Did you jump into marriage for the wrong reasons?
Divorce can be mean, ugly, and expensive. You really want to avoid worst case scenarios. But this means learning the lingo. You can’t expect your lawyer to fight all your battles. (Or can you?)
You will learn the language of divorce in this article. Hopefully, fluency in this strange legal dialect will save you and your children heartache and lawyer fees.
What is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation?
Lets start with how they are similar. In both kinds of marriage dissolution, you should expect to negotiate fundamental details such as child custody, division of property, and spousal support. Lawyers are not actually necessary in every “divorce” case, partially because a couple that wants to change their marital status could potentially remain separate for decades.
Despite their similar trajectories, the two paths are obviously not the same thing.
Essentially, separation means legally “going in a different direction” without totally terminating the marriage permanently.
Instances where Legal Separation is Better:
- When you and your spouse think there is a chance to get back together
- If you and your spouse agree there is a money-saving reason such as shared insurance or taxes
- If you belong to a religion that views divorce as immoral
Types of Divorce
In California, you don’t even need a lawyer for this one. Summary divorce is the divorce equivalent of running to Las Vegas and eloping. These cases are not always possible, and require the couple to meet certain conditions.
- No kids
- Minimal shared assets
- Maximum of five years of marriage
All you need are a few forms from the local family court.
This is a more complicated divorce. Mediations call for a neutral third party to assist the overall resolution of a divorce. These cases usually occur when it is uncomfortable to reunite the splitting party in a single room.
In mediation, the mediator himself doesn’t make a legal ruling. He is only there to interpret the wishes of their client.
These cases are more extreme than mediated divorces. In collaborative divorce, it is not uncomfortable but impossible to reunite the splitting couple in a single room. These cases can be settled fully by your lawyers.
They can be more expensive than other options, but many couples prefer avoiding these kind of encounters.
Are You a Presumed Parent?
In court, everything gets trickier. To your lawyer, there are three kinds of parentage. The goal of a parent seeking custody is for the court to nominate them as a “presumed parent”. Presumed parents have the right to reunification services, visitation, and custody.
Most fathers or other parents in dependency cases begin the legal process with this title. You are considered an alleged parent if the acting parent has informed social services that you are the other parent. You may also claim this title if you show up to the first hearing and say you are the father of the child.
This is more of a temporary label used to describe a parentage with minimal rights.
This is simply the child’s biological father. This great title comes with great responsibility.
In order to demonstrate this, the law requires you to take a DNA test or you may receive a judgement from a family court law.
As the biological father you do have some rights. One of these is the right to notice of dependency hearings. Another is the right to demonstrate that you are the presumed father.
The court can give you reunification services if it is ruled that your care would be in the best interests of the child.
This is the kind of parentage that benevolent stepfathers aspire to when applying to adopt their wife’s child. Child custody and California fathers rights state that you must meet some combination of three basic requirements to become a presumed parent.
1. Your name is on your child’s birth certificate,
2. There is a family court order that establishes parental relationship (click to learn about Parentage in family court), or
3. You have acted like the child is your own and raised the child as your own
Contested and at-fault divorces are courtroom battles you really want to avoid. Jeff Bezos paid his ex $136 billion at the conclusion of their separation.
Hostile marriage dissolutions are common, but they are not the norm. We hope this article helps you navigate the murky waters of divorce.