after you have decided to pursue a divorce to secure the optimal outcome in your case,
Review the following information to learn what questions you can expect to be asked in divorce court, then contact Paula D. Kleinman today to discuss your case. Our firm can explain the laws and procedures around the divorce process, gather the evidence you need to argue your case, and develop an effective strategy for presenting your argument before the judge. We have the experience, knowledge, and litigation skills to protect your interests and advocate on your behalf during even the most contentious divorce.
What Questions Are Asked in Divorce Court?
Getting divorced is a complex legal matter that has significant consequences for all parties involved, so divorce judges in California will ask you several important questions to help them make informed decisions in your case. Before they can issue a divorce order, they need to obtain as much information as possible to find out why you and your ex have been unsuccessful in negotiating the terms of your divorce and ensure that you both fully comprehend the implications of your decision. The exact questions you will be asked during your divorce hearing will depend on the specific circumstances of the case and the nature of the court proceedings you are involved in, such as whether you are in the midst of an ongoing contested divorce or whether you are the last stage of the process seeking final approval of an agreement.
However, there are questions you can expect to be asked at your divorce hearing:
- How Long Were You Married?
This question gives the judge background information on your relationship and can help them discern the issues involved in your divorce. The length of your marriage is also significant for property division purposes. Property includes real estate, vehicles, furniture, household items, bank accounts, pension, retirement plans, stocks, life insurance, businesses, patents, and other valuable assets. California is a community property state, meaning any property you and your spouse owned at the time of your divorce is considered community property and subject to division. Any property you owned before the marriage is regarded as separate property and not subject to division.If there is a dispute about what property is community property and what is separate property, the judge will review financial evidence and witness testimony to make this decision. Typically, community property is divided equally between both parties, meaning each spouse owns half of the property and is responsible for half the debt accrued during the marriage. However, in some cases, the judge may decide that a 50-50 split is unfair to one party. Common examples include one spouse who pauses their education or career to raise children or one spouse who made substantially more significant contributions to the household during the marriage.
- Have You Completed the “Cooling Off” Period?
California law mandates a six-month waiting period, referred to as a cooling-off period, after the date that one spouse files for divorce before the divorce can become legally finalized. The reasoning behind this requirement is to ensure both parties demonstrate a genuine commitment to dissolving their marriage and to provide an opportunity for them to approach the relationship from a new perspective that could allow for reconciliation. The judge will want to determine that you and your spouse have spent this time cooperating in good faith to settle your differences. If you have successfully negotiated a settlement, the judge must confirm that the cooling-off period has expired, meaning they can finalize the divorce.
- What Efforts Have You Made to Reach a Resolution?
If you and your spouse have been unable to reach a resolution on your own, the judge will need to understand the attempts you have made and why they were unsuccessful. Divorce litigation is expensive and time-consuming, so the best strategy for many couples is to settle issues on their own terms without commencing a court battle. In some cases, one spouse is willing to explore other options before taking their case to court, but the other spouse is resistant to working together,preventing them from achieving a fair agreement. The judge can use this information to evaluate whether you would benefit from additional negotiation or alternative dispute resolution services with a trained mediator. If you have exhausted all your options outside of the courtroom, they may decide that judicial intervention is the only way to reach an appropriate settlement.
- Do You and Your Spouse Have Any Children Together?
When children are involved in a divorce, the judge’s primary concern will be to protect the best interests of these children by ensuring their financial, physical, and emotional needs will continue to be met. Their number one priority will always be supporting the health, safety, and well-being of a child over the parents’ wishes. The judge will want to confirm that you both understand you have a legal responsibility to provide for your children until they reach adulthood and make you aware of the factors they will consider before making any child custody or support determinations. Custody takes two forms—legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the ability to make crucial decisions on behalf of the child, such as education, health care, religious affiliation, and extracurricular activities. Physical custody refers to where the child will reside regularly. Judges in California tend to award joint legal custody as the default unless one parent lives far away, has a history of neglect or abuse, does not spend time with the child, or fails to be involved in the child’s daily life.Judges also prefer to award joint physical custody to ensure both parents can remain active parts of the child’s life, but this option typically only works if they can get along and live close enough that the child can easily travel back and forth between both residences. In cases where one parent is awarded sole physical custody (the custodial parent), the other parent (the noncustodial parent) will receive visitation or parenting time, and you and your spouse will need to negotiate a schedule.
- Have You Reviewed the State Child Support Guidelines?
California has a specific set of Child Support Guidelines in which a complex formula is used to determine the minimum amount of child support a parent can provide for their child. This formula considers each parent’s income, the percentage of parenting time each parent spends with the child, income tax deductions each parent can claim, mandatory payroll deductions (health care premiums, pensions, etc.), and the cost of childcare incurred by each parent. The amount calculated from this formula is presumed to be correct, barring special circumstances in which this amount would not be appropriate. Factors that could increase or decrease child support payments include:
- One parent earns an income so high that the guideline amount would exceed the needs of the child.
- One parent does not contribute to the needs of the child regarding their parenting time.
- Both parents spend approximately equal parenting time with the child, but one parent uses a comparatively higher or lower amount of their income to cover housing costs.
- The child has special needs that require higher child support payments, such as physical disabilities, developmental issues, or emotional or behavioral conditions.
How Should I Prepare for a Divorce Trial?
Thorough trial preparation ensures you can most effectively present your case and approach the hearing with confidence. Ultimately, taking a proactive approach to your divorce trial can make all the difference in reducing your stress and improving your chances of reaching the best resolution. To prepare for a divorce trial, consider the following tips:
- Hire a Divorce Attorney
An attorney with experience in this field understands the issues you are facing and can help you confront them with legal guidance and expert advice. Ask friends, family members, and colleagues for recommendations, then research local divorce attorneys to find the right fit for you. Hiring an attorney at the very beginning of the divorce process is the only way to guarantee you are fully prepared for your hearing, understand your rights, and can reach a successful outcome.
- Gather Your Documents
You will be required to provide extensive documentation at your hearing, so begin gathering this paperwork as soon as possible. You will need tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs to show your current income, retirement account statements, documentation of assets, loan documents, mortgage statements, property taxes, proof of expenses (utilities, childcare, etc.), and proof of debts. If you have a prenuptial agreement, a parenting plan, or proof of paternity (either from a DNA test or a Voluntary Declaration of Parentage), you must include this documentation, as well.
- Remember to Take Care of Yourself
Many people focus so intently on the divorce that they neglect their own physical and emotional needs without realizing it. A divorce is an incredibly stressful and significant life event, and you may suffer tension headaches, digestive issues, or trouble sleeping until it resolves. Instead of obsessing over the struggle, try to focus on the outcome. When this obstacle is overcome, you are free to begin a new life separate from your spouse and without the issues you experienced during your marriage. Eat healthily, keep an exercise routine to stay active, and spend time with your loved ones.
- Establish a Robust Support System
Going through a divorce is exhausting and can leave you feeling alone. Be available to establish a robust support system of friends, family, members of your church, and other individuals that you can trust to share details of your divorce and provide you with the support you need to get through this difficult time. This support system can offer motivation to conquer your divorce, overcome your grief, and let go of negative feelings like guilt, shame, and anger. If you were the victim of abuse or domestic violence, it is especially crucial to have a network of people you can rely on to remind yourself that you are loved, you are making the right choice, and you are not alone in your struggle.
Secure Legal Representation to Prepare for Your Divorce
If you plan to file for divorce and are concerned about preparing for your case, contact Paula D. Kleinman today for expert legal representation. Our firm has represented clients throughout San Diego County for over 20 years, offering comprehensive, compassionate, and personalized legal services during this challenging time. We help our clients understand the laws that impact their divorce, guide them through the divorce process, and ensure they can effectively navigate all the complicated legal issues it entails, such as child custody, child support, and property division. Unlike other attorneys who involve paralegals, legal secretaries, and other less qualified staff to prepare cases, Ms. Kleinman personally handles every case from the very beginning. She will work directly with you to understand your unique family dynamics, determine your goals, and develop the right solution to accomplish them.
Schedule a consultation with Paula D. Kleinman today to discuss your case and learn more about how our firm can help you reach the right resolution for your family. Divorce cases tend to be incredibly complicated, emotionally charged, and intimidating, especially when children are involved. However, retaining the services of an experienced family law attorney is necessary to protect your child’s rights, protect your interests as a parent, and secure the best chance of achieving an optimal outcome in your divorce case. With help from Paula D. Kleinman, you can approach this difficult situation with the information and support you need to make the right decisions for your family’s future.