In California, Divorces are "no fault", making it relatively easy to obtain a divorce from the Court based solely on a showing of "irreconcilable differences." Additionally, parties who no longer wish to live together as husband and wife can also choose to file for Legal Separation, rather than for Dissolution of Marriage. Legal Separation is a legal construct that provides the same financial and custodial options as dissolution, but without the granting of a divorce. In actuality, the Dissolution or Legal Separation portion of your case will be the easiest and least time consuming part. Instead, most of our shared time and efforts will be spent on issues of child custody, child support, spousal support, domestic violence, and the division of property. All of these topics will be discussed below.

Division of Property

In California, most property acquired during the marriage is considered community property, which is divided equally. Property obtained prior to a marriage is considered separate property. Although these concepts may, at first, seem simple, the application of California law to the characterization of property can become complex, especially when assets and debts "straddle the line" between the community and separate estates. At Bernard, Balgley, & Bonaccorsi, we have the experience with people of all asset and income levels; from working professionals, to high net-worth individuals; to be able to ensure that your interests are protected and that your property is appropriately divided.

Child Custody and Relocation

California determines child custody, including your specific parenting schedule and the way that important legal decision-making for your children will occur, based on "The Best Interests" of your children. The Court considers a myriad of factors in coming to a decision regarding your children's best interests, and our attorneys are ready to work with you to maximize your personal strengths as a parent, and even to help you work on the things you could be doing better.

Relocation cases refer to situations where one parent seeks to move from the geographic area where the family resided together. Relocations, or "move-aways" can involve proposed moves within California, out of the state, across the country, or even internationally. Relocation cases are among the hardest even within the already-difficult area of child custody litigation, but they are well within the extensive custody experience of our attorneys.

Child Support

For divorcing or separating couples, the amount of child support they will receive, or will need to pay, can be a top financial concern. In California, child support is determined based on the incomes of each of the parties. Sometimes, when one party is unemployed, or underemployed, the Court is permitted to substitute a parties' "earning capacity" for his or her actual earnings. Either way, the parties' respective incomes or earning capacities are the basis for a determination of the actual child support owed under the statewide Guidelines. Every Court in the state uses the same set of calculations and formulas to determine the basic, minimum child support to be paid. However, additional factors, typically based on the specific needs of the children, can impact that Guideline calculation. Moreover, in cases in which one or both of the parties have "extraordinary" or high incomes, the Court is permitted to abandon the Guidelines in favor of an analysis based on the children's reasonable needs. We can help you figure out and negotiate the amount you will pay or receive based on or off the Guidelines, as well as helping you prepare to present your case to the Court, in the event that the matter cannot be settled.

Spousal Support

Spousal Support, sometimes called Alimony, refers to financial maintenance paid to a spouse that is designed to preserve each party's economic status during or after the divorce process. The amount of temporary or post-divorce spousal support is determined by a number of circumstances, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, each party's needs and their respective abilities to pay, and the ability of each party to be or to become self-supporting.

Domestic Violence and Restraining Orders

When a spouse makes threats of or inflicts physical harm on his or her partner, the California Family Code provides civil protections, and backs those protections up with both civil and criminal consequences. Our attorneys have years of practical experience obtaining protective orders to protect the safety and security of our clients. Our supportive advocacy, and our strong referral network of counselors and therapists, helps to break the cycle of violence in many cases.


If you and your significant other have not been married, but you have had a child or children together, then California law provides you with legal remedies regarding child custody and child support on the same level as in those cases involving marriage and divorce. However, before getting to those legal remedies, very often the issue of parentage must be determined by the use of DNA evidence. Our attorneys remain abreast of all emerging California legislation regarding parentage, including the cutting edge issue of surrogacy, sperm and ovum donation, as well custody as between same-sex couples.