Divorce Attorney in Orange County and Los Angeles County, CA.

Some reasons to talk to a lawyer:

  • You disagree about what to do with a house or business you own

  • You have a lot of debt, you may even be facing bankruptcy

  • You signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

  • Your spouse took out debt or bought something for someone without your knowledge (like a gambling debt or used your community money for a relationship with someone else)

  • If either of you has a retirement plan, especially a pension

Divorce can leave many couples emotionally and financially drained.

A negotiated resolution to the family conflict can offer a solution to your family law conflict. We have strong advocates that can help you resolve your issues and settle your matter before a court trial. By avoiding litigation, you can preserve your assets for your family and the future. We can help you resolve your issues and reach an out-of-court settlement with the advice of a financial expert, investigators, or a therapist.

We can also provide a full representation if all of the settlement negotiations fail. We can help you reduce the costs associated with your divorce. We can help you answer questions that relate to the allocation of the following:

  • Splitting of the households into two separate households

  • Child support agreements, custody, and visitation

  • Allocation of the communal assets and debts

  • Award of the spousal support and child support

  • Effect of divorce on children

  • Effect of divorce on credit and loans

  • Obligations for the children's college education

  • Division of business assets

  • Shared parenting agreements vs Sole Custody

To tell the judge what you want to happen, you'll need to understand some legal terms and some California property law. You’ll see terms like separate and community property on many court forms. These are important to know because this is how a court will decide how to divide your property. In general, you keep your separate property and split your community property.

Community property

Community property: What you own or owe together during your marriage

Did you live outside California for part of your marriage? Then it's called quasi-community property. Learn more

Separate property

Separate property: What you each own or owe individually from before you married or after you separated, and any gifts or inheritance

Community or separate? You need to know your date of separation

You need to know when you married and when you separated to figure out what's separate property and what's community property. The day of your marriage is generally easy to figure out. Separation can be trickier.

Date of separation:

  • The day that one of you let the other one know (by actions or words) that they wanted to end your marriage

  • After that day, your or their actions were consistent with wanting to end your marriage

For some people, this is the day they moved out. For others, this is a day the two spouses agreed together that their marriage was over, and they made plans to divorce. Generally, from that day forward, what you or your spouse earned or loans you took out were no longer community property.

How to tell when something is community property

Generally, this is what either of you earned (or debt you took out) after you married, but before you separated. The “community” is you and your spouse. The property belongs to you both equally.

Community property is:

  • Anything you earned while married

  • Anything you bought with money you earned while married

  • Debt you take on while married

Property you didn’t earn, like a gift or inheritance one of you received while married, is not community property.

Have student debt? There are different rules. Learn more

You may have more community property than you realize. Many people don’t think about retirement or pension plans. You have the right to part of the money in that plan if any of it was earned during your marriage.

You may have more community debts than you realize. Your spouse may have debt in his or her own name that you don’t know about. Usually, these debts belong to you both.


Figuring out your date of separation

  • Start with the day that one of you let the other one know (by actions or words) they wanted to end your marriage

  • Confirm that after that day, your or their actions were consistent with wanting to end your marriage

For some people, this day is clear. It's the day they moved out. For others, it's the day they agreed that their marriage was over, and they made plans to divorce. In some cases, it's not so clear.

Date of separation could impact issues in your case

  • The day determines the length of your marriage: the day you married to the day you separated.

  • This day can impact several issues in your divorce, like property division and spousal support.











The judge must use a set of factors (the Family Code 4320 factors) to decide the length and amount of support. If you’re asking the judge to order long-term spousal support, you will need to let the court know what your situation is for each of these factors.

The judge must consider:

  • How long you were married

  • Your age and health

  • Your incomes

  • What you’re capable of earning (called earning capacity)
    This means each person’s skills and education along with the job market for those skills. They also consider the time and cost it might take to gain skills and education.

  • Your standard of living while married
    Standard of living is basically your lifestyle. It means things like the type of house you lived in, the kind of car you owned, what kind of vacations you took and how often, whether you used credit cards a lot.

  • How much property or debt you each have

  • Whether one of you helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license

  • Need and ability to pay
    This means how much money the person asking for support would need to have the same lifestyle during their marriage and whether the person paying can pay that amount.

  • The impact of tax laws on spousal support

  • If there was a history of abuse during your marriage

If you have children together:

  • How caring for children impacted either of your careers

  • How working now will impact your children

These are also good things to keep in mind if you and your spouse try to agree before you go to court. This tells you what a judge would consider if you can’t agree.


Generally, separate property is:

  • Anything you earned or owned (or a debt) from before you married or after you separated

  • Anything you buy with separate property or you earn from separate property

  • Gifts or inheritance (to one of you) even if it was given or inherited when you were married

If you have separate property, it belongs only to you, as long as it was kept separately. Kept it separately means you didn’t give it to your spouse.

Property can be part community and part separate. This is called commingling. This just means that separate property and community property got mixed together.

This often happens with big purchases, retirement plans, and bank accounts.

Some couples don't want to get divorced for religious reasons, personal beliefs, or financial reasons. For example, they stay married to keep a spouse or domestic partner on an insurance or benefit plan.

Sometimes a spouse files a legal separation because they don't yet qualify for a divorce. To divorce, spouses must meet the divorce residency requirements.

  • Divorce residency requirement: Before filing for divorce, one of the spouses must have lived in California for the past 6 months and at least 3 months in a county where the case is to be filed.

To file for a legal separation, only one spouse must live in California. There's no time requirement.

If a spouse wants a divorce and doesn't want to wait to meet the residency requirements, they can file papers (a petition) to ask for a legal separation. Then, once they meet the residency requirements they can change (amend) the petition to ask to a divorce.

A summary dissolution is an easier way to get divorced or end a domestic partnership. It’s less expensive and there’s not as much paperwork as the standard divorce process.

Not everyone can use this process. In general, it’s only for couples who:

  • Have been married less than 5 years

  • Have no children together

  • Own or owe relatively little

  • Do not want spousal support

  • Agree on how to split any property

To use the process, all of these must be true. If even one isn’t true, you cannot use the summary dissolution process.

If you don't qualify, you will need to follow the standard divorce process.

You meet the residency requirement

For married couples or domestic partnerships not registered in California

One of you must have lived in California for the last 6 months and in the county where you file for summary dissolution for the last 3 months.

If you don't meet the residency requirement, you can't start a divorce right away, but may have other options. Learn more

Domestic partnerships registered in California

You do not need to meet the residency requirement. You can end your partnership in California even if neither of you lives in California.

There are exceptions for same-sex couples. Learn more

You have been married or partners for less than 5 years

It’s been less than five years from the date you married or registered your partnership to the day you split up (called your date of separation).

You do not have any children together

  • You do not have minor children (under 18) together, born or adopted

  • Neither of you is pregnant

You do not own or lease real estate

You do not own or lease a house, land, or any other building.

Together you owe less than $6,000

This just counts what you owe from when you married to the day you split up. Exclude any car loans in this count.

You have less than $47,000 together and separately

Property from during your marriage (community property)

  • The property you and your spouse own together is worth less than $47,000

  • Property is things like money (cash or in a bank) and items you own, like furniture

  • Do not count the value of any cars

  • You can use this worksheet

Property from before you married (separate property)

  • You each have property worth less than $47,000 from before you married or after you separated

  • This also includes things you inherited or were a gift to just one of you

  • You can use this worksheet



All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice or strategy. The information provided on this website presents opinions and examples and does not substitute for, nor does it constitute professional legal advice from an attorney. It is general in nature and may not apply to particular factual or legal circumstances. This information does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Internet subscribers and online readers should not act upon any information on this website without seeking professional counsel. Advocates expressly disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this informational website.