Orange County Divorce & Family Law Attorney
Helping Families Find Solutions in Challenging Times
Dealing with a family conflict can be one of the most emotionally draining experiences a person can go through. It can feel as if your life has suddenly been turned upside down and you’re unsure what to do next or who to turn to for support. If you’ve reached the point where you’re feeling overwhelmed and need assistance to resolve a family dispute, you’ve come to the right place.
I’m Barbara E. McNamara, a family law attorney dedicated to providing compassionate legal representation for families in Orange County, California.
No matter what family dilemma you are facing — whether it’s ending your marriage, petitioning for child custody, or seeking spousal support, I can help you understand your options and find a cost-effective solution tailored to your family’s needs.
Call me today at (714) 740-2542 for a consultation.
The Local Orange County Family Courthouse
If you are a resident of Orange County or the nearby communities of Brea, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia, Santa Ana or Yorba Linda, your family law case will be heard at the Orange County Family Law Court– Lamoreaux Justice Center located at 341 The City Drive South Orange, CA 92868.
The center has 19 family law courtrooms to address matters related to:
- Dissolution of marriage
- Legal separation
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Custody and visitation/parenting time
- Domestic violence
- Termination of parental rights
Residency Requirements for Divorce: In order to be granted a divorce in Orange County, either you or your spouse must have: a.) lived in California for six months and b.) lived in Orange County three months prior to filing for divorce.
Grounds for Divorce: California is a “no-fault” state, meaning you do not need to prove your spouse engaged in any wrongdoing during the marriage in order to get a divorce. Most divorces in California are filed on the grounds of irretrievable differences.
Alternatives to Divorce
Legal Separation: If you do not want to remain in your relationship but won’t get a divorce due to religious, insurance, or other personal reasons, you can file for a legal separation. A legal separation allows you to live separately and ask the court for orders related to child custody, division of property, and other relevant matters.
Nullity or Annulment: An annulment is a declaration that your marriage is not valid and never existed. An annulment can be granted if the marriage was the result of force, fraud, incest, physical or mental incapacity or because one partner was too young to legally marry.
Is There A Way To Get A Quick Divorce?
A traditional dissolution of marriage in Orange County usually takes six months to become final. If you’re looking to expedite the process, a summary resolution may be an option. A summary resolution is a simplified divorce that involves less paperwork and does not require you to appear in court.
To qualify, all of the following conditions must be met:
- the marriage is less than 5 years old
- you and your spouse reach mutual agreement on the division of marital assets and debts
- no children
- neither you nor your spouse own a home
- the value of your property together does not exceed $41,000 (excluding automobiles)
- the value of your individual property does not exceed $41,000 (excluding automobiles)
- your combined debt does not exceed $6,000 (excluding an auto loan)
- you both agree to waive spousal support
Divorce Process in Orange County
Divorce can be a complicated and intimidating process, but you can avoid costly pitfalls and unwanted stress with an experienced family attorney by your side.
With more than 19 years experience working in the Orange County family law court system, I have acquired an acute knowledge of the local laws, rules and procedures that govern the divorce process and other family matters. From the initial filing of the divorce petition to the final judgment of dissolution signed by a judge, I will be there to ensure your rights are being protected every step of the way.
The following serves as a road map or preview of what you can expect when you seek a divorce in Orange County.
Filing the Divorce Petition
To formally initiate the process of divorce, you need to file a series of court forms at the Family Law Clerk’s office located on the 7th floor of the Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange County.
These forms include:
- Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Form FL-100): includes basic facts about you and your spouse, whether or not you have children, what assets you hold. The petition also enables you to specifically outline what you are seeking in the divorce as it pertains to division of property, child custody/visitation, child support, spousal support, etc.
- Summons (Form FL-110) document announcing that the divorce is being commenced
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (Form FL-105/GC-120) If you have children, this document is meant to confirm that they meet the residency requirement
The clerk will stamp your forms and assign you a case number. The court will keep the original petition and give you two stamped copies, one for you and your spouse. There is a filing fee of $435 to be paid to the clerk. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you may apply for a fee waiver.
Serving Your Spouse
The divorce petition and summons must be “served” or legally delivered to your spouse. This is often done by a process server. Your spouse will have 30 days to file a response with the court.
If your spouse does not respond within the given time frame, they give up their right to have say in the divorce settlement. However, you will still be able to proceed with your divorce by asking the court for a default judgment.
A divorce in Orange County takes at least six months to become finalized. In the interim, you may need to ask the court to put temporary orders in place to help establish a sense of stability while your divorce is pending. This is especially important if you have children and want the transition to be as easy for them as possible.
At the Law Office of Barb McNamara, we can help you obtain the orders you need by filing a Request for Order (RFO) with the court clerk. We will then attend a hearing where a judge will review the details of your request and make a decision.
Temporary orders can be made to establish:
- which spouse will live in the marital home
- which spouse will pay the mortgage, utility bills, etc.
- who will have possession of family vehicles
- how much spousal support will be paid, if applicable
- how much child support will be paid
- who gets custody of children/visitation schedule for non-custodial parent
- restraining order if you’re a victim of domestic violence
Fill out and Exchange Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure
One of the most important aspects of your divorce includes deciding how you and your spouse will divide your marital property. Before beginning the process of negotiating who will get what, the court requires you and your spouse to prepare and exchange preliminary declarations of disclosure (PDD). These disclosure allow you and your spouse to “put all your cards on the table” and be transparent with one another about all the income, expenses, assets and debts that were acquired during the marriage — both together and separately.
Preliminary financial disclosures consist of the following documents:
- Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140)
- Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150): discloses information on your income; helps to determine if spousal support or child support is warranted
- Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142): list all assets and debts including:
- personal property including electronics, furniture and artwork, jewelry
- bank and investment accounts
- retirement accounts, pensions
- life insurance
- stocks, mutual funds
- debts including student loans and credit cards
Preliminary disclosures must be completed within 60 days of filing your divorce petition. You will have to complete a second financial disclosure towards the end of the divorce.
The ultimate goal in a divorce is to amicably resolve all the issues raised in the dissolution petition without getting drawn into a contentious court battle. If you can reach a marital settlement agreement on your own terms outside of court, you won’t have to worry about a judge making decisions about personal matters on your behalf. It will also save you time, money, and additional heartache.
If your divorce is contentious or negotiations do hit a roadblock, there are alternative dispute resolutions available that can help avoid going to trial.
Mediation is a process in which you and your spouse will sit down with an unbiased licensed court mediator in an attempt to hammer out your differences on all the relevant issues in your divorce. Mediation is meant to encourage healthy debate and foster an environment of cooperation. The sessions are completely confidential and you will not be forced into agreeing to anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
Mediation is voluntary for property and financial issues but is mandatory if you have children. Mediation involving children involves establishing a custody arrangement, determining child support and developing a parenting plan.
If you participate in mediation and it’s successful, then the specifics of your compromise will be written into a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). The MSA is filed with the court, resulting in a full legal divorce.
If mediation does not work and all other attempts to resolve your differences have failed, then your case will have to be litigated before the family law court.
Orange County Divorce Lawyer Barb McNamara:
If you are facing any kind of family law issue, you need an experienced, qualified family law attorney by your side to help guide you through the process. Call me today at (714) 740-2542 for a consultation.