Frequently Asked Questions

1. What issues are litigated in Family Law?

Family law includes all matters related to the rights of spouses, parents and children. The areas include but are not limited to dissolution, legal separation, nullity, paternity, custody and timeshare, child and spousal support, property division (real property, personal property, retirement benefits, stock options and other financial assets) and pre-marital and post-marital agreements.

2. What is litigation?

In litigation, the decisions are made in a formal court setting where a judicial officer, such as a judge or commissioner, makes the determination after reviewing the legal issues.

However, even in litigation cases, skilled attorneys are often successful in resolving issues through negotiation, depending on the motivation of the parties.

3. What does it mean when an attorney is a Certified Specialist?

A Certified Specialist in Family Law must pass an exam, demonstrate a high level of experience in Family Law, fulfill ongoing education requirements and have been favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with her work.

4. What is joint legal custody?

Joint legal custody means that both parents share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions relating to the health, education, and welfare of a child.

5. What is physical custody?

Physical custody refers to where the child resides.

Sole physical custody means that a child resides with and is under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court to order visitation.

Joint physical custody means that each of the parents has significant periods of physical custody. Joint physical custody is shared by the parents in such a way so as to assure frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

6. How do spouses discover the assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage?

In all divorce and legal separation cases the parties are required to exchange declarations of disclosure, including all assets and debts, accompanied by current financial statements. In mediation and collaborative cases, this informal disclosure is part of the cooperative and transparent relationship encouraged by the process. In adversarial litigation cases, the litigation attorney will sometimes serve the opposing party with discovery requests such as formal document demands and notice of depositions. If necessary, that attorney will subpoena documents from outside sources.

7. What is income for purposes of child support?

The annual gross income of each parent means income from whatever source derived and includes, but is not limited to, the following: commissions, salaries, royalties, wages, bonuses, rents, dividends, pensions, interest, trust income, annuities, workers’ compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits, disability insurance benefits, social security benefits and income from a business.

8. How does a court determine spousal support or alimony?

The judge will consider such factors as the standard of living during the marriage, the assets and debts of each party, the length of the marriage, and the age, health, earning capacity and work histories of the parties.

9. What is community property?

In California all property that you and your spouse acquired during marriage through labor or skill is, at least in part, community property. Community property includes real and personal property, pension, profit sharing and other retirement benefits, stock options and businesses. Debts incurred during the marriage may be community property as well.

10. What is separate property?

In California separate property is property that you acquired before your marriage, property received after separation or property obtained through gift or inheritance.

11. Do all litigation cases go to court?

No, most litigation cases are settled through negotiation between attorneys and/or parties. However, some require one or more short hearings and a small percentage go to trial.