Rancho Santa Fe Divorce Lawyer

Few issues are as difficult to cope with as those involving your family. When certain problems become legal matters, you may require the support of a compassionate and highly experienced Rancho Santa Fe family lawyer who can help you protect your rights and keep your family intact wherever possible. With Ratzer Dobis handling your family law issues, you may be able to rest easier knowing you have an advocate in your corner. 

When you need a legal professional to safeguard your rights and those of your children, our team is here for you. Whether you are going through a divorce, are looking forward to adopting a child, or are dealing with any type of paternity or child custody issues, Ratzer Dobis will do everything possible to help you get through these difficult times. Contact our office to request a confidential consultation today and learn more about what is next for your family law case.

Divorce is not something that a couple enters into lightly. It often brings trauma, anger, frustration, and sadness. Questions about an uncertain future can keep both parties up at night. You will indeed have questions about child custody, property division, finances, safety, security, home, and family. To navigate this challenging process, a Rancho Santa Fe divorce lawyer is imperative. Ratzer | Dobis can provide you with skilled, knowledgeable counsel to help you through this trying time.

Why Ratzer | Dobis is the Best Divorce Attorney for You

  • Communication is key to easing our client’s stress over their impending legal suit. We work for you, so we will keep you apprised of any news concerning your case and are here to answer any questions you may have.
  • Only Certified Family Law Specialist serving Rancho Santa Fe
  • Over 30 years of Experience just doing Family Law
  • Our entire focus is family law. This narrow scope of our practice enabled us to develop keen expertise in divorce law, child custody, and other aspects of family law.
  • While compassionately serving our clients, we will tenaciously fight for their best interests.

Determining Assets in a Rancho Santa Fe Divorce

California is a community property state. This means that assets are divided evenly between both spouses. This is far less complex in theory than in practice. We have the resources to help our clients determine what their marital assets are and to help them fight for their fair share of them.

Financial disagreements can be one of the main causes of divorce, and sadly, they often do not subside once the divorce is underway. If you feel that your spouse is hiding some of their finances from you, there are ways that Ratzer | Dobis can help you investigate. For instance, we may hire a forensic accountant to see if money is squirreled away in separate accounts, business interests, secret investments, real estate, or other property.

Knowing what marital property exists is paramount to getting the settlement to which you are entitled. We have the financial knowledge and resources to help you accurately establish your rights in California.

High Net Worth Divorce 

High net worth divorce is similar to a traditional divorce except the property distribution process may be more complex. This is because high-wage earners have assets that are more complicated to separate. Some examples of such assets could include:

  • Investment portfolios
  • Businesses
  • Retirement savings accounts
  • Real estate property
  • Collectibles and other investments
  • Professional practices
  • Money within joint checking and savings accounts

Although California follows community property laws based on Community Property Section 760, dividing high-net-worth estates can be complicated. Couples may argue about which property is considered community or separate property, spouses may be joint business owners, and the tax implications that come with a high net-worth divorce are often astronomical. Working with a skilled high-net-worth divorce attorney may be the best way to safeguard your personal assets and investments, and protect you from being taken advantage of by your spouse.

Community Property Distribution in Divorce

Whether you are going through a traditional divorce or a high net-worth divorce, you need to distribute your community property before your divorce can be finalized. This includes not only your marital assets, property, investments, and debts as well. 

Communal property is not divided equitably, but equally. Of course, in some instances, what is considered “equal” may be subjective. For this reason, you may need to rely on your family lawyer in Rancho Santa Fe to ensure your marital estate is distributed as equally as possible.

How is Property Distributed in a Rancho Santa Fe, CA Divorce?

One of the most contentious parts of a divorce is the division of assets. California is a “community property” state, Family Code 760 tells us. Listed below are the three steps used by the court to ensure that property is divided evenly.

  1. Determination of ownership of the property in question, whether it is marital property or owned by one of the spouses in the marriage, will be important information for the court.
  2. Evaluation of the property is required.
  3. The most equitable way to divide the property much be determined.

At times, the division of property can become confusing. For instance, one partner is a business owner. It would be natural to assume that it might belong to them in the divorce. However, suppose their spouse’s hard work or brilliant ideas caused the business to become more successful and valuable. In that case, the partner who contributed to the business’s success also has a stake in the business interest.

An inheritance can also be confusing since it seems as if the heir would be the sole owner of what they inherited. But, inheritances have a way of melding with the other assets in the couple’s assets. So, if the money from the inheritance was used on expenses benefiting the family, it typically is recognized as marital property, fully or partially.

It is extremely important to have a divorce lawyer in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, from Ratzer | Dobis to ensure the division of marital property is done fairly because once it is divided, there is no going back. The property will not be modified.

How Does Custody Work in Rancho Santa Fe, CA?

There are two primary types of child custody as described under Family Code Section 3011:

  • Legal custody – Legal custody refers to all of the decision-making that comes with raising your children. If you share legal custody with your child’s other parent, you will work together to make some of the most important decisions that arise as your children grow up. If you have sole legal custody of your child, you can make these decisions without conferring with your child’s other parent.
  • Physical custody – The parent with physical custody is known as the custodial parent whereas the parent with visitation rights is known as the non-custodial parent. Physical custody refers to which parent the children primarily reside with. Legal custody can be sole or joint. With joint physical custody plans, parents will share equal amounts of time with their children, and children will reside at both parents’ homes. With sole physical custody, the children will reside with one parent and may have visitation with the other on a predetermined schedule, which might include weekends.

Courts in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, strive to do what is best for the child. The current thinking is that joint custody allows both parents to actively parent, nurture and guide their child. So, joint custody is the custody agreement that is most common in the state. Both parents make the important choices for their children. Or in the case of a parent with sole custody, the authority is given to make decisions concerning the following:

  • Childcare: Be this daycare, staying with family or friends, or after-school programs.
  • Schools and educational choices: This may concern school choice, public, private, or homeschool.
  • Religion: The parent gets to choose the religious tradition they will bring their child up in or will shield them from.
  • Counseling and therapy needs: These could be physical, occupational, or psychological therapies.
  • Extracurricular activities: These could include clubs, volunteer activities, scouting groups, music lessons, and other activities.
  • Summer camp: Whether to attend or not is left up to the legal guardian(s).
  • Sports participation: This includes which sports and which leagues the child will participate in.
  • Travel: Travel could mean international or domestic travel, with whom, and for how long.
  • Place of residence: This includes where the child lives on a day-to-day basis.

When is Child Support Awarded?

It may or may not come as a surprise to learn that some parents try to avoid financial responsibility for their children. However, according to California child support laws, both parents are legally required to support their children financially. 

You can use the Child Support Guidelines Calculator or our quick child support calculator tool below to get an understanding of how much child support should be paid in your case. Typically, the parent who has visitation or is considered a non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support to the custodial parent. 

Some of the factors that will be considered when determining child support payment amounts include:

  • Which parent provides health insurance coverage
  • Which parent the children primarily live with
  • How many children you share
  • Whether either parent has other children
  • Both parents’ income and necessary living expenses


Before family issues and important legal decisions get taken out of your hands to be made by the judge presiding over your case, your family attorney may recommend attending mediation. In mediation sessions, a mediator will work with you, your family member and both parties’ attorneys to suggest reasonable solutions to your dispute. Working with your family member to resolve these issues is paramount, otherwise, the judge has the authority to make the final decision whether you agree with their decision or not.


Paternity may need to be established whether you are in a committed relationship, married, or have been told you are the father of a child. Typically, if a man and woman are married, the man is presumed to be the child’s father. 

But in cases where the couple is not married, the father can establish paternity through a DNA test or by signing a declaration of paternity. Paternity must be established so the father can access the child’s medical records, secure child custody or visitation rights, and take care of their financial obligations through child support payments.

Prenuptial Agreements

If you are planning to get married, signing a prenuptial agreement may be in your best interests. These are generally recommended for couples when one partner earns considerably more than the other. This does not mean only the wealthy utilize prenuptial agreements. The great thing about prenups is that they can help you prepare for the worst-case scenario. If you work out a prenup with your partner, you can help determine the terms of your divorce settlement in advance. Then, you can make decisions that are truly in the best interests of each other. 

However, not all prenups are valid. Unless your prenup is signed before a notary, you have reviewed each other’s financial records, and consent to the prenup before you sign, the document will not be enforceable. If your prenuptial agreement is not in compliance with the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA) under California Family Code, Part 5, Division 4, Chapter 2, it could be voided. This is also true if your prenuptial agreement contains unconscionable provisions.

For example, if your prenuptial agreement stated that your partner would not be entitled to any alimony or child support upon divorce, this stipulation would be considered unjust and could be left out of your divorce settlement. When writing your prenup, be sure to include information about assets and property that will be kept separate, which partner should pay alimony, how assets will be divided, and provisions that allow either spouse to keep inheritance or certain debts as separate property.

Postnuptial Agreements

You can think of a postnup as a prenuptial agreement that you sign after you are already married. If you have already gotten married but have a dramatic increase in income, it may be wise to write a postnuptial agreement while you and your spouse are still in a good place. If one spouse starts spending frivolously or is becoming reckless with your finances, a postnup can help protect you.

Who is Eligible for Alimony?

The court may award spousal support to the spouse who earns less money after considering things like the length of the marriage, the education of each spouse, and whether one member of the couple put their career on hold to raise the family. Alimony may be awarded permanently or temporarily with some factors that can change the agreement when it is deemed appropriate.

Some of the factors that can inspire an alimony modification are as follows:

  • Decrease in earnings that is out of the spouse’s control
  • Lost job
  • Illness
  • Disability
  • Salary increases for the recipient of spousal support
  • Remarriage
  • Living with a new partner

Changes must be fairly significant to even go before a judge for renegotiation. Your Rancho Santa Fe Divorce Lawyer from Ratzer | Dobis can offer you advice on this matter.

Domestic Violence 

Domestic violence is not only an issue in criminal court but in family court as well. Individuals facing domestic violence-related charges, such as sexual abuse, stalking, intimidation, physical assault, or other crimes may be subject to criminal penalties including fines and incarceration under California Penal Code Section 273.5.

When domestic violence allegations are raised, they can also be discussed in family court. The following household members may have the authority to raise domestic violence allegations:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A fiancé or former fiancé
  • Parents and grandparents
  • Current or former cohabitants

Examples of behaviors that could be considered domestic violence include:

  • Threatening
  • Destroying property
  • Causing fear of imminent harm 
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical abuse, including punching, burning, kicking, scratching, restraining, or choking
  • Causing intentional physical injuries
  • Humiliation and intimidation
  • Beratement
  • Financial control
  • Social isolation

You may need to request a temporary or permanent restraining order which can prohibit the offender from contacting you or attempting to communicate with you in any way. They can also be ordered to stay away from your shared home or work environment. These orders may be necessary if you hope to protect yourself or your children from abuse. 

Your abuser could spend up to four years in a state prison and be fined up to $6,000 for a first offense. If your abuser has habitual domestic violence convictions on their record, they could spend up to five years in prison and be fined as much as $10,000.

Marriage Annulment  

An annulment voids your marriage completely. It will be as if your marriage never happened. Divorce describes the end of a valid marriage. According to California Family Code § 2210, annulment is only available if:

  • Either spouse was already married
  • Spouses are blood relatives
  • Either spouse was unable to consent to the marriage due to their age
  • Either spouse was unable to consent to the marriage due to mental capacity
  • Either spouse was forced into the marriage through coercion or fraud

While spousal support will not be available in annulments, communal property will still need to be distributed as part of your annulment process.

Meet With Our Compassionate Rancho Santa Fe Family Law Attorneys Today  

Issues within families can become contentious and highly emotional. It is important to remain calm wherever possible and get a powerful legal advocate on your side who will ensure your rights are protected. Do not let yourself get taken advantage of by family members who prioritize their best interests over your safety. 

Turn to a trusted Rancho Santa Fe family lawyer with Ratzer Dobis for legal support when you need it. Our firm offers free consultations to individuals dealing with legal issues and family court. Find out how we can best meet your needs when you contact our law office to schedule yours by phone or through our convenient contact form.



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