San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog

What is a Divorce Decree?

divorce_decreeThere are different kinds of decrees. There are presidential decrees and religious decrees that generally have to do with disciplinary acts or clarification of doctrine. There are the decrees that parents issue in regards to household rules and decrees issued by the human resources department of the company you work for. In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Glinda the good witch decrees that the Munchkins should “spread the news that "the wicked old witch at last is dead!” after Dorothy and her house land on her resulting in the Munchkins presenting the decree in the form of the song, “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!”. Perhaps if you are coming through a contentious divorce you might take a cue from the munchkins after the Divorce Decree is issued and do a little celebration singing?

Really, the word “decree” can refer to any sort of proclamation backed up with authority or law but in the world of family law, a “divorce decree” simply refers to the court’s final ruling and judgment order that makes the termination of a marriage official. Each divorce decree will be different but in general the purpose of the decree is to summarize the rights and duties of each party in connection with the divorce. The divorce process is not complete until the divorce decree is issued. In other words, the party’s status as married or divorced will not be finalized until the divorce decree is completed. Incomplete divorce proceedings may have effects on different areas of life, such as debt, property possession, taxes, employment benefits, and other legal rights.

A few of the issues typically addressed in a divorce decree include:

  • Alimony or spousal support
  • The different financial obligations of each party such as the assignment and/or division  of debt responsibility
  • Custody of minor children
  • Child support
  • Visitation rights
  • Division of property
  • Basic Facts of the divorce
  • The court Case number

A Divorce Decree should not be confused with a “Divorce Certificate” which typically just serves as basic legal proof that a couple are no longer married but doesn’t contain the more granular detail included in a divorce decree. A divorce certificate can be used for various legal purposes such as changing one’s legal name with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on a driver’s license. Laws vary from state to state as to who is allowed to receive a copy of a divorce certificate but when it comes to the actual divorce decree, in most cases only one of the spouses or their attorney may request a copy of the document. Access to the actual decree is important for checking the specific terms of the divorce or for filing an action in court regarding the decree such as modification of the original spousal support amount.

A third item is the “Divorce Record” which is the case file from the divorce and contains all of the papers that were filed during the divorce. Items such as sworn statements from each spouse, financial documentation used to determine division of property and support payments  as well as the actual divorce decree are included in the divorce record. The court that granted the divorce is the keeper of the divorce record and similar to the divorce decree is only available to one of the former spouses or their legal counsel. Reasons for needing the divorce record include mounting a challenge to agreements or decisions determined in the original divorce or for record keeping.

So how enforceable is the decree? According to LegalZoom, “The divorce decree legally binds both parties to keep the terms of the divorce. The spouses cannot modify the terms of the divorce stated in the decree individually, collaboratively or through their lawyers. The court approved each term and possesses the authority to enforce each term. If a spouse violates the terms of the divorce decree, the other spouse can return to court to bring the issue before the judge. Judges impose penalties for violations, which include holding the violating spouse in civil contempt of court. Judges also order modifications due to violations. For instance, if one spouse continuously violates the terms set out in the divorce decree regarding parenting time, a judge can modify parenting time based on the best interests of the child.”

It is important to bear in mind that a divorce decree does not nullify third party financial commitments you have agreed to with creditors and other companies. You have signed contracts with these organizations obligating yourself to the terms of the loans and are financially responsible and liable for their fulfillment and repayment. The divorce decree signifies an agreement among the court, your former spouse and you. It details who has agreed to take on responsibility for repayment of the debt and can be legally enforced by the court issuing the decree but if your former spouse neglects or refuses to obey the terms of the decree, your credit score can still be impacted and you are still liable for repayment.

You can attempt to revise the contract with the lender but the decision to do so is entirely at their discretion. They may be willing to remove you from responsibility for the debt but if the payment is delinquent then the lender is extremely unlikely to do so. Your best recourse to protect your credit score may be to repay the debt in full and then petition the court to compel your former spouse to compensate you for the amount you spent covering their court determined commitment.

In the state of California, a divorce decree is commonly known as a “Judgment”. According to, in California certified copies of divorce decrees are either authorized or informational and must be obtained from the specific county Superior Court where the divorce papers were filed. An informational divorce decree is available for family history or genealogy purposes and it is stamped with a declaration that the document is not valid for identification purposes. Divorce decrees are classified as confidential documents in California and while they can be ordered online, they are not available for downloading from the Internet. The state imposes a fee for obtaining a copy of a divorce decree, both authorized and informational.

California has determined that someone requesting a divorce decree must meet one of the following classifications to obtain a certified document:

  1. Be a named party in the divorce.
  2. Be a parent or legal guardian of a named party.
  3. Be a current spouse of a named party.
  4. Be a domestic partner of a named party.
  5. Be a sibling of a named party.
  6. Be a child of a named party.
  7. Be a grandparent of a named party.
  8. Be an authorized or legal representative of a named party.

As in all divorce matters, having a great support system including competent legal counsel is of the utmost importance.

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What if My Ex Isn’t Paying Their Child Support Payments?


You’ve gone through the stress and sadness of a divorce and you’ve started to move forward with your life. The outcome of the marriage dissolution, division of assets and the custody concerns were fair and your tension is starting to ease. You’re feeling ready to move forward to the next stage of your life as a parent and as a survivor of the life altering experience that is divorce. Jump forward a few months and you’re actually feeling truly human again with happiness on the horizon. You realize that you haven’t received this month’s child support payment from your former spouse; you try to contact them to assess the situation, but they seem to be dodging your calls and are unresponsive to your messages. When you finally speak to them, they initially try to play it off and then start to make excuses. When they realize you aren’t willing or able to wait for them to follow through with their court mandated responsibilities, they become belligerent or even aggressive. What is one to do? Wasn’t getting away from this sort of nonsense a primary catalyst for ending your marriage in the first place?

First, it is important to realize that this scenario plays out countless times every day all over the world. You are not alone and all competent family law attorneys have some level of experience in dealing with it. California law provides guidelines for courts to use in determining and setting child support payment amounts. As you probably learned during the original court proceedings, these guidelines are based on each parent’s monthly disposable net income and the amount of time spent by each parent caring for the child.

The court takes all income into account. In addition to wages, tips and bonuses they also consider unemployment and disability benefits, dividends, interest, self employment, Social Security/pensions, rental income, and even prize winnings. They also take taxes, insurance, union dues, mandatory retirement contributions and funds owed to any other dependents. Another California guideline states that child support typically ends when a child turns 18 unless that child is still a full-time high school student living with the custodial parent. If that is the case then it ends when that child either turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first. This is, as the name would indicate, a guideline, but if it is not followed, there must be a proper legal reason. To sum it up, the number and term are not selected arbitrarily and are based on all of the data provided to the court by your former spouse and their attorney. It is an amount that they should be able to manage, afford and that they need to produce to fulfill their responsibilities as a parent.

To be fair, sometimes circumstances arise that would justify a change (modification) in the amount being paid. If the amount is below or above that which is called for in the guidelines, either parent can seek a modification. Other circumstances such as involuntary loss of a job resulting in a loss of income and health benefits are a legitimate reason. Sometimes the need for a change is the result of other events such as the birth of an additional child with a new partner or when a parent is sentenced to time in jail. It is also important to remember that if there is a shift in “time-sharing” or the amount of time a parent spends caring for their child, that can cause the amount of support payments to go up or down respectively (this modification has to be done through the courts). Once a parent asks a court to modify a child support order, the court will analyze the new and existing data previously outlined to make a determination.

So you’ve played by the rules, gone through the procedure laid out above and now your spouse has stopped paying for whatever reason. Under the Child Support Enforcement Act of 1984, district attorneys (D.A.s) and/or state’s attorneys are required to help you and your attorney collect child support. The D.A. can serve your former spouse with papers compelling them to meet with the D.A. and set up a payment schedule. These papers typically state that if your ex refuses to meet with them or pay, jail time can be assigned to them.

Federal Laws also afford the D.A. the power to intercept tax refunds, seize or place a lien on property and garnish wages. If your ex’s employer doesn’t follow through or comply with the wage garnishment, they can then become liable for the funds owed as well—but as you might imagine, making this happen also requires legal intervention. In more drastic situations, suspension of business or occupational licenses can be used for legal leverage. Some states even allow the revocation of a deadbeat spouse's driver’s license and the State Department may refuse to issue a passport to anyone who owes more than $2,500 in child support.

Circling back to the “jail time” solution, this should always be  a last resort option. The primary goal is to get the money that you need to support your child; your ex being jailed doesn’t accomplish that— even if your level of anger at them makes it sound like a good solution. That being said, if nothing else is working, the threat of incarceration could serve as a motivator for them. Most jurisdictions are understandably reluctant to exercise this option specifically for the previously listed reasons; but it exists as an option for it may be the only one that delivers results.

Child support is one of the largest financial obligations that can result from a divorce. Depending on the age and number of children being supported, the payments can last for multiple decades and cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Regardless of how you and your ex feel about each other, the ability to work together in the best interest of the children is essential to your happiness and well being, as well as that of your children. The key to this is having the proper expectations, knowledge and legal council.

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Marriage and Divorce Rates

divorce and marriage rates

Remember when your spouse and you first decided that you wanted to make your commitment to each other official? You were young and in love! Your whole life was ahead of you and you were walking on air. Maybe your parents had a successful marriage or maybe they didn’t and you were convinced that you could learn from their mistakes and make a better go of it. Either way, love could overcome all obstacles, right? As you plotted out your future in your mind, the pros far outweighed the cons. You were fully committed and you believed that your soon to be partner in life was as well.

Unfortunately, despite all of the elements that bring a couple together and lead to the decision that they should be together, sometimes it is just not to be. A popular quote that seems to apply to struggling marriages is; “Women often marry men thinking that they can change the things they don’t like about them while men marry women thinking that they will always remain the same”. Marriage and divorce rates continue to fluctuate as years go by,this being especially true when significant events occur that alter lifestyles. If we are to examine how events in our country's history have influenced marriage and divorce; then we can see when many begin and others end.

In the past,we have seen that marriage rates are often directly linked to events, the economy, traditional values and other external factors. For example; marriages have been known to skyrocket during and immediately after a war. This is not a coincidence. The reasoning behind this stems from couples either not wanting to be apart again  after a forced separation caused by the war or  their fear that they might not ever see each other again combined with a desire to show a commitment to one another. Pre-deployment marriage proposals are frequently driven by hope and a need for comfort. During both World Wars I and II it was noted that there was  an increase in marriages before and after the conflicts. The rates drop off a bit in the years following, but marriage is driven  by other factors during times of peace. The years following WWII between 1946-1964 were full of hope, promise, prosperity and a greater appreciation of life and its simple pleasures such as family relationships by those who had lived through the fear and horrors of the war. In recent years, there has been a shift away from traditional values such as marriage but the institution is far from dead. If you disagree, just consider how many successful television programs are built around purchasing wedding dresses and preparation for the ceremony!

Of course, divorce is nowhere near inevitable. There are many extremely successful marriages that lead to strong partnerships and lifelong happiness. Many of these come after a first foray into the institution ends in divorce and much more thought and consideration is put into the next relationship. Divorce is an unfortunate occurrence that can be caused by a multitude of factors. Mistakes are made or one person is more dedicated to making it successful than the other. Either way, don’t be discouraged and don’t lay down and forfeit your finances, custodial rights or the potential for success in your next relationship because you’ve had a bad experience and are feeling despair or discouragement. Divorce postpones the idea of spending your life with someone, but should not eliminate it. The previously mentioned statistics that highlight marriages in the US also illustrate a corresponding increase in divorces that follow but the numbers are still considerably lower for divorces than they are for marital unions  Just remember that a happy, healthy and successful relationship can be yours in the future but it is imperative that you take great care in the dissolution of unsuccessful relationships. Seeking guidance and help from those who love and care about you as well as experts and professionals who can use their experience to guide you through a tough situation can set you on a course to find true happiness in the future.

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Divorce and IVF


It is common for long-time couples to discuss future plans such as marriage, home owning, and ultimately raising a family. These plans come with a lot of “what-ifs”— and the unknown can make taking big steps challenging. In particular, having children is one of the most significant decisions a couple can make. But what happens when infertility is an issue?

Fortunately, science has discovered numerous alternatives in fertility technology. One of these options is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): the process of combining an egg and sperm in a lab and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. In some cases the embryo is frozen and stored for future implantation. When choosing to undergo IVF, divorce is usually the last thing on the couple’s mind.

Frozen embryos, while not common in divorce cases, can create significant and unique challenges to reaching a divorce agreement. A common example where this instance would present itself is with the diagnosis of cancer and the treatment may potentially cause infertility. In this scenario, the couple would undergo IVF and store the embryo until carrying a pregnancy is safe. Unfortunately for some couples, the relationship ends and both parties disagree on what should be done with the stored embryos.

In the recent cases of Lee v. Findley and Szafranski v. Dunston, both females were diagnosed with cancer and the respective couples went through IVF to ensure they would be able to have biological children post-treatment. Both relationships ended and now the fates of the embryos are at the center of an ongoing debate.

In the California case, Lee v. Findley, the two are embroiled in a divorce. The ex-husband is requesting that the embryos be destroyed. The ex-wife and her attorneys have argued, “that destroying the embryos would destroy an infertile woman's ability to realize the fundamental and constitutionally protected bond of a parent and a child." The ex-husband fears that if she was to go through with the in vitro that he would be responsible for financial support. She has argued that she would not involve him in the child's life.

When initially starting the process of IVF the couple signed documents presented by the “UCSF that included provisions for destroying the embryos under various circumstances, including divorce, and those agreements are a binding contract.” The husband testified to this, assuming the decision would be ruled by this contract. However, the exceptional circumstances of this case requires evaluation and a decision from the courts.

While the case continues, the UCSF is arguing that one cannot simply change their mind after signing the documents that clearly state the destruction of the embryos in accordance to certain circumstances. Divorce turns out to be one of those circumstances. However, Lee did go through IVF with the purpose of preserving the embryos knowing the result of her infertility due to cancer.

The recent advancements in IVF have made treatment more affordable and accessible to people facing challenges with fertility. Because IVF has become a first choice for many couples, it is likely that these issues will become more common in divorce proceedings. The court's decisions in both Lee v. Findley and Szafranski v. Dunston may set a precedent regarding frozen embryos as part of a divorce—and lay the foundation for how these cases are handled in the future.


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Should I Move Out?


Coming to terms with the idea that you and your spouse are wanting, and/or needing, to end your marriage is never easy. When property and children are involved it makes the split more complicated and more stressful. For many men, moving out as soon as possible is an attempt to minimize the stress and potential conflict that comes with divorce. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common mistakes men make when faced with the dissolution of their marriage. Leaving the marital home without evaluating the consequences, or having a strategy in place, can create a significant disadvantage throughout the rest of the divorce process.

In no way should a man feel obligated to leave property if his name is on the title. The division of the marital home is often a significant piece of a divorce case and moving out too soon can create additional obstacles. These obstacles include: establishing a financial precedent that may be unsustainable, eliminating access to important documents, and minimizing parenting time.

Being the first to move out can establish a “new normal” that can be difficult to overcome and significantly impact your relationship with your kids. It is imperative that you remain active and involved in the day-to-day details of their lives throughout the divorce. This active involvement is not only important for helping the kids adjust to the divorce, but will be a factor in any custody issues that may arise. Moving out without a parenting plan in place can limit your ability to spend time with your kids and can impact the court’s decisions regarding custody and support.

An often overlooked, but vitally important piece of divorce is the paperwork. Financial information like bank statements, credit card statements, and retirement accounts will all need to be submitted to the courts. Additionally, important documents like wills and insurance policies can be required for your divorce. Moving out of the home without obtaining these documents can add significant cost and time to the divorce process.

When it comes to divorce, moving out too soon can set a financially unsustainable precedent. The courts may assume that because two households have been created and supported, that the ongoing support of two households is reasonable. What often starts as a temporary solution (sleeping on a friends couch, or moving in with parents/family members) becomes the status quo.

Committing to moving out of the marital home, before you have evaluated the repercussions and created a strategy, can be detrimental to protecting your rights and assets. The tense atmosphere in the home can be overwhelming, but it is in your best interest to understand all the variables before deciding on a course of action. Attempt to make arrangements to stay in the home until you have spoken with an attorney and mapped out a plan for your divorce.

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Is Facebook Ending Marriages?


Social media as it relates to divorce has recently been garnering a fair amount of attention. A recent study, funded by a UK law firm, has sparked the conversation by inquiring what role social media can play in the demise of a marriage.

Although the study was conducted in the UK, the findings can be extrapolated to apply to couples in the U.S. Some the key findings of the report include:

  • One in seven said they had contemplated divorce because of their other halves activities on Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter or What’sApp.
  • Nearly a quarter of the 2,000 married Brits asked, said they had at least one argument a week with their partner because of social media use and 17 percent said they rowed every day because of it.
  • The most common reasons for checking their partner’s social media accounts were finding out who their partner was talking to, keeping tabs on them, checking who they were out with, and finding out if they were telling the truth about their social life.

Our managing attorney, Zephyr Hill, was recently asked by HuffPost live to weigh in on the role social media plays in a divorce case. You can watch the segment in the clip below.

Social media is a powerful tool for building and maintaining relationships; but with great power comes great responsibility. For all the benefits these platforms provide, there is an equal opportunity for intended (and unintended) pitfalls. To read more about how social media can be used as evidence in a divorce case please see our blog post “ Social Media as Evidence in Family Law Cases

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Attorney Amy Broderick Joins the Goldberg Jones Team

amy-broderickGoldberg Jones is excited to welcome Amy Broderick to our team of San Diego divorce attorneys. Amy earned her undergraduate degree from Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. After completing her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, she earned her Juris Doctor from the Roger Williams University where she graduated cum laude.  Additionally, Amy earned a Master of Laws in Trial Advocacy from California Western School of Law.

Amy is a passionate attorney who is dedicated to zealous advocacy for her clients. She understands that each case and client is unique and a customized strategy is essential to producing the most favorable outcome possible. Amy believes that family law cases present a unique opportunity to help men sort through some of the most challenging issues of their lives.

Our managing attorney, Zephyr Hill, commented on the addition of Amy to the Goldberg Jones team saying, “ Amy is a sharp attorney. She understands the nuances of family law and is exceptional at adapting to curveballs. She always has a clear plan of action.”

Amy is not only dedicated to being a remarkable attorney, she is also committed to cultivating a strong legal community that is focused on justice and integrity. She is an active volunteer as a moot court and mock trial judge—helping future lawyers develop skills and experience necessary to maintain the highest standards.

When she isn’t in the office or volunteering, Amy enjoys playing the cello, running, and reading fiction novels by South African authors.


3 Things Divorcing Dads Should Do Every Day


The upheaval and change that comes with divorce can make finding your bearings difficult. Changes in schedules, living situations, and finances often create uncertainty and stress as you try to navigate through the dissolution of a marriage. Doing the following three things everyday can help create structure and consistency for both you and your child(ren) during the divorce.

Spend quality time with your child(ren)

Remaining an engaged and involved parent is critical during a divorce.  Kids want to hang out with their dad and setting aside time everyday to spend time with your kids can have far reaching benefits.

Actively finding ways to engage with your kids on a daily basis can provide emotional reassurance. Setting aside time for your child(ren) everyday will allow to you continue to play a principal (and indispensable) role.

Daily quality time with your kids has the secondary benefit of exhibiting to the court the importance of your role as a father. This can have substantial impact on how parenting time is allocated in the divorce. When evaluating a proposed parenting plan, the courts seek to create the least amount of disruption to the child(ren).  Establishing a status quo of involvement demonstrates the irreplaceable and essential nature of your relationship with your child.

The logistics of spending time with you child(ren) on a daily basis can be challenging for many fathers.  Getting creative will work in your favor. Even if circumstances don’t allow you to physically be in the same place as your kids, you can find alternate solutions for staying connected.

Some resourceful solutions we have seen include:

•Virtual sports game—scheduling a time to Facetime/Skype/Google Hangout and watch a sports event together

•Phone call bedtime story—Buy two copies of your child’s favorite story and call them each night at bedtime to read the book together over the phone.

•Virtual homework help— using whatever technology works best for you, connect with your child each night to provide help with homework.

Find ways to manage stress

Even the most amicable divorce is stressful. Finding constructive outlets for stress is important for maintaining your sanity throughout the process. Unexpected issues will arise and conflict with your ex can be common. Having a plan in place to deal with the detours can help you manage your ability to keep your goals and needs in focus. Getting caught up in the emotional hurricane can hijack your ability to protect what is most important.

Additionally, having a plan for managing stress will allow you to stay focused on adapting to co-parenting. Having the tools to handle difficult conflicts and avoid volatile situations that may have a negative impact on your parenting time is another added benefit.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for managing stress. Every divorce is unique and finding strategies that work for you and your situation is often an exercise in trial and error. A few common strategies we have noticed:

     •Working with a therapist to address emotional issues

     •Increasing physical activity. Running, playing team sports, or going to the gym can provide a plethora of stress relieving benefits

     •Joining a single-dad’s support group

 Be accessible

Your kids want to know that you are there for them when they need you. Being accessible to your child(ren), their caretakers, and even your ex, demonstrates your commitment to being a permanent fixture in your child(ren)’s life.

Returning emails, texts, and phone calls (unless there are explicit reasons for limiting contact) in a timely manner is a solid first step in successfully co-parenting. Being available for last minute opportunities is also helpful. Things like picking up your child from school if they are sick, or picking them up from daycare (at mom’s request) if mom can’t make it.

Accessibility is important, but it there is a fine line to walk. You want to be available for your children and be respectful of your ex’s parenting time. Without proper communication, well-intentioned acts can be misconstrued as a violation of temporary orders.

Maintaining your relationship with your child(ren) through the divorce might have its challenges, but it is worth it. Divorce and custody issues can be complicated and confusing and getting accurate answers can be difficult. If you have questions about divorce, custody, or any other family law issue, we are here to help. We are happy to answer your questions over the phone at no charge and no obligation.


March Madness: Goldberg Jones Bracket Challenge


Who’s on Fire? Who is going to razzle-dazzle this tournament and take home the NCAA National Championship Trophy? With the Journey to the Tourney reaching its end, it is time to start predicting the teams that will duel it out to the end. However, the competition is not limited to the court—Goldberg Jones will be holding its annual Bracket Challenge.

Think your bracket has the best spread? Fill out the bracket at Prove that your intuition and knowledge for the game and stats will prosper.  You can begin filling it out starting March 17th and ending March 21st. The dominating bracket will win a $250 Amazon Gift Card, that’s just money in your pocket.

Similar to last year, the Bracket Challenge is a winner-takes-all event. So start crafting your bracket ASAP to ensure total domination. To keep up with the action; make sure to follow our Twitter and give us a “like” on Facebook. It will be absolute madness and there is no reason to miss out.

Be part of the action and join us in the most exhilarating tournament that keeps your eyes locked on the TV and internet statistics. Get your gear on, check the stats, craft your bracket, save your seat and let the tourney unfold.

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Divorce Month


The New Year has made its appearance, but while some are focusing on resolutions and ultimately bettering themselves; others are focused on changing their marital status. Spouses begin to have complications in their marriage at all different times of the year; but the holiday season is often a catalyst for change. Family and financial obligations, and the accompanying disagreements, can be the final straw for many couples.

January brings resolutions and decision making. According to Findlaw, (a free consumer-focused legal information site):

“searches for "divorce" and related phrases such as "family law" and "child custody" jumped 50 percent – from just over 10,000 in December 2010 to nearly 16,000 in January 2011, and continued to surge through March. "Divorce" has been the No. 1 searched term on since January 2010.”

Although many people make the decision to divorce in January, it is common for couples to wait until March to file and begin the divorce process. According to the same study cited above, January sees an increase in divorce filings; but that number doesn’t peak until March.

If you have found yourself considering filing for divorce in the new year, you are not alone. Divorce is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. It is imperative to understand all your rights and options before you file any documents with the court. If you have questions about your situation or how your circumstances might affect your divorce, please give us a call.

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