Help with Your Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce in Fresno, California, can be an economical alternative to a traditional or contested divorce. Imagine a process that can save you stress, money, and time. With an uncontested divorce, you avoid much of the frustration that can result from a complicated contested divorce procedure. As a bonus, you may never have to appear in court.

No divorce should be entered into lightly though. Even an uncontested divorce requires that you follow a strict and detailed procedure before the court will grant the divorce. Attorney Rick D. Banks has the experience you need to help you navigate the critical and exacting procedures necessary to protect your rights while you dissolve your marriage.

What is an Uncontested Divorce in California?

When you and your spouse are able to agree on all major terms necessary to dissolve your marriage, you have an uncontested divorce. If your case is contested when you file it, it does not have to stay that way. You may find that through negotiation and mediation, you and your spouse are able to come to agreement on all terms. When you reach agreement, it’s an easy process to switch to the less complicated procedure for uncontested divorce.

What is the Process of an Uncontested Divorce in California?

Regardless of how quickly the parties can come to terms in an uncontested divorce, the case must be on file for at least six months before the court can enter a final judgment. Other steps and requirements include:

Residency Requirements

  • At least one of the spouses has lived in California for at least six months.
  • The spouse who files the petition must have been a resident of the county where the petition is filed for at least 90 days.

Serving and Answering the Petition

  • The summons and petition for divorce can be service only by a law enforcement officer or a private process server. You cannot serve your spouse directly.
  • If you file the petition for divorce, your spouse has 30 days to file an answer.
  • If your spouse does not file an answer, you can ask the court to enter a default.

Other Filing Requirements

  • If children are involved, you will file a declaration under the Uniform Child Support Jurisdiction Enforcement Act.
  • At least one of the spouses will file a declaration of finances. This provides the court a general idea of your assets and liabilities.

Negotiating the Agreement

The key to treating a divorce as uncontested is reaching agreement with your spouse on all major issues with nothing left for the judge but to ensure that the agreement is fair to both parties. The issues you and your spouse must consider include:

  • Division of assets and debts
  • On-going spousal and child support
  • Child custody and visitation

Judgment of Dissolution

Once you and your spouse reach agreement on all issues, you will present your agreement to the court. Even though the parties represent to the court that they have reached agreement on all issues, the judge will not just accept the agreement at face value. The court will consider the agreement to make sure that it is fair and that any child support is within the California guidelines.

Although the court will grant wide latitude to you and your spouse, the terms must be fair and reasonable for both parties. In approving the agreement the court will consider that California is a community property state and may not look favorably on agreements that are obviously one-sided.

Why Should I Hire a Divorce Lawyer for My Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is designed to move more smoothly and more quickly than a contested divorce. All divorces are emotionally difficult. It may seem attractive to do all you can to bring the matter to a close quickly. It’s important to keep in mind that the desire to be free of a bad situation can lead to rash and unwise decisions for the sake of smoothing the way. Spouses often leave valuable assets on the table because they don’t understand their rights. It’s not unusual to dread the work and negotiation it takes to come to a fair division, but many spouses give up assets and other rights because they were too anxious to bring the divorce to a close. Unfortunately, they often find that managing their finances after the divorce is a lot more difficult than they imagined.

Once the court approves the agreement and enters a judgment of dissolution, changing the terms is difficult unless one of the spouses can prove that the other committed fraud. Therefore, it is important that you partner with an experienced family law attorney. Your attorney will help you carefully consider your rights and your options so that you leave nothing to chance.

Attorney Rick D. Banks has zealously represented hundreds of clients through uncontested and contested divorces. He and his staff are dedicated to helping you achieve a fair and reasonable result that will serve you well into the future. Contact our firm today for a consultation.

Rely on a Fresno Child Support Lawyer for the Experience You Need

Fresno child support cases require a firm knowledge of the fundamentals and the expertise to recognize and act on special circumstances that often arise for our family law clients. Since 2000, attorney Rick D. Banks has assisted hundreds of individuals and families resolve challenging and evolving cases. Our legal professionals are available to help you navigate what can be a frustrating and confusing process. We encourage you to review these frequently asked questions about child support, then contact our firm online.

What is Child Support?

Child support under California law is the monetary support necessary to cover a child’s ongoing living expenses and medical needs. Each parent is responsible for providing support for their children regardless of which parent is the custodial guardian. Therefore, the family courts are empowered to issue an order to either of the parents to make regular payments to cover a child’s expenses.

How Much are Child Support Payments in California?

California law does not have a set schedule for Fresno child support payments, but it does provide guidelines. Instead, child support in California is calculated based on a number of factors. The courts often use a computer program to make the calculation, and some factors used to consider the monthly payment include:

  • The parent’s income, including public assistance
  • The number of children that are being supported
  • The amount of time each child spends with the parent

These calculations for determining Fresno child support payments use a parent’s disposable income. This starts with the parent’s gross income (minus taxes), job-related expenses, health insurance premiums, union dues, and any expenses related to hardship. When a parent is unemployed or underemployed, the court is allowed to “impute” or consider what the parent could earn if working to full potential. A Fresno child support lawyer can help you calculate the amount of money you should pay or receive for child support.

Can a Parent be Ordered to Maintain Health Insurance and Pay a Child’s Medical Bills?

Yes. When a parent is able to cover the child with a health insurance policy of low or no cost, the court will order that the parent maintain that policy. When the parent pays health insurance premiums out-of-pocket, the child support calculation makes allowance for the cost. If neither parent has health insurance that covers the child, the court can order a parent to get coverage.  In addition to regular child support payments, parents are expected to share in the cost of uninsured medical, dental, and vision bills as long as they are reasonable and necessary. Typically the court will order the parents share these costs 50/50.  

How Long Will Child Support Last?

Parents are required to support their children financially until they reach age 18, with some exceptions. If a child is emancipated by a court, legally marries, or enter military service, Fresno child support payments will be suspended. When a child reaches 18 while still in high school, the court can extend child support payments until the child completes grade 12 or their 19th birthday, whichever comes first. When a child is disabled and cannot secure a means to live independently, parents have an obligation to provide financial support regardless of age.

When Can a Fresno Child Support Order Be Changed?

Child support payments are not set in stone once decided, and can be modified when necessary. Either parent can request a modification to an existing order when there has been a significant change in circumstance to the child, the custodial parent, or the non-custodial parent. Some changes that can warrant a modification to a Fresno child support order are loss of employment, an increase in income, or a change in the amount of time the child spends with a parent. When the amount of child support is currently under the guideline amount, the parent is not required to show a change in circumstance before the court grants a modification.

What Happens When a Parent Refuses to Pay Child Support?

A parent who refuses to make court-ordered child support payments can be held in contempt of court. Even if the parent is not in California, the custodial parent can have the Fresno child support order enforced throughout the United States. The child support payments can be collected through a number of different methods. The offending parent could face wage garnishment, real estate liens, and seizure of bank accounts and income tax refunds. A parent found guilty of contempt of a child support order can face other penalties like loss of a professional license, loss of driving privileges, or even jail time.

Contact an Experienced Fresno Child Support Lawyer

Fresno child support attorney Rick D. Banks and his staff stand ready to help you tackle your child support issues and work toward a successful outcome. We can calculate child support for you and provide you with the estimated child support you should pay or receive. For a free consultation or case evaluation, contact our office at (559) 222-4891.

Divorce Mediation in California

The divorce mediation process in California allows divorcing and separating couples to plan their lives post-divorce and make good decisions about their future. The only other alternative to divorce mediation is allowing a court to decide your marital disputes. When spouses have the opportunity to craft their own agreement, they are much more likely to comply with it.

Fresno family law attorney Rick Banks can answer your questions about divorce mediation and can represent you at mediation proceedings. This article discusses the mediation processs.

Family Law Mediators

A mediator is a neutral, certified third party who presides over mediation proceedings and helps a couple resolve disputes related to their pending divorce or separation. Disputes may be related to child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, or property distribution.

During divorce mediation proceedings, the mediator will allow each party to speak and will facilitate discussions between the parties. The mediator may also provide information to the parties about the legal system and may offer insight about how lawyers or judges might view certain issues that are in dispute.

Given the highly personal and emotional nature of divorce and separation proceedings, the mediator also has the job of keeping discussions between the parties civil and respectful at all times.

The Mediation Process

As part of the divorce mediation process, the couple typically meets with the mediator for several sessions, with each session lasting one or two hours. The first step in the divorce mediation process is for the couple and the mediator to meet and decide which issues will be discussed and to identify the information that needs to be gathered. This often includes financial data and information from appraisers or accountants. It is important to understand that no divorce or separation case is too financially complicated that it cannot be settled via divorce mediation proceedings.

During the second and subsequent meetings, the couple and the mediator will discuss how to compromise and resolve the disputed issues in a way that meets the needs of both parties, as well as the minor children. The mediator may also share information with the couple about the court system and common ways that divorce disputes are resolved in that context.

Mediation Agreements

Once the parties have reached a consensus on all disputed issues, the mediator will draft a formal written agreement which both parties must sign. After the agreement has been signed, it is contractually enforceable. The mediator will then file the parties’ signed agreement and other necessary paperwork with the court.

Length of Time Needed to Complete

The length of time needed to complete divorce mediation proceedings depends largely upon the novelty and complexity of the disputed issues, as well as the participants’ willingness to work together to reach an agreement. Most cases require at least three or four mediation sessions, each of which lasts approximately two hours. These mediation sessions are spread out over the course of a month or two. In cases where the disputed issues are complex, the entire process can take four to six months to complete.

Costs of Divorce Mediation

In the divorce mediation context, attorneys do not operate on a contingency fee basis. Rather, they charge a retainer fee of between $2,500 and $5,000, on average. The attorney will then bill the client for any services provided in addition to the time covered by the initial retainer fee. The retainer fee can be significantly more than $5,000 in complex divorce or separation cases. However, it is important to keep the following in mind:

  • On average, total divorce litigation costs can run two to ten times higher than the cost of an average mediation; and
  • Divorce cases have the potential to drag on for many years, causing emotional turmoil for everyone involved.

Failing to agree on all Contested Issues

In the minority of cases, the parties may not agree on every single issue, or some issues may remain unresolved. In those instances, the mediator will still prepare a mediation agreement on all settled issues. The parties can then litigate these issues in court or return to the mediation table at a later date.

Contact a Fresno Divorce Mediation Lawyer Today for a Free Initial Consultation

Mediation is not a substitute for a good divorce lawyer. Ideally, both parties to a divorce or separation dispute should have independent legal counsel, since the mediator cannot offer legal advice during mediation proceedings.

Divorce attorney Rick Banks can provide you with a free initial consultation and case review and can assist you with managing your mediation and divorce proceedings. Contact family law attorney Rick Banks at 559-222-4891 to discuss your case and the possibility of divorce mediation.


What a Prenuptial Agreement in California Can Do for You

Often times, engaged couples may wonder whether or not a prenuptial agreement (also known as a premarital agreement) might be a good idea. Conversely, if you are planning to get married, a prenuptial agreement may be one of the last things on your mind. Whether you plan to have one or not, it is good to at least understand the benefits of signing a prenuptial agreement in California.

What is a prenuptial agreement?

A prenuptial agreement is a legally enforceable contract. As such, the rules for contract formation and execution apply. If you and your fiancé are deciding whether or not a prenuptial agreement is right for you, you should consult with a knowledgeable lawyer. Family Law attorney Rick Banks can help you decide whether a prenuptial agreement in California is necessary, given your circumstances, and can draft an effective agreement that addresses all of your unique needs as a couple.

Common points a prenuptial agreement addresses are: Marital property, Marital debt, children, marital responsibilities, and any limitations of the marriage. This article outlines those main benefits.

Marital Property

California, like many other states, defines community property (otherwise known as “marital property”), as assets which are accumulated over the course of a marriage. This is regardless of whether or not the assets are held under the name of just one spouse. Assets acquired prior to the marriage, including inherited assets, generally belong to an individual spouse and are not considered marital property. In the event of a divorce, marital property will be divided either by agreement of the parties or by a California judge.

A prenuptial agreement in California can outline how your marital property will be divided and distributed in the event of a divorce or separation. Moreover, if your marital property includes an item that you want to keep in your birth family, including a family heirloom or a share in a family business, a well-crafted prenuptial agreement may provide for that.

Marital Debt

In addition to assets, people also bring debts to a marriage and acquire debts over the course of a marriage. This may include credit card debt or mortgage debt. A prenuptial agreement in California may be used to limit one spouse’s liability for the other’s debts acquired over the course of their marriage.

Children of Prior Marriages

If either spouse has children from a prior marriage or relationship, a prenuptial agreement can ensure that the children of one spouse inherit their parent’s respective share of the marital property, in the event of a divorce or break-up.

Marriage Responsibilities

You may also be able to use a prenuptial agreement in California to clarify certain marital responsibilities, including:

  • Paying household bills and the amount that each spouse will pay
  • Filing joint or separate income tax returns and allocating deductions
  • Opening bank accounts, deciding whose names will be on the accounts, and determining whether the accounts will be joint or separate
  • Making large purchases, such as buying a home or motor vehicle
  • Handling credit card charges and managing records and debt
  • Paying for college or professional schools

Limitations on Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial agreements have certain limitations, and there are certain topics which the parties may not incorporate into a written agreement. Some topics which may not be included in a prenuptial agreement in California include:

  • Provisions which limit or give up rights to future child support, custody, or visitation – Since child support, custody, and visitation decisions are always based upon the best interests of the minor child or children, the State will not enforce a prenuptial agreement that could potentially hinder a child’s relationship with a parent or a child’s right to be supported.
  • Provisions which “encourage” divorce – although a prenuptial agreement in California may establish how property will be divided in the event of a divorce, a court may view the agreement skeptically if it appears to offer a financial incentive to one or both spouses if and when they divorce.
  • Provisions which establish rules about personal matters – The primary purpose of a prenuptial agreement in California is to address financial and property concerns, should a couple divorce or separate. A prenuptial agreement should not address personal concerns, such as responsibility for household chores, having or raising children (e.g., birth control, children’s names, child care responsibilities, education, etc.) relating to in-laws and step-children, or having and caring for pets. When rules concerning personal matters are included as part of a prenuptial agreement in California, a court is far less inclined to take the agreement seriously.
  • Use of last names upon marriage – Generally speaking, decisions about the use of last names after the parties marry – or about the last names any children will use after the marriage – are not appropriate in a prenuptial agreement in California.

Contact a Fresno Family Law Attorney Today for More Information about Drafting a Prenuptial Agreement in California

An effective and well-crafted prenuptial agreement in California can save a great deal of heartache and inconvenience in the event of a couple’s divorce or separation. A prenuptial agreement may also be used to clarify marital responsibilities and generally make life easier for both spouses while they are married.

For more information about drafting a prenuptial agreement in California, contact family law attorney Rick Banks at (559) 222-4891, for a free consultation.