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Family Law

Child Custody & Visitation

When a divorce involves a child or children, parents know that the care of the children is in the family’s best interests. Planning for child custody and parenting time can be among the most contentious aspects of a divorce. It is vital to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. It is important to understand the difference between physical and legal custody:

  • Physical custody is referred to as “parenting time” and refers to the place where the children live most of the time. When equal parenting time is awarded, the division of parenting time is generally split between the parents.

  • Legal custody is referred to as “legal decision-making authority” and refers to the ability of a parent to make decisions on behalf of their children. Those legal custody decisions may touch on topics such as medical care, education, and religious upbringing.

To learn more about child custody and visitation services, contact us today.

Child Support

Child support refers to the financial amount that must be paid by one parent for the support of a child. Several variables must be evaluated before an award of child support can be calculated.

The Law Offices of Steven J. Cottrell can help you work through child support issues. Here’s how we can help:

  • Calculate child support. We can help provide an estimate of the amount that you would need to receive or pay.

  • Enforce payment. If your spouse is not paying child support, we can help you file a motion to get payment through wage garnishment.

  • Modify the terms. If you undergo a significant life change, such as job termination, we can help modify the terms of your child support order.

To learn more about child support services, contact us today.


Whenever a child is born to unwed parents, the court can enter an order establishing paternity. This establishes the identity of the child’s father. The court can then enter orders on legal decision-making, parenting time, and child support. In California, paternity proceedings may be brought by the parent of a child born out of wedlock.

After the paternity petition is filed, the parent must admit or deny paternity within a certain time frame. If paternity is denied, the court will order the alleged father, mother and child to submit to a DNA test to determine paternity. We can help you understand California’s laws regarding paternity and the associated rights and obligations.

Dissolution of Marriage/Divorce

Divorce is one of the most difficult things a family can go through. We know that every family’s situation is different. That is why we take a personalized approach to every case. We will take the time to fully understand your goals. We know that divorce can be a stressful and emotionally draining process. At the Law Offices of Steven J. Cottrell here is how we can help:

  • We can explain your rights with respect to custody and paternity time with your children.

  • We can advise you on financial support and the division of marital property.

  • We can help reduce your emotional stress and keep you informed throughout the process.

  • We will help you stand up for what matters most to you

To learn more about dissolution of marriage/divorce services, contact us today.

Property Division

California is a no-fault divorce state, which means a spouse can file for divorce at any time and for no other reason than “irreconcilable differences,” and property division in California divorce cases is never influenced by the behavior of either spouse, although child custody and visitation rights can be. California is also a community property state, which means the law presumes that all property acquired during the marriage is owned equally by both spouses. Upon legal separation, divorce, or dissolution of domestic partnership a couple’s assets are divided (the practice of asset division) to ensure that each spouse receives one-half of the community estate. When a couple gets married in California, they are creating a “community” together.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, or alimony, is an amount ordered or agreed upon paid from one spouse to another in a legal separation, dissolution of domestic partnership, or divorce matter. Spousal support is generally intended to help an economically disadvantaged spouse (i.e. the spouse with a lower income) continue to enjoy a similar standard of living after the marriage ends. In the majority of cases, the spouse who earns a higher income is ordered to pay spousal support to the other spouse. Whether you are seeking spousal support or you think you may be ordered to pay spousal support, we can represent your best interests in the courts so you get a fair judgment.

Spousal support is not a right, nor is it guaranteed. It is not intended to punish a spouse for perceived misbehavior during the marriage or after separation, nor is it a reward or consolation prize for having tolerated perceived maltreatment during the marriage or after separation because California is a no-fault state.

Domestic Violence/Restraining Orders

Domestic violence is a serious matter that should be addressed and handled professionally. Sweeping these situations under the rug and mishandling cases put lives in danger. Whether you are the victim of domestic violence or you have been accused of committing it, you will want a skilled and experienced family violence attorney fighting for you. At The Law Offices of Steven J. Cottrell, we take these cases seriously and provide the aggressive, unyielding, and compassionate representation you need.

Situations that involve domestic violence can be difficult to handle because of their sensitive nature and broad reach. Sometimes, abusers do not even realize that their actions are considered to be domestic violence. Victims, too, may fail to recognize the abuse against them for what it is. Domestic violence encompasses: physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, threats of harm, and stalking and cyberstalking.

In many cases, it can be difficult to provide any proof of the abuse, aside from the testimony of the victim.  The victim’s testimony is sufficient if the court finds the victim credible.  In family court, the burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, so the party seeking a restraining order needs only to prove that is more likely than not the alleged abuse occurred.

Pre-Marital and Post-Marital Agreements

Prenuptial agreements—often referred to as “prenups”—are legal documents permitted by the California Family Code that dictate how properties and assets will be divided in the event of divorce or, in some cases, death. While they tend to have somewhat of a bad reputation, prenuptial agreements actually offer a number of benefits for any couple that plans on getting married. Contrary to popular opinion, prenups are not just for the very wealthy. In fact, prenups offer peace of mind and a sense of security to individuals from all walks of life.

The California Family Code allows for both prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. A postnuptial agreement essentially works in the same way as a prenuptial agreement, but it is signed after the date of marriage. Much like prenups, postnuptial agreements can be used to distinguish between marital and separate property, as well as how this property will be divided in the event of divorce or the death of one spouse. There are many reasons to consider signing a postnuptial agreement. You may wish to ensure that a family business stays in the family. You may want to protect your children from a previous marriage. You may even wish to protect yourself or your spouse from a large amount of debt. No matter the reason, we can help.


If you are a parent of a minor, it is important to look objectively at your situation and ask, “If my husband/wife is incapacitated or killed in an accident, who will raise our children?” Without prearranged documentation, there could be an in-family dispute or children could be placed in foster care or custody of the court. When this happens, there can be a conflict between family members, all in the wake of a tragedy, to which children are subject. Establishing guardianship guidelines can avoid this type of extremely difficult scenario, should the remote prospect of something unexpected occur. Contact us today to learn about your options.


The adoption process in California can be confusing and difficult to navigate. It is wise to seek assistance from a skilled attorney. At The Law Offices of Steven J. Cottrell, we provide personalized service and pay close attention to detail, tailoring our approach to your unique situation. We can assist you with:

  • Independent adoptions

  • Stepparent adoptions

  • Relative adoptions

Each type of adoption comes with a different process. We can meet with you to discuss the circumstances of your desired adoption and walk you through the requirements. While working on your case, we can help you avoid and overcome potential roadblocks along the way. We can complete all the necessary paperwork and help you prepare for your home study, which is required by law and includes a home inspection, background checks, and other assessments. With Steven J. Cottrell on your side, you can rest easy knowing your case will be handled professionally and promptly.

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