Dealing with any legal issue, large or small, can cause stress and confusion.  In order to lend some clarity to certain matters, I have provided these answers to some commonly asked questions.  For additional information and guidance, please contact Miles T. Goldrick, Lawyer.

General Questions

How much will this case cost me?
This is always a good question, but unless it is an uncontested matter, there is no accurate answer that can be given.  The cost of a case is driven by the complexity of the issues and the cooperativeness (or lack thereof) of the other party (or parties).  Typically, these two factors will determine how much time I must spend on your case. 

Will you be available to meet with me and to return telephone messages?
Yes.  Communication is vitally important to a successful attorney-client relationship.  As a case develops and when unexpected events occur, I know that it is essential for you to be advised of the facts that need to be addressed.  I will explain the issues when they arise and offer my suggested approach to handling those issues.  Then we will decide how best to proceed.

Family Law Questions

How long does it take to get a divorce?
In order to dissolve a marriage in California, one of the spouses must live in the state for a minimum of six months.  Generally, the entire process takes at least six months.  If you and your spouse cannot agree on the important terms of the dissolution and litigation becomes necessary, it can take considerably longer to finalize.  See our family law page for more information.

How is child custody determined?
California courts generally prefer custody arrangements that allow both parents to be involved in their children's lives.  There are two types of custody-legal and physical.  Legal custody affords the right and responsibility to make decisions for the children regarding education, health care, and anything affecting the children's welfare.  Physical custody determines who the children will actually live with.  The court can award you any of the following: sole legal custody, sole physical custody, joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or "joint custody," meaning both joint legal and physical custody.

How is property divided after divorce?
California is a community property state.  Community property is the property acquired during the marriage, except property acquired by a spouse by gift or inheritance.  Generally, all community property is divided equitably between the spouses upon divorce; depending on the type of property and how it was paid for, the division may not always be equal.  An experienced family law attorney can explain the different categories of property and how the California courts would likely divide your assets and debts.

What are Pre Nuptial and Post Nuptial agreements?
Both pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements define how property, assets, and debt will be distributed when a marriage is dissolved.  Pre-nuptial agreements are drafted before a marriage; post-nuptial agreements are created any time after a marriage.  It is best to consult an experienced family law attorney for assistance with either type of nuptial agreement to ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

Estate Planning and Probate Questions

What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of administering the estate of a deceased person.  The purpose of this process is to ensure that any final bills and expenses are paid, including any taxes owed.  All remaining assets are then distributed to the beneficiaries named in the decedent's will, or, if the decedent died without a will ("intestate"), the estate will be distributed to the decedent's heirs as defined by California's intestate succession laws.

What is a living trust and how does it differ from a will?
A living trust is a trust created during a person's lifetime.  Assets held in a living trust do not require probate.  When the person who created the trust dies, the assets in the trust are distributed to the persons named and in the manner specified by the trust.  Living trusts also provide a plan for the management of the trust assets in the event of the trustor's incapacity.

In contrast, while you create a will during your lifetime, it has no legal effect until your death. Assets passing pursuant to a will may require probate administration.  Wills also do not provide a plan for incapacity.  An experienced estate planning attorney can help you determine whether your assets are best transferred by will, trust, or a combination of both.

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