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FAMILY LAW DEFINITIONS

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  • Dissolution: Commonly known as a “divorce”.  In California, it takes a minimum of 6 months for the marriage status to be terminated.  In uncontested cases a dissolution can be settled without a court hearing by both parties agreeing to a settlement of their issues by a notarized Marital Settlement Agreement.


  • Summary Dissolution: A simple type of divorce for couples that have been married for 5 years or less.  The parties must both meet certain requirements and sign a Joint Petition to be eligible for this type of divorce. 


  • Legal Separation: The parties remain legally married with court orders being made for the issues as in a divorce such as child and spousal support, child custody, visitation and division of property.


  • Nullity of Marriage: Formerly called an annulment, a nullity declares that the marriage never existed based on grounds of fraud, prior existing marriage and other criteria.  If a nullity is granted, it is final on the day of the hearing. 


  • Marital Settlement Agreement: A written agreement notarized by the parties confirming their separate property, dividing their community property as well as settling issues such as child and spousal support, child custody and visitation.  This agreement is also signed by the judge and becomes a court order that settles the marital issues without having to attend a court hearing.


  • Parental Relationship: Couples with children that are not married establish parental relationship with the court to obtain orders regarding child custody, visitation and child support. 


  • Legal Custody: This grants a parent the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing including education, religion, and medical decisions.


  • Physical Custody: Primary or sole physical custody denotes the parent with whom a child lives with or spends the majority of time with.  Visitation is normally granted for the other parent.


  • California Guideline Child Support: California has statewide guidelines to calculate child support based on each of the parents’ incomes and other criteria.  Parents can calculate child support at no cost by doing an online search for “California Guideline Child Support Calculator”.