Family Law

Whenever issues arise in a family that require the involvement of a family law attorney, it’s important to understand that emotions are running high and you need to work with someone who is willing to help you through the process with compassion. The breakup of a marriage is difficult on everyone; the parents and children alike.

Each party must be able to move forward in a productive manner once the divorce is final; parents will still have to jointly care for their child financially and emotionally. This is one reason why we prefer to attempt to work out the differences between divorcing couples through mediation; in general, it is less contentious, time-consuming and costly. If mediation fails however, we are fully prepared to go to court and fight for your best interests in a divorce or legal separation.

Family Law

California Divorce and Legal Separation

When a marriage is falling apart, couples sometimes consider legal separation before they file for divorce. This legal process is immediate; unlike divorces which take approximately six months. Legal separation still addresses many of the same issues which must be addressed in divorce cases including child custody and visitation, division of assets and other agreements. Couples often file a legal separation because they cannot divorce because of religious reasons or they feel it is better for tax reasons. For some couples, insurance, immigration issues and even considerations regarding future social security payments play a role in the decision to file a legal separation rather than a divorce. In many cases, a separation agreement will serve as the terms of a final divorce agreement so it is important to work with your family law attorney to draw these agreements up.

When couples simply want to be single, perhaps are considering remarriage or they know there is no way to repair their relationship, they often simply file for divorce. There is a six months’ residency requirement in California prior to filing for divorce. We always encourage our clients to agree on as many issues as possible; through mediation, it is possible to avoid a long-drawn-out divorce that winds up being stressful on everyone involved. By taking a one-on-one approach and understanding your personal concerns, we will try to alleviate as much stress as possible when you are going through a legal separation or divorce.

Child Custody, Visitation and Support

Couples who are filing for legal separation or divorce and have children have unique concerns. Parents are always concerned about the general well-being of their children but when parents are divorcing or separating, there are additional worries. Most couples can agree that a child needs to have both parents in their lives and between them, they must make a good-faith effort to ensure a fair visitation schedule is set up for the non-custodial parent. When parents cannot agree on who should have physical custody, it may be necessary to demonstrate for the court which parent is more suitable for the child to live with.

Older children (those over age 14) may be allowed input into the final custody decision but in most cases, the courts will look at numerous factors including the suitability of the home and living conditions, the relationship the child or children had with each parent prior to the separation or divorce and other factors such as proximity to the child’s school. When you and your spouse cannot agree on which parent should be made the custodial parent, we will fight aggressively to ensure your interests and the interests of your children are represented. We will always go the extra mile to make sure you are presented in the best light possible and fight to ensure you have physical of your child if this is in accordance with your wishes.

Both parents have a responsibility to ensure the financial well-being of their children. California has a standard guideline that requires the non-custodial parent to pay support until the child reaches the age of 18 and if the child is still in school, until the age of 19. The standard guidelines may be varied from in the event the child has special schooling, medical or other needs. We will work with you to show what the standard is and discuss what extenuating factors may play a role in asking for additional support.

Spousal Support in California

The factors that are normally considered in a Fresno divorce when spousal support is involved is the age and health of the spouses and the length of time a marriage lasted. We work with you to determine if you need temporary spousal support – which is provided while a divorce is in the process – or if you need support on an ongoing basis after the marriage has been dissolved.

We will listen carefully to your concerns regarding support; a spouse who has forfeited their career to maintain their home and care for children is likely to need more support than someone who has a career and is working and anticipates working well after a divorce.

Restraining Orders/Domestic Violence

Victims of domestic violence or persons who are concerned about their safety during or immediately following a divorce may need help obtaining a restraining order for their own safety or the safety of their children. We can help residents of Fresno County or San Diego County obtain the following types of restraining orders:

  • Emergency protective order (EPO) go into effect immediately
  • Temporary restraining orders (TRO) have a limited time frame
  • Permanent restraining orders (PRO) are long-term and can be renewed

If you are concerned about your safety or the safety of your child, call our offices and we can discuss which option is most suitable for your specific circumstances. Your safety and well-being is too important to take chances. The Law Offices of Kristen M Gates is located in Fresno and we can be reached at (559) 577-6022.