Mount Shasta, CA asked in Divorce for California

Q: I'm looking for some basic divorce advice to progress an agreement with my husband.

We separated during Covid, have no children together and co-own the house that was bought with my money.

He was supposed to pay his half within a year and has not. A sellers loan was taken for that which is now due in a year. I can't get credit to take over that loan as I am an immigrant here without US credit history.

We have a pre nup that was written without any legal advice and the terms of which are largely irrelevant and non applicable now.

I don't seek any support and wish to continue living in the house I bought with my children.

I have tried to offer a whole range of amicable financial settlements unsuccessfully. The block is that he wishes to be reimbursed for property upgrading he did. He uses hugely varying figures on that amount.

Is it possible to get free advice on the basic situation so we can get past this block and file our divorce? We are on amicable terms otherwise and ready to move ahead in making a difficult decision less painful

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2 Lawyer Answers
Rossana Pilar Mitchell
Rossana Pilar Mitchell
  • Chino Hills, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: This is a family law matter and needs to go to family law court to determine his reimbursements if he’s entitled to anything. Pre-nap may be unenforceable enforceable because they were no attorneys involved please contact my office but a case like this retainer would be 3500 my office number is 909-597-3111

Chris M. Bradford
Chris M. Bradford
  • Santa Monica, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You do not have to resolve the issue of reimbursement (if any) to your husband BEFORE you file for divorce. In fact it is not expected that you would. In the divorce case itself you will have opportunity to resolve it. You don't have to be a U.S. Citizen or have a green card to file for divorce. You just have to be a California resident. If you do come to an agreement, it is called a "Marital Settlement Agreement." There are three ways to file a divorce: first is full representation, meaning you pay a deposit ("retainer") and the attorney charges you hourly. This is the most expensive but the attorney puts his or her name on the paperwork and in consultation with you, does everything for you. The cheapest is going to the Self Help Center. This is for people who have more time than money. They can help you prepare the basic forms for free, but they can't do something more complicated like a settlement agreement.

The third is having an attorney or paralegal prepare the forms for you and you go to court by yourself. This is cheaper than full representation. But paralegals can only type up forms. It is illegal for them to give you legal advice and they cannot go to court. Because you have real estate, at a minimum you need to at least have a consultation with an attorney to explore your options.

When you ask a question online, like here, the answers you get are only going to be basic information, a starting point. Attorneys are trained to talk to you to find out all the important details of your story. Getting all the details is very important because it will make a big difference in the legal information given to you. It is strongly recommended that even if you get a response here on Justia, that you also talk to an attorney. Many have free first interviews. Even if you have to pay, it is worth it because you talking to a professional who is going to focus on you.

All 58 counties in California have some type of Self-Help Center. The people at the Self-Help Center help you fill out family law forms for free. They can’t do everything in family law, but they will help you with all the basics. The downside is that they don’t have a lot of time to spend with you, and often there is a line to get in to see them. The upside is that it is free. So if you have more time than money, go to the Self-Help Center for divorce, custody, visitation, paternity and domestic violence paperwork. But if you want a more thorough in-depth help, it is recommended that you see a family law attorney. Many family law attorneys have a free first interview. Some charge only $50. Some $75 or $100. It only takes a phone call to their office to find out the fee for the first interview. There is no obligation to hire an attorney to do anything after the first interview. That’s up to you. Also there is no requirement that you talk to an attorney in your area. Any family law attorney licensed in California can help you no matter where you live as long as it is in the state or your case is filed in California. The interview would be done by phone, Zoom, Skype, Facetime or some other type online method. Even if the attorney is in your area, many attorneys are only talking to people this way due to the Covid pandemic, so you couldn’t have an interview in their office anyway. Also attorneys are going to give you a more-in-depth analysis of your situation than you will get at the Self-Help Center. So call an attorney and set up an appointment.

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