Your resource for the most common questions regarding the family law process, divorce, support, property division, going to court, and more. For answers to your specific situation contact us today to speak with an experienced attorney.

General Questions

Get the answers you need to the most common questions regarding the family law process.

Our initial consultations are informative, working encounters - not a sales pitch. To ensure prospective clients get the most out of the consultation, first-time callers are directed to intake coordinators who collect the preliminary information required to schedule an appointment. Intake coordinators also provide guidance on how to prepare for the consultation.

During the meeting, the attorney will ask questions to assess the case and provide advice which will allow the client to make informed decisions. This includes whether an attorney needs to be retained, an assessment of potential case outcomes, and an estimate of attorney fees based on the information provided to the attorney.

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Whether it’s divorce, paternity, child support, visitation, post-judgment or other family law issues, navigating the legal system is a complex and involved process. It’s important to have an experienced professional by your side to ensure you are fully informed of your rights, the implications of various forms and procedures so that you can plan and prepare properly. In the event you are faced with appearing in court, having an attorney advocating on your behalf can help argue your matter and negotiate agreements.

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We appoint two attorneys and one paralegal or caseworker to every case so that every aspect of your case will be properly and thoroughly addressed. A member of your team will either answer your calls immediately or return them promptly, as at least one of the assigned staff is nearly always available.

Additionally, the more attorneys involved in your case, the greater the likelihood you will be pleased with their efforts. If you only have one attorney, you are stuck with that attorney's style, beliefs, and biases. Some may litigate nearly everything, unnecessarily driving up fees, while others may only negotiate. Still, others may not communicate with opposing counsel to attempt to resolve issues. Our firm has several attorneys available to collaborate on your case which virtually guarantees access to the right attorney who can provide the appropriate assistance.

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In addition to traditional representation, The Reape-Rickett Law Firm offers other options, such as Limited Scope Representation, Mediation, and Divorce Coaching.

Limited Scope is different from hiring a lawyer in the traditional sense, where the lawyer handles all aspects of the case from start to finish.

Rather, with Limited Scope Representation, the lawyer handles some parts of the case and the client handles others. For instance, the lawyer might be hired to prepare and draft court documents but the client files the documents and represents themselves at hearings.

Mediation is a voluntary endeavor and frequently used to reach a divorce settlement agreement with little court involvement. In mediation, the parties, and attorneys if desired, meet with a neutral third party (Mediator) who helps them work together to resolve legal and financial issues, exploring a wide range of settlement options. Mediation can also provide an opportunity for the parties to express the emotional issues they are facing in a controlled setting. A mediated agreement can be creative, detailed and tailored to the parties’ specific needs.

Divorce Coaching is when an attorney is hired to coach one party through their family law issue but the attorney does not formally represent or appear in court on their behalf. In such situations, litigants are able to meet with an attorney to receive information regarding their legal issues and the various scenarios that may unfold in court. Further, they can benefit from having the required paperwork completed, filed, and served in the appropriate manner.

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There are many benefits of mediating a divorce including saving the time and costs associated with traditional litigation. In mediation, the two parties are in control of the process and how quickly the case is finished, not the court system. Further, mediation is confidential so your dispute is not part of the public record to be viewed by anyone who may have an interest. In addition to increased privacy and saved costs of mediation, the agreement reached, once filed with the court and signed by a judge, becomes a fully enforceable order of the court, akin to a judgment.

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Family law is multifaceted and can involve multiple areas of potential dispute. There are monetary issues, familial issues, emotional issues, and property issues. With complex and interdependent variables you need an experienced professional who can help you navigate this oftentimes convoluted terrain while properly presenting your position to opposing counsel or a family law judge. Having an attorney who is not only familiar with family law procedures and legal codes but also the judges, clerks and other family law attorneys can facilitate resolution. All of our attorneys focus on family law and almost always know the opposing counsel and judge. To date, we have handled over 7,500 cases.

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Other Questions

For those with more specific questions about divorce, support, property, going to court and more.

If you are served it is imperative that you review the document thoroughly for any impending hearings, restraining orders, and most importantly file a response within the 30 day period. In most cases you should consult with a family law attorney to ensure your response is properly completed and filed.

For those served with a Petition for Dissolution, if a Response or another appropriate motion is not filed within 30 days of being served, your spouse can obtain a default against you. Where you are in default, the Court will proceed with the case without hearing from you because you have missed the deadline to respond. As such, the Court will make orders on issues such as child custody and visitation, spousal support, child support, division of the marital estate, and attorney fees based solely on evidence provided by your spouse.

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In California, parties can be divorced in six months and one day after the initial petition was filed and served. However, a divorce is not finalized until issues such as property division, child custody and visitation, and spousal support have been resolved and a judgment entered by the Court. However, parties are unable to reach an agreement on all issues within six months and need additional time to finalize details. In the event parties cannot reach a consensus, they can file a Request for Order to submit their issue to the Court where it will be reviewed and determined by a Judge. It should be noted that it can take several months to have your day in Court.

In essence, the duration of a divorce is often determined by the parties and their willingness to reach an agreement and finalize the terms of their divorce.

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While there is not one sole factor used to determine the amount of child support ordered, the most common considerations are the parent’s income, time spent with the child(ren), and the number of children to be supported. In addition to facts and figures, the Court also considers the emotional, physical, and educational needs of the children. For instance, the Court is mandated to order as additional child support, child care costs related to employment or necessary education or training, and the reasonable uninsured health care costs for the child(ren). The court may also order as additional child support, costs related to education or special needs of the child(ren) and travel expenses for visitation. The manner in which theses expenses are computed and apportioned between the parties is governed by Family Code, Section 4061.

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There are many avenues one can pursue to enforce support orders. The most common is an order to withhold, also known as garnishment. This document can be used in collection of either child support or spousal support if the party is a wage earning (W-2) employee and continues so long as the judgment is in full force and effect or until the paying party leaves the employer.

Another options is filing a motion for contempt with the Court. Contempt is an enforcement remedy which enables the Court to compel compliance with its valid orders. Generally, a person who willfully disobeys any lawful Court order that they have knowledge of and have the ability to obey is deemed in contempt of Court and may be required to perform community service or be punished by a fine or imprisonment, or both. Further, there are also certain circumstances where attorney’s fees and costs can be requested in conjunction with the enforcement of orders. However, be aware that you have a three year time period from the date payment was due (but not paid) to file a Contempt action against the other parent.

Securing compliance with Court orders for support can be complicated and determining which method to pursue enforcement should reviewed with the help of an attorney.

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Presenting a family law issue before the Court for resolution is often an expensive and lengthy process. As such, many wish to avoid the financial and emotional headache often associated with going to Court. While there is no guaranteed approach to avoiding a courtroom, there are actions that can minimize the necessity of appearing before a judge. One of the initial actions is prioritizing issues of most importance and working with an attorney to concentrate on resolving those issues. In addition to prioritizing issues, being forthcoming with financial and other disclosures is an important step. Such disclosures are not only mandated by the Court but being honest can avoid extra expenses in the form of fees or sanctions that can be levied by the Court if a party is found hiding or disposing of assets. Another step is to follow agreements and orders. Disobeying orders is a quick way to end up in Court before a judge and can cost additional fees and sanctions. Finally, taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and economically is extremely important. If you aren’t in the right frame of mind or feeling financial pressure you could make decisions which cost you more in the long run.

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The California Family Code provides that in a family law case, the Court can order the spouse in a superior financial position to pay a contribution toward the attorney fees of the other spouse with the goal of assuring each party has access to legal representation to preserve each party's rights. The goal of awarding attorneys fee is not the redistribution of money from the greater income party to the lesser income party.

The Courts are directed to consider other factors when making an order regarding attorney’s fees, such as the conduct of each party and how that conduct promotes or frustrates the policy of law to promote settling cases. However, these considerations for fee orders can be more like sanctions than need based fees.

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With certain exceptions, all property (real and personal) that is acquired by a married person during the marriage while living in California is considered community property. Married persons share equal interests in community property and exercise equal rights with respect to management and control of the community property. Generally speaking, separate property includes all property owned before the marriage, or acquired after the marriage or separation by gift, bequest, devise, or descent. Additionally, the rents, issues, and profits on a spouse’s separate property are also separate property of that spouse. There are, however, other methods of determining the character of property. Regardless of time of acquisition, spouses are allowed to change the character of the property. For example, making community property into the separate property of one’s spouse, making a spouse’s separate property into community property, or making one spouse’s property into the separate property of the other spouse. Such changes in the character of the property is referred to as transmutation.

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