Are You the Right Law Firm for Me?
Finding the right Family Law firm depends on many factors. Most important is the attorney/client relationship. A consultation is a great way to not just get insight into your case, but to gage whether a particular attorney is a good fit. Other considerations are the firm's ability to keep you informed about that status of your case, to keep you abreast of next steps and expectations, and make sure you are as prepared as they are when appearing at hearings. Fischer & Phinney believes we are the right firm for many Family Law participants and cases as we are committed to representing each case with these aspects in mind. Choosing the right attorney and firm is an important decision, and we look forward to discussing your case and that choice with you.
What is Legal Custody?
Legal custody is the right to make important decisions regarding a child's life such as where they go to school, their mental and physical health and care, and religious instruction. Legal custody can be joint legal custody, wherein both parents have this decision-making authority, or sole legal custody, wherein one parent is awarded the authority. Unless there is good cause otherwise, legal custody is usually joint legal custody. With good cause, a Court will deviate from the norm and award sole legal custody to one parent. This can occur for many reasons, including where there are co-parenting issues between the parents and they cannot co-parent effectively, where one parent is abusive or neglectful or has demonstrated poor decision making, or where a parent is not actively involved in raising the child.
What is Physical Custody?
Physical custody refers to where children live on a regular basis. Generally speaking, physical custody is either joint physical custody, wherein the child spends significant time with both parents, or sole physical custody wherein the child spends substantially greater time with one parent than the other. The starting public policy of the state recognizes that children have two biological parents, and that it is in a child's best interests to have both parents significantly involved in their lives. Often there are reasons for a Court to consider deviating from this preference, including substance abuse issues, physical abuse, neglect or poor decision making by a parent.
Other terms are also used in the physical custody context depending on the custodial arrangement. For instance, where there is a marked disparity in the time each parent has the child, the parent with more time may be deemed as having primary custody and the custodial parent, with the other parent deemed the non-custodial parent having visitation time. Physical custody is often a very contentious and highly litigated area of the law. Seek the advice of an experienced attorney to understand your rights and responsibilities.
Do I Really Need an Attorney?
The short, legal and simple answer is no. Parties in Family Law cases can represent themselves in their Court case. The more complex consideration however, is how many things can we do ourselves but choose not to for various reasons; for instance most people can change their own oil, but very few do. Obviously a Family Law proceeding is much more intricate addressing personal interests far more important, and can be a cumbersome, complex process with multifaceted facts and issues. A good Family Law attorney can ensure that your case is handled and presented properly, protecting your interests in some of the most important aspects of your case and, frankly, life. A good Family Law attorney can remove much of the confusion and reduce many of the stresses and anxieties that can be inherent in Court proceedings, and keep you informed, prepared and confident each step of the way.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce?
There are few certainties in Family Law, but one is that the soonest that the martial status can be terminated is 6 months from the date the responding party is served papers by the filing party. This is set by California statue, and is sometimes described as a “cooling off period” to give the parties time to be sure the process is not reactionary or otherwise unnecessary. This is not to say a divorce cannot be completed procedurally in less time; it can depend on the facts and complexity of the case. More typically however, the process of a divorce can be in the range of about eight to eighteen months depending on many different factors including whether the case involves minors, complexity of support issues, and the extent and characterization of assets and debts.
Can I file for divorce in California?
For a Court of this state to have proper jurisdiction, California requires that one party has resided in the state for a minimum of six months immediately preceding filing a petition for divorce, and in the county of filing for the immediate three months preceding the filing. If these requirements are not met, a legal separation case can be filed as there are not the residency requirements, and that petition can later be converted to a divorce (this does add some complexity to the process). For a Court of this state to have proper jurisdiction over minor children, the requirements must be met under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Simply stated and under most circumstances, this means that California must be the child's home state, which is defined as the state where they have lived for six consecutive months immediately prior to the commencement of the proceedings. Child custody jurisdiction can be a very complex area of law where this requirement is not clearly met.