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Q: Is a Legal Separation easier than a divorce?

A: Usually not. Legal separations must resolve the same issues as a divorce, namely custody, visitation and support of the children, spousal support (alimony), property and debt division, and attorney fees.

Q: What are the benefits of a Legal Separation versus a divorce?

A: People choose a legal separation over a divorce for a variety of reasons. Two of the most common reasons include a moral/religious objection to divorce and a desire to maintain the same health insurance. Unlike a divorce, there is no six month waiting period to finalize the matter. You also don’t need to be a resident of California in order to obtain a Judgment of Legal Separation.

Q: I heard that if we fight over custody or visitation of our children, we will have to go to mediation. What is that?

A: Mediation, which has now been renamed to “Child Custody Recommending Services,” is required if there is a custody or visitation dispute between parents. This process is intended to be positive and of benefit to parents. Rather than relying on a judge to make a decision regarding your children, the mediation process tries to empower parents to determine what is best for their children.

Q: My spouse cheated on me, can I really end up paying him support?

A: Although spousal support is dependent on many different factors, the reason for the divorce is not one of those factors, unless there has been domestic violence.

Q: I have heard that there are different kinds of child custody. What are they?

A: There are two types of custody, legal and physical. Legal custody relates to which parent has the right to make decisions about issues such as education, school, and medical care.

Physical custody determines which parent has the right to physically have the children with him or her, absent the other parent’s right of visitation.

Custody awards are usually expressed in terms of joint and sole. Joint custody means that both parents share in the rights associated with the particular form of custody, sole custody means one parent has the rights.

Q: I have heard that the courts are really backed up. What if I need help now?

A: It usually takes about two months before you can see a judge, but with the current California budget cuts, it may take up to four months.

There is a process called an “ex parte request” that allows you to receive a Court date much faster if the judge determines that there is an emergency. Usually these emergencies relate to minor children. For example, if one parent moved out of state and took the children with them, a judge is likely to want to hear your case sooner rather than later.

Q: If I have a criminal conviction, can I still get custody of our children?

A: It is possible to still share custody of your children with the other parent even if you have a criminal background, but if you have been convicted of domestic violence or are a registered sex offender, it will be much more difficult to share custody.

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