The Complicated Divorce also known as a complex divorce in the Bay Area, requires a Divorce Lawyer with more experience than might usually be needed for a simple, amicable divorce. The Complex Divorce typically involves reserved stock units (RSUs), privately held companies, mental health issues or addiction, international assets, income or custody conflicts, or your case has just been going on for an extraordinarily long time.
California is a community property state, meaning that both parties have an interest in property that existed during the marriage. Determining community interest in any asset is a complicated process. If you own a small business, have unvested RSUs or stock options, have multiple properties, or simply need to determine the other party’s income, these issues can complicate a divorce. You need a Divorce Lawyer who has the experience and the depth of knowledge to identify potential problems and help you avoid them.
How long will a divorce take?
Every divorce is different and can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years or more. A case is initiated when a divorce complaint, called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, is filed with the court. This document must be served on your spouse or domestic partner, who then has 30 days to file a response. Under California law, a divorce can’t be final until at least 6 months and one day after the spouse or domestic partner receives the Petition.
What are the steps in a divorce case?
Filing a Petition is the first step in a divorce case. It is like opening the door to the court. If the other party files a Response, they open the door to the court, as well. This is called a contested action. If the other party does not file a Response, the door to the court, for the most part, is closed. This is called a default.
The next step in a divorce is the exchange of financial information. Both parties are required to exchange income information and to identify any bank accounts, retirement accounts, business opportunities, and other assets and debts. Some parties are more open than others. When one party does not want to fully disclose what assets they have, or how much they are worth, your Divorce Lawyer will help you figure out exactly what they are hiding. This includes routinely bringing in experts to find assets and determine their value to ensure you know what is at stake in the divorce so you can make an informed decision.
Sometimes, parties do not want to disclose what their earnings are, or artificially decrease their earnings to keep the other spouse from receiving the support they are entitled to. This is not uncommon, and it is not acceptable. Your Divorce Lawyer won’t let the other party intimidate or bully you into walking away with less than what you are entitled to.
A divorce case ends when a Judgment is filed, though some issues may continue for many years after the Judgment is entered. A Judgment can either be reached through an agreement of the parties, often after a settlement conference at the court, or through trial. You can resolve all issues at any time if both parties agree, but if a trial is necessary, often a divorce case can last a year or longer to get a decision from the court.
How will the property be divided?
California is a community property state, meaning that both parties have an interest in property that was acquired or that existed during the marriage. Before the property is divided it must be identified, valued, and classified as marital or separate. How the property gets divided depends on the duration of the marriage, when the property was acquired, how the property was purchased, tax consequences, and any separate agreements the parties may have made, like a pre-nuptial or pre-marital agreement.
How to Prepare for Your First Meeting
Your Divorce Lawyer will need different information for different cases. Below is a simple outline for what you should bring to make the first meeting with your Divorce Lawyer as productive as possible.
- Make a list of specific questions you want to be answered or issues that are most troubling to you. What most worries you about the divorce?
- Any documents that have been filed with the court. However, if the case has been going on for a while, we don’t need the last few years of documents, only the most recent documents or any pending actions.
- A general idea of what assets you own. Do you own a business? Do you have stock options? Do you have multiple bank accounts, credit cards or investment accounts? Do you have a retirement, 401k or pension plan? Because different assets require different approaches, it is helpful to know what assets you have.
- A general idea of your income, and the other party’s income. The more specific information you can provide, the better we can advise you, but we don’t need paycheck stubs or tax returns if you do not have these available to you at the first meeting. If you are retired, or are retiring soon, information about your retirement funds will be helpful. This is important to determining support issues.