Knowing The Basics
Family law is a complex practice
area, regulated by rules that
vary slightly from state to state.
Family law cases can be highly
complex and involved.
Family law, unlike many types of
litigation, goes directly to the
issues that affect people the
most: money and children.
What is a divorce?
A divorce is a lawsuit to dissolve the marriage
relationship. A divorce encompasses many
different issues including the division of
property and debts, and rights each parent
will have to the children.
Basic parts to the
dissolution of marriage
1) Divorce Itself
2) The Division of Property
3) Issues Related to Children
THE DIVORCE ITSELF
Whether or not the couple has
children, the legal procedure for a
divorce is similar to the procedure
for other lawsuits.
Two divorce systems
1) A “no-fault” system – a divorce can be
granted without either spouse being
forced to prove the other was at fault in
breaking up the marriage.
2) A “fault” – a spouse may still note in the
petition for divorce that the other person
was at fault in breaking up the marriage.
THE DIVORCE PROCEEDING
There are four basic steps to a
1) Filing a Divorce Petition
3) Trial or Settlement
4) Divorce Decree
FILING A DIVORCE
Any divorce, even one on friendly
terms, must begin with the filing of an
"original petition for divorce" in a state
Most petitions include a request for a
two-week temporary restraining order
(TRO), This freezes things as they are
and prevents one spouse from taking
any action that harms the other.
This procedure allows both sides
to determine the size of the
community estate and to learn the
position the other party will take
on certain issues.
Discovery can be written or oral.
1) Request for Disclosure
3) Request for Production of
4) Request for Admission
5) Sworn Inventory and
TRIAL OR SETTLEMENT
Not all divorce cases go to trial
First, after pretrial discovery is over,
the spouses will probably be ordered
to go into mediation
The vast majority of all family law
cases are settled prior to trial.
If settlement is not possible, the case
will go to a judge or jury.
Either party has the right to request a
This is usually a lengthy document
that formalizes and finalizes all of the
provisions of the divorce - including
issues of property division and child
The decree must be drafted very
carefully, because, once entered,
this agreement will become the rules
by which you must live.
THE DIVISION OF PROPERTY
1. Proving Separate Property
2. Agreeing Ahead of Time on
What Property is Separate
3. Dividing the Property
If a spouse wants to keep certain
property after the divorce, it must be
proven in court that it should be
considered separate property.
AGREEING IN ADVANCE:
WHAT PROPERTY IS SEPARATE
The couple may make a pre-marital
agreement or post-marital agreement
Both pre- and post-marital agreements
must be in writing and signed willingly
by both spouses.
DIVIDING THE PROPERTY
There is no set formula for who gets how
much and there is no guarantee that assets
will be split evenly.
Dividing property a judge may also consider:
Age and physical condition of each spouse;
Relative ability and earning power;
Relative need for future support;
Size of the estate;
Benefits a spouse would have received if
the marriage had continued; and
Fault in the break-up of the marriage.
The payment of alimony is
different from state to state. In
some states the payment of
alimony is not allowed or is
available in extremely limited
circumstances and only for a
limited period of time.
ISSUES RELATED TO
There are four areas that must be
addressed when divorcing
spouses have minor children.
Rights and duties
Child support is the money a judge orders the
non-primary parent to pay the primary parent
for the child's benefit. How exactly the money
is used is up to the sole discretion of the
primary parent; the parent who pays has no
authority to dictate the manner of use of the
How long do payments last?
How much is each payment?
What happens if payments aren't made?
Kirk Kerkorian & Lisa Bonder
Kirk's Net Worth: $10 billion
Once ranked seventh on
the women's professional
tennis circuit, Bonder is now
probably best known as
Kerkorian's ex-wife. She
fought with him for several
years in court over child-
support payments for her
daughter Kira, even though
he turned out not to be the
biological father. Bonder
reportedly asked Kerkorian
for almost $4 million per year
to cover everything from
lavish play dates and parties
to pet care. He eventually
agreed to pay a more
modest monthly settlement
of a reported $50,000.
Ted Turner & Jane Fonda
Ted's Net Worth: $2 billion
One of America's most famous unions came
unraveled in early 2000. Reports cited Fonda's new-
found devotion to religion as a possible cause. The
movie star filed for divorce on April 16, 2001, and the
proceedings was finalized five weeks later on May 22--
the matter being handled expeditiously and very
privately. What's most notable about this split is how
civilized it appears to have been, particularly for
eccentric billionaire Turner and outspoken movie star