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California Divorce Attorneys & Law Firms near Santa Rosa Metro
Getting a divorce can have serious, long-term effects, both emotionally and legally. There are also strict legal requirements that cover everything from choosing a method of legal separation to selecting where and how to file, to deciding how the property should be divided. The divorce process can be confusing, especially without legal assistance. FindLaw's directory can connect you with trusted divorce lawyers in California to guide you through the divorce process and minimize the stress you experience during this difficult time.
What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation?
There are several distinctions between divorce and separation.
First, legal separation may be a court-mandated step of the divorce process, with some states requiring that potential divorcees spend some time living apart in a form of legal separation before proceeding to formal divorce.
Outside of this requirement, legal separation is reversible, while divorce is not. Once you have been declared divorced from a former spouse, there is no going back. Legally separated spouses retain the right to inherit property as well, and may not remarry (as they are still considered married, despite separation).
What Are Alternatives to Divorce?
Depending on your circumstances, you may have other options for ending your marriage besides a divorce. Many states offer legal separations, which can allow spouses to make some of the same decisions as a divorce regarding their shared property, child custody, and child support. This option doesn't legally end the marriage and is generally used when couples want to retain their marriage status for religious or health care reasons.
An annulment, on the other hand, has the same legal effect as a divorce but does so by declaring your marriage was never valid in the first place. Reasons for an annulment could be that one spouse was already married, was tricked into the marriage, or was too young at the time to legally marry.
What Is the Difference Between an Annulment and Divorce?
While divorce may be permanent, it does not dispute the fact that a marriage was legally enacted and in existence in the first place.
An annulment, however, is very similar to a divorce as it may involve a dividing of assets, custody and visitation negotiations, and so on — but an annulment means that the marriage was established on false pretenses. If a man discovers, for example, that his wife has been lying about an extensive criminal past (or present), or that she was never formally divorced from a former spouse, he may file for an annulment rather than a divorce.
If an annulment is successful, it is — from a legal perspective — as if the marriage did not ever truly exist. Annulments can also be sought for religious reasons, particularly given the gravity of divorce in the understanding of certain faiths.
How Do You Hire a Good California Attorney
Finding the best lawyer for your unique situation can be a challenge, but the best way to hire a good California attorney is to talk with them, ask them questions, and make sure they meet all your needs. This usually starts with their practice area. Determine which lawyers can handle your type of case and then find a California attorney with experience in that area. So it will be important to ask about each lawyer’s years of experience, legal training, and strategy to your unique legal case.
The attorney-client relationship may also be important. If it is your first time dealing with a legal issue, you may be looking for a lawyer who can clearly and patiently explain the legal process, identify your options, and answer all your questions. You may also want an attorney who is available at any time to provide legal advice. Think about questions to ask, like if there are updates to your case, how will that be communicated? Are there specific California law deadlines that you are required to meet?
The location of your attorney's law office may also be an important factor. In larger cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco, you may want to find a lawyer with a convenient location to you so that you don't have to drive an hour just for signing legal papers. However, some legal services can be primarily conducted through phone calls, emails, written correspondence, and video calls, so you could, for example, have a lawyer in Sacramento handle your legal issues in Riverside.