Divorce Attorney

Almost everyone knows someone—a friend or a family member—who has been through a divorce.  Divorce is often emotionally and financially trying.  Learning about the legal process, and avoiding costly mistakes helps the process go more smoothly. It may seem daunting, but doing so will empower you to make better-educated decisions about your individual situation. Remember:  your situation is unique and requires an approach that fits you.

The following sections provide easily understandable information about some preliminary questions and concerns you might have. Whether you are deciding if you need an attorney or you are trying to avoid common mistakes, the following information will help make your decisions about divorce a little easier.

First Steps:

1. Do I Need An Attorney?

Answering this question requires understanding the complexity of your personal situation. Some things to consider:

  • How long have you been married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Have you acquired significant assets or debts?
  • What issues are most likely to be disputed?
  • How well are you getting along with your spouse through the divorce process?

If you have not been married long, do not have children and, any significant assets or debts and you are communicating well with your spouse, you may be able to use self-help resources to adequately protect your rights and confirm your agreements through the Judgment you will file with the court. However, an attorney is probably necessary to assist you with for more complex or disputed matters, such as the sharing and/or support of children, shifting ownership of a home, the assignment of marital debts, and separating of bank accounts and retirement assets.

As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details and without the attention of an experienced attorney, you may end up with an unenforceable Judgment. Leigh A. Kretzschmar brings 15 years of experience to your personal situation to ensure that your court orders and Judgment are well thought out, specific and enforceable.

Lastly, it is important to work with an attorney you feel comfortable with, who will educate you about how the divorce process works, and keep you informed about how California divorce law applies to your personal circumstances. To assist you in your decision-making process, Leigh A. Kretzschmar offers a free ½ hour initial consultation.

2. How Do I Prepare for A Consultation with An Attorney?

To get the most out of your initial consultation, you should first take some time to prioritize your concerns and needs, and gather a strong base of information. Examples of information that will be useful in this consultation are:

  • Copies of any papers already filed with the court;
  • The date and time of any future court dates;
  • The sources of income for you and your spouse;
  • A basic understanding of the assets and debts that you have acquired during marriage;
  • A list of the issues you believe will be most difficult for you and your spouse to resolve.

This kind of information, combined with Leigh A. Kretzschmar’s knowledge of the legal process and the San Diego family law courts, will help make your initial consultation productive and provide an opportunity to discuss alternatives uniquely available to you.

To schedule your consultation, contact Leigh A. Kretzschmar at (619) 231-9323. Appointments may be conducted in person in San Diego, CA; or, by telephone for clients outside of San Diego, California.

The Divorce Process: What to expect

How is a divorce started? The divorce process starts when one spouse files a Petition (or request) for dissolution of marriage or domestic partnership. Other than issues of jurisdiction (the appropriate court for filing), the petitioning spouse (“Petitioner”) does not gain a legal advantage simply by being the first to file. Instead, the Petitioner must serve the other spouse with the Petition; and the receiving spouse (“Respondent”) has thirty days to file a Response.

What happens next? A divorce is not automatically finished by the court. Instead, California law requires both parties to inform each other about all the assets and debts that they are aware of. Each spouse or domestic partner completes this requirement by completing and exchanging a set of documents disclosing all of their income, separate property (property owned prior to the marriage or domestic partnership) and community property (property acquired after the date of marriage or domestic partnership registration). The purpose of this law is to help make sure all community property and debts are divided and distributed during the divorce process. Disclosure is very important because a one party’s failure to fully disclose his or her income, assets or debts can be considered by the court at subsequent hearings.

What if I need support? Throughout the divorce process, the court permits parties to request temporary orders for child support, spousal support and the payment of debts. The request to the court is made through an “Order to Show Cause,” which explains the specific requests of the filing party. As with the Petition (or request) for dissolution of marriage, the responding party is served with a copy of the Order to Show Cause and given an opportunity to respond.

My spouse and I cannot agree on how to share our children, what do I do? If you and your spouse cannot agree on a parenting plan for your children, you should file an Order to Show Cause requesting the court to determine an appropriate parenting plan. The court will order both parents to attend a court-sponsored mediation process through Family Court Services (FCS). The County of San Diego is called a “recommending county,” which means that, to the extent parents are unable to agree on certain aspects of a parenting plan, the FCS mediator provides a report to the report which contains any agreements, as well as the mediator’s recommended solutions for areas of disagreement. This report is reviewed by the judge at a hearing after the FCS mediation date. The parties have the opportunity to agree or disagree with the FCS mediator’s recommendations. The judge then makes orders to establish a parenting plan based upon the parties mediated agreements, the parties legal and factual arguments at the hearing and court’s opinion about the FCS mediator’s recommendations.

How is a Divorce Finalized? Throughout the dissolution process, both parties have the opportunity to work out agreements pertaining to divorce issues including spousal support, child custody, child support, and the division of the community assets and debts. To the extent that the parties cannot agree about these issues, a trial will be conducted, at which time the judge will listen to the evidence and arguments of both parties and then make the required orders. The parties’ agreements (if any) and the trial court’s orders, are recorded in a document called a Judgment. The court then processes the Judgment and determines the date on which the marital or domestic partnership status ends.

It is extremely important that a Judgment’s contents to be well thought out, with specific, clear and complete language. Often, parties without attorneys do their best to phrase the Judgment, but only later when problems arise, do they realize that the language in the Judgment is ambiguous, inconsistent or vague. Such Judgments are sometimes unenforceable because a judge can only interpret the Judgment from the words on the document (the “Four Corners Rule”). For instance, judges often cannot consider evidence of the parties’ conversations that took place when the Judgment was written.

Leigh A. Kretzschmar is an experienced and qualified attorney who has drafted hundreds of Judgments containing the details necessary to clearly set forth the intended division of assets and debts, the resolution of complex property issues, spousal and child support, and child custody issues.

Divorce and Military Service Members

When one or both spouses is an active member of the military, there are additional unique issues to be addressed. The Uniform Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act (UFSPA) applies to all active duty, reserve/guard, retired military, the U.S. Coast Guard members of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Enacted in 1982, the purpose of the UFSPA is to address the needs of a spouse who supported a military member’s needs during periods when the marriage overlapped military service. However, because the UFSPA is subject to interpretations of state courts, which vary from state to state, it is important for members of the military to obtain an attorney with knowledge of the UFSPA as it is used in the State of California.

Leigh A. Kretzschmar has a broad and indispensable knowledge of the UFSPA, enabling her to secure entitlements legally belonging to her military clients and their spouses. In addition, she has the necessary experience representing military service members and can help save, time, money and aggravation by guiding clients through the nuances inherent in UFSPA and other military policies.

Common Mistakes

Because divorce can be a difficult and uncomfortable passage, many people make mistakes which affect their rights. Avoiding such mistakes is imperative to a successful outcome. Two of the most common mistakes people make are:

1. Choosing What Facts NOT To Tell Your Attorney. Clients often hesitate to tell their attorney certain facts the client believes will be harmful to his or her case. Sometimes, these facts are not as harmful to the client as the client had feared; other times, the facts are not legally relevant and will not be considered by the court. It is essential that your attorney have all the available information available so she can more effectively represent you. The bottom line is that Leigh A. Kretzschmar maintains a strict confidentiality policy based on attorney-client privilege, allowing you to talk freely so that she can completely assess, prepare your case for hearing, settlement or trial, minimizing delicate areas and emphasizing the strengths of your case.

2. Waiting Until The Last Minute To Consult With An Attorney. Scheduling a consultation with an attorney as soon as you think you MIGHT need an attorney is critical to the successful resolution of your legal matter. While you have no obligation to hire the attorney, Leigh A. Kretzschmar will suggest alternatives to litigation to help you resolve your legal disputes in a cost-effective manner. For less complicated and uncontested family law matters, these alternatives include mediation or self-help law books.

What Leigh A. Kretzschmar Can Do For You

Most clients express a concern about the uncertainty that divorce brings for themselves and for their children. Leigh A. Kretzschmar understands that you may be anxious about the new road ahead and it is with this in mind that she works diligently to make you more comfortable and your divorce as easy as possible. You will find that Leigh A. Kretzschmar is accessible. She is dedicated to keeping you informed as to how your divorce is proceeding with a focus on helping you complete your divorce in a cost- and time-efficient manner.

Contact Leigh A. Kretzschmar by calling (619) 231-9323 or completing the Contact Form.

In-person Appointments:  clients located within in San Diego, CA, La Mesa,CA, National City, CA, Chula Vista, CA, El Cajon, CA, Tierrasanta, CA, Santee, CA, Ramona, CA and surrounding areas.

Telephone appointments:  clients outside of the County of San Diego, California.