Santa Barbara Divorce Attorney

If you live in Santa Barbara and are considering filing for divorce, it is important to take your case to an experienced divorce attorney. The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Santa Barbara divorce attorneys represent husbands and wives in divorce and separation cases throughout the Santa Barbara region, helping them get the asset division, alimony, child custody, and child support they need in their divorce cases.

For a free legal consultation on your divorce case, contact our law offices today. Our Santa Barbara divorce attorneys are equipped to handle even the most complex divorce litigation. To schedule your free, confidential legal consultation and learn more about your options for proceeding with a divorce case, contact the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth today at (805) 643-5555.

Eligibility Requirements for a California Divorce

One of the spouses must have resided in the state for a minimum of six months before filing for divorce. You must also file in a particular county in the state, and to qualify to file for divorce in any California county, one of the parties must have resided in that particular county for at least three months before filing.

Grounds for Filing for Divorce in Santa Barbara and the “No-Fault” Rule

When you file for divorce in Santa Barbara, you typically select the proper “grounds” for your divorce. In some states, there are both “no-fault” and “fault-based” grounds for divorce, giving petitioners options for how to file for divorce. In California, there is only one set of grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences. This is a “no-fault” type of divorce, meaning that you do not need to prove any wrongdoing to get your divorce finalized.

When you file for no-fault divorce, you claim that you and your spouse have differences that get in the way of staying married. If these differences involve abuse or adultery, you do not have to carry the burden of proving these issues in court. Instead, you can file for divorce with or without any legal “cause” for divorce.

Types of Divorces in California

Although there is only one set of grounds for divorce – no-fault divorce – there are still different “types” of divorce cases. If you file your case and your spouse responds in court to challenge your asset division or child custody, the case is typically called a “contested divorce.” This is different from two different types of “uncontested divorce” you can file in California.

A divorce is called an “uncontested divorce” if your spouse does not challenge the case when it goes to court. This can happen in many cases where you and your spouse agree on divorce terms or you worked with divorce attorneys to form a divorce agreement before filing your case. If you have an agreement, the divorce will be “uncontested” and can proceed quickly after going to court.

A divorce case can also be “uncontested” if it is a “default divorce.” A default divorce is one where the respondent does not come to court at all. If you do not respond to a divorce case filed against you, the divorce will be granted anyway and you will have no say in the legal outcomes. This essentially means not putting forth any objection to decisions like being stripped of child custody or ordered to pay alimony. This is generally not recommended.

In some cases, you can file for “summary dissolution.” Typically, a judge must approve a divorce case, and there is a 6-month waiting period between when you file your case and when you can get your case before a judge. In cases where you have not been married very long, have few shared assets, and do not have children, you may be able to get divorced a bit quicker by handling your divorce without a judge. In these summary dissolution cases, you and your spouse file together with all agreements worked out, and the courthouse can approve your divorce without having you appear before a judge. However, you must still wait 6 months before the divorce can be finalized.

How to File for Divorce in Santa Barbara, CA

In California, you file for divorce by filing your paperwork with the court and serving the respondent – your spouse – with divorce papers. Before filing, there is a lot of work you need to do to fill out the proper forms, gather information about your case and your finances, and verify that your documents are properly in order.

When you file for divorce, the court will need information about your children, your finances, and other areas of concern in a divorce. The financial information can be quite difficult to gather on your own since you will need to make a full list of all assets and finances you control – jointly or separately from your spouse. A Santa Barbara divorce attorney can help you complete difficult paperwork.

There are also legal requirements to make sure that your spouse has proper notice of the divorce and an opportunity to be heard in court. Your attorney can help you meet these standards for serving the divorce papers.

When you file for divorce, there is a 6-month waiting period. During this time, you may be legally separated and start to live apart, but you will still be legally married until a judge finalizes your divorce.

Is It Worth Getting a Santa Barbara Divorce Attorney?

As part of your divorce case, there are many legal issues you may need help with from an experienced Santa Barbara divorce attorney:

  • Asset division – California is a 50/50 property division state, but there are opportunities to protect investments and assets through agreements.
  • Alimony – Spousal support payments are a vital financial issue in many divorce cases.
  • Child custody – If you are divorcing with children, the court will need to make child custody decisions in your case.
  • Child support – If parents live in different households, courts will order child support orders to have parents share the cost of raising their children.

Dividing Property in a California Divorce

Because California is a community property state, married couples are recognized as one entity with regard to property ownership. This means that any assets property that either spouse acquires or earns while they were married will be considered community property, meaning owned by both parties.

Also, any debt accrued by either spouse while they were married is community property. The community property rules apply even if the couple resided in a state that doesn’t follow the community property rules at any time in their marriage.

If you have any property or assets you already owned before getting married, or if you were given an inheritance or gift during the marriage, these will be considered separate property, which only you own. Also, any purchases made using the separate property are likewise considered separate property. For example, if you received $20,000 from your mother’s estate and used the money to purchase a vehicle, the vehicle will be considered separate property.

Once you have sorted out what’s separate property and what’s community property, you must figure out how to distribute the community property amongst yourselves. You and your spouse can come up with your own agreement if possible or get help from a mediator. If you still can’t agree on how to distribute the community property, it will be up to the judge to decide on the matter. You and your spouse must abide by the decision of the judge.

You will need to assign monetary values to your assets and properties for the purpose of distributing them between you and your spouse. Accurate appraisals are especially necessary for real estate and costly items, such as antiques, jewelry, or art. This also applies when assessing the value of any retirement assets like annuities or 401(k) accounts. The following are basic options for splitting up property:

  • Sell everything and divide the proceeds.
  • Determine which properties each spouse should have.
  • Have one spouse buy out the other spouse. For example, if you want to stay in and keep the family home, you can give half of the house’s value to your spouse.

Another common option is to retain joint ownership of certain property. For example, you can retain joint ownership of the family home if you have kids even if only one of you will be physically living in the house with the kids.

Child Custody and Parenting Time in a California Divorce

Both you and your spouse can share custody of your children or just one of you, depending on what you and your spouse agree on. The judge will make the final determination about custody and parenting time or visitation. However, the judge will normally approve a parenting plan or arrangement that both parents created.

Otherwise, the judge will need to decide custody and parenting time matters based on the children’s best interests. When determining what’s best for the children, the judge, among other factors, will consider the following:

  • The ages of the children
  • The children’s overall health
  • The emotional bonds between the children and each parent
  • The ability of each parent to take care of the children
  • The children’s ties to home, school, and the community
  • Any history of substance abuse or family violence
  • Each parent’s overall health

Take note, however, that judges typically don’t decide on custody and parenting time matters until they’ve met with a Family Court Services mediator.

Child Support in a California Divorce

Judges will take into account a variety of factors when deciding on the amount of child support a non-custodial parent must pay. These usually include:

  • The children’s ages
  • Both parents’ net income
  • The time each parent spends with the children
  • Which parent declares the children as dependents for tax purposes
  • Health insurance expenses
  • Retirement plan contributions
  • Both parents’ property taxes and mortgage interest
  • Mandatory union fees
  • Mandatory retirement contributions

Judges can order support for covering a range of expenses. These can include essential needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and other expenses like childcare, schooling, health insurance, extra-curricular activities, and travel expenses for visitation, among many others.

Judges will base the child support amount on the net disposable income of the parent. This is basically income after federal and state taxes and other necessary deductions. Likewise, judges may base the child support amount in part on overtime, commissions, bonuses, and other non-wage or supplemental income if they decide that this income comes in regularly.

But certain income will not be counted when deciding the child support amount. For instance, judges will not consider income from SSI or Supplemental Security Income, General Relief/General Assistance, and CalWORKs.

Spousal Support in a California Divorce

A judge can likewise order one spouse to provide alimony or spousal support to the other spouse, which could be temporary or permanent. When figuring out how much spousal support is fair, judges consider the following:

  • Each spouse’s health and age
  • The length of the marriage
  • Income and assets of each spouse
  • The couple’s living standards during the marriage
  • Each spouse’s earning potential
  • Each spouse’s professional skills
  • The sacrifices each spouse made while married
  • Debts accrued while married
  • Financial support provided to one spouse for training, education, etc.
  • Any history of domestic violence or criminal acts

If you need help with your divorce case or any of these related issues, contact our Santa Barbara divorce lawyers today.

Call Our Santa Barbara Divorce Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation

If you are divorcing with children or have a high net worth, you may need help protecting your parental rights, your finances, or your right to visitation and child support. Contact our law offices today for help with your case. The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth’s Santa Barbara divorce attorneys represent husbands and wives seeking divorce in California and work to protect their rights and help them achieve the divorce that’s right for them. For a free legal consultation, call our law offices at (805) 643-5555.

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