Divorce Attorney Lawrence P. Bellomo has been been helping families through the divorce and legal separation processes in Orange County for 35 years.
At a time when tensions and anxieties can often run high, attorney Larry Bellomo serves as a guide of compassion and understanding for both parties.
Divorce in California = Dissolution of Marriage
In California, what is referred to by the public as "divorce" is actually legally known as "Dissolution of Marriage". In 1969, then governor Ronald Reagan signed into law the California Family Law Act. This instrumental legislation created what is known as no fault separation.
Previously, it was the responsibility of either the husband or wife and their attorney to prove that one party or the other was responsible for the failure of the marriage. If that sounds adversarial, that's because it was. The law itself seemed intended to make separations an argument from the onset.
A divorce occurring in Orange County falls under the California Family Law Act of 1969, which put into law that there was no longer any requirement to assign fault to either party. With this, divorce (Dissolution of Marriage) could be a process of humanity and cooperation.
There is no doubt that relationships which were founded upon love, trust and friendship do not always end the same way. There is also no doubt that often times divorces become hostile. It's the mark of a brilliant attorney when they can bring both sides together and sort through the history of the failed marriage (both material and otherwise) in order to introduce peace to a notoriously emotional and antagonistic process.
The framework that California pioneered in 1969 swept the country - and by 2010 all 50 states had signed into law similar legislation. Today, legal experts continue to approach divorce and legal separation as a life event that does not necessarily require each party to engage one another with hostility.
Filing for Divorce or Separation in California
Dissolving a marriage in Orange County, California begins with either the husband or wife filing what is known as a Petition [for Divorce], which is California form FL-100 available here. The party filing the petition is known as the Petitioner. The party responding to the petition (the spouse of the Petitioner) is known as the Respondent.
Prior to filing a petition, the filer must have been a resident in the state of California for at least 6 months prior, and a resident of the county they're filing within for at least 3 months. Upon filing, there is a fee of $435 (as of May 2015) for filing this petition. This fee can be waived by a judge in cases of financial hardship.
Upon filing, the Respondent must be officially given a hard copy of the Petition along with a Summons and any other required documents. Generally the Petitioner will use a licensed and recognized Process Server for this. Upon reception of the documents, the Respondent has now officially been Served with Process.
Responding to Served Divorce Papers
At this point the Respondent will have 30 days to respond. This must be a formal Response (done in court), which carries with it another $435 fee (as of May 2015). If a spouse refuses to take action within this 30 day period, a Judgment and Default may be issued against them.
Any legal expert will tell you that in most situations, it is appropriate to seek the help of a divorce attorney if you have been served divorce papers. This is especially true if you stand to lose a lot (there are children/animals involved or a large amount of property/capital/potential spousal support).
What Can be Lost/Gained in a Divorce
Children: The future of children will be completely in play during the following proceedings. Who the live with, who gets to see them and how often and of course, who will be responsible for financially supporting them. Financial support includes everything from health care to schooling and food.
Spousal Support: The court might also determine that you are required to support your spouse financially for a certain amount of time. This could include some or all of housing, food, transportation, etc.
Property / Finances: Courts will be used to determine the allocation of properties and investments acquired during the marriage. This includes everything homes, investments, furniture, cars/vehicles/boats, businesses, retirement/pension funds and any debts.
Items resulting from the divorce process itself: These will include court/attorney fees associated with the process in addition to the date in which the status of the marriage is officially dissolved.