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Los Angeles is the home of many high profile Hollywood divorces. The typical way to get divorced in Los Angeles is to hire a Los Angeles divorce lawyer.
In this article we’ll share the ins and outs of hiring a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles, as well as the divorce laws and procedures you need to understand.
We’ll also share information about alternatives to divorce lawyers. For example, online platforms like BlissDivorce can guide you through the divorce process to reach a settlement without the time, cost and stress of attorneys.
Divorce in Los Angeles CA
A dissolution of marriage is a legal procedure that will legally terminate your status as a married couple. The divorce process can be complicated and confusing.
That’s one of the reasons people hire Los Angeles divorce lawyers. Unfortunately, divorce lawyers in Los Angeles come with exorbitant hourly fees–some of the most expensive fees in the country. That is one of the reasons online divorce is a growing and viable alternative to Los Angeles divorce attorneys.
Divorce Eligibility in Los Angeles CA
Before filing for a divorce in Los Angeles, CA, you must check your eligibility. Each state has its requirements and laws to ensure safe and legal separation.
To file for divorce, you must have lived in the state of California for at least six months before filing. Additionally, at least one spouse must have lived in Los Angeles county for at least three months.
There are a few exceptions to these residency requirements.
Same-sex couples who married in California, but currently live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, don’t have to meet residency requirements. They can file for divorce in the county in which they married.
Legal separation is an option for couples who don’t meet residency requirements to get divorced in California. The only requirement for legal separation is that at least one spouse lives in California, for any period of time. Legal separation involves all the same steps as divorce and results in division of assets, child custody arrangements and the same child/spousal support guidelines. The only thing that’s different is that you’re still married at the end of the process.
Domestic partnerships are also treated differently when it comes to residency. If your domestic partnership was registered in California, there is no residency requirement to dissolve your partnership in California. However, a California court may not be able to rule on property division and other aspects of your settlement.
If your domestic partnership was not registered in California, you can only dissolve your partnership in California if you meet the same residency requirements required for divorce (six months in the state and three months in your county).
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Filing for Divorce in Los Angeles CA
A divorce petition is a document that must be filed in order to begin the divorce process. The spouse filing will be the petitioner, while the receiving spouse will take the respondent’s side.
To begin the divorce, the petitioner (or their lawyer or online divorce company) submits the following forms to the court of Los Angeles County and waits for approval. The petitioner will need to submit the following forms:
- Petition — Marriage/Domestic Partnership (form FL-100)
- Summons (Family Law) (form FL-110)
- Declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (in case you have children together) (form FL-105)
Once these forms are approved by the court, a summons is served on the respondent. The respondent must respond within 30 days.
What to expect after filing for divorce in Los Angeles CA
Before a divorce can be granted in Los Angeles, you and your partner must come to a divorce settlement. If you and your partner cannot come to an agreement on your own, you might have to go to trial and rely on the judge to settle things for you.
However, court proceedings are long, hard, complex, and expensive. If you can negotiate with your partner, it’s best to do it out of court. This can be done by each of you hiring a Los Angeles lawyer. Each lawyer will advocate for their own client, which can lead to conflict and acrimony. That’s why divorces when lawyers are involved can be expensive and drawn out. But it’s better if you can settle things before going to court.
An new alternative to hiring lawyers is an online divorce site that can help you work out a complete settlement with your spouse–without having to bring in lawyers. This can save you thousands of dollars and months of time.
Your divorce is completed on the date the court has approved the settlement. California also has a mandatory six-month waiting period from the date the summons is delivered to the respondent.
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Divorce Grounds in Los Angeles CA
As a county in California, Los Angeles recognizes no-fault divorce. There are therefore two legal grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences and permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.
Irreconcilable differences are the grounds for most divorces in Los Angeles, CA. Regardless of the circumstances, the state doesn’t require the couple to testify in court about why the marriage failed. Even if the cause were adultery or abuse, the outcome of child custody, support, and division wouldn’t be affected.
On the other hand, permanent legal incapacity is not an easy way to get divorced. This option requires a high burden of proof and convincing. Such cases are mainly used by couples with serious mental illness. You’ll have to provide psychiatric testimony or medical documentation to the court that demonstrates the mental conditions of your spouse. Medical experts must agree and confirm that your partner is not capable of making decisions in the near future.
Additionally, you should know that you cannot be forced to stay in a marriage if you don’t want to. If your former partner refuses to participate in divorce proceedings, you can get a “default judgment”, and the divorce process will go through. You probably will need the assistance of a Los Angeles divorce lawyer to obtain a default judgment.
Property Division in Los Angeles, CA
The state of California is a community property state. This means if you go to court a Los Angeles County family law judge will grant both spouses an equal share of the community property assets. However, if you reach a settlement on your own before going to court both spouses can agree to split assets in a different way.
So what is community property? Simply put it’s assets and debts acquired during the marriage. It doesn’t matter if only one spouse’s name is on an account or title or only one spouse bought it, if it was acquired during the marriage it’s generally presumed to be community property.
In general the only exceptions are if one of you inherited or received the item as a gift, then it’s separate property. Also, if you had a separate account when you got married and kept that money separate, then assets bought with those funds could be considered separate. Separate property is not divided in a divorce.
There is one other class of property. It’s called “quasi-community property.” Quasi-community property is assets and liabilities that are held outside the state of California. They are treated like community property–each spouse has a 50% right, as long as they were acquired during the marriage.
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Child Custody and Support in Los Angeles, CA
Parents are encouraged by the courts to create their parenting plan outlining child custody and support while divorcing in Los Angeles. Most child custody cases in LA don’t go to court, but when they do, the court’s ruling takes into account the child’s best interest.
There are two types of custody that are included in a child custody agreement:
- Legal custody – Who will make decisions about the child’s health, education and welfare
- Physical custody – Where will the child reside and what will the parenting schedule be
In both cases, the court can decide whether one or both parents will be the primary custodian: :
- Sole custody – One parent makes decisions and/or is the primary place of resident for the children
- Joint custody – Decision-making and living arrangements are split fairly evening
In general the Los Angeles Family Court encourages joint custody. However, if the court rules this is not in the children’s best interest, it can grant sole custody to one parent. Usually visitation rights are given to the other parent. These can be either supervised or unsupervised. If a parent is deemed unfit, the court can go as far as parental termination.
Factors the court considers when deciding on child custody
If the two parents can’t decide on a parenting and child custody plan, or if the court rules the plan is not in the best interests of the children, then a judge will make a decision on child custody. In Los Angeles courts, a judge will take into the following factors when ruling on child custody:
- The children’s age
- The health of the children
- Each parent’s demonstrated parenting abilities
- The emotional relationship between each parent and the children
- Where the children have been living and their connections to their school and community
- Any previous domestic violence or substance abuse by either parent
One thing that is not a consideration of the court in deciding custody is the gender of the parent. Mothers and fathers have equal custody rights under the law.
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Finding the Right Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer for You
As you can see, getting divorced can be complicated. That’s why many people hire divorce lawyers. But how do you find the right one?
Here are the things you should consider doing to find the right Los Angeles divorce lawyer for you:
Put together a list of divorce lawyers near you.
The first step is to find divorce lawyers you can have a consultation with. Los Angeles is a big city and even bigger county. And there’s lots of traffic. So it’s a good idea to find divorce lawyers in your neighborhood or general vicinity. That way you won’t spend hours driving to a from appointments.
Here are two good sites to help you find Los Angeles divorce lawyers you can meet with:
- California Bar Association referral service – The state bar association’s official listing of certified law specialists.
- LegalMatch – Does a detailed online intake and then matches you with attorneys.
Check the lawyer’s background
Before contacting a Los Angeles divorce lawyer, it’s a good idea to make sure they have no sanctions or issues pending against them. You can check this using the Bar Association’s online attorney check.
Schedule a consultation
The next step is to schedule a consultation with two or three attorneys you’ve identified. Some Los Angeles divorce lawyers will give a free consultation, but many charge even for the consultation. So be sure to ask about this when you call their office. Also, you might want to ask if they do Zoom consultations or if it has to be in person.
What to ask in the consultation
An important issue in deciding on a divorce lawyer to represent you is how you feel about this person. Can you connect with this person and easily communicate? Do they seem to have your best interests in mind? Is the approach they’re describing consistent with what you want for your divorce?
Next, it’s important to ask about their fee and how big a retainer they will require up front. Los Angeles divorce lawyers tend to be very expensive. Their hourly fee can range anywhere from $300 an hour to over $600 an hour. Be sure to ask where they fall in this range. Also ask about the up front retainer. Most charge $5,000 to $10,000 up front, but for a complicated case it can be even more.
Finally, be sure to ask about the strategy they will take. Some divorce attorneys are highly confrontational, will fight over every little thing and will create conflict with your spouse. This tends to drag out the process and increase costs. If this is not what you’re looking for be sure to let the attorney know and see how they respond.
Decide who you want to hire
Your decision ultimately comes down to who you are most comfortable with within your budget. Don’t be afraid to get advice from family and close friends to help you make the decision of which Los Angeles divorce lawyer to hire.
No matter who you hire, attorneys are expensive and can often create more conflict within the divorce. This is why alternatives to hiring divorce lawyer have emerged.
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Online Divorce Los Angeles CA
Given all the downsides of hiring attorneys,, more and more couples are turning to divorce alternatives, such as online divorce services and mediators. These options are far less expensive and time-consuming, and usually make the process much easier.
Online divorce services come in two varieties.
First, there are simple form-fill sites you can use to create the paperwork needed to get divorced. If you have a fairly simple divorce (e.g. one joint bank account to split and you each keep your own cars) and are in agreement on your divorce settlement, these sites are probably a good option.
However, be careful with the paperwork generated by simple form-fill sites. You have to file the forms yourself, and even the filing process is not simple. First you need to file a petition, then wait for approval, and then serve what’s called a summons on your spouse. Once this is done you need to prepare and exchange financial disclosure forms, and once that is done the final divorce paperwork needs to be notarized and filed. Even though the forms are computer-generated there is a lot that can go wrong.
A newer alternative is BlissDivorce. It can handle simple or complicated divorce cases, and you don’t have to file any paperwork yourself (it’s all done for you). BlissDivorce has easy to use online tools that let you securely import financial information and say how you would like assets and debts divided. You can even do a full child custody agreement and decide on child and spousal support using their website. Don’t worry if you don’t agree with your spouse–BlissDivorce gives you separate logins and includes digital mediation tools as well as Zoom-based mediators to resolve all disagreements.
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How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce in Los Angeles, CA?
The cost of a divorce in California is more expensive compared to other states. The reason behind this is the higher cost of living in the state, which especially applies to Los Angeles.
The largest cost in Los Angeles divorces is attorney fees. On average, divorce lawyers in California can range from $300 up to $500 per hour, and in Los Angeles it can be quite a bit higher. One study found this leads to average divorce attorney fees of $12,500 to $15,300 per spouse in California.
Several factors can impact the cost of a Los Angeles divorce:
- Which attorney you hire – Hourly fees can vary quite a bit, and some attorneys are more combative and will draw things out longer. This also increases costs.
- Child support and child custody – Figuring out issues related to children can be complicated and an area of conflict. This drives up lawyer fees.
- Spousal support – Also a common area of contention that can drive up fees.
- Number of disputes – In general, the more things you and your spouse disagree on, the more expensive it will be to get divorced. For example, couples who have two issues to work out spend on average almost twice as much as couples with only one issue to work out.
- Going to trial – Going trial probably adds the most expense to a divorce. It typically adds about $10,000 to the cost of a divorce, but it can be much more. This is why a nationally known family law attorney and author says the best piece of advice he can give is do whatever you can to avoid going to trial.
Evaluate Your Options
No matter what the circumstances, divorce is never easy. A Los Angeles divorce lawyer can help you through the process, but will also cost you a lot of money. Another thing to be careful of is that when both sides hire lawyers, conflict tends to escalate and proceedings get drawn out.
Be sure to evaluate all your options, including whether online divorce is right for you. Online divorce services like BlissDivorce guide you through the process and are very effective in helping you and your spouse workout your disagreements. Services like this can save you thousands of dollars and months of time.