If you are preparing for a divorce, you are preparing for a unique and complicated process that requires careful preparation and thoughtful decision-making. We have previously outlined 5 Steps to Prepare for Divorce and provided suggestions for Preparing for Your Divorce Case Evaluation. In this article we take a step back and explain some of the key terminology you will need to understand in order to make informed decisions during your divorce.
Key California Divorce Terminology
Alimony is a commonly-used term for what is legally known as “spousal support.” In a California divorce, the spouses may agree (or the court may order) that one spouse will provide financial support to the other on either a short-term or long-term basis. Alimony determinations take into consideration a number of factors, including the length of the marriage.
Automatic Restraining Order
When you or your spouse files for divorce, you will both be subject to four “automatic restraining orders.” A restraining order is a legally-enforceable obligation to refrain from certain activity. The “automatic” component means that these restraining orders apply immediately—whether or not either spouse asks for them (or even knows that they apply). Learn more about Automatic Restraining Orders in California Divorces.
California is a “community property” state. This means that the property that you or your spouse acquired during your marriage (with only limited exceptions) will be split equally in your divorce. However, this does not mean that all of your assets will literally be split in half. Instead, you and your spouse will need to agree (or a court will need to decide) who gets what so that you each receive an equitable share of the overall value of your property.
Legal custody refers to the ability to make important life decisions on behalf of your children. This includes decisions regarding things like education, healthcare, and any religious affiliations. Legal custody does confer the right to provide your children’s primary residence. This is the separate concept of “physical custody,” which we discuss below.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is commonly used in California divorces when spouses are unable to come to terms independently. In mediation, the spouses (usually with representation by their respective attorneys) work with a neutral third-party “mediator.” The mediator does not make decisions for the spouses, but rather helps them work past their differences so that they can reach an amicable resolution.
Physical custody is the right to provide your children’s primary residence. Under California law, one parent will be designated as the primary custodian and the other will be granted “visitation” rights. However, the parents can still choose to split parenting time equally; or, they can establish any alternate arrangement that serves the best interests of their children.
In a California divorce, assets that constitute “separate property” are exempt from the community property distribution. As a general rule, assets acquired either (i) prior to the marriage, or (ii) during the marriage as a gift to a single spouse will be considered separate property. Other assets may be considered separate property as well, and making sure you clearly understand which assets are community property and which are separate property will be important to protecting your interests in your divorce.
Schedule an Initial Divorce Case Evaluation at the Law Office of Renkin & Associates
For more information about how to prepare and what to expect during your divorce, schedule an initial case evaluation at the Law Office of Renkin & Associates. Call 619-299-7100 or send us your contact information online and we will get back to you as soon as possible.