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CALIFORNIA FAMILY LAW
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The information on this page will provide you with a very brief overview of California law and procedure in Family Law Cases. As in all cases, you should promptly consult with a competent attorney if you have questions of a legal nature.

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NAPA COUNTY HISTORICAL COURT HOUSE
- BUILT IN 1875 -
STILL IN FULL OPERATION


DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE

This is also referred to as "divorce." A dissolution action may also include requests for temporary and permanent child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and/or property, as well as requests for restraining orders in appropriate cases.


LEGAL SEPARATION

This is identical in all respects to a divorce, except the parties' marriage is not dissolved, and they remain legally married to each other although legally separated. All other issues such as child custody, child and spousal support, and property rights, are determined precisely the same as a divorce case. A legal separtion is usually desired by persons who have strong religious or philosophical beliefs against a divorce but nevertheless want to be "legally separated."


ANNULMENT

An annulment means that a court has issued a judgment declaring that the marriage has never occurred. Annulments are very rare and are very difficult to prove, particularly if children were born to the parties while they were "married." The grounds for an annulment include bigamy, certain kinds of fraud, age [one or both of the parties were not old enough under the law to be married], and a few others grounds as well.


PARENT-CHILD (PATERNITY)

These actions concern parties who have a child together but were never married to one another. A paternity action is an action to have a child's parentage legally determined and a judgment of that determination entered. The court will also make custody and visitation orders, and orders that provide for the support of the children.


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Domestic violence proceedings under the California Domestic Violence Prevention Act are commenced for the protection of the victim (they do not have to be married, but must have had, or have, a dating relationship or be the parent of a child in common) of abuse by another party. When appropriate the Court may issue restraining orders, stay away orders and, sometimes, custody, visitation and child support orders.

APPEALS

An appeal is taken to a Court of Appeal by a request from a party who disagrees with the judgment or order of the trial court to review the order or judgment from which the appeal was taken.

CHILD CUSTODY

Child custody and visitation proceedings can occur either before or after a final judgment is made in a case. These orders are always subject to modification upon a showing that significant circumstances have changed since the previous court order was made.


MOVE AWAY CASES

A move-away case is where the parent having primary custody of the children wants to leave the area with the parties' minor children. Presently, the courts will allow this to happen unless there are some very good reasons to prevent it. There have been some recent changes in the law in move-away cases, and the law is continuing to evolve in that area.


CHILD SUPPORT

Both parents of a minor child are required to support their children, and the Court will order both parents of a minor child to provide such support. Many factors are taken into account. The income of both parents, the amount of time the child or children spend with both parents, and any special needs of a child, among other things, must be considered by the Court when making a child support order. Such support orders are modifiable any time there has been any significant change in any of the factors the Court considered when making the previous support order. These include, among other things, the time each child spends with each parent, and any increases or decreases in either parent's income.


SPOUSAL SUPPORT

The right to spousal support (this is sometimes called "alimony") is quite different than the right to child support. Only persons who are married to each other or are registered domestic partners may ask the Court to require the other spouse or partner to pay spousal support.  When making or modifying a spousal or partner support order the court has much broader discretion than it does when making or modifying a child support order. Ordinarily, the factors the Court must consider when making or modifying a spousal or partner support order are the length of the marriage, the parties' ages, the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage, the need of the spouse or partner seeking support, the supporting party's ability to pay spousal or partner support, the parties' employment, the parties' health, and many other factors.



California Family Code