Ventura Same Sex Divorce Attorney
The laws surrounding marriage and divorce have seen incredible changes in the last several years. In the landmark United States Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, the court held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Though this ruling meant wonderful things for same-sex couples, legal marriage is often followed by the need for legal divorce. Same-sex couples face additional requirements to seek a divorce and California’s complicated legal system can make the process feel that much more difficult.
Fortunately, same sex couples in California have many options when it comes to how to end their marriage. Partners can choose from mediation, collaborative divorce, and of course litigation. The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC offer a confidential legal consultation, completely free of charge and can help you choose the best option for your situation. With decades of family law experience, our lawyers have what it takes to provide effective, aggressive representation regarding your California same-sex divorce. Contact us at (805) 643-5555 as soon as possible for peace of mind.
What Are My Options for Getting a Same-Sex Divorce in California?
California same-sex couples seeking a divorce should take the time to carefully explore all of their options for ending their marriage. Each comes with its own set of pros and cons and the best option will usually be determined on a case-by-case basis. Mediation, collaborative divorce and litigation will be discussed in detail below.
Mediation in Same-Sex Divorces
California family court typically requires that you attempt mediation prior to litigation when seeking a divorce where children are involved. Mediation is a process wherein you and your spouse hire a neutral third party (a mediator) to discuss and help resolve the issues in your divorce. The job of a mediator is not to make any decisions or represent either party, but merely to facilitate a productive conversation. Some mediators work separately with each spouse, acting as a go-between, whereas others prefer to work work jointly with both parties. The arrangement will likely depend on the circumstances of your divorce and how comfortable you are conversing civilly with your spouse. If the issues are successfully resolved through mediation, the mediator will serve as a scribe and draft the agreement. Once this step has been completed, the parties can take the agreement to a lawyer to make it binding.
What Are Some Benefits to Resolving a Divorce Through Mediation?
Mediation is generally thought of as the most peaceful way to end a marriage. There is a long list of benefits that comes with mediation, including:
- Mediation is confidential. Your mediator is required to destroy all notes taken during your session and no public record is ever published.
- Mediation is much less expensive than a court trial or series of hearings.
- Mediation is much less time consuming than litigation, with parties often reaching a resolution in one day, rather than over several months.
- You and your spouse are in control—not the court.
- Most mediations end in a settlement agreement.
- Mediation allows the parties to reach a solution based on their own ideas of what is fair in the situation, while still having the option to seek legal advice from an attorney.
- Mediation can actually help to improve communication skills between spouses and be a useful tool to resolve future conflicts.
While the benefits to mediation are extensive, it’s important to keep in mind that mediation may not be the best option for every divorcing couple. Those with a history of domestic violence in their relationship might not feel comfortable sitting face to face with their spouse in a small room. On the other hand, some may find that the mediation process levels the playing field between previously imbalanced partners. It’s essential to consult an attorney to weigh all of your options when facing a same sex divorce and decide which will provide you the most peace of mind during the process.
How Do Mediating Spouses Protect Their Legal Rights?
Divorce involves many legal rights and same sex spouses should make sure they are well-informed of their rights before signing a settlement agreement. Mediators often are licensed attorneys as well, but they are prohibited from acting as attorneys and giving legal advice while serving as third-party neutrals. For this reason, same sex couples should consult their own attorneys and get advice from an experienced California same sex divorce attorney to make sure all of their rights have been adequately protected.
Collaboration in Same-Sex Divorces
Collaborative divorce can be thought of as the option between mediation and litigation. It’s not the most peaceful way to resolve the end of your marriage, but it is also not nearly as contentious as litigation. Collaboration in the legal sense has several key components that can be helpful to keep in mind:
- The pledge not to litigate;
- The voluntary and free exchange of information; and
- The commitment to resolutions that respect the shared goals of the parties.
This process enables couples who have decided to end their marriage to work with their lawyers, and occasionally other family professionals, in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of resolving the matter in court. The ultimate goal in choosing this method is typically to work together to achieve a settlement that best meets the needs of both parties and their children without the threat of litigation. Collaboration is a voluntary process that allows the parties to come to a fair settlement. The process is initiated when when the couple signs a contract (called the “participation agreement) that binds the parties to the process and disqualifies their respective attorney’s right to represent either one in any other family-related litigation in the future.
What Are Some Benefits to Collaborative Divorce?
One of the major benefits of collaboration is that it is cost-efficient for both parties. It allows the partied to enjoy the use of experts to handle specialized work (such as alimony or child support calculations) without duplicating the effort. When divorce is handled through litigation, each party will be required to pay for their own competing experts. In collaboration, an attorney negotiates on behalf of each spouse or partner, so this path is most helpful when spouses or partners are experiencing a high degree of conflict, or when one spouse or partner is at a disadvantage and needs an advocate.
Litigation in Same-Sex Divorces
Litigation is generally considered to be the least favorable way to end a marriage. However, when both parties feel they need their own advocates to reach a fair outcome, litigation may be the only route to take. The litigation process in California does not differ greatly for same-sex couples. The process will be initiated by one party filing the complaint and citing one of the available “no-fault” grounds for the divorce. California no longer provides fault-based grounds for divorce; rather, the initiating spouse can choose irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage, or incurable insanity of the other spouse.
Next, the assets of the couples will be divided according to California’s community property guidelines. In a community property state, spouses are deemed to equally own all income and assets earned or acquired during the marriage. Each spouse is regarded as equally owning all money and property earned by either spouse during the marriage. Gifts given to one spouse, property either spouse owned before the marriage and kept separate during the marriage, and inheritances are all considered separate property in California. The court has wide discretion with regard to all of the next issues that will arise in litigation (alimony, child support, custody, etc.) so the results for each couple will be heavily based on their own specific facts and circumstances.
Child Custody Issues in Same-Sex Divorce Litigation
Issues relating to child custody and support will generally be more complicated for same-sex couples. In the case of same-sex marriages, it is critically important whether only one or both spouses are legal parents of the child(ren). If only one of you is the child’s legal parent, things will be different. Typically, it doesn’t matter why the second parent isn’t a legal parent—in some states, the non-legal parent just has no rights at all. However, some courts in California have recognized second parents on the basis of their intent to conceive and raise children, or their established relationships with those children. The best interest of the child is the ultimate standard on which every family law case is decided by a judge, and if a continued relationship with the non-legal parent is found to fit that standard, the non-legal parent may be granted rights.
Non-Resident Same Sex-Divorce in California
The state of California requires that at least one spouse be a resident of California for at least six months prior to filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. California also allows non-resident same-sex married spouses to dissolve their marriage if they married in California and neither spouse lives in another state. The couple is required to file for dissolution of their marriage in the county in which they married.
Contact a Ventura Same-Sex Divorce Attorney Today
With the recent enactment of so many LGBT-related laws, the need for attorneys who can handle same-sex legal issues is higher than ever. Same-sex couples seeking a divorce in California may need help navigating the complicated and ever-changing landscape. The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC can help same-sex couples end their marriages in whichever manner they feel most comfortable. With over 22 years of experience, our attorneys understand your hardships and want to go the extra mile to provide the best legal representation. The legislature affecting the LGBT community is rapidly changing and it is essential that everyone have access to quality legal representation. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with the experienced family law attorneys concerning your same-sex divorce, contact our law offices right away at (805) 643-5555.