Divorce Paralegal, Paternity, Child Custody and Child Support Paralegal Services
We know that a divorce can be a difficult, painful and confusing process. The qualified Divorce Paralegals at Attorney Alternative provide you a comfortable and confidential environment in which to discuss your divorce needs. Our commitment to you is accurate preparation of all of your divorce and judgment documents, prompt response time, and the individual attention that we have been providing to our clients for years.
Below is a sampling of the types of divorce, support, custody and visitation issues that we can assist you in preparing:
- • Petition for Divorce with no property or minor children
• Petition for Divorce with property and/or minor children
• Marital Settlement Agreements (often included within the divorce fee)
• Petition for Legal Separation
• Orders to Show Cause (OSC) – Child Support, Child Custody, Visitation and more
• Modifications of Spousal and Child Support, Child Custody and Visitation
• QDRO – Qualified Domestic Relations Orders
• Documents pertaining to District Attorney child support matters
• Adoptions (Stepparent and Grandparent)
• Termination of Parental Rights
• Paternity and Parental Rights Actions
As long as you feel comfortable representing yourself and you do not require legal advice, the qualified Divorce Paralegals at Attorney Alternative are your affordable solution!
What makes Attorney Alternative Divorce Paralegals better?
• Legal and Valid – All documents and forms, other than the required Judicial Council Forms, were developed by attorneys with many years of family and civil law experience. In addition, Attorney Alternative’s divorce paralegal service includes a comprehensivc Marital Settlement Agreement to better protect your financial and custody interests.
• Experience you can trust – The professional Divorce Paralegals at Attorney Alternative have helped to satisfy our clients’ needs for professional, accurate and thorough divorce document preparation since 1994. Experienced professionals will prepare and review your final divorce documents, so you can rest assured that we’re preparing your divorce documents quickly and correctly.
• Fast and Low-Cost – Our experience allows us to prepare divorce documents QUICKLY AND ACCURATELY! Plus, we are committed to providing the highest quality service at a reasonable price. We are not the least expensive Divorce Paralega service, but our over 10 years of professional experience and attention to detail will convince you we are the best alternative for your divorce needs.
• Personal Service – Our representatives are available to answer your divorce questions by phone or e-mail. Also, unlike other services, except for the required Judicial Council Forms your divorce documents are not simply “fill in the blank” or generic forms. Rather, they are customized for your situation and tailored to your specific needs.
• Safe and confidential – Attorney Alternative’ Divorce Paralegals are committed to the highest levels of integrity and confidentiality. Your information is shared with no other party unless required to be disclosed by law. You can be assured that anything you tell us in the preparation of your divorce documents is held in the utmost trust and confidence.
• Our Work is Guaranteed – Your divorce documents will be prepared properly and completely every time. However, if for any reason the divorce documents we prepare are not accepted by the court for filing, we will fix them and resubmit them to the court FREE.
ATTORNEY ALTERNATIVE IS THERE WITH YOU THROUGH THE ENTIRE PROCESS…
Often changes can occur from the time of filing of the case until the final Judgment of Divorce is entered by the Court. Frequently, a person’s situation or needs will change, whether it is a simple change of address, or a complete renegotiation of your division of property or child custody arrangement.
Whatever the final outcome of the case, the experienced Divorce Paralegals at Attorney Alternative help you with your case in a manner designed to successfully accomplish a final disposition of the matter, while allowing you to remain in control. Other paralegal and divorce services simply do not or cannot provide this degree of personalized service to which you are entitled.
Divorce is a serious matter with permanent results, and should be treated with competence, caring and professionalism. Your divorce case is too important to entrust to anyone but the most qualified and experienced practitioner who understands the full scope and impact the case will have on your life. Call us today to set an appointment to discuss your individual situation. The initial one-half hour consultation is FREE, and SAME-DAY APPOINTMENTS are often available.
Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce
What is “NO FAULT” divorce?
Increasingly popular throughout the United States since the 1960s, no fault divorce is now in effect in every state except Illinois and South Dakota. In a no-fault divorce state (including California), neither spouse is required to prove “fault” or marital misconduct on the part of the other.
To obtain a divorce a spouse must merely assert incompatibility or irreconcilable differences, meaning the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means there is no defense to a divorce petition (so a spouse cannot “fight” a divorce). There is no derogatory testimony, and marital misconduct cannot be used to achieve a division of property favorable to the “innocent” spouse. California State law specifically provides that the Court shall not divide assets on the basis of marital misconduct.
If I don’t know where my spouse is located, can I still get a divorce?
The California Rules of Civil Procedure provide that a missing spouse may be served by publication (advertisement of legal notice). However, this is not the preferred method of notifying your spouse of the pending divorce action, and special requirements must be met to give the court jurisdiction when the other party is served in this manner.
How long does the entire divorce process take?
The documents to file your case will be prepared and ready to sign and file within a couple of days after your initial appointment. Typically, the other side can be served within a short period of time after the case is filed.
The minimum time to conclude the case depends largely on when the Respondent (your spouse) is legally served. In California, a divorce may not be finalized until at least 6 months have elapsed after the court acquired jurisdiction over your spouse by having the divorce documents served on them. This time period is by statute and may not be shortened.
In cooperative cases (a/k/a “friendly divorce”) the matter can be expedited if the Respondent signs an acceptance of service of process form that is then filed with the court.
Additional factors affecting the duration of the case include the current court case load, whether the case will proceed by default, whether the parties will proceed by stipulation (Marital Settlement Agreement or Stipulated Judgment) or if the case will be contested. Please refer to the next paragraph regarding procedure.
What is the procedure to get a Divorce?
There are three distinctive methods by which a divorce case may proceed before the Court:
1. DEFAULT CASE –
In this type of case, the Petition is filed with the Court and service of the documents is made to the Respondent. The Respondent is allowed 30 days to file a Response to respond to the allegations, issues, causes or requests set forth in the Petition. If the Response is not filed in the allocated amount of time, the Petitioner may request that Respondent’s default be taken for failure to respond to the Petition.
After the required 6-month waiting period has expired, the Judge or Commissioner may sign the divorce Judgment at the default hearing, (provided of course that the documents have been properly prepared, and the case administered properly). The case is final and the divorce decree is effective immediately when the Judge or Commissioner signs the Judgment.
2. “UNCONTESTED” (AKA Stipulated Decree) –
In this type of case, the Petition is filed with the Court and service is effected upon the Respondent. The Respondent is still permitted 30 days to file a Response to respond to any allegations or statements in the Petition.
Accordingly, if the parties agree to the terms of the divorce, the Settlement Agreement may be drafted in accordance with the parties’ wishes, and the case may proceed by this agreement. This is one of the least expensive ways to proceed, because the only court cost in most cases will be the appearance fee for both parties.
3. CONTESTED PROCEEDING / TRIAL –
This is the type of case which can drag on for months, each party incurring additional expenses. Under the Rules of Civil Procedure and Due Process clause of the Constitution, a Respondent has the right to appear and defend the allegations in the Petition. If the Petition is adverse to the Respondent’s wishes with regard to property division, debt allocation, alimony, child custody, etc., the Respondent may file a Response to the Petition, stating the terms and conditions the Respondent wants the court to grant. If the Response is properly drafted and timely filed, and the parties do not reach an agreement to facilitate the dissolution process, then the Court may set the case for trial and enter a Judgment based upon the evidence and application of the material statutes.
Does my spouse need to sign anything, or otherwise cooperate?
Not if your case is properly prepared and administered through the Court. California is a “no fault divorce” state, so grounds such as infidelity or other marital misconduct need not be proven before the Court may grant a divorce decree.
A party does not need to have the consent or permission of the other party to obtain a divorce decree. However, the Respondent may present issues and defenses regarding division of property, alimony, child custody, etc. Because of these defenses, it is obviously the advisable course of action to negotiate or attend mediation with your spouse prior to filing the case in order to avoid contested issues.
Does my spouse need to be with me at the Court hearing, or come in with me to our appointment?
No. The Hearing set by the Court to grant the Judgment is not a “ceremony.” As outlined above, the Court does not need to know whether or not your spouse “agrees, or wants” the divorce. If a Respondent wishes to contest the issues, then the procedure to make those issues apparent would be to “appear” in the case by filing a Response or other responsive pleading to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
How is Divorce different than Legal Separation?
Under California law persons can become divorced or they might become legally separated. Below, the differences between Dissolution of Marriage and Legal Separation are discussed.
• DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE –
A divorce, or dissolution of marriage will legally end the marriage and restore the parties to the status of single persons. The legal grounds for divorce in California are that the parties have “irreconcilable differences.” There is no requirement for the production of evidence of marital breakdown, other than the assertion of one of the parties that “irreconcilable differences” have arisen in the marriage.
Divorce is not a reward for innocence or punishment for guilt, and the court will not divide property or award spousal maintenance on the basis of marital misconduct, unless intentional waste or fraud is established. The primary responsibility for the terms of the decree rest with the parties rather than with the Court. The court needs to ensure that the division of property, child support and spousal maintenance provisions are not unfair to either person.
• MEDIATIONS –
Mediation Services are available by Certified Mediators through Attorney Alternative for couples desiring assistance, but if either spouse will not willingly participate, the reality of marital failure must be addressed through other methods.
For more information on our Mediation services, click the link at the left or at the top of the page.
• LEGAL SEPARATIONS –
Legal separations are virtually identical to dissolution of marriage cases, but in legal separation, the marriage is not ended. However, the marital property and debts are divided and custody and support of children are determined. Community property rights terminate in a legal separation case. The grounds for legal separation are that one of the parties desires to permanently reside separate and apart from the other, and communicates that fact to the other party.
The court can grant a legal separation decree even if one of the parties objects. Legal separations can be converted to Dissolution of Marriage before and after the entry of the Judgment of Legal Separation case. If it is converted after the Judgment, then the Court will usually presume that the provisions in the Judgment should remain the same, except that the parties are restored to the status of single persons, unless one opf the Parties files papers stating the provisions hjave changed.
The property disposition approved in the legal separation Judgment “may not be revoked or modified unless the court finds the existence of conditions that justify the reopening of a judgment under the laws of this state” – in other words, the Judgment of legal separation is deemed to be final with respect to the division of property, unless fraud or other serious conditions are present.
How is Spousal Support determined?
In any dissolution of marriage (divorce) or legal separation case, the court is authorized under the law to order spousal support (alimony) for either spouse. The parties may agree in writing as to the amount of maintenance to be awarded the supported spouse, and it may be made part of the final divorce order. In the absence of a written agreement, the court may award support in amounts and for the periods of time as it deems just, without regard to marital misconduct and after considering all relevant factors.
Spousal support may be awarded by the court for specific reasons including one of the parties:
- • lacks sufficient property, including property apportioned to such spouse, to provide for his or her reasonable needs, or
• is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose age or condition is such that the custodian should not be required to seek employment outside the home or
• lacks earning ability in the labor market adequate to support himself or herself, or
• had a marriage of long duration and is of an age which may preclude the possibility of gaining employment adequate to support himself or herself.
Alimony can be awarded for any of these reasons, but is also based on the other person’s ability to pay. However, an obligation to pay spousal maintenance cannot be avoided by voluntarily reducing the ability to pay, like quitting your job to avoid paying support.
Unless otherwise agreed in writing or stated in the decree, a spousal support award is terminated upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving support.
What are the issues involving children?
In all divorce cases, California law requires the court to enter orders concerning the support and custody of any minor children of the mariage being dissolved. The Judge is bound by law to do so. Child Support and Child Custody are separate but related issues from each other.
• CHILD CUSTODY –
In a sole custody arrangement, one of the parents is charged to be responsible for and deemed suitable to make day to day decisions concerning the child’s activities and development. The noncustodial parent’s rights are not diminished, and he or she is entitled to visitation and frequent access with the child, before and after the entry of a divorce decree.
The Child Custody and Visitation Order will state the frequency and duration that a non-custodial parent is entitled to have the child, unless there are reasons to restrict visitation. The modern view is that, “conduct of the parties (immoral or otherwise) not affecting the relationship with the children is not considered.”
The access (visitation) guidelines are based on certain premises, including that both parents are fit, both desire to have an ongoing relationship with the child and that it is in the child’s best interest for each parent to have frequent, meaningful and continuing access to the child.
• CHILD SUPPORT –
In California, the amount of child support to be paid by one parent to the other is based on, among other things:
- • each parents’ incomes and expenses,
• the custody arrangement which the parents will observe,
• the percentage of custodial time each parent has with the child(ren),
• whether or not there are minor children from a relationship other than the marriage for which one of the parents is financially responsible,
• certain unusual or extraordinary classifications of expenses which may increase or reduce the support payment amount, depending upon which party incurs the expenses,
• certain job-related issues, such as mandatory union dues or required work clothing (uniforms),
• other factors, but always considered in light of the best interests of the children.
What is the difference between a Lawyer and a Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant?
A Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant cannot appear for another person in Court or negotiate on another parties’ behalf. A Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant may prepare legal documents and perform other services such as filing the pleadings with the Court, calendering and generally administering the case to insure compliance with deadlines and procedures set under the Rules of Court.
In choosing a Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant, you should be cautious. Less than one-half of Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant businesses started in the last year are still open for business. However, Attorney Alternative has been serving Southern California since 1994 with excellent and professional document preparation services. We are licensed, bonded and registered as required by law.
You need to be aware of what legal experience the Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant has, such as their work experience with law firms and attorneys, and the capacity in which they were engaged. It is extremely important to consider the extent of experience the Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant has had in related fields such as Creditor/Debtor Law, Community Property, Real Estate Law and Probate Law, since the divorce case will almost always involve issues relative to those areas of law.
Divorce Paralegal or Legal Document Assistant services who “just do divorces” are usually covering their lack of knowledge and experience in these related areas. Attorney Alternative staff have extensive experience in the fields of law related to divorce.