Doyle Quane Freeman Specializes in High Net Worth Divorce Cases

Divorce Attorneys

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If you are a successful business professional with an impending divorce, there are probably a million questions racing through your mind.
I have the honor of leading a team that has the experience and depth of talent to handle complex cases like yours. With Meg Walsh, a forensic CPA on staff, we can handle cases with closely held businesses and complicated finances other firms could not handle.
Let our strength and experience help you through this change in your life. If you need help now, please contact us to discuss your specific case.
You can also browse through the information below to help in understanding the basics of divorce in California.
If you do decide to hire us, I can assure you you will receive incredible service and professionalism at every turn  – you have my word on it.


Terry Doyle

3 Primary Divorce Issues


House, Cars, Cash,
Investments, Pensions, etc.


Spousal Support &
Child Support


Physical Custody &
Legal Custody


Property Division

When you get married, you merge every aspect of your life with your spouse.

Married couples typically combine bank accounts, buy property together, establish retirement accounts, and accumulate debt.

When you get divorced, you have to divide that property, and debt, in a fair and balanced way. That’s not always easy to do, especially when emotions are high and your financial future is at stake.

Disclose Everything

If you’re thinking about hiding assets to get a better financial result during your divorce, forget about it.

In California, you have a “fiduciary duty” to your spouse. That means that all financial information must be disclosed voluntarily.

California requires both parties to disclose all assets and liabilities, including income and expenses, as part of the standard divorce filings. The only way to divide property fairly is if both parties disclose everything.

Community vs. Separate Property

After all disclosures have been completed, your property must be “characterized” as either community property or separate property.

California is a community property state. That means that property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property unless it can be traced back as separate property.

Generally, separate property remains separate, and community property is divided equally between the two parties. If property is not characterized correctly, it could potentially cost you thousands of dollars.

Property Value

In order to divide property equally, you must value the property first.

Some items will be easy to value, some will not be so easy.

For example, if you and your spouse disagree on the date of separation, that could have a significant impact on the value of all “marital” savings accounts, investments, retirement accounts, etc.

Even if you hire experts to value specific assets, it’s not unusual for experts to disagree on value.

Split Community Property

After you’ve identified, characterized, and valued all assets and liabilities, the community property must be divided.

Community property is generally divided equally in California. While that means 50-50, it doesn’t mean that each person will get 50% of each specific asset.

Dividing property might seem simple at first glance, but it can get quite complicated for large estates.


Support Issues in Divorce

There are two types of support to consider in a divorce – spousal support and child support.

Spousal support, commonly known as alimony, is designed to help “support” one spouse while he or she adjusts to life during, and/or after divorce.

If you have children, child support will also need to be addressed. The significant change in income and living expenses requires that you take a closer look at the resources available to care for your children.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, also referred to as alimony, is money paid to a spouse to help support him or her financially.

Spousal support can be temporary (before the divorce is granted), or permanent (after the divorce is granted).

Some of the factors that will impact spousal support include how long the parties were married, the earning capacity of each party, the contribution of each party during the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, and many more factors.

Child Support

Every parent has a legal obligation to support their minor children.

If you have minor children during a divorce, you will need to address the issue of child support because of the significant change in income and expenses.

The courts in California use a specific formula to determine child support. The factors include the income of each parent, the amount of time each parent will spend with the children, the disposable income available, health care expenses, and more.


Child Custody

Most parents want to see their children as much as possible.

When you get divorced, your living arrangement changes and that can make it difficult for each parent to spend an equal amount of time with their children.

As part of the divorce process, the parties need to come up with a fair system that allows each parent to spend quality time with their children.

The 2 main issues involved in child custody are legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the authority to make decisions for your child, such as education, health, discipline, etc. Legal custody can be sole or joint, just like physical custody.

With sole legal custody, one parent has the right to make all decisions for the child.

Joint legal custody means that both parents have a shared responsibility to make decisions for the child and each has an obligation to consult with the other parent before making major decisions.

Physical Custody

Physical custody primarily refers to which parent the child will reside with. Physical custody can be sole or joint.

Sole physical custody means that the child will reside with one parent and the other parent will likely be permitted visitation rights.

Joint physical custody means that the child will reside with each parent, separately, for a specific, designated period of time.

The Divorce Legal Process

File & Serve




File & Serve

To initiate the divorce process in California, you simply file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and serve your spouse with the proper paperwork.

Residency Requirements

You must have been a resident of the state of California for at least six months immediately preceding the filing of the petition, and the County where you are filing for three months immediately preceding the filing.

No-Fault Divorce

California is a no-fault state. That means that neither party has to prove fault to get a divorce. If you want a divorce, you don’t need a reason other than “irreconcilable differences” or “incurable insanity”. That will satisfy the courts from a legal standpoint.

Date of Separation

The date of separation is the date that you and your spouse definitively decide to part ways. That could be when one person moves out of the house. It could be when you tell the other party you want a divorce. Or, it could be when you serve your spouse with the divorce papers.

The date of separation is an important issue because it represents the end of the marital estate. Money and property acquired after that date will not be characterized as community property. The date of separation is an important date and could present an issue potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.


The discovery process is when you gather all evidence relevant to your divorce. You can’t divide property, calculate support, or determine custody and visitation rights if you don’t have complete and accurate information.

The evidence sought during the discovery phase typically relates to one of two categories – property or custody.

Financial Information

A major part of the divorce process is dividing the property. Before you can divide the property, you need to gather all of the evidence related to you and your spouse’s income, expenses, debts, assets, property, accounts, investments, etc.

Best Interests of the Child

It’s also important to gather evidence that could impact child custody and visitation rights. California promotes custody arrangements that are in the best interest of the child. In most cases, that means allowing the child to spend time with both parents.

If you believe that allowing your child to spend time with your spouse is not in the best interest of the child, you need to gather the relevant evidence to support that position. That might include police reports, photographs, medical records, video or audio recordings, etc.


Once you’ve gathered all the relevant information, it’s time to negotiate.

In many cases, there are issues that you and your spouse just can’t agree on. It might be the value of your home. It could be the visitation schedule. You might even disagree over who should get the the family dog.

Whatever disagreements arise, it’s important to negotiate with an open mind so you can resolve the divorce without spending a fortune on legal fees and related expenses.

The ultimate goal of the negotiation process is to come to a fair resolution based on the law and the unique circumstances of your case.

If you’re unable to negotiate a resolution on your own, you will have to go to court and the judge will resolve the issues for you.


Your marriage is officially over only when the court enters an executed Judgment of Dissolution.

The terms of your divorce should be documented in a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). The MSA sets forth all of the terms of your divorce. If any problems arise after your divorce is finalized, you are obligated to follow the terms of the MSA.

Of course, the court will only grant a Judgment of Dissolution if all issues are resolved. If you and your spouse can’t agree on all of the issues, you will need to go to court and the judge will decide the issues for you.

Keep in mind that after your divorce is finalized, the court will still have jurisdiction. For example, if you lose your job and can’t pay spousal support, you may file a request to amend the support order based on the significant change in circumstances.

Outside the Box

Premarital Agreements

Divorce Mediation

Premarital Agreements (Prenup)

Sometimes, it’s helpful to clarify, or modify, the rules of marriage before you get married. These are called prenuptial agreements, prenups, or premarital agreements.

There are some things you need to do to ensure that your prenup is valid if the marriage breaks down. Be sure to consult with an experienced attorney to protect your personal property before you get married.

Learn more about Prenuptial Agreements here.

Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is a process that involves both parties working out a fair settlement agreement through a neutral mediator. This can save you time and money, if both parties approach it with an open mind.

It helps to choose a divorce mediator with extensive experience. Terry Doyle has 30 years of experience helping people with their divorce and family law matters.

Read more about Divorce Mediation here.

Frequently Asked Questions

The court filing fee is $435. There may be additional fees depending on what documents are filed.

Attorney’s fees for a divorce case typically range from $300 to $500 per hour. Contested divorces can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars for divorce cases that are complex or difficult to resolve.

In California, there is a 6 month waiting period before a divorce will be granted. The 6 month waiting period starts when the divorce papers are served on the non-filing party.

You could resolve all divorce issues in less than 6 months, but you would still have to wait for the expiration of the 6 month waiting period before your divorce is officially granted.

Of course, a divorce could take much longer than 6 months if the parties can’t agree on all issues.

A divorce is final and you can legally remarry once your divorce is officially granted.

A legal separation does not change your marital status. You can not remarry under a legal separation.

There are also some procedural differences, so be sure to contact an experienced divorce attorney if you want to know more about legal separation.

California is a no-fault divorce state. That means that you don’t have to prove one person was at fault to get a divorce.

Legally, you claim either “irreconcilable differences,” or “incurable insanity” and that is sufficient under the law.

Annulment is a legal principle that is used to invalidate a marriage. In other words, it’s like the marriage never happened.

You may be able to annul your marriage if one party is a close relative, is already married, is under 18 at the time of marriage, is not of sound mind, is physically incapacitated, or if one party uses fraud or force to gain consent.

Unless there is some type of abuse, one spouse can not typically force the other spouse to move out of the marital home while the divorce is pending.

For more details on making your spouse move out of the house, click here.

If there is a need for one spouse to receive spousal support (alimony), the court may order spousal support as part of the divorce. It can be temporary support (before divorce is granted), or permanent support (after divorce is granted).

There are many factors to consider, including the earning capacity of both parties, the standard of living during marriage, the debts and property available, the length of the marriage, and many other factors.

Child or spousal support may be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances. For example, if one party remarries, has another child, loses a job, gets incarcerated, or any other factor that would significantly impact a support order.
There are two types of custody – physical and legal. Physical custody is who the child actually lives with. Legal custody is who makes important decisions for your child.

The court will determine child custody and visitation based on the best interests of the child, while also looking at the unique circumstances of your case.

The general answer is no.

Unless your spouse agrees to the move, you will generally need a court order. On the other hand, your spouse could get an order (Temporary Restraining Order) preventing you from leaving the state with the child.

This can be a complex issue. Consult an experienced divorce lawyer for specific guidance on your unique case.

If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on all relevant divorce issues, you will not have to appear in court.
The divorce process starts when you file and serve a petition for dissolution of marriage.

However, there are certain actions you can take before you file for divorce that can have a significant impact on your case.

Contact an experienced divorce attorney at Doyle Quane Freeman and we will be happy to answer your questions.

Doyle Quane Freeman (925) 314-2320