FAQ´S - Sample Scenarios
Los Angeles Divorce and Family Law Attorneys
THE LAW OFFICES OF CATHLEEN E. NORTON
- I have been a stay-at-home parent during the marriage:
- I have been the breadwinner during the marriage:
- I need child support. How does the Court determine the amount I will receive?
- I have a court order for child support but I think it is too much money. What will happen if I do not pay it?
- Child Support Services Department:
- I have been served with paperwork from the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department. What do I do?
- I do not know what community property I am entitled to.
- My spouse is hiding assets and is not disclosing all of his/her income:
- My spouse has an attorney, but I do not have the money to hire an attorney.
- I have been the victim of domestic violence. What can I do?
- I have been served with a temporary restraining order, but the allegations are all lies. What can I do?
- I want to file for a divorce. What is the process?
- I have been served with divorce papers. What do I do now?
- My spouse and I have decided to get a divorce. We have agreed on custody, spousal support, child support, and division of the community assets and debts. Do I really need to hire a lawyer?
- My spouse and I have a lot of debt, but it is all in my name.
- My spouse has a drug/alcohol problem and I want him/her to be tested for drugs.
- I had an affair. How will that affect my divorce and custody of our children?
- I want to change the current custody and visitation orders. What do I do?
- I have been served with an Order to Show Cause, but I do not agree with the requested orders. What do I do?
I have been a stay-at-home parent during the marriage:
I have been a stay at home parent, primarily responsible for raising the children. My spouse has been the breadwinner throughout the marriage. One of us has decided to divorce. I want child support and spousal support.
When one party is a stay at home parent, that person may see custody as the major issue in the divorce. This spouse may not have a lot of information about the family finances or the community property. A stay at home parent may want to continue to be the children’s primary caretaker because that party may feel that maintaining consistency in the children’s lives is of utmost importance. The stay at home spouse is concerned about obtaining orders for child support and spousal support, but does not have the funds to hire an attorney. What to do? Because it is unfair for one party to litigate a case with the assistance of an attorney, the Court may order that party to pay attorney’s fees for the other. [back to top]
I have been the breadwinner during the marriage:
Throughout the marriage, I worked while my spouse stayed home to raise the children. We are not going through a divorce. I want my spouse to get a job, and I also want joint legal and physical custody of our children. What to do? It is the public policy of the state of California for party to become self-supporting, and a Court may order the former stay-at-home spouse to make efforts to become gainfully employed. You may be required to pay spousal support until your spouse is gainfully employed. The amount and duration of spousal support depends on many factors which are far too complex to address here. Nonetheless, there are ways to impute income to him/her if he/she purposefully refuses to get a job. [back to top]
I need child support. How does the Court determine the amount I will receive?
Child support is based on a mathematical formula determined by the state of California. There are many factors to be considered (such as tax filing status, interest paid on your mortgage, union dues, health insurance expenses, etc.), but generally speaking, the amount of child support is largely a function of 2 things: the respective income of the parties and the amount of time each parent has with the child(ren). Based on a review of the custody arrangement and the parties’ financial information, including an Income and Expense Declaration, tax returns, and pay stubs, The Law Office of Cathleen E. Norton can analyze what your child support payment will likely be.
Child Care Expenses and health insurance and related costs may also be ordered by the Court as part of a child support payment. [back to top]
I have a court order for child support but I think it is too much money. What will happen if I do not pay it?
The law states that a parent’s primary obligation is to support one’s children. Your child(ren) is entitled to guideline child support under the law. If, however, you believe that the child support you pay is excessive based on your income your time share with the child(ren), and various other factors, then you must file a request with the Court to have the child support order modified. So, for example, if you lost your job or you have more time with the child(ren) than before, then the prior child support order may be incorrect and you must ask the Court to change the current child support order. You will continue to be obligated to pay the current amount of child support until you file for a modification and obtain a court order for a reduced amount of money.
If you are an employee, then child support will usually be deducted directly from your pay check. If your wages are not garnished, or you are self-employed and do not pay your court-ordered child support, then you may be in contempt of a court order and your driver’s license (and any professional licenses) can be suspended, your tax returns may be taken, etc. Also, any past due child support will accumulate interest, currently at a rate of 10% annually. [back to top]
Child Support Services Department:
CSSD is a governmental agency whose purpose is to collect child support payments. It can assist parents who are not receiving child support payments from the other parent. CSSD will file an action to enforce a child support order on behalf of one parent. It can also garnish wages, levy on bank accounts, intercept federal and state tax returns, suspend driver’s licenses, etc. for non payment of child support.
If you wish to open a case with CSSD in Los Angeles County, you may do so by visiting their website at http://cssd.lacounty.gov/wps/portal/cssd [back to top]
I have been served with paperwork from the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department. What do I do?
CSSD may have filed an action against you on behalf of the custodial parent, in order establish a paternal relationship to obtain or modify a child support order. You may wish to seek the advice of counsel to advise you of your rights and represent you at the hearing. If you do not show up at the hearing, then the Court will make orders in your absence. You may become aware of the court orders only when you discover that your wages have been garnished. Please see the Do-It-Yourself Section for alternatives to full service legal representation. [back to top]
I do not know what community property I am entitled to.
California is a community property state. This means that as a general rule, the all property (i.e., house, cars, furniture, stocks, bonds, etc.) acquired during the marriage is community property. However, if an asset is acquired before marriage or after separation, by gift, bequest, will, etc., it is that party’s separate property. During a divorce, each party is required to disclose all assets and debts on a form called Schedule of Assets and Debts. Once the parties exchange this information, we begin to analyze the how to divide the community property according to California law. This is the beginning point for analyzing what you will be entitled to under California law. [back to top]
My spouse is hiding assets and is not disclosing all of his/her income:
Both parties have a fiduciary duty to fully disclose financial information early in the litigation. We may need to subpoena bank records, loan documents, and other financial records to uncover the “truth” but if the other party failed to disclose information, the Court may order him/her to pay sanctions and attorney’s fees. [back to top]
My spouse has an attorney, but I do not have the money to hire an attorney.
Since it is unfair that only one party have the benefit and assistance of an attorney, a Court may order that party to pay your attorney money to ensure that the other party does not have an unfair advantage over you. Depending on the facts of your case, the Law Office of Cathleen E. Norton may be able to begin working on your case at little or no cost to you. You must call our office for a consultation to determine if your case falls within these parameters. [back to top]
I have been the victim of domestic violence. What can I do?
If your spouse has physically, sexually, verbally, or psychologically abused you (i.e., hit, slapped, punched, beaten, harassed, stalked, etc.) you or the children, you may file for a temporary restraining order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. Courts understand domestic violence a very serious issue. You (and the child(ren)) are entitled to feel safe and secure. A temporary restraining order only lasts for 3 weeks. A court may grant you a permanent restraining order (for up to 5 years), but only after a permanent restraining order hearing. Your spouse is entitled to dispute your allegations and present evidence at a court hearing. A judicial officer will then decide whether to issue a permanent restraining order. Under certain circumstances the Law Office of Cathleen E. Norton may take on your case without cost to you. You must call for a consultation to determine if your case meets our criteria. [back to top]
I have been served with a temporary restraining order, but the allegations are all lies. What can I do?
Unfortunately, one spouse may request a restraining order under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act in order to gain an advantage in a pending divorce case. If a Court finds that you have abused your spouse or the children, it can order you to vacate the family home, and can give your spouse custody of the children. Understandably, the Court’s main concern is protecting children from abuse. So, if a Court finds that you have abused your spouse or the children, there is a rebuttable presumption that awarding custody to you is not in a child’s best interest. Since child support is a function of the parties’ income and time share, the less time you have with the children, the more child support you will have to pay. However, you are entitled to tell your side of the story to the judge at a court hearing. You are entitled to present evidence and call witnesses to show that your spouse lied. If you win, you may be entitled to attorney’s fees. [back to top]
I want to file for a divorce. What is the process?
Please see the chart for a simplified overview of the divorce process. If you and your spouse do not have children, have little or no assets and debts, and have an amicable relationship, then you may not need the services of a full service law firm. Please check out our Do-It-Yourself section for more information. [back to top]
I have been served with divorce papers. What do I do now?
If your spouse has filed a Petition for Dissolution, then you have 2 choices. You can file a Response and become a party to the action. If you do not file a Response and choose not to participate in the action, then your spouse may obtain a default judgment against you. The Court may make orders about custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of the community assets and debts that you do not agree with. Therefore, it is better not to ignore the matter. If cost is a concern for you, please check out our Do-It-Yourself Section or the No Cost/Low Cost options available to you. [back to top]
My spouse and I have decided to get a divorce. We have agreed on custody, spousal support, child support, and division of the community assets and debts. Do I really need to hire a lawyer?
If both parties agree on all issues regarding custody, divorce, child support, spousal support, and property division, then litigation of these issues may not be necessary. The parties may enter into a Stipulated Judgment and file it with the Court. The advantages of this approach are: 1) the parties make decisions tailored for their individual situation rather than leave these decisions to a Judge; 2) it is less costly than a contentious litigation; 3) the parties obtain a Final Judgment faster than a protracted litigation, and can then move on with their lives. Check out our Do-It-Yourself section and Alternative Options to hiring a full-service law firm. [back to top]
My spouse and I have a lot of debt, but it is all in my name.
If debts were incurred during the marriage and in furtherance of the community, it is a community debt regardless of whether it is in your name alone. As a practical matter, creditors will look to you for repayment of the debt. Since your credit rating will be negatively affected if you do not pay the debt, you have an incentive to pay the debt. However, depending on the particular facts of your case, you may seek a court order requiring your spouse to pay half of the debt. If the community debt is more than the community assets, then you may wish to seek the advice of counsel before entering into any agreement with your spouse. [back to top]
My spouse has a drug/alcohol problem and I want him/her to be tested for drugs.
A court will want to know if one parent has a problem with drugs or alcohol because the habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances is a factor to be considered in awarding custody. The court may order drug testing of a parent if it determines by a preponderance of evidence that there is habitual, frequent, or continual illegal use of drugs or alcohol. [back to top]
I had an affair. How will that affect my divorce and custody of our children?
California is a no-fault state. This means that a court will not punish you by taking away your children or denying you support or an equitable division of the community assets because of the affair. Your spouse may be angry and may wish to have full custody of the children. However, unless your behavior is detrimental to the children, it is irrelevant to a custody dispute. [back to top]
I want to change the current custody and visitation orders. What do I do?
In order to modify any court order, you must either enter into a stipulation signed by the other party or appear in front of the Judge at an evidentiary hearing. You will need to file an Order to Show Cause along with a declaration explaining why you want a change in custody. The court clerk will set a hearing date and the Judge will make a determination based on the evidence presented. In simple matters, you may not need the assistance of a lawyer. See our Do-It-Yourself Section for more information. In more complex matters, you may wish to hire an attorney to prepare your documents and represent you at the hearing. [back to top]
I have been served with an Order to Show Cause, but I do not agree with the requested orders. What do I do?
You will need to file a Responsive Declaration and attend the court hearing, unless you can reach an agreement with the other party. You may decide to represent yourself or consult with an attorney about your legal rights. If you do not appear at the hearing, the Court may make orders in your absence. Please see our Do-It-Yourself section for more information about your available options. [back to top]