California law consists of 29 codes, each pertaining to different subject areas. Different codes, like different areas of law apply to different aspects of life, from how we vote to how we drive on the highways, how we run our businesses and how our affairs are settled when we die. Family law and California’s Family Code include laws and regulations that specifically have to do with marriage, divorce, children, child support, child custody, adoption and a vast number of issues inherently related to families. Because this type of law is very specialized, it requires a family law attorney who are themselves the best in the area of family law.
What is Covered under California’s Family Code
Some specific issues covered under California’s Family Code that apply to your family law attorney are marriage, divorce and all of the rights and property issues that go along with these two conditions, custody, rights, support and visitation of minor children, prevention of domestic violence, caregivers, adoption and basically anything to do with families. Family law courts and the lawyers who argue family law cases are caring specialists who work to ensure the best interests of all of the parties involved, but most specifically the children.
Sometimes, family law cases can get mixed up with criminal law cases, as when a parent who consistently refuses to make child support payments ends up in criminal court to face the consequences. The family law court for your family law attorney is where the child support payments are decided, however the criminal court is often the enforcement arm.
Complex Cases Involving Multiple Courts
By its very nature, family law cases tend to be very complex. As an example, cases of child abuse and neglect involve both family law and criminal law courts, as well as agencies working in tandem to determine the best outcome for the child, and if so indicated, punish the abuser.
When a complaint of abuse or neglect is filed, both the police and social workers get involved. The police may arrest the abusive parent and file criminal charges, while the social worker will make a determination as to whether the child should be removed from the home, placed in foster care or placed with another relative. The social worker will investigate whether or not the child was fed, healthy, adequately supervised, and whether there were signs of abuse or molestation, and provide all findings to the criminal courts, to file any warranted charges against the parents.
In determining placement of the child, the family court may consider the outcome of a criminal case, if one exists, against the parent accused of harming the child, in determining whether or not the child should be returned to the parent, the parent should be allowed supervised visitation, or even denied all access to the child, in extreme cases.
Family law is a complex and far-reaching entity, spanning nearly all aspects of the law in some respect, as family spans nearly every aspect of the human condition. When dealing with a family law issue or case that falls under the California Family Code, it is advisable to retain a competent attorney who specializes in this area of expertise, in order to get the very best advice and counsel.
Family Law Lawyer Irvine California
Not all lawyers are created equal, and they all have their areas of expertise – tax law, criminal law, liability law, and so on. Attorneys who practice in the area of California family law may be the most versatile of all, because their practice encompasses so many different areas of civil procedure.
As expected, attorneys who practice family law most often deal with several issues involving family matters and other domestic relations. Everything from marriage-related cases to property disputes to matters that arise during a divorce all fall within the purview of a family law lawyer.
Because the dynamics within a family, and indeed, within society, are so complex, California’s laws governing those relationships are equally as complex. For this reason, successful practitioners of family law are usually among the most accomplished and respected lawyers across all strata of the legal system.
Family law is one specific part of the legal system that will touch almost every member of society. Nearly every citizen will need a family lawyer at some point in their life, whereas the majority of people never have reason to hire a criminal attorney. For this reason, In Irvine, as in most of America, family courts usually have very crowded dockets.
This means that in order to effectively represent the best interests of his clients, a good family lawyer must be able to present extremely succinct, yet valid arguments to the Court. In order to do that, the best attorneys need to have a deep understanding of California state law that is unsurpassed by their peers in other legal areas of practice.
What Makes a Good Family Law Attorney?
A good family lawyer is proficient – In California, the practice of family law can present an attorney with a very large area of opportunity, with each area presenting its own particular set of challenges. For example, representing a client in an acrimonious divorce is vastly different than helping a couple joyously adopt a new baby.
But this proficiency in family law would also allow the lawyer to see the similarities in the two cases. In both instances, the best interests of the minors must also be considered, and it is the job of the family lawyer to assist the adults in making those decisions and arrangements necessary for the well-being of the children.
They Are flexible – In family law, the issues in question are rarely completely black or white. Each party in a case has their own viewpoint, feelings, and rights under the law, and it is the job of that lawyer to smooth negotiations between each side so that the interests of everyone involved are represented fairly. This means that a lawyer must be willing to compromise and adjust his/her position in the name of coming to an equitable agreement.
He or She offers counsel – A synonym for attorney is “counselor”. There is no specialty within the California legal system that embraces this role more than that of the family lawyer. Often, the family lawyer will represent clients during the periods of their greatest stress, anger, and bereavement, and yet, that lawyer is often able to broker a successful negotiated deal that allows both sides to profit.
More often than not, a family attorney will represent a client who, at the outset, doesn’t really have a very clear or accurate idea about what it is they truly want. By knowing what questions to ask, the attorney is able to help guide the client into a much clearer understanding of what it is and try to accomplish.
They are diligent – Because California is community property, divorce cases here can sometimes require an extraordinary amount of meticulous work in order to ensure that the division of property is complete, accurate, and equitable. Often, this requires a lawyer spending hours poring over financial reports, bank records, deeds, insurance policies, retirement accounts, and any number of asset lists. It is this attention to detail that will guarantee that the client receives their just portion of the property that was jointly acquired during the marriage and a fair support order.
They are a student – The best family lawyers in California are constantly reeducating themselves about the latest changes in the state’s civil/family code in order to best serve the needs of their clients. They attend seminars, workshops, and Bar Association meetings in order to stay completely up-to-date about the ever-changing California legal landscape.
The best lawyers are experienced – When a client comes to a family lawyer with their specific need, it is reassuring to know that that attorney has handled similar cases before, and therefore, might have a bit of seasoned insight that can help make a favorable outcome more likely.
They have expertise – Within the larger category of family law, there are a number of sub-specialties, and most family lawyers have areas in which they are especially proficient. Some lawyers might be considered among the best when it comes to arguing a divorce case, while others shine when it comes time to help a family navigate the convoluted landscape of adoption. It is entirely appropriate for a prospective client to ask for proof of past work in similar cases.
They have a good reputation – There’s an old saying – “It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”, or, in this case, “WHO you hire“. When you choose the right family lawyer to represent you, you send a message to your opposition. For example, if you have chosen a divorce lawyer who has a reputation for winning large financial settlements for his clients, then the opposition might be much more willing to come to a fast and fair compromise.
Here are some specifics about the most common types of family law cases that are litigated in the State of California.
Prenuptial Agreements – Also known as premarital agreements, they are governed by California’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act. These are written agreements made by engaged couples that take effect when they get married.
As a general rule, premarital agreements are used to deal with financial issues. There is a broad definition of what “property” is, generally defined as anything of value. Usually, any provisions regarding future spousal support are determined to be unenforceable, unless the person who is to receive support had the benefit of independent counsel before the agreement was made.
For a premarital agreement to be valid and enforceable, certain conditions must apply. There must have been financial disclosure, there must not have been any coercion, and the parties must have fully understood what they were signing.
Certain issues are not allowed in premarital agreements. Any issues dealing with children, for example, child support or custody, are not allowed. Additionally, there can be no contract about marital obligations such as chores, sexual relations, or “penalties” for adultery.
Protection from Domestic Abuse –
The California Domestic Violence Prevention Act gives courts the authority to issue binding orders to restrain abusers and protect victims. As defined by law, domestic violence is when one person in an intimate relationship abuses the other person in the relationship.
There are various types of domestic violence restraining orders, and if granted, the order can compel the restrained person to – stay away from the victim, their children, and other relatives; stay away from the victim’s residence, work, and the children’s schools/daycare’s; leave the home, even if it is jointly owned or rented; continue to make all bill payments and child support; and even attend counseling, all under penalty of law.
Divorce (uncontested) –
In California, an “uncontested” divorce is where the two spouses are able to reach mutual agreement as to the resolution of their divorce. Generally, this means that both parties are in complete agreement on how to handle marital property, money, and child/parenting issues. If handled properly, some uncontested divorces will not need to be heard by the court, and can instead be handled by mail.
Divorce (contested) –
California is a “no-fault” state, which means that a petition of divorce does not acquire evidence of wrongdoing by either party. The most common reason for the dissolution of marriage in California is “irreconcilable differences”.
In a circumstance where divorcing spouses are not able to come to an agreement on all issues – property, spousal support, child visitation, child support, and any other issues – it is recommended that the spouses try mediation first to try to come to a resolution. If no agreement can be made, then there can be a trial heard before a judge.
It is in the best interest of everyone involved if the two divorcing spouses can work with each other and their lawyers to come to an acceptable agreement through mediation, because that way, they have a degree of control about how they are able to move forward. When a case goes to trial, the judge has the final decision.
Division of Property –
California is considered to be a “community property” state, which means that all assets, income, properties, and debts that are acquired or incurred during the marriage are shared equally and jointly between the two spouses. If the two divorcing spouses cannot come to an agreement upon how to divide the joint assets and debts, the court will divide them equally.
California allows that after the dissolution of the marriage, one spouse may still be required to provide financial support for the other. Several factors come into play – each spouse’s income, the standard of living that was enjoyed by both during the marriage, the age/health of each spouse, and the duration of the marriage.
For short-term marriages, typically less than 10 years, the court usually orders a term of support equal to half the length of the marriage. For longer marriages, the order may be ongoing until the spouse receiving alimony is able to support themselves.
Child Support –
In California, child support orders remain in effect until the child graduate high school or to the age of 19. There are specific guidelines based upon the incomes of both parents and the overall percentage of time that you child/children spend with each parent. Typically, the court will not deviate from those state mandates. Once ordered, child support is usually not modified unless there has been a significant change in parental income, the amount of time spent with parents, or special needs of the child.
Child Custody – As a general rule in California, either parent can be granted the full/legal custody of the minor child. The court gives the parents the first opportunity to come to mutual agreement as to visitation, but if no agreement can be reached, the judge will make the decision, based upon the best interest of the child.
If the custodial parent decides to move away, the moving parent must prove to the court that such a move is in the best interest of the child. Conversely, the noncustodial parent can attempt to block the move by presenting evidence showing how such a move could have a negative effect on the child.
Adoption – California processes more adoptions than any other state in the country. There are several classifications of adoptions in California, including both domestic and international adoptions, and adoption of a child by a stepparent.
Adoptions can be handled through an agency licensed by the State of California or independently by couples dealing directly with birth mothers. There are different legal requirements for each type of adoption, and in some cases, home studies and months-long evaluations will have to occur before the process is finalized.
The above types of cases are only a small sampling a sort of services provided by an experienced family law attorney in California. Overall, the state is rather proactive in supporting parties to reach agreements before resorting to official court battles. One of the duties of family lawyer is to encourage their clients to try to come to mutual agreements whenever possible.
However, when those agreements cannot be reached, it becomes absolutely essential to have an experienced family lawyer in your corner to look out for your interests, your rights, and your future.