How Fast Can I Get a Divorce in California?

It’s not uncommon for spouses to be in a hurry to get through the divorce process. Depending on the separation circumstances, they may be in quite a hurry to move on with their lives. Whatever the reason, people often feel that they can’t wait to get their divorce behind them, and it’s one of the most common concerns divorce attorneys hear the most.

So how fast can someone get a divorce in California? According to California divorce laws, couples can only get divorced if they’ve lived in the state for at least six months. Bar that, the only other factors are how quickly you and your spouse can agree to the issues addressed by divorce. Here are some of the events that can speed up or (slow down) a California divorce.

Incomplete or Improperly-Filed Paperwork

Many people seeking to divorce as quickly as possible believe the first step is to file the relevant paperwork with their court. They may feel such a hurry that they do this themselves. Unfortunately, this approach often creates the first costly hurdle in expediting the process.

The first step should instead be to seek out an experienced family law attorney. A California family law attorney will make sure everything is filled out and filed correctly on your behalf. Any errors you make with the paperwork will delay the remainder of the divorce process and only serve to drag out the process and make it more costly than it already is, so save yourself the trouble and contact legal counsel early. 

Even if you do complete the initial paperwork on your own, an attorney can help you in other areas of the divorce, especially if you and your spouse aren’t on the best terms and communication breaks down (as if often does at one point or another during the process). 

You’re also required to serve notice to your spouse that you’ve filed for divorce, which you can do on the same day you file. From here, your spouse has thirty days to file a response. If they respond, and how they respond, could set a trial in motion. If they choose not to respond, a judge may make a default judgment. However, California has a mandatory six-month waiting period starting from when you serve your spouse before a judge’s decision goes into effect. That means that even a quick ruling won’t go into effect until that six-month period ends. 

Disagreements Between Spouses

When it comes time for the division of property in divorce, California follows community property standards. The law defines community property as any assets (including property and income) that either party in a marriage acquired during the marriage. With community property, the division of property in a divorce sees each side getting half the total value of all assets.

Commingling property complicates this and is often where disagreements emerge. Property is commingling if its ownership can’t immediately be defined. The property you owned before getting married remains yours, but other circumstances can complicate matters. Often, this happens when one spouse helps another make payments for something, or they agree to share something before getting married.

You and your spouse can avoid commingling property issues if you can agree on how to separate property. California courts allow for couples to draw up their own agreements to split assets. However, an inability to cooperate will lead to even more delays as the judge and lawyers try to sort it out.

The same thing can occur with child custody disputes, child support, and alimony payments. In all of these instances, couples can work with their lawyers to draw up their own agreements and have them approved by a judge. Not doing so leads to an extensive discovery process designed to give the judge the most evidence possible so that they can make an appropriate ruling. 

Maintaining communication, no matter how difficult, is essential to resolving your divorce as quickly as possible. If you find you can’t cooperate with your spouse, your lawyers can work as mediators. If you are unable to work with your spouse to reach amicable agreements for some reason, it falls on the court to do its work. Unfortunately, there’s no timeframe for how long it has to take and no guarantee that the court will do it quickly. 

Disrupting the Process or Not Cooperating

It may sound similar to the previous point, but it’s very different. Instead of focusing on how you communicate with your spouse during proceedings, we’re talking about your attitude. How you act towards anyone involved in the divorce can have consequences, including slowing the whole process down.

People know that they shouldn’t be combative during their divorce, but it’s still an emotionally trying time for everyone involved. Still, it would be best if you practiced controlling yourself. Lashing out at others or being defensive only serves to interrupt things. In particularly bad cases, being combative will cast you in a poor light and likely affect the final ruling.

You should also be concerned with how you interact with your lawyer. You’ve hired them to help you, but they may choose to stop providing their services if you don’t treat them with respect. You also need to be honest with them. With issues like child custody and property and divorce, clients sometimes hide relevant information to protect themselves or try to skew the final verdict in their favor. Doing so not only leads to a lengthier discovery process but can convince your lawyer to leave your case.

The key to getting your divorce settled is to work with the proceedings. Do what’s asked of you by the judge and your lawyer. Don’t do anything to obstruct the proceedings or could be seen as trying to derail things. If you have pressing concerns, address them to your lawyer in private.

Notes On Uncontested Divorce

A divorce trial only happens when your spouse files an objection after you initially serve them. If they agree to the divorce, you can avoid a trial entirely. Remember that you still need to wait through the six-month grace period before it’s official, but if you want a fast divorce, an uncontested divorce is ideal.

If you and your spouse agree to divorce before you file, you and your lawyers can also work out agreements beforehand to make the process even faster. Your lawyer can help finalize arrangements before presenting them to a judge. If accepted, there won’t be a trial.

Azemika Law Can Help You

If you need help understanding the complexities of California divorce laws or would like an experienced attorney to help you work through divorce as efficiently as possible, call on our attorneys at Azemika & Azemika
We are experts in Kern County family law who bring compassion and honesty to everything that we do. We’ll treat you and your family with respect and confidentiality as we help you achieve the best outcome possible. Contact us today to learn more about our expertise and what we can do to help you.

How Is Child Support Calculated in California?

An order to pay child support is one of the most emotionally-draining aspects of a divorce or separation. We understand that it is one of the hardest things to go through and can be one of the most overwhelming. Every state utilizes its own guidelines for establishing child support. While they share some similarities, they can ultimately be very different. 

But how does California calculate child support? 

Depending on your case’s specifics, it may not be as simple as you would hope. If you’re like most people, you’ve never thought to look into how California determines child support before filing for divorce. Let’s take a look at the particulars of California state law.

Understanding Child Support

When dealing with child custody, judges in California must rule in the child’s best interest. The same applies to child support orders. One or both parents may be required to pay child support to cover necessary living expenses for their child.

There are two key factors judges use to determine child support. The first is the total income of each parent. Both parties will be required to fill out an Income and Expense Declaration, which will determine the final estimates. A divorce attorney from our firm can assist you in completing the form. 

The second is what’s referred to as the time-share. How much time you spend with your child gets broken down into a percentage and used with your income to determine who will be paying child support and receiving it. 

It’s possible to determine what your child support responsibilities might be beforehand. The California government provides an online calculator here that includes all the factors of the state’s guidelines. Thoroughly reading the calculator requires knowledge of California law, but one of our lawyers can help you understand what it all means.

5 Common Questions About Child Support in California

We know there are likely many questions swirling around in your head when trying to figure out how to calculate what your child support could be. We’ve answered a few of the most common questions for you.

1. What About Multiple Children?

If you have multiple children, you’ll have to make payments for each child. A judge will use the first calculation to determine each payment. However, older children will receive smaller payments than younger kids. 

2. What Does Child Support Cover?

There are specific things a parent’s child support payments are supposed to cover. These also factor into the overall payment amount. However, keep in mind that child support ensures that both parents share the responsibility in covering expenses.

All child support orders cover the basics of food, clothes, healthcare/insurance, and housing costs. Again, the party paying child support won’t be paying the entirety of these costs, just contributing. Though some other costs may not apply to your situation, these are mandatory.

Other costs that aren’t required but a judge may still order include medical bills, school-related costs (including extracurricular activities), and professional child care costs. Parents can elect to include other costs as part of child support, even if a judge doesn’t order them.

3. How Long Does Child Support Last?

As the name would imply, child support assists in raising children, but the commonly-held legal definition of an adult doesn’t necessarily apply here. While age certainly plays a role in determining when support stops, it’s isn’t always the only one. The only time that age is the sole factor is when a child turns nineteen.

A child support order may end when a child turns eighteen, but only if they have graduated high-school. An eighteen-year-old who is still a student, even if only part-time, is still considered a child and will require support. Child support payments end automatically once they are nineteen, even if they haven’t graduated.

If your child becomes independent through marriage or joining the military, they are no longer eligible to receive child support. Usually, this only happens once they are eighteen but may occur at a younger age depending on their location. You also cease to pay support for a child that has passed away.

The only time child support continues past nineteen is in the case of disability. If a court determines that a disabled adult cannot take care of themself due to their condition, they may order child support payments to continue. Such orders can continue until their condition improves, or longer if their situation doesn’t improve and allow them to provide for themselves. 

4. Is Child Support Flexible in Any Way?

California created a set of rules for determining child support called the Guideline. While the Guideline utilizes a formula to determine child support payments, the state legislature recognizes that there are unique circumstances that they must account for to maintain fairness. A judge is required to acknowledge these factors when devising the final order.

The most significant variable that can alter support payments is a large discrepancy between both parents’ income. A payer who makes considerably more money than their ex-spouse will end up paying more, but the amount may be changed. The law allows this to prevent a parent from paying more than their share of expenses. 

Something similar can happen when comparing time-share. A judge will consider how much time a parent gets to spend with their child and compare it to the financial support they provide. A parent who pays most child-rearing expenses but doesn’t get to spend much time with them may see their financial responsibilities diminish.

Of course, some factors can increase child support beyond the usual calculations. A child with a medical condition that results in high expenses will need more significant aid to have their needs met. 

Keep in mind that a judge may change the order any time after ordering it as well. Often, this can occur due to a change in the children’s or one of the parent’s lives. If reported to a judge, they may deem a necessary change. Parents can also agree to make changes with the court’s consent or challenging aspects of the order.

5. What If I Can’t Pay Child Support?

If you miss a payment, it’s best to try and resolve the matter quickly. California will go through multiple avenues to recover the missed compensation. On top of that, the state adds ten percent interest to missed payments, increasing the amount you owe. In especially bad cases, you could face severe legal consequences.

If you can’t meet your payment obligations, it’s best to talk to a family law attorney as soon as you can. Depending on why you missed your payment, you may be able to change the terms of your child support order.

Hire Azemika Law for Your Child Support Case

Our team at Azemika & Azemika has been practicing in Kern County family law for over thirty years. If you need a family law attorney to help with your divorce, child visitation or support, custody, or adoption, you can count on us.
For comprehensive representation in any child custody and child support matter, call Azemika & Azemika Law. We will fight for and protect you and your family during the separation and divorce process. Contact us online or by phone to arrange an initial consultation with our attorneys.

Divorce, child custody, and your child’s best interest

What is the most stressful part of a divorce? The response changes from case to case, but for parents the answer will undoubtedly be child custody. 

Fear of hurting their relationship with their children, having their parenting scrutinized by a judge and fear of losing their child to the other parent entirely are but a few factors that make divorce proceedings so difficult for parents.

If you are soon going through a divorce (or currently are), you can save yourself, your child, and your spouse a lot of distress by working out a child custody and visitation agreement right away. Here are some considerations when working out such an arrangement.

Best Interest of the Child

At the heart of every custody dispute is one matter: what is in the child’s best interest. It’s common that divorcing spouses allow bitter feelings to make every issue about themselves. When it comes to your child, a judge will make a decision based on the child’s needs, not yours.

Unless there is evidence of abuse, neglect, or irresponsibility, a child will get to spend time with both parents. How that gets divided will vary based on multiple factors, but if you and your ex-spouse work with divorce attorneys to create a custody plan, it increases the odds that you’ll both get the time and custodial responsibilities you want.

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

A big point of confusion in child custody law is the concepts of physical and legal custody. Some see one as being more significant, while others may not understand the difference at all. Knowing how they differ is essential to your post-divorce co-parenting plan.  

Physical custody refers to who has custody of the child when. For example, if you have custody during alternating weeks, you would have physical custody during those weeks and your ex-spouse on the other weeks. Legal custody determines who makes major decisions regarding the child’s well-being, such as a physician or religious upbringing. 

The benefit of collaborating with your ex-spouse on a child custody agreement is that you propose ways to divide both responsibilities however you want. Of course, you should still be realistic and consider your ability to meet the proposed obligations.

Consider Your Child’s Responsibilities

While each parent’s commitments will carry a lot of weight in joint custody discussions, it would be foolish to overlook those of the child. When parents separate, it’s a very confusing time for children. They have to navigate a new set of norms that sometimes calls their sense of security into question.

Keeping a child’s social life intact can provide them additional support during this difficult time. Playdates, after-school activities, and visits with extended family all help maintain a sense of regularity. Don’t disregard them as part of your joint custody planning. If your custody arrangement would eliminate any of these things from your child’s life, reconsider and accommodate for it the best you can. 

Simplify Living Arrangements

The most common custody agreements see a child living between two locations to spend time with each parent. Depending on where the parents live, such arrangements could require a lot of travel for both parents and the child. If the custodial exchange is frequent, it could make it difficult for the child to get comfortable with the arrangement and new surroundings. 

Recent years have seen growing popularity for a new joint custody trend called “bird nesting” or just “nesting.” Nesting doesn’t see the child moving between homes to live with the custodial parents in its simplest form. Instead, a primary residence will be shared by the parents so that the child doesn’t travel. 

Let’s go back to the alternating weekly agreement again, and let’s say that your child lives at your residence. When it’s time for your ex to take custody, they will come to live in your home, and you would spend the week (barring visitation) elsewhere. It could be your ex’s home, other property you own, or joint property you both own.

Nesting requires a great deal of trust between both spouses, but it’s beneficial in that it removes the stress of having to travel from your child and gives them a sense of normalcy. It minimizes the disruptions they’ll experience while keeping both parents in the picture. 

It would be best if you didn’t view nesting as a long-term practice. The main intention is to make adjusting to divorce easier for children. Eventually, they’ll reach a place where they can handle living between two homes and travel. 

A joint custody proposal centered around nesting faces unique challenges, so it’s best to discuss potential difficulties and pitfalls with your divorce attorney.

Be Flexible With Your Plan

We all know events in our lives can run counter to even the most detailed plans, but understanding this doesn’t make it easier to pivot when changes are needed. Most people entering their first divorce know what they want but don’t know what to expect. When reality crashes into those expectations, things can get messy.

Your divorce attorney will tell you to temper your expectations and be flexible, but this should extend to your joint custody agreement as well. Temporary or permanent changes may be necessary as time goes on to keep both parents in the picture. Things like career changes, job promotions, new spouses, and moving are just a few examples of significant events that can affect custody arrangement.

Being open to potential changes is only half the equation. The key to ensuring you can implement changes as needed is maintaining a civil relationship with your ex and regularly communicating with them.

Not all circumstances lend themselves to a friendly divorce, but co-parenting is a collaborative effort that requires give and take. The ability to set aside differences with your ex and look past the personal problems between you is paramount to getting your joint custody plan approved. 

Involve Your Child

Remember: the most significant changes resulting from a divorce are happening to your child. Since it impacts them, it can help them understand and cope with what’s happening if they’re involved in the process. 

Of course, what this means isn’t the same for every child. It’s not unreasonable, for example, to let a teen or pre-teen have a say in mother and father visitation. However, a toddler wouldn’t have enough awareness of what’s happening to make similar decisions. Still, they may want to choose seemingly inconsequential things, like what toys they keep at a specific parent’s home. In both examples, the child has some control over what’s happening, making them more accepting of the change.

Let’s Talk

Child custody and visitation arrangements are always developed to serve the child’s best interests. During any divorce proceedings, it’s important to discuss a potential parenting plan. If this is not possible, be honest with the court and any third-party evaluators. Doing so will help the judge order an arrangement that works best for the child. 

For comprehensive representation in any child custody and child support matter, call Azemika & Azemika Law. We will fight for and protect you and your family during the separation and divorce process. Contact us today online or by phone 661-322-8166 to arrange an initial consultation with our attorneys.

What is a collaborative divorce?

The traditional divorce process can be incredibly stressful. Lengthy litigation, court costs, examination, and hostile feelings between spouses can affect all involved mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

No matter how much you prepare for the process, its nature can quickly become very tiring. However, there are options available to avoid taking your separation to court. One such option is called collaborative divorce.

When spouses choose to pursue a collaborative divorce, they work out a settlement with family law attorneys while avoiding litigation. By making this agreement, they can work out every aspect of the divorce, such as division of property, alimony, and child support on their terms rather than have to make a case in court and have the result ultimately determined by a judge. 

This allows for greater flexibility and, more importantly, avoids the additional negativity a divorce trial can bring. If you’re considering a collaborative divorce, here are some essential facts you need to know.  

The Role of Attorneys

When both spouses agree to a collaborative divorce, they also agree not to pursue litigation against each other. That being the case, what role do attorneys play in the process?

Family law attorneys will help you in multiple ways. Though they aren’t making a legal argument on your behalf during a collaborative divorce, they can use their skills to work as your advocate while you and your spouse work on their settlement. 

Both parties hire separate lawyers who help negotiate and iron out the agreement’s fine details so that there are no ambiguities. Unlike with mediators, spouses cannot share an attorney during this process.

However, you may find you’ll need additional help at various points. For example, when discussing how to separate property, it may be necessary to determine something’s monetary value. For this, you’d need an expert to give an accurate estimate. Family law attorneys have these connections in place and can bring additional resources into the discussions as necessary, saving you the trouble of having to seek them out on your own.

You Have Ultimate Flexibility

When a divorce goes to trial, the final terms have to follow state law. For example, when it comes to the division of property in divorce, California state law equally divides jointly-owned property between spouses. 

The property you owned before the marriage remains yours, but anything that becomes shared may have its ownership questioned. Such items become commingling property, and if you can’t prove original ownership, it becomes a judge’s decision.

Collaborative divorce lets spouses customize the terms however they agree to, giving you greater flexibility regarding complicated issues like commingling property. It also removes uncertainty from the equation. The judge’s decision may go against what you hoped for or strike you as unfair. That’s not an issue with collaborative divorce.

While you may negotiate outside customary divorce laws, the goal should be to make both spouses satisfied with the final plan. It isn’t an opportunity to take everything you want. Doing so will stall (and potentially tank) the negotiations altogether. Be reasonable and expect some give and take.

You Don’t Have To Involve The Child

Divorcing parents have the additional complication of their child’s welfare to focus on. When a divorce goes to court, child custody disputes can be the most painful to litigate. 

Doing so involves scrutinizing the parents, which may include questioning the child to learn more about how they feel and how their parents act. It can humiliate the parents and be scary for the child, and the ultimate custody decision could cause pain for anyone involved.

Thankfully, collaborative divorce allows you to establish all the terms of your separation, including child custody. With the help of their attorneys, spouses can shape a plan without involving their children at all. Of course, they can choose to involve them if they want, but it takes some of the stress of a divorce that children experience in either scenario. 

Judges make child custody decisions based on what they believe to be in the child’s best interest. This can include any number of factors, including the employment and earnings of each parent, criminal history, and where they live. 

When you and your spouse discuss child custody, the focus should still be on what’s best for your child. However, you can use whatever reasoning you like to make your conclusion and without having your life examined by a judge. 

What If We Can’t Agree?

At the start of a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse sign a contract stating you won’t pursue litigation to resolve the divorce and instead work things out amongst yourself. 

However, it may turn out that you hit roadblocks along the way, issues that no one is willing to concede. It can happen anywhere in the process, and if it does, that initial contract becomes void as you both take the matter to court.

When this happens, your current attorneys will have to remove themselves from the case, though they may help you find other representation for your divorce trial. Keep in mind that everything they worked on up to that point will be kept confidential. 

Depending on how far along in the collaborative divorce process you were before changing to traditional divorce proceedings, you may have signed agreements relating to specific issues already, like how to divide the property. If you have, those agreements may still be binding and won’t be decided by a judge, helping to speed up the process. 

Ultimately, if you and your spouse try and fail to finalize a collaborative divorce, the work you’ve done will still affect the final determinations.

A Better Way To Resolve Your Disputes

A divorce may be final, but what you experience during the process will remain with you for some time. One of the greatest boons of collaborative divorce is that it helps everyone stay civil as they prepare to separate. 

The hard feelings that litigation can bring up have a better chance of never coming to fruition and influencing your words or actions. Besides keeping things peaceful, it may very well help the healing once your divorce is over.

Talk to Our Attorneys Today

If you need help understanding the complexities of California divorce laws or would like an experienced attorney to help you with your collaborative divorce, call on our professionals at Azemika & Azemika

We are experts in Kern County family law who bring compassion and honesty to everything that we do. We’ll treat you and your family with respect and confidentiality as we help you achieve the best outcome possible. Contact us today to learn more about our expertise and what we can do to help you.

Why Adopt an Adult?

gavel court for adult adoption

When people think of adoption, most picture a husband and wife holding a young child. It is, after all, their dream of being parents coming true. Another image that comes to mind might be a family of children of various ages in a courtroom finally being adopted by their happy looking new parents. 

However, there are actually many cases where people choose to adopt an adult. It could be for a legal reason, or perhaps a more personal one. Whatever the cause, legally adopting an adult has its benefits for all involved. 

The Legal Standpoint

The most common reason someone would like to adopt the adult in their life is to change the adult’s last name legally. People can go and have their names changed in the court system without the cost and paperwork of adoption. However, the more personal touch of asking the step-parent to be their parent legally makes the legal step feel more of a family coming together than something for the court system to simply officiate. 

Also, adopting your step-child or foster child will give them a legal standing if you die without a will. While several people are making their end of life plans, some pass on unexpectedly without taking the time to have provisions to care for all the children they want to provide for after they have left this world for another. Adopting an adult gives them legal standing in inheriting from the estate of a deceased family member. 

Another reason one might adopt an adult is if the adult in question has a disability that will require decisions made on their behalf in the near future. The disability could progress to the point the adult needs to have someone making all the medical and financial decisions for them. 

It would leave the disabled adult vulnerable to someone who would take advantage of them if they did not have an immediate family member to do it for them. Adult adoption is the simplest solution to this type of problem plaguing thousands of adults with disabilities. 

While these solutions have a personal connection, they are not solely for personal reasons. There are a few reasons, while they have a legal association, that are done for a more personal, emotional reason.

The Personal Side of Adult Adoption

Aging out of foster care for is often not a good experience. The new adult has worries about where they will stay, how they will support themselves, and if they will have anyone to help them on their beginning journey into adulthood. 

Foster parents who received their child into their late teenage years and loved them as one of their own can adopt the new adult with their consent. It will give the new adult the support system they need to help succeed in the world they now don’t have to navigate alone and give the adult an emotional bond often missing in foster children who age out without a solid family structure. 

There are also cases where a child will find their biological parents after being in the system for years, or perhaps adopted when they were babies after the parents gave up the child for their own personal reasons. The adult may decide to allow their biological parents to adopt them to give themselves some closure, among other personal reasons.

The parents may also want to adopt the biological child they gave up to make sure the child is provided for from their estate and give themselves some sense of relief. However, the adoption between the biological parents and the adult may negate any inheritance the adult may receive from their adoptive families unless there is a will specifying they get anything from an estate. 

Another reason someone goes for adult adoption is when an adult wants to make their step-parent “legally” their parent. For whatever reason, the step-parent had been longer in their life and, in some cases, in better ways than the biological parent. 

The child reaches adulthood without the parent being able to adopt them for one reason or another. Now that the child is an adult, the two consenting parties can make the step-parent “officially” the parent by the adult adoption process.

Navigating The Whole Process

In some areas, adopting an adult is as easy as filling out paperwork, however the process does require care and attention. It is always best to have an experienced California family law attorney on your side. Azemika & Azemika can help.

We are family law specialists and we understand that each case is as unique as the clients we represent. For comprehensive representation in the adoption process, contact us today.

What You Need to Know About Adopting Your Stepchild in California

parent washing dishes with child for Adopt a Stepchild in Ca case

The bond between a step-parent and step-child can become even stronger than that of the noncustodial parent. If the noncustodial parent is absent or has terminated their parental rights, adoption is an option that may be right for you and your family.

It may feel daunting to consider adopting your stepchild in Ca, but with some thought, preparation, and the right legal resources, your adoption can go smoothly. In this article, we will cover the process of step-parent adoption.

Requirements to Adopt

There are many things to consider when you want to adopt a stepchild in Ca. Before, the process takes as little as 180 days or may take longer depending on the case’s complexities. 

Before deciding to adopt a stepchild in Ca, there are some requirements you need to make sure you meet. The criteria are:

  • Biological and Adopting Parent Relationship – The biological and adoptive parent is required to be legally married or in a domestic partnership to file for the adoption. There is the option of a “second-parent adoption,” however, that is a more complicated process.
  • Adopting Parent Age – A parent adopting a stepchild must be 18 years old or older and at least ten years older than the child. Sometimes, the 10-year requirement can be waived depending on the circumstances.
  • Biological Parent/Spouse Consent – Both the adopting parent, their spouse, and the biological parent must agree to the adoption.
  • Consent – The child’s other biological parent must give consent to the adoption. If there is no consent, the adoption may still proceed but will not be considered an uncontested adoption. The adoption procedure will differ if consent is not able to be obtained. Some of the reasons for proceeding without consent are willful failure, abandonment, and alleged parental rights termination.
  • Consent of the Child – The adoptive child must consent if they are 12 years old or older. 

Next, we will take a look at the steps to adoption by a step-parent.

How to Adopt a Stepchild in Ca

Step 1. Filing for Adoption

To begin the adoption process, an adoption request form must be filed. This form must be completed with information about the step-parent, their relationship with the child, and information relating to the parents or other guardians that may affect the courts’ determination. 

Step 2. Social Services Investigation

After filing for adoption, the court will contact the Social Services office in your county to complete an investigation. They gather relevant identifying documents, such as a birth certificate. Next, they interview both the biological parent and the adoptive parent. In most cases, they will interview the child as well. 

This investigation is often brief and straightforward, following the State’s guidelines for adoption in the child’s best interest.

Step 3. Termination of Parental Rights

The other parent of the child must be living to terminate their parental rights. This frees the other parent of obligations like child support and any court-ordered visitation rights. If the non-custodial parent agrees to terminate rights, a form is completed and submitted to the courts.

The non-custodial parent may not be willing to participate or unable to be found for their signature. Unwillingness to consent does not mean the parent will fight the adoption, but rather that they are not interested in participating. 

When a non-custodial parent cannot be found, you must take all reasonable efforts to locate them. If the non-custodial parent cannot be found, a petition is filed with the court, and a judge determines if their rights are to be terminated. 

Step 4. Court Hearing for Adopting your Stepchild in Ca

The last step of the adoption process is a court hearing. A judge legally formalizes the adoption. This is generally a happy event. Friends and family attend to support the adoptive parent and may even take a photo with the judge.

Same-Sex Couples

The legalization of same-sex marriage came with the presumption of parentage by non-biological parents of children born during a marriage. When one parent in the union has a biological relationship to the child, but the other doesn’t, a step-parent or second-parent adoption can secure legal rights for the non-biological parent.

If a child is born from a previous marriage, same-sex couples can still file for adoption. For adopting your stepchild in Ca, they must meet the requirements and follow the same process outlined above. 

Finding the Right Attorney

It is possible to file for adoption without an attorney, but it may be more difficult and costly. Finding an attorney who specializes in adoptions provides you with counsel and guidance throughout the adoption process. 

At Azemika & Azemika, we are devoted to family law. We are experts at cases involving dissolution of domestic partnerships, divorce, visitation, child custody, paternity, child and spousal support, adoptions, and abandonment. 

We have successfully handled some of the most challenging family law cases in Kern County. We aim to provide all of our clients with very knowledgeable, aggressive, and affordable representation.  Contact us today for a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys and let us fight for your family. 

What Am I Entitled to in a California Divorce?

California divorce representation

People who seek a fast divorce in California are often shocked by how complex the process of division of property can become. What many expect to be a simple process is complicated thanks to California’s community property laws. 

Under these laws, you may not receive the property that you believe you should. Here’s a rough outline of what you are (and aren’t) entitled to in a California divorce.

What is Community Property Law?

California law defines community property as any property you or your spouse acquire during your marriage. Courts consider such property to be owned equally by the spouses regardless of who acquired it and will divide it equally unless you and your ex-spouse agree to divide it differently. 

The list of what is considered community property includes homes, cars, businesses, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and more. 

How Does Property Get Divided Equally?

A judge won’t order you and your ex-spouse to split your home down the middle physically. Instead, the property division’s goal is to ensure that both parties get an equal portion of all the assets’ value combined. So, if one spouse receives a car purchased during the marriage, the other spouse will get assets equal to the vehicle’s value. 

The process becomes more complicated when both parties use a spouse’s assets acquired before the marriage during the marriage itself. 

Similarly, a spouse who makes payments towards property owned by their partner has invested in it and has partial ownership. You can avoid potentially messy and time-consuming situations like these by reaching an agreement with your ex-spouse as part of your divorce proceedings. This is often quite difficult, however, as divorces are rarely a tidy affair.

What About Cash?

Believe it or not, California divorce laws treat cash and similar assets much the same way as property, with a few exceptions.

Cash and liquid assets earned or acquired during the marriage become community property. However, this doesn’t apply to money given as a gift, which typically remains the sole property of the person who received them.

Accounts that you both contributed to will be equally divided, including retirement accounts. Keep in mind that a judge won’t order the funds in a retirement account dispersed and divided. Instead, they’ll typically have it split into two equal accounts. 

Remember that what you acquire before you marry will remain yours. This includes cash and liquid assets, but only if you can prove they were yours before marriage. This could mean keeping receipts and bank statements as records. If you fail to do this or you and your ex-spouse shared accounts, your property may be considered commingling. 

With commingling property, it becomes challenging to determine who the original owner is. When it comes to property division in a divorce, sorting out commingling property can consume a lot of time and resources. 

Understandably, someone may lack the foresight to keep evidence of separate property, which is another reason it’s advisable to reach an agreement with your ex-spouse rather than leave the property division up to the courts.

Am I Entitled to Alimony?

Courts do not automatically grant alimony (also referred to as spousal support) as part of California divorce law. Instead, you must request it. If you do, the court will look to multiple factors, such as income earned, and decide. If a judge grants alimony, it’s to ensure that both parties can continue their lifestyles for some time. 

In most instances, alimony is awarded to a spouse who worked less, didn’t work at all, or was mostly responsible for raising the child. Despite popular misconception, alimony rulings aren’t designed to favor one party over the other.  

It’s important to note that a judge won’t grant alimony just because it is requested. An essential factor a judge will look at is how long you were married before the divorce. The shorter you’ve been married, the less likely you’ll be awarded alimony.

Who Is Entitled to Child Custody?

Unlike division of property, the rules to determine who will get custody of a child have many variables. Ultimately the court’s ruling will be in the best interest of the child. A judge will take each spouse’s financial standing, employment status, criminal history, and relationship with the child into determination. 

If the divorce results in joint custody, it may not evenly split each parent’s time with the child. A sole custody ruling might require the non-custodial parent to pay child support separate from alimony. 

You Can Rely on Azemika & Azemika

If you are going through a divorce and are unsure how your assets will be divided, Azemika & Azemika is here to help. 

For comprehensive legal counsel on your options during your divorce or legal separation, contact Azemika & Azemika, Kern County Divorce Attorneys. We will provide the guidance and representation you need to ensure your rights are protected, and we will fight for you and your family to help you get the resolution you deserve.

What You Need to Know About California Divorce Law

Attorney with court gavel for California Divorce Law

When love doesn’t end up as “til death do us part,” you need to know your rights. There are many things to consider, both for your financial and legal rights. 

In California divorce Law, family circumstances such as the number of years married, children, and spousal support will determine the rights and length of time for the divorce to be final. 

California is a “no-fault” divorce state. This means that no party is found at fault in the divorce. The most common reason for filing is irreconcilable differences, meaning that you have exhausted all means of reconciling and still want to get a divorce. 

So, what are your rights in the state of California? Let’s take a look at them.

Division of Property for California Divorce Law

In California, your property is considered either separate or community property in the case of a divorce.

Separate Property

Separate property refers to any money or debt belonging to an individual before the marriage. The property may be:

  • Any real property owned – houses, rental properties, etc.
  • Any gifts or inheritances received from family or other individuals
  • Property in one individual’s name only during the marriage but not used by the other spouse or for the benefit of the marriage
  • Any property or debts designated as separate in a prenuptial agreement

Community Property 

This refers to any real property, money, or debt obtained during the marriage and benefits both parties. In California, this property is to be equally divided between both parties of the divorce. 

The type of property considered community are:

  • House
  • Car
  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Bank accounts and cash
  • Pension plans and retirement accounts
  • Business
  • Patents

If there is no legal way to divide equally, both parties will need to agree on the property’s distribution. 

Commingling Property

When there is a combination of community and separate property, this is called commingling property. 

For example, if a spouse owned a house before the marriage and sold it after getting married, using the profits as a down-payment on a new home, the down-payment is considered separate property. But if the house payment is made using both parties’ income, the equity is deemed commingled. 

It can get complicated separating commingled assets. Your lawyer and the courts use different methods to trace the assets’ origin and determine how to divide them. It’s best to consult a lawyer to figure out the best way to approach dividing commingled assets. 

Same-Sex Marriage & Divorce

The U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal nationwide in 2015. In California, same-sex divorce is the same as a heterosexual divorce. 

As long as you meet the legal requirements, including residency, the divorce will proceed as usual. Property and child support are also treated equally under California divorce Law. 

Spousal Support (also known as Entitlements)

Upon divorce, you may be entitled to spousal support. There are specific requirements to determine eligibility for entitlements. The spousal order outlines the amount a spouse or domestic partner pays the other party. 

The following conditions qualify for spousal support are:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Any issues of domestic violence
  • The age and health conditions of both parties
  • Ability to pay by supporting spouse
  • Tax consequences
  • The goal of self-support

If you feel you are entitled to spousal support or want to know your options, your lawyer can advise if you meet the requirements and how to proceed.

Child Custody & Support

Child custody and child support can get messy and complicated. It’s best to work with your lawyer to determine the best way to proceed. California custody and support laws do provide guidelines for determination. 

The court uses the following criteria to determine child support:

  • Net income of both parents
  • Age of children
  • Time children spend with each spouse
  • Who declares children as dependent for tax purposes
  • Retirement plan contributions
  • Health insurance costs
  • Mortgage interest and property taxes of both parents

As far as custody of children goes, there are two types: Joint & Sole custody. Joint custody is when both parents share the rights and responsibility for the child(ren) to make decisions on health, welfare, and education. 

For sSole custody, one parent has the full responsibility of health, education, and welfare of the children(ren). In joint custody, the children(ren) spends time with both parents as determined by each party and the court. When sole custody is determined, the children(ren) live with one parent, and the other parent has visitation as determined by the courts. 

Where to Find Help

At Azemika & Azemika, our law firm’s practice specializes in the field of family law. As a result, we can handle divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, child custody, visitation, child and spousal support, paternity, abandonment, and adoptions. 

With efficiency and great attention to detail, our partners at Azemika & Azemika Law use our vast experience in family law to customize each case to our clients’ needs. Contact us today for a free case consultation.

What Is a “No-Fault” Divorce in California?

wedding rings for No Fault Divorce

In the US, individual states can allow for at-fault divorces or no fault divorce. The former requires the partner filing divorce to provide evidence of fault (such as abuse or infidelity), whereas no-fault divorce has no such requirements. 

California is a no-fault divorce state and has been since passing the Family Law Act of 1969, becoming the first state in the country to enact such a law (with many others following soon after). 

Why Would You Choose a No Fault Divorce?

Proponents of no fault divorce point out that removing the need to prove marital fault makes divorces more accessible and the process much faster. While not everyone may see this as a good thing, no one can argue that it isn’t helpful for those living in particularly bad marriages.

Under an at-fault divorce, you would need to claim irreconcilable differences and present proof to support it. Essentially, this places the blame on one person and the burden of proof on the other. Depending on the circumstance, evidence can be challenging to present, especially in instances of mental abuse. 

Merely wanting the marriage to end is enough to meet the no-fault divorce requirements, even if your partner doesn’t want to separate. If it’s what you want, you can begin the process whenever you like. 

What if You Want an At-Fault Divorce?

No matter how unfairly your partner has treated you, California divorce laws don’t allow for at-fault divorces. However, that doesn’t affect the likelihood of you getting your divorce. It also doesn’t mean that marital fault can’t play a role in the divorce proceedings.

Even in a no-fault divorce, marital fault can provide one party with certain entitlements, but only if they can prove their claims. For example, if your spouse abused you and you have a record supporting this, you are more likely to be given custody of your child or children. Likewise, if you have evidence that your partner misused any of your assets, you may be able to recoup them as part of the division of property.

Even though California doesn’t permit at-fault divorces, you should keep records of anything that you think may constitute marital fault (including those you may have committed) and go over them with your lawyer. It’s best to know what may come up as part of the process beforehand so that you can adequately prepare and set reasonable expectations.

The Impact of Fault

There are limited situations where judges will consider fault as part of no-fault divorce. When it comes to custody, courts will always do what they feel is best for the child’s wellbeing. Issues like desertion and abuse are likely to influence who will get custody and the agreement’s terms. 

Assets are somewhat more complicated. California treats property acquired during the marriage as being equally owned by both partners and orders as close to an equal division of property as possible in a divorce. One spouse can contest the division, but doing so slows down the process and doesn’t necessarily guarantee a change. 

If you didn’t establish a prenuptial agreement before pursuing a divorce, you’ve likely been commingling assets. Commingling means assets owned by two or more parties that have been mixed, making it difficult to establish who owns what. A basic example would be car payments. 

Say you owned a car before you were married and had been making payments. However, your spouse begins helping you make payments and, in exchange, is granted use of the car. They have invested in the car, and as a result, it becomes a commingled asset. 

Unless you kept records showing your investments and assets separate from your spouse’s, it could be tremendously difficult and tedious to sort these issues out, and ultimately it may boil down to a judge’s decision.

What Are the Requirements to Get Divorced in California?

While you don’t need a specific reason to get a no-fault divorce, the person filing for divorce must have been a California resident for at least six months beforehand. From there, the timetable can vary depending on the separation of assets and any complications related to the process. 

Get Help From a Family Law Attorney

Don’t tackle your divorce alone. The advice of a seasoned attorney can make all the difference, even in the case of no-fault divorces. If you’re looking for assistance in filing, let the Azemika & Azemika Law Firm help you through every step of the process. 

Our experienced attorneys work in several different aspects of Kern County family law, including alimony, child custody, and divorce. 

Our expertise can help you plan the best path forward so you can get started on your new life sooner rather than later. Reach out to us today and see how we work to help you. 

Child Custody and Visitation Facts for California Dads

Child Custody and Visitation Facts for California Dads

“I want a divorce.” These are the last words any husband wants to hear.

It’s inevitable. You’re getting a divorce lawyer, and you have to start considering how things will change (from your belongings to your life). You have to split the “estate,” from your shared belongings to money and other assets. 

But what about the kids? Who gets the kids and when? 

Unfortunately, according to the American Psychological Association, divorce happens to 40 to 50% of married couples in the United States. The divorce rate for future marriages is even higher. 

But only a small percentage of divorces go to court, usually due to a custody battle. 

For fathers, custody battles can be an incredibly challenging aspect of divorce, especially when considering what is best for the children. How do you know what your rights are as a father fighting for custody or visitation of your children? 

Navigating custody battles can be intimidating and a trying time for fathers, so knowing your rights and the facts will help you set any expectations for the process. 

Courts and the Law

Men aren’t legally at a disadvantage. According to California law, judges can’t make a decision regarding child custody and visitation based on gender. 

As long as both parents are fit, California courts will offer both parents an equitable chance at custody. 

Entitlement For Child Custody And Visitation

Plain and simple, entitlement doesn’t exist in the courts because judges can’t decide based on gender. 

This decision isn’t about what you want or think you deserve. The judge’s decision will be based on the best interest of the child. In most cases, the courts believe that the best situation is for the child to have both parents in the picture — known as frequent and continuing contact

Parenting Roles

What did your world look like before the divorce? What was your daily routine? What was your child’s? 

Considering what life was like before the divorce, the judge will decide with one goal in mind: not to disrupt the child’s life. Keeping everything as normal as possible and moving forward in the child’s best interest is the primary goal. 

The court will consider how time was used before the divorce (by both parents) and how responsibilities were divided. If you worked 60 hours a week before the divorce, do you plan to after the divorce is finalized? Will this leave a reasonable amount of time for parenting and quality time? 

Two Types of Custody

There are two lines of custody when it comes down to how the courts decide what is in the child’s best interest.

1. Legal Custody

Legal custody involves making decisions about the child regarding several things, including schooling, organizations, travel, health specialists, and extracurricular activities. 

2. Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to where the child is and when. This form of custody takes into account the child’s primary residence, visitation times, primary custody agreements, and more. 

Generally, physical custody results in the child spending more time with one parent than the other, even if a joint custody agreement is reached. It’s near impossible for time to be split exactly 50/50 in every situation. 

Four Types of Visitation 

Shared time is essential to any parent facing a divorce situation. Time with both parents is important to a balanced upbringing. California courts select one of four visitation types based on what is best for the child and other factors. 

1. Scheduled Visitation

Visitation on a schedule prevents any miscommunication or confusion regarding who sees the child and when. Specific dates and times will be agreed upon by the parents and the court. 

2. Reasonable Visitation

This open-ended form of visitation allows for the parents to agree on their own. This type of visitation requires solid co-parenting skills from each parent.  

3. Supervised Visitation

Supervised visitation requires that the visitation with one parent be monitored by the other parent or an agency professional. This type of visitation is typically used for the child’s safety and well-being when one parent is not deemed fit to be alone with the child. 

4. No Visitation

Suppose time with one parent would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child. In that case, the child’s best interest is for the parent not to contact them. 

Consult with an Attorney For Advice

When facing a custody battle, you need the best representation possible — a lawyer that knows the judge and court as well as one who can help you fight for your rights as a parent who wants what is best for their child. 

Azemika & Azemika Law in Bakersfield has helped families navigate divorce and child custody and visitation cases for more than 30 years, providing strong trust behind their legal guidance. 

For a family-oriented firm at an affordable cost, contact Azemika & Azemika Law today.