FAMILY LAW

At The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates, we are devoted to protecting the best interests of our clients and helping them reach monumental resolutions in a short amount of time.

 

With endless persistence, we relentlessly and sympathetically work to reduce your stress and financial burdens. Through effective negotiations and aggressive litigation, we can address your needs with a specialized approach for your significant case.

 

If you are in need of a family law attorney, please contact The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates online or by calling (805) 842-2000 today to be put in touch with our experienced legal team.

 

When we say endless persistence, we mean it. Would you like to know exactly how our Family Law department works?

 

At The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates we assist with legal analysis and case assessment, document preparation, hearing and trial preparation, and court appearances in divorce, legal separation, nullity, paternity, child support, domestic violence and civil harassment cases. We draft petitions, responses, disclosure declarations, joinders, Request for Orders (RFO), responsive declarations, motions, orders after hearings, settlement proposals, trial briefs, and judgments. We conduct all forms of discovery including interrogatories, demands for production, depositions, and subpoenas.

 

Contact our Family Law Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates for a free consultation at (805) 842-2000.

 

CHILD SUPPORT

What is Child Support?

 

• Under California law both parents have a legal responsibility to provide financial support for their children if they are under age 18. However, only in some circumstances, this legal obligation continues even after a child turns 18. After separation or divorce, or in the case where the parents are not married, or not living together, the court may order a parent to make regular payments to support a child’s living. Child support may include monthly cash payments, payment of health insurance, health care costs not covered by insurance, and child care costs.

 

• In California, child support is determined using state guidelines starting with California Family Code Section 4050. The child support guidelines are based on various factors, including the monthly net income of both parents and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Along with other court forms, each parent must file Form FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration with the court when a child support order is being requested. Various unique and special circumstances may impact the court’s calculation of child support but to get an idea of the amount of child support that may be ordered by the court, access the free guideline child support calculator on the California Department of Child Support Services website. Guideline Calculator

 

How do I obtain a Court Order for child support?

 

• To obtain an order for child support, you need to have an active case with the court. If there is no existing case, you may need to file one of the following:

 

 Are You Married?

 

• If you are married to the other parent, you may file a Petition for Dissolution, Legal Separation or Nullity (Form FL-100). To obtain temporary child support orders while the case is pending you must request a court hearing by filing and serving the FL-300 Request for Order and other court forms as required. You may also request child support in a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-100).

 

 Not Married, its OK!

 

• If you are not married to the other parent, you may file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (Form FL-200). Either the mother or father can file a parentage action. If you file a parentage action, you can request orders for custody and visitation as well as child support at that time. To obtain temporary child support orders while the case is pending you must request a court hearing by filing and serving the FL-300 Request for Order and other court forms as required. You may also request child support in a Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-100). Here’s more information on a Parentage Action.

 

Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children

 

• A Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (Form FL-260) (this petition will not terminate your marriage or establish a parental relationship) is also an option where parentage has already been established. Here’s more information on the Petition for Custody and Support of a Minor Child.

 

Getting help from the Ventura County Child Support Services Department

 

• The Ventura County Child Support Services Department may be able to provide help with opening a child support case. Here’s more information about the services provided by CSSD.

 

How can the Court Ordered Amount of Child Support be Changed?

 

• After an initial child support order is issued, the amount of the order may be changed if a proper request for modification is filed with the court. Either parent may request a modification of the child support order if there is a change in circumstances. A change in circumstance can occur if there has been a substantial increase or decrease in the earnings by either parent, a change in the custodial arrangements, or a change in the amount of time the child spends with each parent.  Here’s more information on Changing A Child Support Order.

 

Here’s more information on Child Support.

 

Contact our Child Support Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates for a free consultation at (805) 842-2000.

 

 

CHILD CUSTODY

What is Child Custody?

 

• Divorcing or separating parents need to figure out who will make decisions about their children’s care, where their children will live, and when each parent will spend time with the children.  The best solution for the children is for the parents to agree on a “parenting plan”. In most cases, a judge will approve a custody plan agreed upon by both parties.

 

In California, there are two types of custody: “legal” and “physical”

 Legal Custody

• “Legal custody” is the right to make major decisions concerning the child’s health, safety, education, and welfare. One parent can make these decisions alone, which is known as sole legal custody, or both parents may retain the right to make these decisions, known as joint legal custody.

 Physical Custody

• “Physical custody” refers to where a child lives after a divorce or separation. Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent and may visit the other parent. Joint physical custody means the child resides with both parents.

 Visitation

• When one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent– sometimes referred to as the “non-custodial parent”– still has the right to “visitation” (the right to spend time with the children), except in extreme cases where it would not be in the children’s best interest. For example, in some cases of extreme abuse and/or neglect, a court may deny any and all visitation time with the children.

 

How is Child Custody Determined?

 

• The law regarding child custody and visitation in California is found at California Family Code sections 3000-3204. If you and the other parent are unable to agree on custody, the judge will make the decisions for you. Before any hearing or trial regarding custody, both parents are required to meet with a court mediator. The mediator will try to help you agree on custody and parenting plan.

 

In deciding initial custody issues the judge will determine the parenting plan that is in the “best interest of the children”. The judge will consider the following “best interest” factors:

• the age of the children

• the health, safety, and welfare of the children

• whether either parent has a history of domestic violence

• the nature and amount of contact each parent has with the children

• whether either parent has a habit of drug and/or alcohol use

• the children’s wishes, if the children are old/mature enough to make an intelligent preference.

 

How do I obtain a court order for custody of my kids?

 

• To obtain a court order for child custody you need to have an active case with the court. If you are married to the other parent, you may file a Petition for Dissolution, Legal Separation or Nullity depending on the facts of the case. If you are not married to the other parent, you may file a Petition to Establish Parental Relationship. To obtain temporary child custody orders while the divorce or paternity case is pending you must request a court hearing by filing and serving the FL-300 Request for Order and other court forms as required. Other options to obtain child custody orders include a Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children or, if domestic violence is present, you may seek a Domestic Violence Restraining Order with child custody orders. Depending on the specific facts and circumstances of your situation, there may be additional legal options available to you.

 

How can a Child Custody order be changed?

 

• After an initial child custody order is made by the court, the order may be changed if a proper request for modification is filed by either parent. In most instances, a “change in circumstance” must be shown in order for the court to change the custody orders. The court has jurisdiction (legal power) over the issues of child custody and visitation until the children are 18 years old.

 

Here’s more information on changing a Child Custody Order.

 

Here’s more information on Child Custody.

 

Contact our Child Custody Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates for a free consultation at (805) 842-2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIVORCE

• Either spouse can decide to end their marriage. It is not necessary for the other spouse to agree. The spouse who does not want to get a divorce cannot stop the process by refusing to participate in the case. Non-participation will just lead to a “default” in which the petitioner obtains the divorce judgment without the involvement of the other spouse.

 

• In California a Petition for Dissolution (divorce) Form FL-100 may be filed to dissolve the marital status and be restored to the status of a single person. In a divorce case you can ask the judge for orders regarding child custody, visitation/parenting time, child support, spousal support/alimony, division of assets and debts, restraining orders, and attorney’s fees. With a Petition for Legal Separation the marital status is not dissolved after entry of the judgment and the parties remain married but obtain final court orders regarding all of the other issues such as property division, child custody, and support.

 

Declarations of Disclosure

 

• Under California law, the parties must exchange documents disclosing the assets and debts of the marriage, the separate assets and debts of the parties, and income and expenses of each party. California law recognizes the importance of “full and accurate disclosure of all assets and liabilities” at the early stages of a divorce or legal separation case to ensure fair and sufficient child and spousal support awards, and to achieve a proper division of community and quasi-community assets and liabilities. There is a “continuing duty” on the part of each spouse to immediately, fully, and accurately update and augment their disclosures. To implement this policy, the California Family Code mandates that each spouse serve a “preliminary” and “final” declaration of disclosure on the other spouse. A judgment may not be entered without the exchange of the disclosures.

 

For more information about the Declarations of Disclosure see form FL-140 Declaration of Disclosure.

 

Request for Temporary Orders

 

• Either party to a divorce case may file a request to establish temporary orders while the divorce or legal separation case is pending. In Ventura County a party may request a hearing to establish temporary orders for issues such as child custody, child support, and spousal support by filing and serving the FL-300 Request for Order and other court forms as required. Depending on the specific issues and requests, other court forms must be completed, filed, and served. For general instructions and information regarding the process of establishing temporary orders see form FL-300-INFO Information Sheet for Request for Order.

 

 

Divorce Case Resolution

 

• There are three ways to resolve a divorce or legal separation case. If your spouse does not respond to the case after being properly served then you may file a request to enter default and default judgment with the court and the judge will grant the divorce without the involvement of your spouse. If your spouse files a response to the case but you are able to reach agreement on all of the issues you or your spouse will prepare a stipulated judgment for the judge’s signature. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement regarding the issues then the judge will make orders at a trial and you or your spouse must prepare a contested judgment for the judge’s signature.

 

For detailed information on the California procedure for obtaining a divorce or legal separation judgment see the Legal Steps for a Divorce or Legal Separation FL-107-INFO.

 

• You are not divorced until a judge signs the judgment of dissolution and the judgment is entered by the court. You will not be divorced until at least 6 months and one day after service of the Petition for Dissolution on the Respondent. Depending on the legal issues and court backlog, many divorces take much longer to be completed.

 

Here’s more information on Divorce and Legal Separation.

 

Contact our Divorce Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates for a free consultation at (805) 842-2000.

 

PROPERTY DIVISION

What is Property Division?

 

• Couples going through a divorce must decide how to divide their assets and debts. Assets may include real property such as a home, cars, bank accounts, jewelry, art, household furniture, stocks, retirement accounts and pensions. Debts may include tax debt, student loans, credit card debt, and loans. The three major steps to resolving property issues are characterization, valuation, and division.

 

Community Property and Separate Property

 

• California is a community property state. This means that any property acquired during the marriage is usually characterized as community property and will normally be divided equally between the parties unless the parties agree to an unequal division. Generally speaking, property acquired prior to marriage, after separation, or obtained by gift or inheritance is separate property and will be awarded to the party acquiring the property. However, there are many factors and circumstances that can change the characterization of a particular piece of property. A couple can agree either before or during marriage to change an asset that was originally separate property into community property but such agreements must be in writing and must clearly state the intentions of the parties. Sometimes a spouse changes a separate asset into a community asset without meaning to by combining or “commingling” separate property with marital property. Many types of assets can be partially community and partially separate, including retirement accounts one spouse contributed to both before and during the marriage.

 

How is Property Divided?

 

• First, the spouses assign a monetary value to each item of property. If the spouses cannot agree on the value of an asset the judge will make that determination. There are several options for dividing the marital property. Spouses can divide the assets by assigning certain items to each spouse, by allowing one spouse to “buy out” the other’s share of an asset, or by selling assets and dividing the proceeds. They can also agree to hold property together even after the divorce. All debts accrued during the marriage must also be assigned to one of the spouses. Some couples are able to agree on how to divide all their assets and debts. If an agreement cannot be reached then the judge will make the decisions about division of the marital assets and debts.

 

Here’s more information on Property Division in California.

 

Contact our Property Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates for a free consultation at (805) 842-2000.

 

 

PATERNITY LAWYERS

What is a Paternity Case?

 

• A paternity case is used to determine the legal parents of a minor child when the parties were not married at the time of the child’s birth. A paternity case may be started by a parent with the filing of the Petition to Establish Parental Relationship (Form FL-200) and other mandatory court forms. Other issues in a paternity case may include child custody, child support, health insurance, name change, and reimbursement of pregnancy and birth expenses. If the parents are unmarried, a child’s parentage must be established before the court will make child support or child custody orders. Parentage can be established through a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity, an agreement of the parties or by court order. The court has the authority to order genetic testing in disputed cases. The Ventura County Child Support Services Department may provide assistance in legally establishing parentage in order to obtain a court order for child support however they do not assist with obtaining court orders regarding child custody. Here’s more information about the services provided by CSSD.

 

Why is Establishing Parentage Important to a Child?

 

• In addition to the emotional benefit of knowing who both of his or her parents are, the establishment of paternity provides the child with many potential legal rights and benefits. Once parentage is legally established the child is entitled to financial support from both parents, legal documentation identifying both parents, the name of both parents on the child’s birth certificate, access to family medical records, health and life insurance coverage from either parent, the right to inherit from the parent, and the right to receive social security and veteran’s benefits.

 

Here’s more information on Paternity.

 

Contact our Paternity Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates for a free consultation at (805) 842-2000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOUSAL SUPPORT

What is Spousal/Partner Support?

 

• In California, when a couple legally separates or divorces, the court may order one spouse or domestic partner to help pay for the support of the other spouse or domestic partner. This is called “spousal support” for married couples and “partner support” in domestic partnerships. If one of the parties files a request, the judge may order “temporary” spousal/partner support during the case. Spousal/partner support may also be ordered when the case becomes final with the entry of the judgment. Spousal/partner support orders contained in judgments are known as “permanent” orders although they may be modified by the court after a request for modification is filed by one of the parties.

 

Seeking "Temporary" Spousal/Partner Support

 

• There must be an existing court case in order for spousal/partner support to be legally established. A spouse or domestic partner can ask the judge to make a spousal/partner support order as part of a divorce, legal separation, or domestic violence case. In a divorce case, a spouse or domestic partner may ask for temporary spousal/partner support by filing a Request for Order (Form FL-300) and other mandatory forms such as the Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150). In most instances, the parties will attend a court hearing where the judge will consider the facts of the case and make orders regarding temporary spousal/partner support.  In a domestic violence case, a request for spousal/partner support may be included as part of the Request for Domestic Violence Restraining Order (Form DV-100).

 

Seeking "Permanent" Spousal/Partner Support

 

• Permanent spousal/partner support orders are contained in the final judgment which resolves the case. The parties may agree to the amount of monthly spousal/partner support payments or the judge will consider the facts of the case and make orders regarding permanent spousal/partner support.

 

• Under California law, the judge must consider the following factors (found in California Family Code Section 4320) when making a permanent spousal/partner support order:

 

• How long the couple has been married or in a domestic partnership

• The age and health of each spouse or partner

• How much money each can earn on his or her own

• How many expenses each spouse or partner has

• What debts and what property each person has

• What each person needs to “maintain the standard of living established during the marriage

• Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the child(ren)

• Whether one spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license

• Whether one spouse’s, or domestic partner’s, career was affected by unemployment, or by taking care of the children or home

• The tax impact of spousal support (note: federal and state tax laws were not changed to recognize domestic partnerships)

• Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership

 

The spouse or domestic partner seeking permanent spousal/partner support may provide the judge with an assessment of each factor by completing the Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment FL-157.

 

If the marriage lasted less than 10 years (from the date of marriage to the date of separation), it is unlikely that a judge will order permanent spousal support for longer than one half the length of the marriage. After a permanent spousal/partner support order is made, either party may return to court by filing a Request for Order (Form FL-300) and other mandatory forms to request a modification of the amount of support or a termination of the support.

 

Here’s more information about Spousal/Partner Support.

 

Contact our Spousal Support Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates for a free consultation at (805) 842-2000.

 

CHILD VISITATION

What is Child Visitation?

 

• When the judge grants one parent physical custody of a child the other parent is usually granted visitation (or parenting time) with the child. Visitation orders are most commonly made in divorce, legal separation, paternity, and domestic violence cases. There are several options for visitation including a court ordered specific visitation schedule, “reasonable” visitation without a specific schedule, “supervised” visitation or an order of “no visitation”. The parties may come to an agreement regarding the visitation plan but if an agreement cannot be reached, the judge will create the visitation plan and make the visitation orders.

 

Supervised Visitation

• A parent may request “supervised” visitation for the other parent. This option is used when the child’s safety and well-being require that visits with a parent be supervised by the other parent, another adult, or a professional agency.

 

No Visitation

• A parent may request that the other parent have no contact with the child. The option of a “no visitation” order is used in extreme situations in which contact with the parent would be physically or emotionally harmful to the child.

 

Creating a Visitation Plan

 

• Visitation plans should be specific in order to avoid potential conflicts and eliminate confusion. The most effective plans provide details about the specific days of the week for visitation, the times and locations for exchange of the child, and provisions regarding responsibility for transporting the child to and from the visitation. For example, if a parent will have the child “every other weekend”, it is helpful to define that specifically as the 1st, 3rd, and 5th (or the 2nd and 4th) weekends of the month. The pick-up and drop-off times may also be specific, such as Friday at 3:00 p.m. to Sunday at 6:00 p.m. The FL-311 Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment is a helpful tool in creating a visitation schedule.

 

Here’s more information about Child Visitation.

 

 

Contact our Child Visitation Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates at (805) 842-2000.

 

 

 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RESTRAINING ORDER

What is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

 

• A Domestic Violence Restraining Order is a court order that helps protect people from abuse from someone they have a close relationship with. The judge can order the restrained person to not contact or go near you, your children, your relatives, or others who live with you. You may also be able to obtain child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support orders in a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. However, it is not a divorce and cannot end your marriage or domestic partnership.

 

What is Domestic Violence?

 

• Domestic violence is abuse or threats of abuse when the person being abused and the abuser are or have been in an intimate relationship (married or domestic partners, are dating or used to date, live or lived together, or have a child together). It is also when the abused person and the abusive person are closely related by blood or by marriage.

 

What is abuse?

 

• The domestic violence laws say “abuse” is:

 

• Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone, intentionally or recklessly

• Sexual Assault

• Making someone reasonably afraid that they or someone else are about to be seriously hurt (like threats or promises to harm someone)

• Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone; disturbing someone’s peace; or destroying someone’s personal property

 

Physical Abuse Is Not Just Hitting

 

• Abuse can be kicking, shoving, pushing, pulling hair, throwing things, scaring or following you, or keeping you from freely coming and going. It can even include physical abuse of the family pets.

 

Here’s more information about Domestic Violence Restraining Orders.

 

Contact our Domestic Violence Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates at (805) 842-2000.

 

CIVIL HARASSMENT RESTRAINING ORDER

What is a Civil Harassment Restraining Order?

 

• A civil harassment restraining order is a court order that helps protect you from violence, stalking, serious harassment, or threats of violence by someone you have not dated and do NOT have a close relationship with, like a neighbor, a roommate, or a friend (that you have never dated). California Code of Civil Procedure Section 527.6 defines civil harassment and the legal process for obtaining a civil harassment restraining order. Under this code section, “harassment” is defined as unlawful violence, like assault or battery or stalking, or a credible threat of violence, and the violence or threats seriously scare, annoy, or harass someone. A “credible threat of violence” includes following or stalking someone, making harassing calls, or sending harassing messages by phone, mail, or e-mail, over a period of time. If you do not qualify for a civil harassment restraining order, you may be able to ask for a Domestic Violence Restraining Order for protection from people you were involved with romantically or close family members such as your spouse/partner, former spouse/partner, your parent, child, sibling, or grandparents.

 

Here’s more information about Civil Harassment Restraining Orders.

 

Contact our Civil Harassment Attorneys at The Law Offices of Brandon Sua & Associates at (805) 842-2000.