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Temecula Divorce Lawyer

Our Complete Guide to Divorce in Temecula, Riverside County

While divorce is common in today’s world, it’s almost always accompanied by strong emotions, underlying motives, or difficult circumstances. For an individual looking out for what’s best for his or her family, the process can seem overwhelming and confusing.  Many times, it is extremely overwhelming for family law litigants that try and handle their case alone. The Temecula divorce attorneys at Wilkinson & Finkbeiner take care of the details and procedures so clients can focus on the things that matter most.

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Scroll down to view our Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in Temecula.

Divorce in Temecula

Divorce is one of those peculiar things that is sometimes greatly needed, yet rarely easy.  If getting married was as difficult as divorcing, there would be far less divorce in the United States.  Divorce typically includes tangled issues and unique circumstances that require careful maneuvering and attention to detail. While the divorce process is anything but simple and streamlined, it’s certainly not impossible. At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, we handle divorce cases on a daily basis and have the knowledge and expertise to manage your unique case.  We have decades of experience in divorce law because that is the only area of law for which we will accept cases.  Practicing exclusively in family law and divorce gives our firm an advantage over most other firms and we have the results to prove our effectiveness.

While divorce can be extremely complicated, it should not be complicated for the person going through the divorce.  Our attorneys handle to difficult aspects of divorce including filing all the correct paperwork, negotiating with the opposing side, filing motions and attending court, conducting discovery, and preparing for and litigating at trial. While you drive the case forward with your direction, we tell you how to best achieve your desired results.

Below we describe various types of divorce cases and the procedures for completing the case.  Keep in mind, however, that our law firm offers a wide variety of representation options depending on your time and budget.  We often offer our clients the following options for representation:

  • Hourly consultations: While we cannot provide legal advice during our initial consultation (that is free of charge and we simply provide options), we offer hourly consultation services for cases where clients just need legal advice, help with strategizing, help with completing certain paperwork, and so forth.
  • Scrivener services: We offer clients the option of representing themselves in their divorce case, but we take a reduced retainer to assist with preparing and filing paperwork, strategizing, negotiating, and so forth.  For this option the client will make any required court appearances.
  • Full representation: We also offer full representation services.

Typical Cases

Despite the fact that no two cases are the same, almost every situation can be filed under one of the following overarching categories:

  • Uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are the easiest to deal with – from a legal perspective. Here, both spouses work together to mutually agree on the terms of the divorce, how assets will be divided, who gets custody, and what support will look like. These cases rarely go to court and can almost always be settled quickly and peacefully.
  • Contested divorce. While uncontested divorces are preferred, they rarely happen. That’s because so much is involved in a divorce, and there are typically issues that cannot be agreed upon by both parties. In a contested divorce, factors like finances, assets, property, child custody, and support are on the line. An attorney has a big picture view and knows how to approach each issue.
  • Domestic partnership termination. Much like marriages, domestic partnerships don’t always last indefinitely. When a couple decides to split ways, it’s necessary to divide assets and community property. An experienced family law attorney can ensure your rights are respected and that you walk away with everything you deserve.
  • Legal separation. Couples looking to legally distance themselves, but not willing to divorce, often pursue legal separation. Although it’s not a divorce, a legal separation can involve child support, custody and visitation, restraining orders, spousal or partner support, and other related issues.
  • Annulments. Although rare, annulments occur when the court declares that a marriage or partnership is not legally valid. This may be the result of force, fraud, or incapacity, incest, or other lack of legality. If a spouse was already married at the time of the marriage or too young to legally enter the marriage, an annulment is possible. These situations require the assistance of an experienced legal professional because they can be complicated and difficult.

Four Steps to Complete a Divorce

Our attorneys usually describe divorce cases to our potential clients in three or four steps.  We discuss four separate steps here, which notably can all overlap with each other (meaning that they may not necessary be distinct from each other and may often happen concurrently.)

Stage One: Starting the Divorce.

Every divorce case in Riverside County, whether the party lives in Riverside, Temecula, Murrieta or other area, begins with the filing of a Petition for dissolution of marriage.  The petition sets forth the general requests of the filing party.  Several other additional forms are filed with the petition at the courthouse required, which depends on the zip code where the party filing the case or the other party reside.  Once filed, the court clerk will provide the filing party with a case number and judicial assignment.  The paperwork must then be properly served on the opposing party and they have 30 days to file a response to the case or risk being defaulted.

Stage Two: Requests for Orders and Other Hearings

During the pendency of the case, either party can file a motion with the court, called a Request for Order (RFO).  A motion is the procedure for a party to request “temporary” orders on issues that need to be addressed before the entire case can be resolved (which usually takes a year or more if the parties do not agree to settlement terms.)

In addition to any Request for Order (RFO) hearings filed by either party, the court will automatically schedule various hearings that serve the purpose of either “checking in” with the parties as to the status of discovery and settlement, or to try to resolve the matter without further court intervention.  The first hearing is a status conference hearing (sometimes called Status Conference or Family Resolution Conference), where the judge just wants to know what the status of the case in terms of whether settlement is imminent or if the case will be resolved by a trial.  A more substantive later hearing is called the “Mandatory Settlement Conference”, or MSC, which is where the parties are required to submit written briefs and come prepared to discuss resolution of the entire case.

Stage Three: Discovery.

After a divorce is filed, either party can initiate discovery on the other party or third parties. (Note: There are restrictions on when a petitioner may commence discovery and there may be restrictions on discovery allowed toward the end of the case.)  Discovery means information gathering and can take place in many forms, including demands for documents, subpoenas, depositions, interrogatories and so forth.

Stage Four: Completing the Case.

A divorce case is completed in only three possible ways.  First, the case can be dismissed at any time by the parties by their mutual agreement (or if the respondent has not filed a response the petitioner can dismiss the case without the agreement of the other party.  Second, the parties can agree to the terms of their settlement at any time after the parties have each served their preliminary declarations of disclosure on the other party.  Third and finally, cases will end when there is a trial if the parties cannot agree to the terms of their divorce beforehand.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Divorce / Dissolution of Marriage

Whether you are contemplating divorce or have been served with divorce (also called “dissolution of marriage”) in Riverside County, you probably have a lot of questions. This page is designed to answer many of the commonly asked questions about divorce in California and Riverside County, Temecula specifically.

If I live in Temecula, where is the divorce filed?

Residents of Temecula, California are required to file their dissolution of marriage case in Hemet, California. Unfortunately, with the budget cuts the Temecula Courthouse was shut down several years ago. Our attorneys travel to Hemet nearly daily to attend court for our Temecula clients, and we’re familiar with the court, court clerks, staff, and the local judges.

What do I do if I am served with divorce paperwork?

If a process server or other adult provides you with documents pertaining to a divorce case, the first step is to try and stay calm. Unfortunately, dissolution of marriage, legal separation and nullity cases are quite common as nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Our attorneys will help you get through this difficult time from a legal and financial perspective, if you are experiencing emotional distress over being served with divorce paperwork; it is always a good idea to consult with a counselor. After you get over the initial shock of being served with divorce paperwork, it is time to get focused on the case. The chances are high that your spouse has been planning the divorce for some time and you’ll need to play catch-up. Begin gathering financial documents, account statements and passwords, tax returns, receipts, and take pictures of the items in your home. The more information you have going through a divorce the better off you will be. Next, you will need to calendar 30 days from the date that you were served because your response to the divorce case is due by that date. Finally, consult an attorney that specializes in family law.

Can I afford a divorce / family law attorney?

Yes. You cannot afford to fail to hire an attorney to help you, even if it is in some limited capacity. While it may seem daunting and expensive to hire an attorney, the long-term effect and cost of doing things the wrong way will have devastating emotional and financial implications. Our office provides our clients with a variety of representation options, which may include simply giving legal advice and helping with paperwork to keep costs down.

How to I find a divorce attorney?

We have completed a guide to help you select the right attorney for your case. Click here for that information.

What are the preliminary declarations of disclosure in a divorce case?

The preliminary declarations of disclosure are a disclosure from one party to the other concerning all assets, debts, income, and expenses. The disclosure also provides the other party with all material information relating to investment opportunities, management of assets, and other such information. There are two main forms that are required to accompany this preliminary declaration of disclosure, which are the Schedule of Assets and Debts and the Income and Expense Declaration. For more information about disclosures, click here.

If a spouse cheats on the other spouse, does that have any effect on the divorce?

No. In California, the law dictates that a spouse is entitled to a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, which means that no reason needs to be given. The fact that one spouse or both spouses were cheating on each other during the marriage will not affect either party’s right to request a divorce from the Hemet family law judge assigned to their case. In certain circumstances, however, it should be noted that a spouses undisclosed and unilateral gifts to a boyfriend or girlfriend during marriage may give rise to a claim for reimbursement by the other spouse.

What do all the words on the petition for dissolution of marriage mean?

The petition for dissolution of marriage (divorce) is a standard, two-page form that sets forth the petitioner’s best case scenario and requests. The form should be completed by an attorney, even though it seems simple. If the form is not completed in the proper manner, it could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to correct the mistake later on. The petition, and response for that matter, requires the party to identify and request such things as division of community assets, identification and confirmation of separate assets, a request to enter child custody and visitation orders, requests for spousal support and attorney fees, and any other request that would be permitted by the Family Code.

Can I ask for child support in a divorce case? Spousal support?

Yes, requests for child support and spousal support in dissolution of marriage cases are standard and expected. Child support will be ordered if requested and is based generally on each party’s income and the amount of time each party spends caring for the child or children. Spousal support on a temporary basis is based on need and ability to pay, and on a permanent basis pursuant to the many relevant factors listed under Family Code 4320.

What if my spouse is hiding assets?

Every once in a while a party to a divorce or legal separation case thinks that it is wise to hide assets. They could not be more wrong. First, parties are required to disclose all assets and debts in their preliminary declarations of disclosure, discussed above. The other party may know that an asset exists that is not been disclosed. These disclosures are signed under penalty of perjury. Second, the ramifications for intentionally failing to disclose an asset could include the asset being awarded to the other spouse entirely. That is usually enough to ensure that a party will not risk the nondisclosure. Third, it is fairly common and easy to determine if assets exist that have not been disclosed. Attorneys have many discovery tools available to them, including the right to demand documents going as many years back as may be relevant. Taking depositions, sending subpoenas, and so forth. If you believe your spouse may be hiding assets, call us today immediately.

What does a divorce case cost?

The cost of a divorce case will ultimately depend on the issues involved and the cooperation of the parties. The current filing fee for divorce cases over $400, and if the respondent files an answer to the dissolution of marriage petition, they will have to pay a filing fee as well. Attorney’s fees will be reduced when the parties are more cooperative than uncooperative, and all information is readily disclosed. Likewise, if parents of children agree ahead of time to a custody schedule and child sharing arrangement, the case will go much quicker and will be far less expensive. We have concluded cases for under $1500 and we have litigated cases into the many hundreds of thousands of dollars. When you call to schedule your free initial consultation with our Temecula divorce attorneys, we will sit down with you and go over the specifics of your case and try to provide you with a realistic idea of the total cost depending on your circumstances.

What is a certified family law specialist?

A certified family law specialist is an expert designated by the California State Bar, which requires the attorney to pass a rigorous test, produce a significant amount of recommendations from judges and other colleagues, and produce proof of a significant amount of experience over many years of family law practice. Our partners are not only certified family law specialists, but we are designated Super Lawyers. All of our cases fall under the direction of our partner attorneys, and our entire law office including attorneys, paralegals and staff are extremely professional and excellent at their jobs.

We offer a free consultation to describe your options and answer any additional questions you may have not covered above. We are divorce experts and we can help you. Call or email us today.

California Marriage and Divorce Statistics 

Using data from the 2013 Census’ American Community Survey, just over 46 percent of Californians identify as married; it’s a proportionally smaller married population than the United States. While the Golden state has a reputation for divorce, just under 10 percent of the population identified as divorced in the survey. However, this would not include re-married individuals.

Temecula Divorce

You may have heard about couples handling divorce, separation, or dissolution on their own, but be careful about handling a process of this magnitude without an experienced attorney by your side. Things aren’t always as they seem, and a family law attorney can provide valuable assistance and guidance. Choosing to approach a divorce on your own is risking your financial security and future well-being.

Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP

At Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, our Temecula divorce attorneys understand every nuance involved in the divorce process. We will handle your case with care, unwavering attention to detail, and compassion. With so much at stake – such as children, savings, retirement plans, real estate, and personal property – a divorce is not something to look upon lightly. For high quality, compassionate representation that’s backed by years of successful results, contact Wilkinson & Finkbeiner today. We would appreciate the opportunity to explain your options in language you can understand – and your initial consultation and case evaluation is on us.