Frequently Asked Questions

Below, you’ll find several of our most frequently asked questions. Just click on any question to reveal its answer. This page, like all others on our site, is provided for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace and should not be construed as legal advice. Please contact a qualified professional for advice about your particular situation. You may also visit our Resources page to find more helpful information.

How long will it take to be divorced?

In California, there is a six-month minimum waiting period before a divorce can be final. However, you and your spouse/partner can agree to a full settlement in less than six months and that settlement can become the order of the court. Your status as an unmarried person will not be restored until the six months has elapsed. The six months starts from the date that the responding party receives the Petition.

How much will it cost to do my divorce, mediation or legal proceeding?

Heidi Tuffias works on an hourly basis so the costs of your services will be based on the number of hours that are spent on your case. Billing is discussed during your first consultation, as are possible overall costs that are expectable.

How can we come to a settlement and file the necessary legal papers?

We are currently creating a chart to answer this question. Please check back soon.

What is a Declaration of Disclosure?

A few years ago the California Legislature mandated that all divorcing people need to exchange Declarations of Disclosure at the beginning and end of their family law cases. The Declaration of Disclosure consists of a declaration regarding opportunities or information relevant to the community estate, a Schedule of Assets and Debts and an Income and Expense Declaration. The beginning or preliminary Declaration of Disclosure cannot be waived but the end or final Declaration of Disclosure can be waived. You can download these forms on our Forms and Resources page.

How is child support determined?

Child support is determined using a state mandated guideline, which takes into account the income of the parties, the time each party spends with the child(ren) and the taxes each party pays as well as some additional factors. Although there is a state mandated guideline, parties can deviate from that guideline if they agree to do so.

How is spousal support determined?

Spousal support is governed by Family Code section 4320 which is designed to take many factors into account, such as the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the marketable skills each party has and the standard of living of the parties during the marriage.

What is community property?

Community property is all property acquired by married persons during a marriage other than through gifts or inheritance. It is possible to contract out of community property by executing a Pre-Nuptial or Post-Nuptial Agreement.

What is separate property?

Separate property is property either spouse/partner brings to the marriage/domestic partnership, acquires after the marriage/domestic partnership or receives as a gift or inheritance during the marriage/domestic partnership.

What is a separation?

There are two types of separations. One is a Legal Separation, which is exactly like a divorce proceeding (where assets are divided, custody orders made, etc.) except at the end the parties are still married/registered. Then there is the date of separation. The date of separation is the date at which one or both parties decide permanently that they no longer want to be married, they communicate that decision to the other spouse and they stop acting like married people. The date of separation is important because the date of separation is the date, according to the law, after which everything each party earns is his or her separate property and all debts he or she acquires are his or her separate debts.

Will our children be harmed by our divorce?

Research is clear that the vast majority of children who grow up in two homes are as successful and happy as children who grow up in one home, so long as they are not brought into the conflict of their parents and they feel free to love both parents.

What is the legal process for a divorce?

A divorce or family law legal proceeding is started by the filing of a Petition. Thirty days after the Petition has been filed and served, the responding party must file a Response, unless there has been an agreement for an extension. The parties then will come to an agreement or the court will hold a trial to adjudicate the outstanding issues. More than 90% of people come to an agreement. The agreement or court orders will be written into a Judgment which will be filed with and signed by the court.

What if we already have an agreement?

If you already have a full agreement, Ms. Tuffias, in her capacity as mediator, is available to assist you with the drafting and filing of all of the legal papers necessary to start and conclude your legal proceedings. Most likely, you and your spouse or partner will meet with Ms. Tuffias for approximately one hour or less to explain your agreement and she will guide you through the process from there in an expeditious and cost effective manner.

How will mediation help us when we do not agree on anything?

Mediators are trained to help the two of you determine why you are not agreeing and once you do that, often the solution is easier to ascertain. The most common disagreement is a data conflict where the two of you have different information about the data, such as the value of an asset. The mediator can help you both obtain similar data so that you can come to the same or similar conclusion about the solution. Mediators also help to clarify issues and generate options, given their experience with situations such as yours.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where you and your spouse or parenting partner work together to make decisions about your family with the assistance of a trained, neutral professional. The mediator will help you create your own unique solutions to the challenges. The mediator will help you understand why you may be having conflict, help you resolve conflict and help you avoid or address future issues. The mediator can also prepare legal documents to help you start and conclude legal proceedings.

What is collaborative law?

Collaborative law is a process where you and your spouse or parenting partner both work with a multi-disciplinary team to help you come to a settlement about your family law matter, without litigation. The team includes an attorney for each party, a mental health coach for each party and professionals such as accountants, financial planners and child development specialists.

Do we need to be represented by lawyers?

Both parties are free to choose the level of involvement, including none, of consulting attorneys. If you would like to work with no one other than your mediator, you may do so. You may also involve a consulting attorney at any stage and have the attorney be involved as much or as little as you like.

What will happen in mediation?

All mediations start with a free consultation with Ms. Tuffias where you and your spouse or parenting partner meet with Ms. Tuffias to discuss the process and any questions you have. Once you choose to proceed with mediation, you will schedule as many sessions (usually two hours in length) as you need to make all of the necessary decisions and agreements to start and conclude your legal proceedings.