Find answers to the questions we recieve the most

Do you offer free consultations?
I offer an initial consultation at $100 so you can get answers without making a major commitment of your time of your money.

Do I need an attorney for my divorce?
Every situation is different, but the constant is that you must understand both your rights and your responsibilities as a spouse and/or a parent before you can make informed decisions about ending your marriage. Understanding your obligations often makes the difference between finding yourself on the bad side of a court order and negotiating a fair settlement with your partner or spouse. Some people need the protection an “advocate” can provide to limit the access an intimidating or powerful partner has to them. Others in a divorce need an attorney to help them mediate the issues between them and draft a good settlement agreement with “advice attorneys” in the background. I will take a good look at your circumstances, and listen carefully to provide you with what you need for your divorce.

How much does it cost to get a simple divorce where we each agree?
There are a few costs that are common to each divorce, whether or not you hire an attorney: In 2015 it costs $435 for one party to file for divorce, and $435 for the other party to respond to the divorce filing. If you have very limited income, you may apply with the court for a waiver of the fees in your case. If the court accepts your application, then you will have no court fees in your case. The partner filing for divorce must get someone to personally serve the other partner with the filing (called a petition), since one partner is prohibited from serving the other with the petition. Unless a friend over 18 does this for you, it will be necessary to pay someone to serve the petition. Additional court fees: It costs $60 for each motion you file and $20 for each agreement (called a stipulation) that you file. If your motion involves a custody issue, there is an additional $25 fee.

The cost of an attorney to represent you, or a mediator to work with both of you, is something that varies widely from case to case. In general, the more disputed your case is, the higher attorney fees may be. Going to trial is the most expensive aspect of family law, and something you should consider only when everything else has failed. Of course, if you need to go to trial, you are in excellent hands with Cheryl as your trial attorney.

I just came to California. Can I get my divorce here?
You must be a resident of California for six months, and a resident of the county where you file for three months, immediately before you file your divorce. Therefore, if you just arrived in California, you will need to wait for six months and live in one county for the last three months before filing for divorce in that county. However if you are a registered domestic partner there is no residency requirement. You can apply for other kinds of protection in the meantime, such as child support or spousal support, or a restraining order if you partner is abusive, without these strict residency requirements.

I never married my partner. Can I get a divorce in California?
If your relationship is what is known as a “common-law marriage,” these relationships are not recognized in California. You must be married or a registered domestic partner in California to use the divorce statutes. However, if you have a child with your partner, you can move for a judgment of paternity immediately after you have lived in California for at least six months, and in the county where you file it, for three months. A paternity action will only decide issues relating directly to your children.

If I never married my partner, can I get spousal support?
There is no spousal support in California for a common-law partner.

How long will it take to get my divorce?
A divorce judgment ending your marital status can be entered once it has been six months since your partner was personally served with the divorce papers.

What if I can’t get everything in my divorce worked out in six months?
In California you may split up (called bifurcate) your divorce and have a judgment terminating your marriage so you are a single person again six months after your partner was personally served with the divorce papers. Meanwhile the other issues in your divorce can still be pending while you and your partner work them out.

My partner has hit me or verbally abused me. What do I do?
You need to apply for a “Temporary Restraining Order” or TRO. To do this yourself, you need to go to the self-help center at the courthouse for your county, where you can get help filling out the papers. Or, you can have Cheryl assist you in getting your TRO. Cheryl is extremely experienced in obtaining restraining orders to protect people from abusive spouses or partners. You may also contact Family Violence Law Center at 510-228-0220, or at www.fvlc.org. If you are in danger, dial 911 and have the police come.

What if I only want to be separated from my partner?
The procedure to start a legal separation is the same as for a divorce, but you do not have to wait six months before you can get a judgment. However, at the end of your case you will still be legally married to your partner and may not remarry.

I just got served with divorce papers. What do I do?
You have 30 days from the date you were personally served with the divorce papers to file your “response.” It will cost $435 to file your response, unless your income is low enough that you qualify to have your court costs waived. If you do not file a response within the 30-day period, the divorce could proceed on a default basis, which could prejudice your rights. You should consult an attorney to advise you on your rights and also your responsibilities to your spouse, any property the two of you own, and to your children. I offer a one-time consultation for 1 hour that costs $100.

I need support right away. What do I have to do to get it?
Child support is mandated by state and federal statutes where one parent qualifies for it. In California child support is calculated by using computer programs that consider what each partner earns, each partner’s tax status and tax exemptions, and how much time each partner spends with the children in the relationship. This support is called “guideline” support, and varies slightly from county to county. In order to get child support, you must file a motion with the court to get it, or include it with your application for a TRO. Your motion must include a required form called an “Income and Expense Declaration” with your two most recent paychecks (if you have an income). You must serve your partner with your motion or TRO request for support. The court will assign a date when your support matter will be heard in open court and support orders, if appropriate, will be made. You will need to attend court mediation before your hearing. To get the contact information for the mediators nearest your courthouse, go online to your county superior court website.

Spousal support (sometimes called alimony in other states) works much the same way while your divorce is pending. Computer programs calculate the spousal support one partner must pay the other (called “temporary spousal support”). If you need permanent spousal support at the end of your divorce, it is determined in a different way. For permanent spousal support, the court must do a complicated analysis of various factors including the standard of living in your marriage.

Can I just get some advice over the telephone?
Cheryl is always available to assist you. Sometimes the circumstances and prior court filings make it too complicated to be able to give a short answer over the telephone. Cheryl will be able to assess whether she can answer a question over the telephone or whether you will need to come in for a consultation.

My divorce is not a big one, so why would I need an aggressive lawyer like Cheryl?
Cheryl has over 20 years of experience with all aspects of cases, from filing to negotiating and settling, to mediating for both partners in a divorce, or to trying the case before a judge. She knows when to be aggressive and when to work toward settlement. Her years of experience mean that she can work out a realistic, cost-effective strategy for you in this most difficult time in your life to put the stress and dispute of your divorce behind you as quickly as possible.

Why would I choose Cheryl over somebody else?
Come meet Cheryl and see for yourself. She is dedicated and sympathetic to your needs. When you call her, she answers the phone to talk to you. She returns your messages promptly and takes action immediately when you need it. Your hard-earned dollars are spent on necessary, effective actions that will bring the end of your case closer. She is fair and down to earth—you want her on your side.

How long does it take to get in to see Cheryl?
Office hours are Monday-Thursdays 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Fridays are from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Except when she is in court for other clients, she is available to meet with you.

I had another attorney help me start my divorce. Is it too late to hire Cheryl?
The short answer to this is no—it is never too late. However, Cheryl will meet with you and assess with you the most cost-effective, strategic decision for you and your case once she can see what orders have already been made. Many times clients come to Cheryl from prior attorneys, particularly once cases are ready to go to trial.

The DCSS is after me because they say I owe back child support. What do I do now?
The Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) is the organization responsible for collecting delinquent child support or for collecting support from partners whose spouses have received county or state assistance. If you have received notification from DCSS that they have opened a case against you, you should consult an attorney like Cheryl at your earliest opportunity in order to protect your rights and prevent an erroneous order being entered against you which may affect your credit.

I need to talk to someone before I go to court mediation in my divorce case. Is that something that Cheryl can do?
Cheryl has assisted many parties before their court-ordered child custody mediation through Family Court Services. She can assist you in articulating what custody and visitation arrangements you would like the mediator to recommend, as well as in helping you make your short mediation session as effective as possible.

My partner and I just want somebody to mediate for us. Does Cheryl do that?
Sometimes, where the parties ending their marriage or domestic partnership can discuss most issues between them, they can mutually agree to hire one lawyer, called a “mediator” to work with them and draft the necessary papers to be able to file and bring to judgment a divorce. Cheryl also works as an agreed mediator. An attorney mediator may not discuss case specifics unless both parties are present on the telephone or in the office. When Cheryl works with partners as their mediator, each partner often has an attorney of their choosing to advise them on the law and how it relates to their positions.


Cheryl L. White, Esq.
1901 Harrison Street, Suite 1100
Oakland, CA 94612
Phone: (510) 844-7755
Fax: (510) 844-7756
email: cheryl@cherylwhite.net

Cheryl represents clients throughout Alameda County, San Francisco County, Contra Costa County, Marin County and the greater Bay Area, including individuals in Oakland, Hayward, San Francisco, Berkeley, Pleasanton, San Leandro and Martinez.




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The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
Copyright © 2009 by Cheryl L. White. All rights reserved. You may reproduce materials available at this site for your own personal use and for non-commercial distribution. All copies must include this copyright statement.