What Does Contested Divorce Mean? How Do I Deal With One?

contested divorce, what does contested divorce meanA contested divorce occurs when you and your spouse can’t agree on all the relevant issues associated with ending your marriage. If this happens, a judge may have to rule on how you will divide your assets. If you have children, they may also rule on child custody. This type of divorce tends to be messy, and you may need long-term legal representation.

At the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks, we understand how tough any divorce can be. We know you’ll need guidance, and we’re more than willing to provide a free consultation to see if we can help you.

But first, let’s look at how to handle a contested divorce, and the factors that might result in one.

Will I Have to File for Divorce Differently If I Expect a Contested Divorce?

No. There is only one way to file for divorce in California. First, you fill out the necessary paperwork, pay the court fee, and file a petition to dissolve the marriage. Then you have your spouse served with the petition. Your spouse must then file a response. Both spouses should have legal representation at this point.

Next, if you have children together, you should obtain a “request for order” for temporary child custody, visitation and support. Mediation with a court employee is mandatory to resolve potential custody issues, and is separate from any other mediation you may attempt. You may also request discovery and disclosure at this point.

What Are Discovery and Disclosure, and How Are They Different for a Contested Divorce?

Discovery is the formal request for and sharing of information between the attorneys of both spouses. Disclosure is a full exchange of information about all assets and debts, along with an income/expenses declaration, and any other issues relevant to earnings or belongings. Both processes are the same for all divorces, as is the process of arranging a court date.

Only when you begin to work out the issues involved with your divorce will you be able to determine whether it will be contested or uncontested.

What Might Lead to My Divorce Being Contested?

One or both of you may start the process if you fight disclosure and/or discovery. Furthermore, any significant factual or legal disagreement, especially over assets or child custody, will cause a judge to rule the divorce as contested. This is especially true if one or both of you display what the court deems “an unreasonable refusal” to settle the issues.

How Long Will My Divorce Case Take If It’s Contested?

That depends on you and your spouse. A case with few or no discovery/disclosure issues may result in an earlier court date. The more complex the discovery and disclosure processes, and the harder you fight them, the longer the scheduling will take. That will make it less likely you’ll get an early court date. A judge’s schedule fills quickly.

A complex divorce trial may also take up more court time. A divorce trial includes all the elements of any civil court case. Witnesses and spouses provide testimony, the lawyers present their cases, and the judge reviews the evidence. The fewer the points of contention and the more reasonable you and your spouse are, the shorter the case.

Contact a Fresno Divorce Lawyer to Learn More About How to Handle a Contested Divorce

At the Law Office of Rick D. Banks, we’re dedicated to helping people like you through tough times. If you need a divorce lawyer, call us today at (559) 222-4891 for a consultation.

Any divorce will be difficult for you. If you face a contested divorce, you can count on us to put in an extra effort to get you the best possible outcome.

How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony After Your Divorce?

How Long Do You Have to Pay AlimonyOne of the most commonly asked questions after a divorce judgement is: how long do you have to pay alimony? Alimony can be very expensive, and knowing when you can stop paying may give you something to look forward to.

At the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks, we’ll be happy to answer your alimony questions and help make life easier for you.

Understanding Alimony Basics

Alimony is money paid by the more-affluent spouse to the less-affluent spouse on a monthly basis after a divorce. The intent is to help the payee with their living expenses. Sometimes it’s permanent. Sometimes it lasts only a few months or years, or until the payee can start making a decent living. Not all states require alimony, but California does, especially after a contested divorce.

How Much Alimony Will I Have to Pay?

That depends on how much you both earn, where you live, and the judge’s final decision. It can be hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.

When Do I Have to Start Paying, and How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony on Average?

You start paying alimony once your divorce is final and you receive the official judgment. The alimony order will specify how long you have to pay alimony. Usually, you have to pay until:

  • One of you dies;
  • Your spouse remarries;
  • The court makes a further ruling; or
  • A specific end date arrives.

For short-term marriages (less than 10 years), the alimony usually sets an end date. Long-term marriages result in long-term alimony. The judge has some leeway, especially for “gray area” marriages that last more than nine but less than 10 years. Similarly, the judge can decide to terminate alimony for a long-term marriage after a specific period.

If There’s an End Date, When Will It Most Likely Be?

Most judges set the alimony end date for a short-term marriage at half the length of the marriage. If you were married for six years, you can expect the alimony to last three years. Caution: don’t just assume this is always true and stop paying after the halfway mark, just in case the judge decided to set the date later. Find the termination date on your alimony order and remember it.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Review My Alimony Order?

We recommend it. The judge can interpret and order your alimony terms in numerous ways, and they won’t necessarily be in your best interests. We’ll be able to tell you how the order affects you, and answer that very important question of, “How long do you have to pay alimony?”

What If Something Happens and I Can’t Afford to Pay My Alimony Anymore?

The court recognizes that circumstances can change your ability or need to pay. You can ask for a modification or termination of alimony if, for example:

  • You:
    • retire at the normal retirement age.
    • suffer a significant decrease in income.
    • suffer an unforeseen increase in expenses.
  • Your:
    • spouse’s income increases significantly.
    • spouse is cohabitating with someone.
    • spouse’s living expenses decrease.
    • spouse receives income or assets that decreases or relieves their need for alimony.

We can help you determine whether other circumstances might also apply.

Contact an Alimony Lawyer Today

If you’ve got an alimony order and aren’t sure how long you have to pay, or if you need a modification or termination, call the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks at (559) 222-4891 for a free consultation. Alimony doesn’t necessarily last for life. The answer to the question “How long do you have to pay alimony?” may not be as long as you expect.

Understanding Joint Custody Relocation Laws in California

joint custody relocationIn joint custody relocation cases, your child’s needs are central to the issues involved. Divorces or separations naturally result in changes to the family. These changes are made even more complicated when one parent decides to move out of state. Sometimes, when these types of situations arise, a judge will alter custody to better serve the needs of the child. If determined that a move could negatively affect a child’s physical or emotional needs, a judge may transfer custody to better suit those needs.

If you have questions about joint custody relocation, contact an experienced family law attorney to help you through the process. Call the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.

Physical vs. Legal Custody

When parents decide to divorce or separate, they will need to determine where their children will live, as well as how visitation will work. If both parent’s cannot agree on custody, a judge will step in and determine custody based on the best interests of the children. There are two types of custody that the court needs to address:

  • Physical custody: where the child actually lives
  • Legal custody: which parent has the legal right to make decisions on the child’s behalf

Parents may share both physical and legal custody, or one parent could obtain physical custody while both parents share legal custody. While both parents may share joint physical custody, one parent may be determined as a custodial parent. If deemed a custodial parent, that parent could have an advantage in the relocation process.

A Custodial Parent’s Right to Relocate

The determined custodial parent has the legal right to relocate with a child as long as that relocation doesn’t negatively affect the child’s needs. In the State of California, the custodial parent must submit a written notice for relocation with a child for more than 30 days. In order to allow both parents to arrange a new custody plan, the notice for relocation should be submitted no more than 45 days before the proposed move. The parent not moving has a right to file an objection to the move and ask for a modify custody plan.

Joint custody in relocation cases can be tricky, however a family law attorney can help defend your right to custody.

What Will the Judge Consider in a Relocation Hearing?

A parent’s decision to relocate does not automatically mean a change in custody. A change in custody will only result if the move will negatively impact a child’s best interests. Should one parent object to the relocation, a judge will arrange a hearing to decide if a change in custody is needed. Specifically, a judge will examine the following factors in a joint custody relocation hearing:

  • Your child’s need for stability
  • The total distance of the proposed relocation
  • Any harm caused by a change in custody
  • The child’s relationship with both parents
  • Both parent’s ability to communicate with each other
  • Should the move negatively affect the child’s relationship to the non-moving parent
  • The reason for the proposed move
  • How the move will affect the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs
  • If they child has any extended family in the present community or in the new location
  • Other factors the court determines relevant to the best interests of the child

For Questions About Joint Custody Relocation

Because joint custody relocation cases are often difficult, it is vital to seek advice from a family law attorney. With an experienced lawyer on your side, you can ensure that you protect your child’s needs during the relocation process. To speak to a joint custody relocation lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks at (559) 222-4891 today.

Domestic Violence In Child Custody Cases: How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

domestic violence in child custody casesFacing domestic violence in child custody cases is often tricky. If you’re ready to get out of your abusive relationship there are many factors you need to consider. Here is a detailed list of those factors to help you and your children make a safe transition.

Keeping Detailed Records

When still living with your spouse or partner, make sure to keep records of every account of physical or emotional abuse inflicted upon your kids. Record the date, time, and place of each incident, as well as a description of what occurred. Also, photograph any injuries your children suffered from the abuse. By keeping detailed records you ensure that you and your kids will be protected from the abuser.

Stay Safe by Making a Plan

You are at most danger when you are actually leaving the relationship. Making sure you have a few safety nets in place is vital to keeping your children safe. Some of these safety nets include:

  • Stashing money outside the house
  • Storing clothes for you and your kids with a friend
  • Preparing a safe place to stay

When arranging a safe place to stay do not go to your best friend’s place, or to any immediate family. Never stay anywhere predictable. Ask to stay with a friend or coworker your partner doesn’t know about, or you can even try staying at a shelter or hotel.

Seek Immediate Legal Custody

Should you and your kids need to leave the house quickly, immediately go to the court. At the court you can obtain an emergency protective order which will give you custody of your children. This order will also require your abusive partner to stay away from you. If you fail to go to the court to obtain a custody order, you can be accused of kidnapping.

It is vital that you remember that an emergency custody order is only temporary. Long term custody can only be obtained through the divorce or separation proceedings. During the proceedings, a judge will determine child custody based on what is in the best interests of the children. The court will consider the safety of the children, as well as any history of domestic violence when determining child custody. Other factors the court examine depend on your state’s child custody laws.

Allowing Safe Visitation

If your abusive partner has not abused the children, they may still receive visitation rights. If you fear for the safety of your children, you can ask the court for supervised visitation. You can also request that the court requires the other parent to not drink during the visitation or that certain people cannot be around the kids.

Arranging to drop off your kids at a neutral site or having a third party pick them up and drop them off is a great way to ensure your own safety. If you cannot make such arrangements, you can request to meet at your local police station.

To Learn More About Domestic Violence in Child Custody Cases

Custody and visitation issues are a difficult part of any divorce or separation proceedings. However, domestic violence in child custody cases is even more challenging. Hiring a family law attorney can help you get out of your abusive relationship. Your lawyer will help you make the best choices for you and your children. Contact the Law Offices of Rick D. Banks today.

You can also find legal assistance, at little to no cost, if you go to a shelter. The staff will help you file the initial paperwork to obtain a protective order. Your local courthouse can also provide you with instructions and assistance in dealing with domestic violence in child custody cases.