Certified Family Law Specialist Attorney
Divorce Attorney

Divorce lawyer in Huntington Beach
Serving Orange County and surrounding communities

California state info for divorce

A New Life Awaits

Ending a marriage is a major decision, especially when the emotional and financial stakes are high. If you’re unhappy in your marriage, you owe it to yourself to start over.

Legal support is crucial during this transition period. I will guide you through the entire divorce process, from the initial filing to the final settlement.

For nearly 20 years, I have helped individuals and families throughout Southern California amicably end conflicts so they can begin the next chapter of their lives.

My goal is to help you reach closure as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible, not to make you pay outrageous attorney’s fees or spend years in a drawn out court battle.

The Highest Level of Expertise in Family Law

In addition to my practice, I am a California State Bar Certified Family Law Specialist.

Less than 10% of all lawyers in California have this certification.

I earned this status by meeting the following qualifications:

Divorce attorney for Orange County

  • Engaged in a specific area of law for at least 25% of the past 5 years
  • Active member of the State Bar of California
  • Passed a detailed written exam
  • Demonstrated a high level of experience and achievement in hearings, counseling sessions and court
  • Completed a minimum of 45 hours of continuing education in their field of law
  • Is in favorable standing with peers and judges


I take great pride in utilizing the knowledge and experience I have acquired to deliver favorable results for my clients.

Schedule a low cost consultation with me today by calling (714) 740-2542. I will discuss all of the relevant legal options available to you, and together we will develop a plan of action tailor-made to fit your needs.

A Loyal Advocate Who Will Protect Your Interests

I am uniquely prepared to handle all types of divorces, including:

  • contested divorce
  • uncontested divorce
  • military divorce
  • other types of separations

Whether through diplomatic negotiation and mediation or aggressive litigation, I will fight for your rights on a wide range of issues including:

  • Real estate division and distribution
  • Division of personal property, such as furniture, dogs, and cars
  • Income and debts
  • Division of any community property retirement accounts
  • Tax implications of dividing property
  • Division of community property investments
  • Spousal support
  • Domestic Violence

If you have children, I will strive to protect their rights and yours when negotiating:

  • Legal custody
  • Physical custody
  • Visitation schedules for both parents and, possibly, grandparents
  • A holiday and vacation schedule for the children, and
  • Child support

Requirements for a California Divorce

California is considered a “no-fault” state. This means that you do not have to prove a reason other than “irreconcilable differences” to file for divorce or legal separation.

You MUST meet California’s residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have lived in:

  • California for the last six months, AND
  • The county where you plan to file the divorce for the last three months

If you have lived in California for six months, but in different counties for three months, you can file in either county. If you do not meet the residency requirements, you can file for a legal separation. When enough time has passed to satisfy the requirements, you can file an  “amended petition” asking the court for a divorce.

Divorce Without Trial: Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are options available to you and your spouse if you wish to settle your divorce without going to trial.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to a variety of processes that resolve key issues related to division of property, spousal support, and child custody and support – without litigation. Effective ADR’s include mediation, collaborative divorce and arbitration.

Strive For Compromise In Mediation

In divorce mediation, you and your spouse will work with a neutral mediator outside of the court process to reach resolution on all issues in your divorce.

Mediation sessions last about two hours, and the average mediation takes between two to three sessions. As your attorney, I can help you prepare for mediation and offer counsel on how to handle sensitive issues and points of contention.

I will assist you with filing all required paperwork to make all decisions reached through the mediation process legal and binding.

What are the advantages of mediation?

  • Confidential, not a matter of public record
  • Encourages compromise
  • Easier on children
  • Expedites agreement
  • Reduces expenses
  • Puts you in control of making the decisions, not a judge or jury

What are the disadvantages of mediation?

  • If negotiations fail, you’ll need to start all over

At the conclusion of mediation, the mediator will prepare a judgment which, when signed, becomes enforceable by the court.

Settle Outside Of Court In A Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce is a non-adversarial, out-of-court legal process which requires Divorce lawyer in Orange County, CAall parties to work toward an agreement that is in everyone’s best interests.

You and your spouse will sign a collaborative participation agreement stating that you will not go to court on any matter until there is final resolution of all issues.

As your lawyer, I will assemble a team of experts to assist you throughout the process, including:

  • financial specialists
  • psychologists
  • child life specialists

If someone terminates or breaches the commencement of litigation, the process of collaboration fails and all experts, including the attorneys, can no longer be involved in the case.

At the conclusion of a successful collaboration, the lawyers will prepare a judgment which, when signed, will become enforceable by the court.


In arbitration, you and your spouse agree to hire a private judge, called an arbitrator, to make the decisions. The arbitrator’s final ruling cannot be appealed. Arbitration has some of the same advantages as mediation, including:

  • speed
  • efficiency
  • privacy
  • cost-effectiveness
  • informality


If you and your spouse have attempted mediation, collaborative divorce or arbitration, and you cannot reach consensus on the contested issues, litigation becomes necessary. In some cases, litigation may be inevitable from the very beginning. A litigated divorce means your case will be managed by a judge.

Litigation can be adversarial in nature and involves high-conflict disputes. It is far more expensive than mediation or collaborative law and is usually a long, drawn-out process.

This can be very emotionally draining, especially on children who end up in the middle of a heated debate. Despite these challenges,  you can rest assured that I will be fully prepared to go to trial with a winning strategy.

At the end of litigation, the judge issues a final decision, which can be appealed.

Starting The Divorce Process: Filing A Petition

If you meet the residency requirements, you can proceed with filing a petition at the county courthouse for the dissolution of marriage. You must “serve” your spouse with the petition through one of two ways:

  1. a hand delivered courier service or
  2. someone sending it via mail on your behalf

Serving the petition by mail is generally considered to be the more civilized approach. This method requests that your spouse sign a  “notice of acknowledgement of receipt” and file a response with the court within 30 days.

Full And Complete Disclosure Of Assets and Debts

After the petition is served and filed, California Family Code section 2104 requires you and your spouse to fill out a document called a “Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure” (PDD).

This document allows both of you to fully disclose information to one another about respective incomes, expenses, assets, and all debts and obligations.

The PDD is very important because it sets the stage for dividing the marital estate. If you forget to disclose an asset that your spouse was never aware of and he/she finds out about the omission, your spouse may be awarded 100% of the asset.

Dividing Assets And Debts

California is a community property state, which means that assets and debts are split 50/50 between spouses in a divorce. The major exceptions to this rule are:

  • individual inheritances
  • gifts from family/friends
  • student loans
  • prenuptial agreements

What Constitutes Community Property?

Community property is all property including debts acquired by you and/or your spouse throughout the duration of the marriage, until the day you separated.

The date of separation is not necessarily the date one spouse moves out of the marital home.

Instead, it is the date that one spouse decides to end the marriage, and it requires some act of physical separation combined with other actions clearly demonstrating that the spouse has decided to end the marriage.

Community property includes all the earnings that either spouse or partner (or both of you) earned during the marriage. Community property also includes all financial obligations (debts) accumulated during your marriage, even if the debt was incurred by just one of you.

This means that if your spouse has outstanding balances on his/her credit cards, the debt becomes your debt.

What Is Separate Property?

Separate property is defined as property or debt acquired individually before marriage or after separation.

Co-Mingling: Mixing Community and Separate Property

Sometimes assets can be considered both community and separate property, which can present divorce-attorney-CAconflict in figuring out how to divide it.

One example of this is if either you or your spouse owned a home prior to marriage and used the proceeds from the sale of that home to purchase the marital home.

This would be considered personal property, but if both of you contribute to the mortgage and other expenses, the equity in the house is shared.

Another example is dividing retirement accounts including IRAs, 401ks, and pension plans. The funds that are in one spouse’s retirement account have most likely not been taxed as income as yet. The goal is to transfer funds from one spouse to another without triggering any negative tax consequences at the time of the transfer.

Any tax consequences can be deferred at the time of the divorce, just as if the person receiving funds had earned them as part of their own employment.

How Is Spousal Support Calculated?

There are two types of spousal support laws in California: temporary and permanent support.

Temporary support is awarded by the court in a situation where one spouse needs temporary financial assistance during the duration of litigation (six months to a year).

Once the divorce is final, permanent or long-term spousal support can be awarded. If the marriage has lasted less than 10 years, permanent spousal support will not go for more than half the length of the marriage.

For instance, if the marriage lasted eight years, spousal support would be given for four years.

If the marriage lasted longer than 10 years, this rule does not apply and the spousal support could become permanent. To determine support, a number of factors are taken into consideration including:

  • age
  • health
  • disparity of income
  • hardships endured
  • time spent away from workforce to invest in raising a family

Making Sure The Kids Are Okay

The health and well-being of your children is undoubtedly your number one priority.

As a mother myself, I fully understand the seriousness of what is at stake. Child custody strikes right at the heart of a family and is one of the most personal and emotional parts of the entire divorce process.

Generally speaking, it’s important that both parents are involved in their child(ren)’s lives. I have extensive expertise helping parents develop mutually beneficial parenting plans in mediation.

I’m also well-equipped to be aggressive, when necessary, in litigation and to present your side of the case to a judge in the most favorable light possible.

Child Custody Laws

The guiding principle in California’s custody laws is to act in the best interests of the child(ren).

This refers to their:

  • health
  • safety
  • education
  • general welfare

From the outset, it’s ideal if you and your partner can agree on a parenting plan that resolves legal and physical custody, and parenting time or visitation.

Legal custody refers to who will be making decisions regarding your child(ren)’s:

  • healthcare
  • education
  • religion
  • extracurricular activities
  • among other decisions

In most divorces in California, “joint legal” custody is awarded, allowing both parents to make decisions about their child(ren) together.

In addition to legal custody, physical custody refers to where the children will primarily live. If both parents are actively involved in their child(ren)’s life and they live with both parents, “joint custody” is usually awarded. The visitation schedule or parenting plan is created and agreed upon by both parents.

Sole custody is awarded in situations where there is an absentee parent or the child’s safety and well-being is in jeopardy.

How Is Child Support Calculated?

In California, the court has mandated the use of a software program that uses an algebraic formula to calculate support. Key factors that need to be calculated into the formula include:

  • income and timeshare
  • health insurance premiums
  • property taxes
  • mortgage interest
  • mandatory retirement

You don’t have to go through the difficult process of divorce alone. Begin building a new chapter for yourself and your loved ones. Call me today for a consultation: (714) 740-2542.


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Helped me through a difficult time and made my interactions with the legal system as pleasant as possible through my very tedious divorce...
Helped me through a difficult time and made my interactions with the legal system as pleasant as possible through my very tedious divorce...
My name is Cheryl Stack and I work for Chapman University in Orange, California. I have been employed with Chapman for twenty three years. Attorney Barbara McNamara was referred to me by the law offices of Aitkin, Aitkin and Cohn in September 2011. I was the victim of a harassment/stalking situation for over one year and was seeking legal assistance to get the female perpetrator to stop. At the time of my first meeting with Barbara, I had filed two police reports with the City of Orange Police department. I had also met with another attorney prior to meeting Barbara. After our first initial......
Barbara McNamara was recommended to me by a co-worker who had seen her in action while waiting for his case to be heard. My friend did not have representation at the time and was fine with that–until he saw Barbara. He said she was a TIGER in the courtroom! I took his advice and retained Barbara as my attorney. Barbara had her game face on when I met her and it was awesome! She had an intensity when listening to me talk, I knew she was totally engaged with what I had to say. Barbara laid it on the line and gave her candid opinion, which I appreciated and still appreciate. We.....
I would recommend Ms. McNamara because I believe she’s an attorney who is there for the child’s best interest. Plus, when it came to returning phone calls they were in 24 hours or less and great at replying to emails. Thank you for your help and patience throughout my trial. Thank you, Barbara! –A. Esparza
Ms. McNamara was incredibly helpful and professional in working on my case. I worked with another attorney on my case, however he did not perform as expected. I then hired Ms McNamara and she was courteous and forthright, and helped me in every aspect of my case. Ms. McNamara helped me through a difficult time and made my interactions with the legal system as pleasant as possible through my very tedious divorce. Ms. McNamara was prompt in returning phone calls and communicated with me through every step of the way. I highly recommend her services to all my family and.....
I would definitely recommend Barbara to anyone considering going through the divorce process. I’ve been more than pleased with Barbara’s organization and knowledge of family law. She was very professional, and yet approachable, easy to talk with, and sincere. As family law counsel, I found her tenacious and addressing all of my needs to settle my divorce in a timely and fair manner. My entire divorce went smoothly thanks to Atty. Barbara McNamara’s legal expertise, guidance and support. It was comforting to know someone who I could fully trust. I sincerely appreciate everything.....
My former wife and I received expert professional legal guidance and counseling throughout our divorce process. Ms. McNamara is very familiar with family law and knew the judges and judicial process very well, which made the entire process painless and efficient. –name confidential