Family Law Overview
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Oceanside Relocation Lawyer
Divorce is not an easy process. It often takes months, if not years, to finalize, can be very costly, and brings up difficult emotions. The process can be further complicated if you and your former partner have children together, as you will have to work to establish agreements regarding custody, visitation, and child support that are in the interest of your child.
Finalizing a child support and custody order is a necessary process in Oceanside, CA, but the needs and circumstances of parents and children can change easily. Financial needs, relationship changes, and relocation can all be reasons why a child custody or support order has to be modified. If one parent gets a new job opportunity, needs to care for a sick family member, or wants to be closer to their support system, then they may need to relocate. This move will impact any existing child support and custody agreements, but an experienced Oceanside relocation attorney like the one at Paula D. Kleinman, APLC, can help you understand the process.
The Divorce Process in California
Finalizing a divorce can be difficult and time-consuming because there are many major decisions that must be made. When you choose to end your marriage in California, there is a very specific process that you must follow before your divorce can be completed. Generally, there are four overarching steps involved:
The first step is to initiate the divorce. One spouse will have to complete the correct paperwork to begin the process. This includes a petition for dissolution, which declares that you want to end the marriage and includes all the necessary information, such as:
- Living arrangement
- Any children in the marriage
- Requested property division
- Child custody and support requests
The other necessary form is a summons, which lets the other partner know that the petition has been filed, and they have thirty days to respond. These forms will be filed with the court and then delivered to the responding party by an adult other than the person filing. Once all the initial paperwork has been completed, you will wait up to thirty days for the other party to respond.
Once the divorce process has begun, you will then be responsible for sharing all necessary financial information. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this will include sharing your regular income, the value of any assets you have, the real estate holdings you own, any vehicles you have, and more. When you first share this information, it is considered your preliminary disclosure.
The petitioner, who files the initial paperwork, is required to submit all of this information within sixty days of when the petition is filed. The respondent, who receives the summons, will have sixty days from the date they file their response to share their financial information. If you receive a summons and are notified of the proceedings, but you choose not to file a response, then you will not be required to share this financial information. However, you also will not have any say in the process or final outcome of the divorce.
When all the necessary financial disclosures have been made, you will start the process of making any major decisions. This typically means that you have to reach an agreement on:
- How any property and debt you share will be divided.
- How much spousal support is necessary and who will pay it.
- How your children will be taken care of.
There are a few ways that this can be handled. First, if one partner does not respond to the initial filing, and is not involved in the process, then the other spouse can outline their requests for these decisions and wait for court approval. If both parties are actively engaged in the divorce proceedings, then you can work with your former spouse to reach an agreement together, either alone or with the help of a facilitated mediation.
In situations where working together to reach an agreement is not possible, the spouses will ask the court to make final decisions. This means that the divorce will go through a trial process, and a judge will make all the final decisions for asset division, spousal support, and children.
When the Divorce Is Finalized
The last step in this process is to have your divorce finalized. This requires you to submit another round of paperwork, including any court orders that were put in place or any agreements you made with your former spouse. Once those things have been submitted, they will be given to a judge, who will make the final decision. If there are any errors in your documents, then they will have to be corrected and re-filed. If there are no errors, then the judge will sign the form to finalize your divorce and provide you with the specific date that your marriage ended.
While the process can be broken down fairly simply into four steps, in reality, it can be challenging to complete. There is a mandatory six-month waiting period, so even in the most ideal circumstances, it will not be a quick process. Working with an experienced Oceanside divorce attorney can be invaluable because they can:
- Help you understand each step of the process.
- Ensure that all major decisions are equal.
- Ensure that the correct documents are completed and filed in a timely manner.
Major Decisions to Make During a California Divorce
One of the main things that can make divorce so difficult is agreeing to terms with your former partner. Some of the conflicts or concerns that contributed to the end of your relationship may impact how you interact with one another during the negotiations. You could also have differing ideas regarding:
- How property should be divided
- Whether spousal support is necessary
- How your children should be cared for
There are three primary areas where you will have to reach an agreement, and understanding what is required for each of the major decisions during your divorce can help make the process easier.
California is a community property state, which means that any assets or property that were gained during your marriage will be divided equally between spouses. This process could be particularly challenging if you are navigating a high-value divorce because there will be a wide variety of valuable assets that need to be divided.
One option you may choose is to divide tangible property, such as homes, stocks, or vehicles, equally between you by deciding who will keep each thing. If you do not want to divide physical property, then you can have the value of your assets assessed, sell them, and divide the profit equally. If you cannot reach an agreement about asset division yourselves, then a judge may have to step in and make the final decision.
The primary aim when children are involved in a divorce is to ensure that all their needs are being met and that all decisions are made with their interests in mind. California requires both parents to be responsible for the well-being of their children, so they will both have to contribute a specific amount to support their child each month. This amount is determined through a specific formula that takes into account:
- The combined disposable income of both parents
- How much time the child spends with the higher-earning parent
- The net income disposable income of the higher-earning parent
- How much of the parents’ combined total income will go toward child support
Once this agreement is reached, an order will be put in place by a judge.
Visitation and Child Custody
There are two types of custody that a parent can have in California: legal and physical. Legal custody allows a parent to make major decisions regarding their child’s life, such as:
- Their education
- Whether they are exposed to religion
- Their medical needs
Physical custody refers to which parent the child spends the majority of their time with. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your custody situation may result in three outcomes:
- You both share legal and physical custody.
- You both only share one type of custody.
- One parent will have primary physical and legal custody of the child.
Making all these decisions may be overwhelming, but doing so is necessary for a successful divorce, particularly when children are involved. An accomplished family law attorney can work with you to be sure that all agreements you reach are serving the interests of your child.
Modifying a Child Support or Child Custody Order
Once your divorce is finalized and all of your major decisions have been made, it can feel like you can move on and put it behind you. Unfortunately, circumstances can easily and quickly change, which may mean that you need to change the child support order or custody and visitation agreement that was put in place.
To accomplish this, you will have to meet again with your former spouse, any attorneys involved, and the judge. Parents will discuss new terms, which may be caused by things like a change in financial standing or the parent with primary physical custody relocating, and draft a new agreement. Once a new agreement has been made, regardless of the reason, the parents will present their new agreement to a judge so it can be approved.
Reasons for a Move-Away Order
A parent’s living circumstances can change unexpectedly, either because of a new job or needing to care for a sick family member, which can force a modification to their custody or child support order. If the custodial parent needs to relocate, then they will have to get a move-away order so their child can move with them. Many things can necessitate a move-away order, including:
- Work Opportunities: Caring for children can be challenging, especially if you are on your own, so many parents have to find a new job to better provide for their children. A new job may give them better healthcare benefits, be closer to high quality educational opportunities, or provide free healthcare on-site. In some circumstances, in order to provide the life they want for their children, the parent will have to relocate with their child.
- Be Closer to Family: Some people moved away from their family during their marriage, either for a job opportunity, educational access, or to follow their spouse. When their marriage ends, it can be difficult to move forward without familial support, so they choose to relocate in order to be close to their loved ones. In these situations, if children are involved and the parent with primary custody is moving away, a new custody agreement and order will have to be put in place.
- A Better Support System: The end of a marriage can bring many emotions and unexpected struggles with it, including grief over a lost relationship, financial strain from no longer having multiple incomes, and anger if your former spouse is making the divorce process more difficult. If you are also responsible for raising children in the midst of this change, it can feel impossible, so many people choose to move in order to have a stronger support system. While this move may be optimal for both the parent and their child, it must be approved in a move-away order first.
The non-custodial parent may have concerns about the move because of how it could negatively impact their child emotionally. In those cases, a parent will likely fight to keep their child from moving so that they do not have to face additional trauma following a harrowing divorce. Starting over in a new place is a major adjustment for anyone, but it could pose particular challenges for a parent and child following a divorce. In order to be sure that the interests of the child are prioritized, a judge will have to approve a move-away order. The courts will consider all aspects of child development, including their emotional, mental, and physical well-being.
What Is Considered for a Move-Away Case?
Relocating is often difficult for a child because they are leaving behind a place that is familiar and safe. They may fear being excluded or ostracized as the new kid when they move. The fear of losing friendships can cause any child to be concerned about a new location. Managing expectations and giving children time to adjust can help allay these concerns. As with any family law case involving children, it is essential that the child’s interests are always at the forefront.
Keeping the best interests of the child at the center of all decision-making means that a judge will consider many factors when assessing a move-away order, including:
- Distance: It is important that children have consistent contact with both of their parents whenever possible, even if their parents are not together. Relocating to a different state, or even to the other side of their current state, can cause major problems with visitation because the non-custodial parent will be so much further away. A move of significant distance could potentially harm a child’s relationship with one or both parents, so unless it can be guaranteed that the child will still see both parents on a consistent basis, relocation may not be in the child’s interest.
- Existing Custody Order: Determining how custody will be divided when parents divorce can be a challenging process, but it is important to ensure that all the child’s needs are consistently met. If relocation requires significant changes to the existing custody order, which may keep the child from seeing one of their parents or otherwise harm their relationship, then it may not be approved.
- Parents’ Relationship: When a marriage ends, it can often lead to anger, frustration, or conflict between the former spouses. If they share a child, then that animosity can seriously impact their co-parenting relationship. When a parent wants to modify their custody or support agreement to relocate, then the judge will take the relationship they have with their former spouse into consideration. If there is a negative relationship, or it is suspected that a parent is moving to keep their child from the other parent, then their request may be denied.
- Age: Older children may take a move harder than younger children because they have stronger friendships and connections that they will lose. The judge may take this into consideration and, if the child is old enough, have them speak with a counselor to determine whether they want to move.
- Children’s Relationships With Parents: Unfortunately, not all children have healthy, safe, loving relationships with their parents. One parent may be abusive. Perhaps they may have remarried, and their child feels left out of a new family. The parent may be too busy to engage with their child in a meaningful way. These factors, along with many others, can have a negative impact on the parent/child relationship and create distance between them. If this is the case, relocation may be in the interest of a child to give them the opportunity to move away from an unhappy or unsafe relationship. A judge will take that into consideration when making a decision about relocating the child.
- Emotional Health: Even in ideal situations, divorce is difficult for children. They may not understand why their parents are no longer together, have trouble adjusting to their new normal, or act out because they are upset. Relocation, in addition to the trauma of a divorce, may hinder a child’s emotional well-being even further. If a judge believes that relocating with a parent will be harmful to a child’s well-being, then they may not allow the child to be relocated.
Trust Paula D. Kleinman, APLC, for Your Relocation Needs
If you have children with a former spouse, you want to ensure that they are cared for and that their needs are met, even if your relationship with the other parent ends. Ideally, you will be able to work together as parents to determine what needs to be done to care for your child, including who will have primary custody and what child support will be necessary.
Once these agreements are put in place, it can be frustrating to have to change them, but it may be necessary. Circumstances in life can change easily, and in some cases, one parent may have to relocate for a job opportunity or to be closer to family. A skilled Oceanside relocation lawyer can help ensure that any changes to your custody and child support orders are in the interest of your child. Contact our office today for assistance.