Del Mar Divorce Lawyer

Only Certified Family Law Specialist in Del Mar

No one ever expects their marriage to come to an end. When either spouse no longer wishes to remain married, divorce is often the best way to part ways and separate lives that were previously intertwined. 

Unfortunately, many divorces can become contentious when one spouse feels as though the other has wronged them or is responsible for the demise of the marriage. However, with help from a reputable Del Mar divorce lawyer with Ratzer Dobis, you can remain levelheaded and protect yourself from being taken advantage of. 

Hire a local family law attorney who will do everything possible to safeguard your rights. Contact our office to request a confidential consultation today and learn more about how divorce works, the elements that should be discussed during your divorce proceedings, and how to proceed if your spouse is making your divorce more difficult than it should be.

Why Choose Ratzer | Dobis for Your Del Mar Divorce?

  • Our goal is to improve the lives of you and your children. We want to see you thrive, as simple as that, so we will fight to ensure your new life is all you deserve.
  • We are singularly focused on family law, stay abreast of current laws and understand how they are relevant to you. Rather than knowing a little about a lot of things, we have honed our skills as experienced, knowledgeable family law attorneys.
  • The level of attorney-client communication that we offer is unmatched. No question is too small or insignificant. Our job is to ensure you are informed and answer any questions you may have through each step of the divorce process.

Filing for Divorce in Del Mar 

Before you can legally end your marriage, you must file for divorce. The person initiating the divorce proceedings is known as the petitioner. The petitioner will file the divorce petition in the San Diego Superior Court or the county where the couple resided. The divorce petition requests that the family court system dissolve the marriage.

In the past, petitioners must have good cause to end the marriage. However, California is a no-fault divorce state according to the California Courts Self-Help Guide, which means neither spouse needs to prove that the other did something to cause the demise of the marriage. Most spouses will claim “irreconcilable differences” to have their divorces granted. 

This allows the divorce process to unfold more quickly. However, if your spouse did do something to end the marriage, such as commit adultery or a criminal offense, this could be used in your favor when it is time to discuss alimony or spousal support. Fault will have no impact on how your marital assets will be distributed.

Once the divorce petition has been filed, the other spouse, the respondent, will need to respond. How your spouse responds to your divorce petition will have an impact on how we move forward with your divorce proceedings.

Uncontested Divorce in California 

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agreed to end the marriage. Neither spouse is fighting to save the marriage. This is the simplest way to move forward with your divorce proceedings. With uncontested divorces, you will not need to have the settlement decisions made by a judge. Instead, you agree to work with your spouse to navigate the terms of your divorce without going to trial.

Even if your divorce is uncontested, you may still benefit from the legal guidance and support of a compassionate and highly experienced divorce lawyer in Del Mar, CA. Your family law attorney can help protect you from being taken advantage of and ensure the settlement terms are fair throughout the process. Ultimately, it is up to you and your spouse to determine how you want to address specific divorce terms, such as how your marital debts and assets will be divided.

Contested Divorce 

Contested divorces are far more complex. If your spouse does not want the marriage to end, they can contest the divorce proceedings. This does not mean that you will not be able to get divorced. But it does mean that the process will be drawn out and expensive. Before going to court, we will attempt to resolve the divorce terms through mediation

During mediation, the mediator will hear both spouse’s wishes and offer helpful suggestions to help you work out a settlement together. These are not formal decisions, but an opportunity for spouses to make these decisions instead of leaving it up to the judge presiding over your case.

However, if your spouse refuses to attend mediation, expect the judge to determine the divorce terms. The judge will consider various factors, including the length of the marriage, whether you share children, what is in the best interest of your children, and both spouses’ contributions to the marriage when determining whether alimony should be paid and how marital assets and debts should be distributed.

Elements of Del Mar Divorce Proceedings

There are various terms that will need to be discussed before your divorce can be finalized. Most often, these elements include:

  • The division of marital property
  • Alimony
  • Child custody
  • Child support

Division of Marital Property 

Many people hesitate to file for divorce because they are worried about their marital property. They assume that marital assets and debts will be divided 50/50. However, this is only true in community property states. Unfortunately, California is a community property state according to Community Property Section 760. In some states, instead of following community property laws, couples can divide their marital assets equitably or fairly.

Since marital property must be divided equally, the distribution process can be quite complex. You can expect your divorce attorney to carefully review all financial records, assets, debts, and property to ensure you are getting your fair share of the marital estate.

It is important to know that separate property will not be included as part of your divorce settlement. For example, if you received a large inheritance before you were married, this inheritance could remain solely in your possession in the divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree as to which property and debts are considered communal or separate, the judge or arbitrator handling your case will. For this reason, it is imperative that you work closely with your attorney and your soon-to-be former spouse to divide your marital property equally. This way, these decisions are not left in the hands of a judge who does not know you or your history.

How is Alimony Determined?

The court can award spousal support if one of the spouses earns considerably less money. It can be a permanent or temporary arrangement. The court will consider the length of the marriage and if one spouse missed career or educational opportunities because they chose to support the other spouse’s career or to raise a family.

According to Family Code § 4320, spousal support can be paid temporarily or permanently depending on the circumstances of your case. Generally, the amount of time alimony is paid will be based on how long you were married. Spouses who are physically and mentally capable of providing for themselves may be given a limited amount of time to acclimate and obtain gainful employment.

There are times when a spousal support arrangement can be modified. A job loss, a decrease in wages or salary through no fault of the spouse, or a disability or illness can be a reason to adjust alimony. Other things that can contribute to alterations to the agreement are the recipient spouse’s circumstances improving, possibly by remarrying or living with a new partner, or because of career success that brings a salary increase.

The life changes brought before the court must be relatively substantial for the judge to even hear the arguments. Speaking with a Del Mar divorce attorney with Ratzer | Dobis can clear up a lot of questions you may have about spousal support. Our business is family law, and we understand all of the intricacies and can offer insight and advice.

Child Custody in Del Mar, CA

Child custody is one of the most contentious elements of the divorce process. According to California Family Code Section 3011, there are two primary types of custody, known as physical custody and legal custody. This is another situation in which you should do everything you can to work with your spouse to set up a visitation and parenting plan. The court system will always do what is in the best interests of the children and often encourages parents who are actively involved in their children’s lives to remain so and work together to parent the children in a shared custody arrangement.

Physical Custody

Physical custody refers to the parent who provides the child’s primary residence. These agreements can be joint or sole. If parents share joint physical custody, the children will spend equal amounts of time with both parents. However, in a sole physical custody arrangement, one parent will maintain primary physical custody and the other will typically be granted visitation rights or parenting time, such as one weeknight visit and weekends.

Legal Custody

Legal custody refers to all of the parenting decisions. Deciding how you are going to raise your children is likely one of your top priorities. In shared legal custody arrangements, parents will work together to decide where their children will go to school, make major medical decisions, and which activities children will participate in. However, in a sole legal custody arrangement, the parent with legal custody does not need to consult the other parent before making these decisions.

Del Mar Child Support

Both parents have a financial responsibility to contribute to their child’s upbringing. Generally, the parent with primary physical custody will be awarded child support while the non-custodial parent will pay child support. You can use the California Child Support Guidelines Calculator to gain some insight into how much child support could be ordered in your case. However, if both spouses agree to a predetermined child support figure, this can be included as part of your divorce settlement terms.

How are Assets Determined?

To be treated fairly in a divorce, it is crucial to understand what assets you have. California is a community property state, which means both spouses are entitled to an even split of assets. While this sounds fair, it can get complicated very quickly.

Ratzer | Dobis’s Del Mar Divorce Lawyers understand the financial issues surrounding divorce and can offer your resources and guidance in determining the marital assets to which you are entitled.

Much of the animosity experienced during a divorce is over money. Often, financial matters drove the marriage to divorce court to begin with, so the chances of those matters no longer being points of contention once the divorce is underway is doubtful. If you feel your spouse has been deceitful about financial affairs, we may be compelled to employ a forensic accountant to follow the money.

A forensic accountant will determine whether money is hidden in secret accounts, investments, businesses, property, or real estate. The key to getting a fair settlement is knowing what assets you have. We understand your rights and have the resources to truly analyze your financial situation before the distribution of assets begins.

Del Mar Property Distribution

Community property states such as California are focused on an even distribution of marital assets. In real life, this is one of the most prickly parts of a divorce. California law instructs the court to use the following steps to ensure both parties receive their fair share.

Who Owns the Property?

The court must be able to identify which property is marital property, which should be divided evenly between the spouses. If there is property that just one spouse solely owns, this will be important for the court to understand as well.

How Much are the Assets Worth?

To fairly divide property, it is essential to understand what it is worth. Evaluating the marital properties must be done to understand the value it contributes to assets being divided. Often, a professional appraiser can be called upon to clear up these matters.

How is the Property Divided?

Determining the fairest and most equitable way to divide property can be challenging. It could involve selling a property and dividing the profits between the spouses. Another route could be for one party to take ownership of the property and buy the other spouse’s share. The steps we discussed will come into play if you decide to take either of these paths.

Del Mar Divorce FAQ

We recognize how complicated and overwhelming the divorce process may seem. Working with a dedicated divorce attorney may be the best way to help you feel empowered as you go through this difficult time in your life. 

To help you prepare, we have compiled this quick FAQ that addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about divorce proceedings in Del Mar. If you have additional questions we do not cover here, contact our law office to request a free consultation for individualized support.

Can I get my marriage annulled in Del Mar?

Marriage annulment is only available in specific circumstances. When a marriage is annulled, it is as if the marriage never happened. Divorce is the end of a legally binding marriage. Some of the potential grounds for an element under California Family Code § 2210 could include:

  • Marriages between blood relatives
  • Marriages entered into by force or fraud
  • One spouse not being of sound mind at the time of the marriage
  • One spouse already being married
  • One spouse was underage at the time of the marriage

Although annulment will make it as though your marriage never existed, you will still need to work out the terms of your settlement. Any communal property will need to be equitably divided. Since the marriage never existed, this will need to be done with the help of a mediator or your individual attorneys. Since the marriage was annulled, neither spouse will be entitled to alimony. However, child custody, visitation, and support laws can be handled through the Del Mar family court system.

Do I need a prenuptial agreement?

Prenuptial agreements are not only for the wealthy. A prenup gives you the opportunity to work out divorce settlement terms in advance before you have tied the knot. While you and your soon-to-be spouse are still in love and care for one another, working out these details can help ensure both parties are protected if your marriage ultimately ends. 

A prenuptial agreement will need to be written in accordance with the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) under California Family Code, Part 5, Division 4, Chapter 2. For a prenuptial agreement to be considered valid in California, it must meet the following requirements:

  • Both spouses have examined each other’s finances
  • Both spouses sign the prenuptial agreement in the presence of a licensed notary
  • Both spouses must give their consent and sign the prenuptial agreement

You will need to work with your future spouse to determine which items to include in your prenup. Examples of commonly included elements include:

  • Which property will be kept separate
  • Which property will be considered marital
  • Whether alimony will be paid and by which partner
  • The elimination of inheritance rights
  • How real estate will be divided

It is important to note that certain provisions cannot be included in a prenup. California is a no-fault divorce state, so including provisional penalties for infidelity is prohibited. You are also prohibited from including stipulations about growing your family or abdicating child support responsibilities.

How do postnuptial agreements work?

Postnuptial agreements are similar to prenuptial agreements except they are written after you are already married. Prenuptial agreements are always signed before marriage. Postnuptial agreements can include the same stipulations as a prenuptial agreement, with a few exceptions. 

Prenuptial agreements are typically written to protect both spouses in the event of a divorce. However, postnuptial agreements are often signed when one partner starts earning substantially more than the other or is engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior, such as over-spending. 

Can I Move out of State During a Divorce in California?

In California, if you’re going through a divorce and want to move out of state, there are certain legal considerations you’ll need to address, especially if you have children or if your move would significantly impact the divorce proceedings. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Child Custody and Visitation: If you have children and you share custody or visitation rights with your spouse, moving out of state can complicate matters. California family courts prioritize the best interests of the child, so you’ll likely need to seek permission from the court to relocate with your children.
  • Court Approval: Even if you don’t have children, if you’re in the middle of divorce proceedings, moving out of state can affect things like division of assets, spousal support, and other aspects of the divorce settlement. You may need to notify the court and obtain approval before relocating.
  • Notification Requirements: Depending on the specifics of your divorce case and any existing court orders, you may be required to notify your spouse and the court of your intention to move out of state within a certain timeframe.

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First in California?

In California, the spouse who files for divorce first is known as the “petitioner,” while the other spouse is the “respondent.” From a legal perspective, there isn’t a significant advantage or disadvantage to being the petitioner or the respondent in a divorce case. Here’s why:

  • No-Fault Divorce State: California is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that either spouse can file for divorce without having to prove that the other spouse did something wrong to cause the marriage to fail. The grounds for divorce in California are irreconcilable differences, which simply means that the marriage cannot be saved.
  • Legal Process: The legal process for divorce in California is generally the same regardless of who files first. Both parties will have the opportunity to present their case, and the court will make decisions based on California law and what is deemed fair and equitable given the circumstances of the marriage.
  • Timing: While there may be some strategic reasons for wanting to file for divorce first (such as jurisdictional issues or timing related to the division of assets), these considerations are typically case-specific and should be discussed with a qualified attorney.
  • Procedural Matters: The spouse who files for divorce first initiates the legal process, which means they will need to complete and file the necessary paperwork to start the case. However, the respondent will still have the opportunity to respond to the petition and participate fully in the proceedings.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in California?

In California, a divorce process lasts for at least six months. This is known as a “waiting period,” which aims to ensure that both spouses are certain about their decision to end their marriage. The waiting period is designed to give them enough time in case they wish to reconcile. It is important to note that the divorce in California cannot be finalized until the waiting period has ended.

Connect With a Top-Rated Del Mar Divorce Attorney Near Me

The divorce process can be complex and it is not unusual for one spouse to go to great lengths to ensure the other does not obtain their fair share of the marital assets or alimony. If you have concerns that your spouse will attempt to take advantage of you it is crucial that you get a strategically aggressive Del Mar divorce lawyer from Ratzer Dobis to handle your case. 

We are also available to help families work through the terms of their divorce settlements amicably so they can dissolve their marriages and move forward with their lives. When you are ready to build a brighter tomorrow, turn to our family law attorneys for a confidential and free consultation. Complete our secured contact form or call our office to get started on your divorce proceedings as soon as today.



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