Los Angeles Divorce Attorney
Los Angeles Divorce Attorney
Top Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer: Stephen L. Cawelti
Divorce can be an extremely difficult time in a person’s life. To add to the stress, the process of divorce and its terminology can be intimidating and confusing. With so much at stake, it is important for you to have a divorce attorney who will guide you through the California divorce process and protect your interests.
Los Angeles divorce lawyer Stephen Cawelti was named by Pasadena Magazine as one of the top divorce attorneys in the area for the past 6 years. He has advocated and protected the interests of hundreds of individuals going through divorce in Los Angeles and is prepared to guide and advocate for you through your divorce.
Our office, located in Burbank, is a short drive from Glendale, Pasadena & the greater Los Angeles area.
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Who You Hire As Your Divorce Attorney Can Impact Your Life in Big Ways
Not all attorneys are created equal. It is important for your divorce attorney to have experience inside the courtroom, to know the judges in the area, to have solid negotiation skills, and to know the experts in the field.
Learn what to look for when hiring a divorce attorney and why you want to find a family law specialist.
California Divorce Process
California is a “No Fault” divorce state, which means that the individual who asks for the divorce does not have to prove that the other partner did anything wrong. To get a “No Fault” divorce, one partner has to state that the couple has “irreconcilable differences” or other grounds.
Divorce can be a complex process, especially when couples have property, assets, debts and children. Divorce attorney Stephen Cawelti and his team’s job is not only to guide you through the process, but to do the heavy lifting so that your stress is minimized.
Simplified Timeline Divorce Timeline
File For Divorce
One spouse files for divorce and serves the other spouse (the respondent) with the court papers. The respondent has 30 days to file a response to the divorce petition.
Disclose Financial Information
Each spouse must legally disclose all financial information. This will include the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (required forms that disclose each of the spouse’s finances).
A couple can come to an agreement about these decisions on their own. They can also enlist help from a mediator or pursue a collaborative divorce, where their attorneys negotiate the agreement. If a couple cannot come to an agreement on their own, they can have the court decide on these important questions.
Submit Final Paperwork
The general steps to finalizing your divorce are as follows
- Fill out final orders
- Submit orders to clerk
- Wait for judge to review & sign forms
- Receive the signed judgment
The final judgment will contain the date that your marriage will officially be dissolved.
In the state of California, a divorce cannot be finalized legally until a waiting period of 6 months has been completed. This time period starts the day that the spouse filing for divorce officially notifies the other spouse.
What Type of Divorce Is Right For You?
It is important for you to be educated on all of your divorce options. Those options include an uncontested divorce, mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigation.
Which option is right for you? It depends on your unique circumstances. As your divorce lawyer, Stephen will help you to analyze your unique case determine which option is the best fit.
Want to Avoid Court? A Divorce Lawyer Can Help
Divorce comes with a lot of decisions. Property division, child custody, child support and alimony can often be points of disagreement for couples who are splitting. Disagreements are normal, but settling disagreements in court does not have to be your only option You can save significant time, money and emotional stress by resolving disagreements outside of court with the help of a Los Angeles divorce lawyer.
One out-of-court divorce approach is mediation. In mediation, couples will have an impartial mediator who will help them work out an arrangement that they both deem satisfactory.
Our firm has served as the mediator for many divorce cases. We take pride in our successful track record of settling nearly all of the cases that commit to the mediation process outside of court.
Many of our cases use the services of a retired family law judge to reach a settlement and enter the final family law judgment. This allows the parties to avoid trial in the court system, often avoiding long delays and great expense. Some parties can benefit from taking their case out of the public court and into a “private judge” scenario, speeding up the resolution process and avoiding the airing of “dirty laundry” in the public record.
Sometimes however, one or both parties have unreasonable expectations that need to be resolved in court. Even if you are not able to resolve everything in mediation, mediation can help you resolve some of your issues, which then allows you to focus on the unresolved issues in court. A judge will then make a decision on those unresolved issues.
Regardless of your mediation path, it is important for you to have a compassionate and experienced divorce attorney who can help you navigate the best approach for your unique situation. When you prepare for mediation, you also prepare yourself for trial in the case that an agreement cannot be reached. Our firm prepares as if every case will go to court and lives by the motto “settle intelligently or litigate aggressively”.
Collaborative divorce (also known as collaborative law) is another option for those who want to avoid going to court. In collaborative divorce, each individual hires a divorce lawyer who assists them in negotiating the terms of the divorce. Each individual meets and counsels separately with their own lawyer and often a team of other experts in the areas of forensic accounting, mental health and child custody. The group then comes together and meets several times to work out the terms of agreement.
Both the lawyers and the spouses sign an agreement that they will not go to court. But, if for whatever reason, an agreement cannot be reached and the case has to go to court, the divorce attorneys will withdraw from the case and the parties must hire new divorce lawyers.
Collaborative law is not for everyone, but it can help to reduce many of the emotional stresses that often accompany divorce. It is important to hire a divorce attorney who specializes in collaborative law and who has experience in collaborative negotiation. Stephen L. Cawelti has worked as a collaborative law attorney on many cases and is prepared to help you collaborate to reach an agreement that protects your interests and needs.
California Residency Requirements
In order to get a divorce in California, you have to meet California’s residency requirements. The law requires that either you OR your spouse must have lived in California for the past 6 months AND also have lived in the county where you plan to file for the divorce for the past 3 months.
If you or your spouse have lived in California for at least 6 months but have lived in different counties (for at least 3 months), you have the option to file in either county.
Divorce comes with a lot of decisions. Property division, child custody, child support and alimony can often be points of disagreement for couples who are splitting. Disagreements are normal, and settling disagreements in court does not have to be your only option. You can save significant time, money and emotional stress by resolving disagreements outside of court with the help of a Los Angeles divorce lawyer.
An Experienced Divorce Lawyer is Critical
Divorce can be incredibly difficult. To add to the life altering change, individuals must navigate the division of property, assets, child custody, spousal support and the subsequent California laws surrounding them. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer increases your chance of a favorable outcome and can eliminate a significant amount of stress. At the Law Offices of Stephen L. Cawelti, we recognize how much is at stake and are prepared to protect your interests and advocate for your case.
Frequently Asked Divorce Questions
Do I actually need a divorce lawyer to get divorced?
You do not need a divorce lawyer to get divorced. If you have not been married long, have little to no assets or debt, and agree about every aspect of your split, a DIY divorce might be the right fit for you.
With that being said, there are risks and major consequences if a DIY divorce is done wrong. Here are a few real examples…
Example 1: The couple decides to let the husband keep the house in lieu of spousal support. Several months later, the housing market tanks and the husband is unable to sell his home for the original valuation. He now needs spousal support, but per their DIY agreement, he agreed to not receive support.
Example 2: The couple has two credit cards, and they each agree to pay one of the cards off. The husband paid off the card that he agreed to pay, but the wife did not. Since the credit card was listed in the husbands name, the husband was stuck with a bad credit score and the debt.
How much will my divorce cost?
The majority of divorce lawyers charge by the hour and require their clients to post an upfront, refundable retainer. The retainer amount depends on the unique circumstances and legalities surrounding your case. At our firm, we will review your case and quote a retainer based on the information given in the consultation. If that retainer is not used up at the end of your case, you will be refunded the extra amount.
How long do divorces take in California?
Even if you and your ex agree about every aspect of your divorce, California law mandates a six month waiting period. This means that your divorce cannot be finalized until six months after the divorce petition is filed and served.
The length of a divorce will vary case by case. A divorce where each spouse is willing to cooperate and compromise will move much quicker than a couple resolving their dispute through litigation.
Will my divorce affect my credit?
Divorce does not directly affect your credit score. Your marriage status is not listed on your credit report and has no bearing on your score.
The divorce process involves splitting joint accounts (and joint debts). This can be incredibly complicated and if not done right, can end up hurting your credit score. A divorce lawyer will help you to take the necessary measures to protect your credit score during the split.
Is divorce public record?
If you don’t want to air out your dirty laundry to the public, there is a simple solution: settle outside of court through mediation or through a collaborative divorce. If you go to court, your divorce will be public record unless the judge orders your case to be sealed. A judge will only order the records to be sealed if there are privacy or safety concerns.
Where do I start?
First, it is important to educate yourself on all of your divorce options. These include an uncontested divorce, mediation, collaborative divorce and litigation. Then, it is important to find qualified legal representation to help guide you through the process and protect your rights.
Stephen L. Cawelti
Stephen is a board certified divorce attorney who has specialized in complex family law matters since 2006 in California. He has acted as the lead attorney on hundreds of divorce cases and argued before the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura County Superior Courts. He was voted by Pasadena Magazine as one of the “Top Family Law Attorneys” in the area for 7 years in a row and named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.
Serving Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena & the Greater Los Angeles Area