Divorce Lawyer Los Angeles & Orange County

Introduction to Divorce:

Since California is a “no fault” divorce state, it is important to hire an experienced and aggressive divorce lawyer in Los Angeles to provide you with the best representation possible during your marital split.

At the Harris Law Group, our divorce attorney in Los Angeles understands that separation from your spouse creates a tough time for you and any children that might be involved in the marriage dissolution. Because of the serious nature of ending a marriage, obtaining a divorce law professional is in your best interest to make sure you leave the marriage with everything you are entitled to. Mr. Harris is a prominent and aggressive Los Angeles divorce lawyer who will fight for your right to end this marriage in your favor, instead of leaving your life to chance.

Our committed and compassionate divorce lawyer in Los Angeles provides free consultations to discuss your marriage dissolution fully, so we know exactly how to proceed with your representation. We will petition the court for dissolution, ensuring that all of the paperwork is completed and delivered without you having to engage in the process. Next we will turn our focus to the division and distribution of your community assets and debts, while composing a perfectly strategic case on your behalf to receive your share of the marriage’s communal pot. We represent both sides of the marriage equally, and are simply looking out for your best interests during our partnership.

Who Needs a Divorce Attorney?

California residents who cannot come to an agreement on the terms and conditions of the marital split through an uncontested divorce, require a divorce attorney in Los Angeles to sort through the details of their combined years to proactively help serve our clients’ best interests.

This is a tough time for you, and the details of your divorce should not be overlooked because of your emotional state. Mr. Harris will take the lead in compiling the information necessary so you spouse will provide the true forecast of his or her assets to be considered for distribution. The categories that will be tried in front of a judge during divorce proceedings can include, but are not limited to:

  • Asset Distribution
  • Business Interests (where applicable)
  • Child Custody & Visitation
  • Child Support
  • Debt Distribution
  • Property Division
  • Spousal Support / Alimony

At the Harris Law Group, our Los Angeles divorce attorney will leave no stone unturned while fighting on your behalf. We will take your circumstances into consideration, uncovering each nuance of your marriage as it favors your position and outcome. It does not matter why your marriage is ending, as the state of California does not qualify one reason over another. What matters is that you get the most out of your marriage dissolution, so your personal interests are protected once the paperwork is completed and signed. Mr. Harris can help bring you the peace of mind and confidence you need to get through this difficult time.

Complete Marriage Dissolution Representation

Divorce law can be complicated, especially if you are overwhelmed with the idea of your marriage separating as a whole, which is why our divorce lawyer in Los Angeles provides a personal and compassionate approach to communicating with each of our clients. We know you have been through enough, and Mr. Harris is dedicated to providing you with the best representation possible, beginning with getting you a fair and equitable settlement from your marriage dissolution.

If the two of you share children, it is our goal to outline an exceptional custody arrangement that will include visitation rights and child support payments that match the needs of the child, their education, entertainment expectations and overall well-being. Your best interests, and those of your children, are our only concern as we manage your case from beginning to end. At the Harris Law Group, we partner with our clients to ensure they receive the best representation possible, including a significantly favorable outcome as a result of their divorce settlement.

If you are suffering through marriage dissolution, and cannot agree on the parting terms or conditions of your finances or children’s well-being, it is important for you to retain legal representation immediately. Contact our divorce attorney at the Harris Law Group in Los Angeles today at 310-745-8644 to discover how Mr. Harris can help you traverse the murky waters of a contested divorce proceeding.

Harris Family Law Group has FLAT RATE LEGAL FEES!! This means no billable hours for our services!

Q&A With Jeffrey L. Harris

How Do I Know if I Need a Lawyer for My Divorce?

There are two forms of divorce: Contested and Uncontested. When both parties have reached an agreement, whether with or without the help of an attorney, the parties have an uncontested divorce. Where the parties are, for whatever reason, unable to reach a resolution or settlement on the case, the parties have what is termed a “contested” divorce. At this time, some parties may not need the help of an attorney. These people usually have very little to fight over but are just unwilling to settle.

However, when the parties have assets, children, or other issues unresolved, and despite best efforts, are at an impasse, then one or both parties need an attorney to help traverse the legal field. From filing motions to setting a matter for Trial, an attorney can help get you to a final judgment and resolution to your case.

What are the Grounds for Divorce in California?

There are two legal grounds for a dissolution of marriage (divorce) in California:

  1. Irreconcilable differences. (Fam. Code, § 2310(a).)
  2. Incurable insanity. (Fam. Code, § 2310(b).)

Though many would prefer to choose Option 2, Incurable Insanity, this second ground is most often not the correct choice, and is much more difficult to prove.

However, the first, and most common, type of legal ground for divorce is a term called “irreconcilable differences”. These means that no matter what the personal reason for filing for divorce (infidelity, financial problems, lack of affection, abandonment, etc), the parties are unable to continue to stay married and the differences between them are so great that no amount of therapy or time can heal or change the differences.

Remember that California is a “no-fault divorce” state. That means that no matter the reason, if one party wants to file for divorce, eventually the Court will grant it. If you come to an agreement it will be an uncontested settlement. If you cannot come to an agreement, then the Court will hear your case at a Trial and then enter a final resolution to your case after hearing all testimony and evidence.

What is the Legal Process of a Contested Divorce?

The legal process for a Contested Divorce is complicated. To start, one party (the “Petitioner”) must file a Petition for Dissolution, most often choosing “irreconcilable differences” as the legal grounds. If the other party (the “Respondent”) wishes to be part of the case, he or she will file a Response to the Petition for Dissolution. Thereafter, each party will need to serve upon the other their Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure.

Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures is considered Discovery, which each party is required to do and serve on the other party. This initial discovery is found in two specific sets of documents: (1) each party’s Schedule of Assets and Debts; and (2) each party’s Income and Expense. You may fill these documents out yourselves or have an attorney help you through this process. With your Schedule of Assets and Debts you will need to attach a copy of recent statements and documentation that correlates with each asset or debt listed on the document. With your Income and Expense Declaration, you must attach 2 months of pay stubs, or if you are self-employed you will attach two years Tax Documents along with a Schedule C for your business.

Once this is done, one party may ask the court for a Trial Setting Conference and then the Court will set your case for Trial.

Should either party need temporary orders for Support, Attorney Fees, or numerous other types of Court Orders, then that party will need to file and serve a Request for Order prior to the date of Trial

Once Trial is set, the parties may continue Discovery up to 60 days prior to the Date of Trial. Thereafter no discovery can be requested and the parties will show up with any and all evidence, witness testimony, etc at the Date of Trial and present their case. Lastly, the court will make a determination using the law of the State of California and provide each party with a final Judgment and entry of dissolution.

Can the Divorce be Processed Before Dividing Mutual Assets & Debts?

It is possible to dissolve a marriage prior to dividing mutual assets and debts. This type of process is called “bifurcation” and it divides the issues in this case. One issue is called the “Status” of the dissolution. Status is the legal term for whether a party is SINGLE or MARRIED. If a party wishes to “take status” or “bifurcate” the case, they may request this from the court. If granted, the court will dissolve the marriage but keep the issue of assets and debts reserved for Trial or, hopefully, a settlement.

What is Divorce Mediation and How Can it Help?

Divorce Mediation is an excellent and efficient way to finalize a divorce. Often parties are not fighting and just do not know how to divide their assets and debts. They do not know the law in California and do not know how to file the necessary documents. This is the easiest type of Mediation and an attorney mediator (also known as a “third-party neutral) can help you understand the law, amicably go through the process of dividing assets and debts, and often times, helping you file all the required documents. NOTE: Be careful who you choose as your mediator as there are some “mediators” that are not attorneys. They are often Psychologists or Paralegals who have taken mediation training. They often do not understand the intricate issues of the law and how to properly divide assets.

In more difficult mediations, the parties are fighting or at least not willing to speak to each other without a mediator or third-party neutral. Based on this instance, a mediator can help the parties disclose all assets and debts to the neutral mediator and then start helping the parties negotiate calmly and effectively towards resolution. This type of negotiation can take time and often small sessions of one or two hours is helpful to not overwhelm one or both parties.

No matter whether the parties or amicable or not, mediation is the most cost-effective and efficient process. Often mediation can costs as low as several hundred dollars (usually when there are no children and few assets and debts) or as much as several thousand dollars (usually when parties are fighting over child custody/visitation, large assets and debts, who gets the house, etc). Despite the severity of your case, paying for mediation and finding the right mediator will help save BOTH parties tens of thousands of dollars, often the going rate in California for a Divorce.

What are the requirements for an annulment?

Filing for an annulment requires specific elements to be met in order for you annulment to be approved. The following is a list of annulment requirements that must be approved by the Court in order to prevail:

  1. Petitioner’s age at time of marriage. (Fam. Code, § 2210(a).): This means that one of the parties was not of majority age at the time of the marriage.
  2. Prior existing marriage. (Fam. Code, § 2210(b).): This the “bigomy” rule that says if you are married when you attempt re-marriage (and have not had an approved and entered judgment for dissolution), then the second marriage is invalid.
  3. Unsound mind. (Fam. Code, § 2210(c).): This says that if you were under duress or unable to have sound enough mind to make a decision as to whether you wanted to enter into marriage freely at the time of the marriage, you may be able to get an annulment.
  4. Fraud. (Fam. Code, § 2210(d).): Just as the element states, if you were defrauded into getting married, you can get it annulled and thus it was like the marriage never happened. Example: Your spouse married you for a visa and not for love or other valid reasons, then once receiving their citizenship left the country or ended the marriage, you  may be eligible for an annulment in this situation.
  5. Force. (Fam. Code, § 2210(e).): This element states that if you were forced to marry without your consent, annulment is possible. Force can be emotional, physical, or psychological.
  6. Physical incapacity. (Fam. Code, § 2210(f).): This is the “consummation” law which states that if one party is unable to consummate the marriage, then one party may be able to get an annulment.

What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

A legal separation is NOT a divorce, but is often chosen due to financial, religious, or health care issues. In a legal separation, the parties may remain on a spouse’s health plan, while in a divorce, once the court enters final judgment, the State of California requires that the covered spouse be removed. Further, in legal separation actions, neither party may get remarried until they file for and receive a final divorce. Lastly, the parties do not need to live in the county they file in for 3 months, while in divorce you this is a requirement. Thus many file for legal separation first and then file for divorce (amending your petition) at a later date.

Can a divorce be expedited if my spouse is being uncooperative?

Yes, in many circumstances, your dissolution date can be expedited. This is called a “Bifurcation of Status”. This often happens when one party is not willing to come to an agreement and Trial must be set. In many counties in California, the courts are setting Trial three to six months from the date of the request for Trial. Further, when a party is refusing to produce documents or preliminary disclosures, filing for a Request for Bifurcation can alleviate concerns regarding “status” of divorce.

What is Collaborative Divorce and What are the Benefits?

A collaborative divorce is very similar to a mediated divorce (see above). In collaborative law, each party may have an attorney present to represent their interests. For those issues that cannot be resolved by collaborative practice, these same attorneys can help the parties in litigation; they are not barred from helping their client’s  in litigation, unlike mediators because of “conflict of interest”. A neutral third-party is also available, like a mediator, to help the parties and their attorneys reach an amicable agreement. Unlike mediation, the parties may have neutral expert witnesses, and produce other legal documentation for review by the third-party neutral. The collaborative process is truly a good faith attempt to resole matters that usually would require a hearing or Trial.

What are the Challenges in Facing Dissolution of Marriage?

Challenges in facing a divorce proceeding is whether the parties will agree or fight for fighting sake. Thus, it is careful to choose an attorney who will benefit you in attempting to resolve the easier matters, and fighting diligently for you on matters that truly matter (i.e., child custody/visitation, support, etc).

How long will it take for a divorce to be finalized?

The timeline for dissolution is two-fold. You are eligible for dissolution 6 months and 1 day from the date you serve the other party (Respondent) with the Petition for Dissolution. However, if no agreement has been reached on all issues, and no request for Bifurcation (see above) is made, the date you are actually divorced would be the date of Trial and Final Judgment.

What is a marital settlement agreement in a divorce?

A marital settlement agreement (otherwise known as an “MSA”), is settlement of all issues in the case. In some situations, it can cover some issues and leave other unresolved items for trial. This is called “reserving” on issues to be set for Trial. However, most parties often agree on all issues and have an attorney or paralegal write an MSA that covers the entire divorce proceeding. Once agreed to, the parties must sign (and if not represented by counsel, then also notarize) this MSA and present it and the final judgment packet to the Court for review. Once reviewed and the Court signs off, it is entered as the Final Judgment and Court Order. Your case will then be complete.

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    "I came to Mr. Harris' services while in the midst of a not so pleasant separation. Mr. Harris walked me through each step of the divorce process, provided mediation when needed, and helped throughout the negotiations. Not once did I ever feel that I didn't know where my case was at in the process. Mr. Harris kept me informed and up-to-date on my case. He made sure that my best interest was always in consideration. As well, he would let me know if my request was not realistic or the best choice for an amicable situation and would provide alternate solutions that were reasonable and turned out to result in a much better outcome. It is without any reservation that I highly recommend his services."- Michelle