Family Law


Divorce, otherwise known as “Dissolution of Marriage,” is the process of legally terminating a marriage. Either spouse or partner may file a petition requesting the dissolution. California is a “no fault” divorce state, which means that the spouse or partner requesting the dissolution does not have to prove that their partner did something wrong. If the non-petitioning spouse or partner (otherwise known as the “Respondent”) is properly notified of the action and refuses to participate in the case, the case can and will continue in their absence. California is a “Community Property” State, which means all assets and debts accumulated during the marriage are owned equally by both spouses or partners.

Divorce is often emotionally difficult, and the legal procedures can seem complex. We can explain them in plain language. Eve if there are no significant financial issues the court procedures can be difficult. We can guide you through the case with limited scope representation, or we can fully represent you and assist you with all aspects of the case.

Each dissolution case is unique, but they can generally be divided into a few areas:

  1. Division of assets and debts, both community and separate property.
  2. Children–Parenting (custody and visitation) and Support.
  3. Spousal Support.
  4. “Other Orders” that may include division of retirement assets, payment of Attorneys Fees and Costs, Use of the Community Residence or Vehicles, or Sanctions for not complying with Court Orders.

This is by no means a complete list or description of the Dissolution process. However, it should allow you to understand the very basic purpose and procedure of this type of case.

To discuss your Divorce case with an attorney, please contact us today to complete a free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.


A Paternity Case, also known as a “Parentage” Action, is when a Court makes orders that legally determine who a child’s parents are. When a couple is married, such a case is typically not necessary because the law presumes that the married couple are the parents of the child in question. When parents are unmarried, the Court must make an order as to Parentage before making any orders relating to Child Custody, Child Visitation, or Child Support.

Establishing paternity is also necessary for same-sex parenting situations if the parents were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born.

Once a person is established as a legal parent, he or she will have all the responsibilities of a parent, which include requesting custody and visitation orders and paying child support.

To discuss opening a Paternity case and establishing your parental rights with an attorney, please contact us today to complete a free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.

Child Custody and Visitation

When families change or separate, generally the parents will spend time attempting to define what Custody and Visitation schedule is in the best interest of their child(ren). Custody and visitation issues include legal rights and responsibilities as well as practical matters of who spends time with the children and when, and who provides food, shelter, and care and meets daily needs.  When parents are unable to reach an agreement, often times they must ask the Court to help them decide the ideal arrangements.

This does not mean that the process must be contentious. In San Diego, the Family Court Service Department will host a mandatory mediation with both parents, wherein the parents can express their concerns in a non-adversarial setting. If the parents agree to a timeshare schedule and other arrangements, the Court will generally adopt that agreement as an order of the Court.

Custody and Visitation orders will include a general schedule, but may also include orders related to Holiday Visitation and School Breaks, extracurricular activities, Parenting and Co-Parenting classes, visitation monitors (i.e. supervised visitation), family therapy and other necessary orders to ensure the child(ren)’s health, safety, and welfare are met.

To discuss the best Custody and Visitation plan for your family with an attorney, please contact us today to complete a free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.

Child Support

Child Support, as its name implies, is the amount of money that a Court orders a parent to pay every month for the support and living expenses of their child(ren).

Child Support may be ordered in a Divorce Action or in a Paternity action. Each county in California, including San Diego, also has a local child support agency to help establish, modify or collect child support at no charge to the parents.

Each parent is equally responsible for providing for the financial needs of his or her child(ren). However, the Court cannot enforce this responsibility until it makes an order for support. It is the responsibility of the parent seeking a Child Support order to file the request in the appropriate case and/or Court.

If parents cannot agree on a Child Support amount, the Court will decide the Child Support amount based on a statewide “guideline” calculation. Guideline Child Support is presumed to be correct and the Judge can only order an amount other than guideline in very limited situations. The guideline calculation depends on a number of factors, the most important of which include the number of children the parents have together, how much money each of the parents earns or can earn, and how much time each of the parents spend with the child(ren).

Child Support orders may also require the parents to share the costs for child care to allow a parent to work or get training or schooling for work skills, uninsured health care expenses for the child(ren), other costs.

Child Support is a very important and very nuanced area of Family Law. To discuss how the Child Support factors may be considered in your case, please contact us today to complete a free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.

Spousal Support

When a couple legally separates or divorces, the Court may order one spouse to pay the other a certain amount of support each month. For married couples this is called “Spousal Support” and for Domestic Partnerships, it is known as “Partner Support.” Both are also commonly referred to as “Alimony”.

A Spouse or Partner may request support in a Divorce, Legal Separation or Annulment case, or in a Request for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. If the request made is for support while the case is ongoing, the support is considered “Temporary.” When the support is ordered as part of a final Divorce or Separation Judgment, it is called “Permanent” (or long-term) Support. Temporary and Permanent Support are analyzed using different factors and are rarely the same amount.

Unlike Child Support, Spousal Support does not follow a “guideline” calculation. The Court must consider an extensive list of factors before ordering “permanent” Spousal Support. Among the factors that the Court must consider are the length of the marriage or domestic partnership, what each person needs based on the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage, the age and health of both spouses, and division of assets and debts in the underlying Divorce or Separation case.

Spousal Support is a very important and very nuanced area of Family Law. To discuss how the Spousal Support factors may be considered in your case, please contact us today to complete a free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.


In a Guardianship case, a Court can make orders allowing an adult other than a child’s parents to have Custody of the child, the child’s property, or both. Such a case is brought in Probate Court and is made necessary when good cause exists for the child to live with an adult other than the child’s parents. The resulting orders allow the child’s Guardian to make important decisions on behalf of the child.

A Guardianship is not the same as an Adoption. Namely, in a Guardianship case, the parent’s parental rights remain intact. Further, a Guardianship can be ended by the Court at a later date.

There are two types of Guardianship cases: Guardianship of the Person and Guardianship of the Estate. Guardianship of the Person means the Guardian can make decisions related to the child’s care including health, safety, welfare, and education. Guardianship of the Estate means the Guardian can make decisions related to a child’s income, money, or other personal property until the child turns eighteen. At People’s Legal Services, we currently offer representation in cases that relate to Guardianship of the Person ONLY.

If you feel that a Guardianship is necessary, or have questions related to establishing a Guardianship, please contact us today to complete a free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.

Document Preparation

To be certain, having an attorney with you every step of the way is the best option for most litigants. In some cases, however, because of limited time, resources or other extenuating circumstances that simply isn’t an option.

Proceeding as a self-represented litigant does not lessen the high standard the Court requires of each party in a Family Law action. This includes necessarily detailed filings, multiple deadlines, and intricate legal arguments.

When full-scope representation is not an option in your Family Law case, People’s Legal Services can still offer you a free 30 minute case evaluation with an attorney. Moreover, we can effectively and affordably assist you in preparing your Family Law filing. This maximizes your ability to self-represent at your hearing, and the value of each dollar you spend towards achieving a suitable and appropriate result in your case.

Please contact us today to complete your free 30-minute case evaluation. Hablamos Español.