Family Law Basics

Family law can be a stressful and emotional time for those going through a divorce or separation. Most importantly, parents who have minor children together are often required to undergo the ordeal of deciding on custody rights, visitation rights, and child support, making the process taxing for both parties. Here is some of the basic background information on issues regarding Family Law matters:

Divorce: The separation of a legal spousal relationship, commonly known as the separation of a marriage, is also recognized as the separation of civil unions or domestic partnerships.

In the state of California, divorce proceedings do not require proof of reasoning for the divorce, making it a “no-fault” state. Parties may cite “irreconcilable differences” or “irreparable breakdown of marriage” when filing divorce papers. Additionally, finalized divorce decrees may not be granted until 6 months after the papers are received by the respondent or the respondent’s first appearance in court. Judges may also postpone divorce proceedings for up to 30 days if there is a reasonable possibility of reconciliation.

Child Custody: In the state of California, child custody laws refer to two types of custody:

Legal Custody: This refers to the parent’s ability to make decisions that deal with child’s welfare, including health and education decisions.

Physical Custody: This refers to the physical residence of the child

The most important thing to recognize in child custody laws is that they are created in the child’s best interests. The laws look at six important aspects, including the age and health of the child, emotional ties between parent and the child, ability of parents to care for the child both emotionally and physically, history of violence or substance abuse, and the child’s ties to school home, or community ( If neither parent is a reasonable option for a child, there is also the possibility of a Third Person Custody:

Third Person Custody: If the courts determine that either parent’s custody would be harmful to the child, custody may be awarded to someone who has requested custody of the child and that the court finds suitable in the child’s best interests.

Family law matters can be complicated and difficult to get through. If you believe you are in need of an attorney to help you navigate through legal matters, please contact the Santa Barbara Lawyer Referral Service at 805.569.5511