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Guide to Divorce in Los Angeles

Getting a divorce may be one of the most challenging things that you ever decide to do, and certainly one of the most emotional. At the Law Offices of Evan Braunstein, we are invested in your marriage, your happiness, and the course of action that is best for you. Throughout the course of this guide, we will discuss a number of different items that are designed to provide you with the information you need regarding how to maintain a happy marriage, the impact of divorce, and the divorce process. If you have any questions or are looking for legal representation, we encourage you to call an LA divorce lawyer for a consultation immediately.

Table of Contents

We know that you have a lot of questions about marriage and divorce. We plan to provide you with some advice and legal guidance and in regards to the following:

  1. How to decide on a divorce;
  2. Avoiding the common pitfalls that cause failing marriages;
  3. The impact of religious observance on divorce;
  4. Common complications with divorce;
  5. How to handle domestic abuse;
  6. Different types of divorce proceedings;
  7. The effects of divorce on children;
  8. The impact of divorce on stay-at-home mothers;
  9. How divorce can impact and influence extended family members;
  10. How to help children during a divorce;
  11. How child custody is determined and different custody arrangements;
  12. How child custody works with children conceived out of wedlock;
  13. How spousal maintenance is determined;
  14. How debts are divided in a divorce;
  15. How assets are divided in a divorce;
  16. Common concerns about post-divorce arrangements;
  17. The impact of prenuptial agreements on divorce outcomes;
  18. The difference between divorces with or without an attorney;
  19. Appealing initial court divorce decisions;
  20. Divorce statistics in Los Angeles and California; and
  21. Moving on with life after a divorce.

How to Decide on a Divorce

Making the decision to end a marriage and leave a spouse is one of the hardest things a person may ever have to do. Of course, before a person actually decides whether or not divorce is the right thing for them, there are dozens of different things they must think about first. Consider the following advice on how to decide on whether or not getting a divorce is the right course of action for you and your spouse.

Start with Marriage Counseling

Before you make a decision about splitting from your spouse and meeting with an LA divorce lawyer, you should think very seriously about investing in marriage counseling from a trained professional. A marriage therapist can work closely with you and your spouse to help you address the problems that are leaving you feeling like divorce is your only options and provide you with tools for resolving those problems. While marriage therapy may not always save a marriage, it can, at the very least, help you to pinpoint exactly what the problem is and why divorce may be the right course of action.

Think About Life Without Your Spouse

It’s easy to be frustrated with a spouse and think that parting ways will provide you with the sense of relief that you need. But will it? Think about your life without your spouse. What will that look like? Sitting down and addressing the realities of life without your partner can be tough, but it’s important to do. Once you separate, you will end up living a completely different style of life which impacts you and your children alike. You may also suffer from less income than you’re used to, lose your house, or struggle to make rent or mortgage payments on your own. You may also discover difficulties in dating again and other things you no longer dealt with when you first got married.

Though life without a spouse in many instances may be challenging, it could also be something that sounds relieving and exceptional, especially if you have found yourself in an abusive relationship. Either way, be sure that you’re able to embrace a future without your partner.

Talk with Your Spouse

Surprisingly, one thing that couples who want to get a divorce often fail to do is to sit down and talk about why they want a divorce and what each party really wants from the other. If you want a divorce and your spouse doesn’t, you may be surprised to hear what they’re willing to do to make it work. Or the opposite may be true: at the mention of divorce, your spouse may tell you that they’ve been thinking the same thing and they’re ready to sign the papers. Either way, being on the same page about your wants and needs will help the future flow a little more smoothly, and if you do decide to divorce, may make working together through the divorce process easier.

Think About What You Really Need

Above all else, you should put your physical, mental, and emotional health above all else. If you have tried counseling and you do not feel as though your needs are being met and you are suffering physically, mentally, or emotionally as a result of your marriage, divorce may be the healthiest option. Think about what you really need and make this a priority by calling the office of LA divorce attorney, Evan Braunstein, today!



Avoiding the Common Pitfalls that Cause Failing Marriages

Deciding to get a divorce with the help of an LA divorce lawyer can be one of the hardest things for a person to do. One of the best ways to avoid divorce is to recognize the common pitfalls that cause failing marriages, and to avoid these mistakes before it’s too late. Consider these common problems that many people face, and some advice for mitigating issues and preserving happiness in your union–

Common Pitfalls that Cause Failing Marriages

What causes strife within a relationship? Why do some couples make it–seemingly happily, too–while others do not? The answers may lie in some of the most common sources of tension and dissatisfaction within a marriage. These include:

  1. Financial problems. Money, and not knowing how to communicate about money, can be a tough issue for couples. In fact, money can be one of the most uncomfortable topics for couples to discuss openly. Financial pressure on the marriage–which might include fighting about not having enough money, how money is being spent or earned, or how money is being managed–is one of the biggest sources of tension.
  2. Infidelity. An extra-marital affair can quickly ruin a marriage, and once a person has an affair, regaining their partner’s trust can be difficult to do (although with therapy and desire, it is possible). Avoid infidelity by being honest with yourself and your partner about your needs.
  3. Lack of intimacy. Lack of intimacy in a relationship can leave one or both partners feeling undervalued. And remember that intimacy isn’t just about sex; emotional intimacy is critical for the success of a marriage, too. If you feel like intimacy in your marriage is lacking, talk to your spouse about it and develop a plan that works for you. Even something as small as spending 20 minutes at the table during dinner talking about your day or scheduling a date night out can make a big difference.
  4. Lack of respect. Couples who have been together for many years often become too comfortable talking to their partner more rudely and aggressively than they would others, using hurtful language, making fun of their partner, intentionally not listening to their partner, or/and overall being disrespectful. Your partner is someone who always deserves your respect, even when you’re really frustrated or hurt. If you’re having trouble being composed when emotions are high, excuse yourself and take time to think about what you want to say.
  5. Lack of communication. Finally, even if there are multiple points of tension in a relationship, communication can truly make or break a marriage. Knowing how to communicate with your spouse despite the multiple points of tension and in a way that is precise, direct, honest, and that values compromise will get you far.

If you are struggling in your marriage, talk to your spouse. If you both want to save your marriage, there are many resources available that can help, ranging from books to online resources to professional counseling and more.



The Impact of Religious Observance on Divorce

Many people shape their perceptions of divorce around religious beliefs. To some, divorce may seem like a breach of one’s vows before God. To others, divorce may represent a breach of a personal commitment made to oneself and one’s partner. To others, divorce may simply be viewed as an unavoidable, necessary means of escaping unhappiness.

How one’s feelings and values about divorce are shaped are dependent upon numerous things, including family values that the individual was exposed to growing up, community and societal values, and even things like social media. For those who are religious, the impact of religious observance can also have a profound effect on a person’s feelings about divorce.

How Religious Observance Impacts Divorce

Those who are religious may have very strong feelings about divorce, with some religions strongly discouraging divorce, and other religions embracing divorce when it is the best thing for both parties involved.

There have been a number of studies conducted on how religion and religious beliefs affect divorce decisions. In one study conducted by the National Divorce Decision-Making Project and the Institute for Family Studies, researchers found that about half of participants reported that religion, their relationship with God, or other aspects of spirituality were major factors in how they thought about their marriage. The researches also explored four major themes that emerged during the study:

  1. The belief that, because of religious beliefs, staying married was the moral thing to do;
  2. The dilemma of religious belief in that while religion might be a reason to stay married, participants simultaneously believed that God would want them to be happy (and therefore maybe divorce was better);
  3. The religious social network – the decision to divorce was often highly influenced by people’s religious social connections; and
  4. Religious practice – those who practiced religion were influenced by these practices in making a decision about whether or not to divorce. For example, “forgiveness” is a common religious practice, and provided grounding in favor of staying married after one spouse had wronged the other.

While this was just one study, the general ideas may be reflective of the majority of religious people who are contemplating divorce.

The Relationship Between Marriage, Religion, and Divorce

Interestingly, there is also research which indicates that religion/religious attendance is the single most important predictor of marital stability. In fact, when both partners in a marriage attend regular religious ceremonies, the couple is 2.4 times less likely to divorce than is a non-religious couple. Further, those who state that their religious beliefs are very important to them are nearly ¼ less likely to divorce than are those who state that religious beliefs are only somewhat important.

Reconciling Religion and Divorce

Divorce is a very difficult thing and a very sensitive topic. If you are thinking about divorce and your religious beliefs are in contradiction to your desire to separate, speaking with a spiritual/religious leader, as well as an LA divorce lawyer may prove helpful. Personal and marital counseling can also help you to make sense of your feelings and forge a clear path moving forward.



Common Complications with Divorce

Divorce rarely goes smoothly. Instead, any number of problems can crop up that might confuse you. At our office, we help divorcing clients keep their sanity by handling all their paperwork and advocating strongly on their behalf. As soon as you notice any of the problems below, give an LA divorce lawyer a call.

One of You Wants to Move with the Kids

Judges generally want to maintain the status quo at least until the divorce is finalized. But parents often have different ideas. One parent might want to leave to start a new job, move back home with family, or even start a new relationship. If he or she wants to take the children, too, then there is a definite problem.

An attorney can explain your options, whether you are the parent who wants to move with the children or the parent who is trying to block the move.

There is Only One Car

Some families only have one vehicle, which they use for all errands and for getting to and from work. During a divorce, one spouse often moves out of the home and might want to take the vehicle with them. You will need to either ask the judge to let you have the vehicle or come up with another creative solution. In Los Angeles, one parent could take public transportation, though this is rarely ideal.

You Have a Family Business Together

When spouses work together, a divorce is particularly disruptive. Now you might not even want to be in the same room as your husband or wife. What happens to the family business during this time? If you can’t get along, then your business could fail before a judge even issues the final divorce decree.

It is possible that both spouses co-own the business, but only one works in it. In that case, things could continue on as before, so long no one does anything to sabotage the business. If both spouses work together, then they might need to work in different locations and only communicate by email. Another option is to put the business up for immediate sale.

The Children Don’t Want to Live with You

Children get to have a say about who they want to live with, and the amount of weight a judge will give your child’s preference depends on the child’s maturity and age. The law does not require that judges do what the child wants, but a child’s preference is one factor.

As a practical matter, it can be very difficult to raise your children if they are dead set on not living with you, especially if they are teenagers. Sometimes, family therapy can help parents and children work through their anger and fear. In other situations, you might need to consider not seeking physical custody of your child.

You Want to Start Dating

You might want to jump back into the dating pool but are worried about how a judge will view your new relationship during divorce. This is a perfectly normal concern—and a smart one. Your children might resent that you are dating, which could affect whether you get child custody. Also, if you spend money on your new paramour, you might get less property in the divorce settlement. You should discuss your concerns with an attorney.



How to Handle Domestic Abuse

Domestic violence, unfortunately, is fairly common, and it can take many forms. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 25% of women and 14% of men can suffer severe physical domestic violence in their lifetime. If your spouse has become physically, emotionally, or verbally abusive, you should follow the steps below to protect yourself and your family.

Document the Domestic Abuse

You really want to avoid a “he said, she said” situation where allegations of abuse have no support other than what you allege. Instead, you want as much evidence as possible that abuse has occurred. To that end, try to collect the following (we know the evidence may be difficult to collect, but):

  • Take pictures of any injuries you suffered. Take vivid color photographs that show bruises, bite marks, slap marks, etc.
  • Write down the day and time each abusive incident occurred and summarize what happened.
  • Identify any witnesses to the abuse. They can provide testimony as to what they saw.

If necessary, call the police. A police report will come in handy at establishing when the violent incident occurred.

Develop a Safety Plan

In the immediate aftermath of an abusive incident, you probably are not thinking clearly. Nevertheless, you need to get to someplace safe. Many people develop a safety plan, which can include the following:

  • Identify who you can call or where you can go after an abusive incident.
  • Identify how you will get out of the house in the event of a physical attack.
  • Collect important information and documents in one place. These documents include copies of birth certificates, social security numbers, and bank information.
  • Either save sufficient cash or identify how you will get immediate access to cash if you leave the home.

There is a misconception that men don’t need a safety plan because their partners are unlikely to physically harm them. Nothing could be further from the truth. A woman can attack a man with a gun or knife, or she could hurt the couple’s children out of anger. With a safety plan in place, you can quickly get away from a violent spouse to somewhere safe.

Seek a Domestic Violence Restraining Order

A restraining order is a court order prohibiting the abuser from coming near you and doing certain things. For example, you can get an order for your abuser to move out of the house and to let you use the vehicle, if necessary. The abuser will also need to turn over his gun to the police.

You can get a domestic violence restraining order against someone you have a close relationship with, such as a current or former spouse, someone you live with, or someone you used to date.  You can also seek a restraining order for a child if he or she is being abused.

An LA divorce lawyer can help you get the restraining order by filing paperwork with the court, or you can go to the court and ask the family law facilitator or self-help center to help. A judge can issue an immediate, temporary order, but the abuser has a chance to come into court and argue why a permanent order is unnecessary.

If your abuser violates the restraining order, call the police.



Different Types of Divorce Proceedings

When you make the decision to file for divorce with the help of an L.A. divorce lawyer, you will have many divorce options from which you can choose. The type of divorce proceedings for your specific case will depend upon many different factors, including whether there are children from the marriage, whether you and your spouse have agreed to all terms of the separation, and whether there remains a possibility for compromise even if you cannot yet agree to the financial terms of the divorce. The California Courts provides helpful information about the divorce process. The following are examples of different types of divorce proceedings in California and information about how each can be beneficial.

Uncontested Divorce in Los Angeles

An uncontested divorce is the fastest option for divorce in Los Angeles. It is one in which the parties agree to all terms of the divorce. This means that you and your spouse, depending upon the specific issues in your case, agree to all of the following:

  • Dividing marital assets and debts;
  • Whether one spouse will provide support to the other;
  • Child custody and visitation plans if there are children from the marriage.

An uncontested divorce means that there are no issues in dispute and that the divorce can move forward. In an uncontested divorce, the court does not need to make any decisions about how marital property will be divided, how financial matters will be handled, or how the parents will share custody since those issues already have been agreed upon by the spouses. In order to be eligible for an uncontested divorce, you must file paperwork and wait for six months. After that point, the divorce can be finalized.

Contested Divorce and the Role of the Court

When spouses cannot agree to all terms of a divorce case, then they will go through what is known as a “contested” divorce. Even if the parties agree to certain terms but not to everything, the divorce will be contested. This means that the court will need to make a decision about certain issues, such as financial matters or child custody questions.

Contested divorce tends to take longer than an uncontested divorce because the parties must set court dates and must be heard by a judge. Then, the judge will enter an order, for example, for the division of marital property, spousal support, child support, and/or child custody.

Resolving a Divorce Out of Court: Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

If you want to resolve your divorce out of court and think there is still a possibility for compromise, you may want to consider divorce mediation. In mediation, a neutral third party helps the spouses to resolve disputes and to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. The mediator—unlike an arbitrator—does not make a final, binding decision but instead helps the parties to reach an agreement themselves. Many couples prefer mediation when there is a divorce dispute because it allows them to retain control over certain matters, as well as to keep family issues private, in a way that is not possible when a judge makes the final decision.

Another option for resolving your divorce outside of court is collaborative divorce. In a collaborative divorce process, both parties rely on the help of a collaborative lawyer to negotiate terms that are agreeable to both of them. Both parties work with their own attorneys to reach a settlement. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, then they still have the option of going to court and having a contested divorce.



The Effects of Divorce on Children

Many parents who decide to file for divorce with the help of an L.A. divorce lawyer are concerned about how the divorce will affect their kids. Numerous studies have been done on divorce and its effects on children of all ages, and it is important for parents to know that they can take many different steps to help ensure that their kids adjust to the separation and to new family dynamics once the divorce is finalized. We have collated information about divorce effects on kids from an article in Psychology Today, an article in KidsHealth, and an article in Scientific American. We want to go through several considerations in these articles that can help parents to consider the various effects of divorce on children.

Framing the Divorce Can Change Its Effects

The way in which parents decide to break the news of the divorce can greatly impact the way a child responds to the news and ultimately to the divorce itself. Although it is never easy to have a discussion about divorce with your child, it is extremely important for both parents to be present and to break the news without showing signs of anger or frustration. It is also important to underscore that the child’s relationship with his or her parents may look different in terms of where the child will spend time with each parent, but the relationship itself will not change.

It is important to keep in mind that a conversation in which parents break the news about divorce “should fit the child’s age, maturity, and temperament,” according to the KidsHealth article. As such, it is often a good idea for parents to discuss the conversation with one another in advance and to tailor it to their child’s personality and age.

Age of the Children Impacts the Effects of Divorce

The age of your children at the time of the divorce will impact how the kids experience the divorce and the effects it might have. Very young children tend to have a difficult time understanding that they can depend on their parents and can continue to trust their parents when they are forced to move between different households and to split time between parents. For young children, it is extremely difficult to explain the complexities of adult relationships, and it can be difficult for a child who is still in elementary school to understand that divorce does not necessarily impact the stability of his or her relationship to each parent. It is especially important for parents to respond to the child’s concerns and to emphasize that the divorce will not change the parent-child relationship.

Older kids may respond to divorce by behaving aggressively or rebelliously out of anger that the parents are separating from one another. Many teenagers push away from their families when a divorce is taking place in order to feel “autonomous” when there is a sense that the family is disintegrating. As such, it is important for parents to provide stability and predictability for younger kids, but also for older kids.

Remember That the Effects of Divorce Tend to Be Short-Term Ones

While divorce can produce changes in children and can have far-reaching effects, parents should keep in mind that most kids experience a “rapid recovery,” according to the Scientific American article. In other words, while divorce tends to have negative effects on most kids for a brief period of time, research shows that “kids recover rapidly after the initial blow.” In particular, children’s anxiety, disbelief, and anger tend to fade quickly after parents have been divorced for about a year.



The Impact of Divorce on Stay-at-Home Mothers

Regardless of who you are, male or female, father or mother, rich or poor, etc., getting a divorce and deciding to permanently separate from your spouse can be extremely challenging. For parents, the divorce process can be especially tough, as parents must come to a determination about child custody. And for stay-at-home-mothers who have relied on a partner for financial support, and who have provided the majority of care for any of the family’s children, the prospect of divorce can be especially daunting.

Why Divorce Is Particularly Complicated for Stay-at-Home Mothers

A stay-at-home mom who finds herself in the midst of a divorce may have numerous questions and worries about the process of navigating divorce and what will happen next. Some issues in a divorce that may be specific to stay-at-home-mothers include:

  • How to navigate divorce (especially if the stay-at-home mom does not have any professional or educational experience);
  • How to afford a divorce attorney and other divorce fees;
  • How custody of a child will be determined;
  • Whether or not the mother will be entitled to child support payments;
  • Where the stay-at-home mom will live during the divorce proceedings;
  • What will happen to shared property that was purchased in the other spouse’s name, such as a family home or the stay-at-home mom’s vehicle; and
  • Whether or not alimony will be part of the divorce settlement, and if so, if it will be enough to support the stay-at-home mom in the future.

Of course, the breadth of issues in a divorce is large, and the specific issues that you encounter during a divorce as a stay-at-home mom will vary based on your unique situation.

Life after Divorce: Planning for What’s Next

In addition to getting through the divorce itself, stay-at-home moms must also ask themselves, “What comes next?” most importantly, a stay-at-home mother will likely need to find a way to gain some sort of financial independence, which may require going back to school or acquiring additional training, and eventually re-entering the workplace (depending upon the stay-at-home mom’s age and ability levels). There may also be the consideration of not re-entering the workplace to continue staying home and raising children, in which event the issues of child support and spousal maintenance become even more pressing. Remember that one’s ability to support themselves post-divorce is a large consideration in a divorce alimony determination.

Divorce Is Difficult But Doable

Many stay-at-home mothers fear divorce and what life after divorce will be like, including how they will possibly continue supporting themselves and providing care for their children. While there is no doubt that divorce can be difficult, especially for those who have chosen to stay home to raise children rather than entering the workforce, divorce is doable. One of the most important things that a stay-at-home mother can do as soon as divorce is on the table is to hire a skilled LA divorce lawyer. Not only can an attorney assist you in navigating your divorce and protecting your best interests, but can also help you to understand how legal fees work, and your options for getting your spouse to pay for your lawyer and court fees.




How Divorce Can Impact and Influence Extended Family Members

There is no doubt that the separation and divorce of a couple can be difficult on all parties living within a household, including the couple themselves, as well as any children. However, in addition to immediate family members, divorce can also impact and influence extended family members, such as the divorcing couple’s parents or grandparents, a child’s grandparent, aunts, uncles, cousins, and more. As such, before cutting ties forever with the help of an LA divorce lawyer, thinking about the impact that a separation will have on extended family members, and how any negative effects can be mitigated, is important.

The Effects of Divorce on Extended Family Members

Extended family members of parties in a divorce may experience myriad feelings and emotions when they learn that the couple is divorcing. Some common ones include:

  • Depression;
  • Anger or frustration;
  • Disappointment;
  • Confusion; and
  • Betrayal.

In addition to the above, it is very common for extended family members to feel as though they have to choose sides, selecting one party to the marriage over the other. This can create tension, animosity, and discord within the entire family, making family get-togethers, children’s birthday parties, holidays, and other events uncomfortable. It can also make parties to the marriage feel as though they are being betrayed. Often times, kids pick up on all of these emotions and negative feelings, leaving them confused, and sometimes even damaging the relationship that the child has with a parent or a member of the extended family.

How to Present Divorce to Extended Family Members

The best way to approach presenting a divorce to extended family members is for the divorcing couple to decide from the very start that they want their divorce to be amicable; this is especially important if there are children who will be affected by the divorce. A divorcing couple should sit down with extended family members together and explain that they are getting divorced, but that they plan to be civil and work together to ensure that a child is impacted as little as possible. Family members should also be told that it is okay–and perfectly natural–to grieve the dissolution of a marital union and the “loss” of a family member’s spouse, but that there are no sides to take.

Finally, extended family members should be reminded that no matter their feelings about the divorce, using a child as a sounding board to express such feelings–joyful or sorrowful–is not appropriate.

Finding Ways to Maintain Positive Relationships

Another thing to note is that even in contentious divorces where couples simply cannot stand each other any longer, there are still ways to maintain positive relationships with extended family members, especially when doing so is in the best interests of parties in the divorce or children of divorce. In addition to mediated sessions between the couple in reaching a divorce settlement, parties can try group therapy or family counseling sessions to learn more about coping with divorce. Children should absolutely attend counseling sessions, which can provide them with a resource for asking questions and expressing themselves in a positive way.


Evan Braunstein
Phone: (424) 500-2983
Fax: (310) 492-4025

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