Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)
California has been a "no fault" State for dissolution of marriage actions since 1970. Accordingly, when either spouse to a marriage concludes that "irreconcilable differences" have arisen during the marriage which has led to a complete breakdown in the marriage, the Superior Courts of the State of California have the jurisdictional power to dissolve the marriage of the parties and, except in very unusual cases, jurisdiction to resolve the interests of the parties in assets at any place in the world, to determine custody rights with regard to minor children, and to determine the amount of child support and, where appropriate, the amount and duration of spousal support payable by either party to the other. The Court with jurisdiction over a dissolution of marriage action also has jurisdictional power to issue various other orders to protect the property and support rights of the parties and, in addition, the power to issue restraining orders to protect a party, children, and other members of a household from inappropriate conduct by the other party that causes physical or emotional harm or threatens to do so.
Each spouse has fiduciary obligations to the other spouse during marriage and following separation of the parties, including, among others, an obligation to disclose all material facts regarding all assets and liabilities and all sources of income to the other spouse.
California law also provides parties with the power to compel records and testimony to be produced from witnesses in California and in other States and Nations.
The Family Law Courts of California will conduct expedited hearings at the outset of a case where appropriate to make sure that a spouse who is entitled to custody rights, child support, spousal support, attorneys fees, accounting fees, appraisal fees, or other interim orders as may be appropriate in the case is not compelled to go for months without such orders.
If the parties are not successful in resolving issues, it often takes more than a year for the Family Law Courts in Los Angeles County to provide the parties with a trial date, depending on the issues to be resolved and the estimated time for the trial. The Law Offices of Douglas A. Bagby will make every reasonable effort to get issues resolved fairly on terms acceptable to our clients without the necessity for a trial where that is possible. The Law Office of Douglas A. Bagby has been successful in resolving the vast majority of cases without the necessity of a trial. We are available to assist parties in relatively uncomplicated matters as well as matters involving the most complex and substantial issues of custody, property, and support.
Dissolution of Domestic Partnerships
Under California Law in effect since 2005, individuals who are not married and who have "chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring" (Family Code Section 297) have been entitled to register with the State of California as Domestic Partners and thus become entitled to virtually all of the rights and responsibilities of individuals who are married to each other. Thus, a dissolution of a domestic partnership involves the potential of the same property, custody, and support rights applicable to spouses who are dissolving a marriage, although the tax treatment of the division of assets and awards of support may differ significantly from such issues in the dissolution of a marriage.
Complex Property, Custody, and Support Issues
The dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership almost always involves ascertaining the rights and responsibilities of the parties with regard to assets which may have been acquired during the marital or domestic partnership relationship of the parties as well as custody and support issues. The Law Office of Douglas A. Bagby has represented clients in matters involving hundreds of millions of dollars and clients in matters with modest assets. Every case is unique. As noted in the attorney profiles, Douglas A. Bagby and his associate counsel have had many decades of experience with complex property, custody, and support issues and is prepared to provide legal services to clients at the highest level.
Under California law, a mother or a man claiming to be the father of a child may seek to have a Judgment entered declaring the man to be the father of a child. Such a determination of paternity has significant consequences, as the court may make orders regarding custody, child support, and attorneys fees and costs in such a proceeding.
Post-Divorce Support and Custody Modifications
After the entry of a Judgment or Order of the Court regarding custody, child support, or spousal support, if there has been a material (significant) change in the relevant circumstances which existed at the time of the decree, either party may be entitled to seek to obtain an Order modifying or terminating the prior order. It is common for material facts bearing upon what custody orders are in the best interests of a particular child to change over time and sometimes the parents are not able to agree upon the significance of the particular change in the needs of the child. It is far more common for financial circumstances of one or both of the parties to change in a significant way meriting a change in the child or spousal support payments. We have over 40 years of experience in representing parties involved in such matters.
Premarital Agreements and Agreements During Marriage
California law permits people who are contemplating marriage to enter into contracts commonly known as Premarital or Prenuptial Agreements to eliminate or modify the community property rights which would otherwise govern the rights of the parties upon a dissolution of their marriage. California law also permits the parties to such an Agreement, subject to specified conditions, to limit or even waive entirely the right of either party to the Agreement to seek spousal support from the other should the marriage terminate at some date in the future. Premarital agreements permit the parties to include provisions both parties believe to be fair in lieu of leaving the property and support issues unresolved and undefined should either one of the parties wish to dissolve the marriage at some time in the future. Parties are not permitted to resolve custody or child support issues in such an agreement as such provisions would violate the strong public policy of the State of California in protecting children and their right to support. Carefully drafted Premarital agreements can assist the parties in defining the rights of the parties should the marriage dissolve and save substantial attorneys fees, accounting fees, appraisal fees, and costs which may otherwise be incurred in the absence of such an agreement. It is also possible for married couples to enter into contracts during marriage, often referred to as Postnuptial agreements, in order to change the ownership of assets acquired during marriage before and after the date of the contract and to also include provisions regarding spousal support to either party should either of the parties decide to dissolve the marriage at some date in the future.
Nonmarital Cohabitation Actions
California Law protects the rights of individuals who are not married to each other and who are not registered as domestic partners to enter into contracts involving the property which may be acquired by either of them during their relationship or regarding payments which might be made by one party to the other upon a termination of the relationship. The contracts may be written or oral and may even be implied by conduct. These actions are not covered by the Family Code and a party seeking property or support rights pursuant to such an express or implied agreement (often referred to as "Marvin" actions or "Palimony" actions) is not entitled to seek attorneys fees, accounting fees, and costs as are parties to a dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership. The parties in such a civil action are also entitled to request a jury trial, a right which is not available to the parties in a dissolution of marriage or dissolution of a domestic partnership action.
Mr. Moss has been handling estate planning matters for individuals and families for over 10 years. The dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership gives rise to the need for individuals to consider estate planning issues. Our estate planning practice, handled by Mr. Moss, includes preparation of living trusts, insurance trusts, special needs trusts, wills, powers of attorney, advance health care directives, trust transfer deed, and other trusts designed for probate avoidance and to minimize estate taxes. Our expertise in family law is of value to our estate planning clients because family law issues are issues which must be considered when preparing an estate plan, whether or not the parties are involved in a dissolution of marriage.