Can a grandparent seek visitation rights in a custody matter?

It is possible under California Law that a grandparent establish visitation rights with minor children. Grandparent rights is a highly contested area of law in California, which is why it is almost always essential to consult with a family law attorney before seeking visitation.

As a general rule, a grandparent can ask for reasonable visitation with a minor child if the grandparent can demonstrate that he/she has “engendered a bond” over a period of time with the grandchild, and the court must balance the best interest of the child in regards to grandparent visitation with the parents’ fundamental right to raise their child.

A grandparent may not be able to seek visitation if the parents are still married, but there are some exceptions to the rule, such as if the child is not being raised by the parents or they are living separately.

If the parents are unable to care for the minor child due to addiction or criminal issues, it may be best to consider filing for Guardianship. For more information, contact Law Office of Elisabeth Donovan.

I’ve been served with divorce papers. Now what?

If you have been served with divorce paperwork, the most important thing to do is to remain calm. Receiving this paperwork can feel stressful and overwhelming, and it’s important to know that you have rights and an opportunity to be heard. In the paperwork you have been provided, you should see a Petition for Divorce or Legal Separation, which details what your spouse is asking for in the divorce, as well as a Summons and Complaint, which gives the court the authority to hear and determine your case.

It is essential to read the Summons in it’s entirely. A divorce is a lawsuit- and once you’ve been served, you have certain rules that you must follow or you can face ramifications through the court. For example, you must not remove your spouse from any insurance policies, nor may you transfer or encumber any property without your spouse’s consent. These rules are laid out on the summons.

You have thirty days to respond to the divorce, and the clock begins the moment you were served. You must fill out and serve responsive paperwork quickly after being served if you would like to contest the case. If you don’t respond to the paperwork, your spouse can obtain a default judgment against you. This means that you will not have a chance to state your case to the court.

What is the difference between divorce and legal separation?

The difference between a divorce and legal separation is quite simple; a divorce ends your marriage and a legal separation does not. Like a divorce, a legal separation mandates the rights and responsibilities of couples. You can divide property, establish support orders and establish child custody orders by way of a legal separation. In a legal separation, however, your marital status is not terminated- you are still considered legally married and cannot remarry after you obtain a legal separation.

While most couples who have experienced a breakdown of their marriage opt for a divorce, a legal separation may be a good alternative for a couple who wish to live separate and apart while working through issues that have arisen during their marriage. For example, it may be wise to obtain a legal separation in a situation where one spouse has addiction and/or mental issues and although you don’t want a divorce, you don’t want to be on the hook for your spouse’s financial conduct either. Legal separations are also common for couples who do not wish to live together, but do not want to get divorced for religious reasons.

If you choose to divorce later down the line, it is relatively simple to convert a legal separation agreement into a divorce agreement. To learn more about which avenue may be most beneficial in your situation, contact Law Office of Elisabeth Donovan.

What is the difference between legal and physical custody of children?

Legal custody refers to the authority of the parents to make decisions on behalf of the child’s health and welfare. These decisions include, but are not limited to: what medical treatment the child will receive; what school the child will attend; what religion the child shall follow; and if the child can travel outside of the United States. Joint legal custody is awarded to both parents in most situations, as long as each parent is capable of making decisions that will benefit the child. When legal custody is ordered, both parents are expected to meet and confer in major decision making in regards to their children.

Physical custody, also known as primary custody, refers to which parent the child spends the majority of his/her time with. For example, if a child lives with his/her mother during the school week and the father has visitation with the child every other weekend, then the mother has sole physical custody. Joint physical custody is more synonymous with a parent schedule where the child spends nearly equal time with both parents; for instance, if the parents alternate a week on week off schedule with the child.

What is a retainer and why is it required?

When an attorney-client relationship is established, most family law attorneys require a retainer deposit before they begin working on a case. A retainer is an advance deposit for services the attorney will provide. The deposit is placed into a client-trust account, a special account set up by the law office to hold money for their clients. The attorney is then paid as services are rendered. If the attorney completes a case under budget, then any unearned funds are returned to the client.

Like most family law attorneys, Attorney Donovan bills by the hour, and requires a retainer before she begins work on a family law matter. However, she also offers payment-plan options in certain situations. If you’re interested in obtaining her services and would like to know your options, contact Law Office of Elisabeth Donovan for a complimentary consultation.