Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law in California
Answers from a veteran Santa Barbara attorney
At McCleary (Mac) H. Sanborn, III, Attorney at Law, I’m dedicated to answering questions from my clients as quickly and thoroughly as possible so they are aware of the progress of their case at all times. The following are some of the most frequently asked questions I encounter in my divorce and family law practice. While I’ve provided answers here, I know you may have additional questions or need more information. If so, call me, Mac Sanborn, to set up a free consultation.
- When can one get divorced?
- How is child custody determined?
- How is child support determined?
- Can a divorce decree be modified?
- How do I enforce my custody or support order?
Contact me with questions about family law
If you have further questions or need to speak with a lawyer regarding a family law matter, call me, Mac Sanborn, at the office of McCleary (Mac) H. Sanborn, III, Attorney at Law at (805) 898-2501 or contact me online for a free consultation. My Santa Barbara office is conveniently located across from Whole Foods at State & Hitchcock, near La Cumbre Plaza, and offers free parking.
California recognizes no-fault divorce, meaning that a particular ground such as adultery, abuse, or abandonment does not have to be proven on the part of one of the spouses to obtain a divorce. Instead, the court can grant a divorce on the grounds of the irreconcilable differences of the parties.
California does maintain a six-month residency requirement, meaning that at least one of the spouses must be a resident of the state for six months before a petition for divorce can be filed.
The overarching factor considered by the court is what is in the best interest of the child. Within that framework, the court considers the child’s health, safety, and well-being. Although some form of joint custody is usually granted, factors such as the age and sex of the child, as well as whether there is any history of abuse by one of the parents, may lead to a decision of sole custody.
While the court has wide discretion to determine what is in the best interest of the child, it is not supposed to consider certain factors, such as a parent’s physical disability, lifestyle, religious belief or sexual orientation. Rather, the court considers the age and health of the child, the emotional ties the child has with each parent, the ability of the parents to care for the child, and the child’s ties to the community where each parent will be residing.
If the parents cannot come to an agreement on the amount of support, the state uses a formula or guideline for calculating what the payment will be. The main factors included in this calculation are the number of children, the time-share percentage, gross income, tax liability and deductions, additional child support and financial hardships. See our resources page for links to more detailed information.
Yes. An order of custody and visitation, child support, or spousal support can be modified upon request for order to the court and proof of changed circumstances. Common circumstances warranting a modification include an increase or decrease in either spouse’s income, an increase in the child’s needs or the desire or need of one parent to move to another state.
It is standard to obtain a wage assignment as part of the order so the support amount is automatically withheld from the other parent’s wages and forwarded to you. Also, if the local child support agency is involved in the case, it can place a lien on the other parent’s real property and bank accounts in the state. That agency has many other tools at its disposal and can intercept tax refunds and other state-paid benefits as well as withhold the granting of government licenses from a person who is delinquent in support payments. Eventually, a person could be prosecuted for nonpayment of support, and face incarceration if convicted. I will assist you in obtaining the services of the local child support agency.
Selected court resources
- California Courts
- California Supreme Court
- California Court of Appeals
- U.S. District Court, Central District of California
- U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit
- Superior Court of Santa Barbara County
- Superior Court of San Luis Obispo County
California legal resources
Family law resources
- The California Department of Child Support Services is a state agency that works with parents to ensure that children and families receive the court-ordered support to which they are entitled
- Child Support Services provides a Child Support Calculator, which will enable you to estimate the amount of support that may be ordered in your case
- Santa Barbara County Department of Child Support Services
- Among the California State Bar’s consumer information pamphlets, you can find helpful information regarding family law matters such as divorce, child custody and domestic violence
- The Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement assists families in obtaining support by locating parents, establishing paternity and support obligations and administering programs to enforce those obligations
- Child Support Enforcement provides the Federal Parent Locator Service, which assists in locating participants in child support cases, collecting support payments and enforcing support orders
- The Children and Family Services Division of the California Department of Social Services assists families with such issues as adoptions, foster care, children’s services and child welfare
Personal injury resources
- California Department of Motor Vehicles registers vehicles, licenses drivers, and maintains driving records, including accidents and convictions
- California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) manages more than 50,000 miles of California’s highway and freeway lanes and provides intercity rail services
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation dedicated to saving lives, preventing injuries and reducing vehicle-related crashes
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit organization (although funded by automobile insurance companies) committed to reducing injuries, deaths and property loss from motor vehicle crashes on the nation’s highways
- The mission of the National Safety Council is to prevent accidental injury and death through education and safety awareness
- Advocates for Highway Safety is an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit education and research organization concerned with saving lives and reducing injuries on the road
- Kelley Blue Book is a trusted resource for determining the value of new and used cars, which may help you in determining the replacement value of your damaged vehicle
- If you need a doctor or other health or medical resources, or need advocacy in the area of patients’ rights, the American Medical Association provides a wealth of resources for patients
Estate planning resources
- The State Bar of California provides informational pamphlets including “Do I Need a Will?” “Do I Need Estate Planning?” and “Do I Need a Living Trust?”
Civil litigation resources
- Through the Better Business Bureau, you can check out a business, file a complaint or view complaint statistics
- The California Department of Consumer Affairs is charged with protecting and serving California consumers while ensuring a competent and fair marketplace, helping consumers learn how to protect themselves from unscrupulous and unqualified individuals, and helping protect professionals from unfair competition by unlicensed practitioners