A Guide to Vietnamese Divorce in Orange County, California

Written by Andrew Tran, Esq.

The law firm of Wilkinson & Finkbeiner, LLP (W&F) has been handling divorces for over a decade and currently has five offices in California (Temecula, Escondido, San Diego, Corona and Irvine).  At our family law divorce firm, we try to be cost-effective while doing our best to advocate for you. We believe in a personalized experience with clients, as every divorce case is different.  All our attorneys keep a reasonable caseload so that we can give our clients the attention they deserve. We always keep our clients informed of the status of their cases and explain the process thoroughly. Through our extensive experience and analysis, we help you through the process and determine the appropriate route whether it be settlement or litigation. In the end, we always keep your best interests in mind.

This page is designed for those interested in learning about Vietnamese divorce in Orange County, California.

Vietnamese Culture & Divorce

As a culture, Vietnamese people tend to find divorce (ly dị, ly hôn) particularly daunting as Vietnamese stray away from divorce as it can be considered as “taboo”.  Or, spouses prefer to remain married for the benefit of the children which could cause further emotional and financial strain between the spouses. When Vietnamese people decide to proceed with a divorce, Vietnamese are immediately inclined to choose a Vietnamese attorney due to the language barriers that may arise when choosing an American attorney and cultural comfort when dealing with a Vietnamese attorney.

However, this leads many Vietnamese to an attorney who may not be equipped to handle litigation (kiện tụng) in court due to the language and cultural barrier. This results in many cases being settled (định cư) when they otherwise should have been litigated in court. Vietnamese people should not have to choose between that comfort and court litigation. Unlike other law firms, W&F is equipped to assist Vietnamese through trying times of divorce as its Orange County office employs an American-born, Vietnamese speaking attorney. Since his admittance to the California State Bar, Andrew Tran has primarily focused in family law and has experience in both settlement (định cư) and litigation (kiện tụng). Mr. Tran has handled case from the beginning (từ lúc bắt đầu) to the end (đến cuối cùng) of a divorce case. He has litigated such issues as child custody and visitation (tạm giữ và thăm viếng trẻ), child support (hỗ trợ trẻ em), spousal support (hỗ trợ vợ chồng), division of assets and debts (chia tài sản và các khoản nợ), domestic violence (bạo lực gia đình), paternity cases (trường hợp cha), prenuptial agreements (Thoã thuận tiền hôn nhân), post-nuptial agreements (thỏa thuận hôn nhân bài), department of child support service cases (bộ phận của dịch vụ hỗ trợ trẻ em), and probate/guardianship cases (kiểm nhận/giám hộ).

While the cost of a divorce can vary depending on the complexity, we understand that Vietnamese (người Việt Nam) may have a tendency to be more frugal (thanh đạm) than most which sets our firm apart from other firms. As a firm, we try to be cost-effective (chi phí) while trying our best to advocate (bào chửa) for our clients. Knowing this, our firm initially tries to settle (bước đầu giải quyết) cases for clients. However, when settlement no longer becomes possible (không còn có thể giải quyết được), we are always ready to litigate (sẵn sàng để khởi kiện) which can be costly. If any money remains in your account at the completion of your divorce, we will refund you any remaining amount.

Types of Divorces (Loại Ly Dị/ Loại Ly Hôn) – Contested Divorces – Starting a Divorce

In a contested divorce, both parties participate (cả hai bên tham gia) in the divorce. A party will file what is known as the Summons and Petition to open a case in the county in which they reside. For Vietnamese who live in Westminster, Garden Grove, Stanton, and Fountain Valley, this would be Orange County. The family courthouse is located at 341 The City Drive South, Orange, CA 92868. The Summons and Petition lays the groundwork for all the potential issues that may arise in a divorce from child custody and visitation to the division of assets as well as the date of separation.  If children are involved, an additional declaration under the UCCJEA is required.

Date of Separation (Ngày Chia Ly)

The date of separation is a legally significant date as from this date forward any accumulation of assets and debts after would be considered as each party’s own respective separate asset or debt. The other spouse would not be entitled or responsible for any asset accumulated thereafter. Previously, the date of separation is the date upon which a party emotionally and mentally no longer desired to continue the marital relationship.  However, in the recent Davis case, a physical requirement was added which means that parties must be physically separated in order to establish a particular date as the date of separation. Depending on your economic standing within the marriage, having an earlier or later date of separation could prove crucial.

Once the Summons and Petition has been filed with the court, they need to be served upon the other party who would then have a chance to respond to the divorce within 30 days.

Full Disclosure of Financials

Within 60 days of a divorce commencing, the parties are required to exchange financial information and documentation with each other in order to ensure full disclosure of all assets that may have been accumulated during a marriage. This can pose a problem for some within the Vietnamese community due to the occasional distrust and nonuse of institutions such as banks and nonuse of paperwork. See the section below on discovery if this becomes an issue and a legal procedure to obtain such information becomes necessary.

It is extremely important that parties fully, accurately and truthfully complete their Declarations of Disclosure.  The ramifications for failing to truthfully disclose assets and debts are substantial, and could lead the misrepresenting party to have to pay attorney fees and lose the entire “hidden” asset to the other spouse.

For our guide to financial disclosures in divorce, click here.

Temporary Orders

During the divorce, parties will be able to request the court to make various temporary orders including, but not limited to, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support. This means that a stay-at-home spouse can survive during a divorce even if the other spouse refuses to informally pay support and makes all the money for the family. Not only do stay-at-home spouses/parents exist in the American community but also in the Vietnamese community. This also could mean that there could be an established visitation schedule for the children which would prevent a parent from withholding the children from the other parent or causing uncertainty for the children. Then, the parties can work towards a settlement of all the issues in the divorce which is what our firm strives to work towards initially. If there are any issues that cannot be resolved through settlement, the parties will be required to go to trial to litigate those issues in front of a judge.


If parties are able to settle a case without the need for litigation, an agreement known as a Marital Settlement Agreement will be drafted which would encompass all the issues in the divorce. This agreement would then be submitted to the court for a judge’s approval. This is the fastest and cheapest way of obtaining a divorce.

On the other hand, litigation of all the contested issues at trial, as mentioned above, is sometimes necessary. While potentially costing a substantial amount of money, the benefit that may arise from litigation could outweigh those costs such as an entitlement to more than one-half (1/2) of the value of a particular community asset or division of a retirement account.

Summary Dissolution

A summary dissolution is one of the quickest ways to get obtain a divorce in a short amount of time as long as the following are satisfied: both parties have been married for less than five years, have no children, do not own real property, do not have many assets or much debt, and agree to all the terms to finalize their case.

Default with an Agreement

A default with an agreement is another quick way to obtain a divorce and save money on court filing fees in the process. This method is reserved for parties who will have an agreement on the division of assets and debts and all other aspects of their family law case. Usually, one party, the Petitioner, files for a divorce and pays the usual court filing fee. The other party never responds because there is no need for any court appearances if the parties are amiable and have an agreement. Since there is no response filed, a response filing fee is not required. After the parties exchange financial information, a Marital Settlement Agreement would be drafted containing all the already agreed upon terms along with all the required final judgment forms to attach to the agreement. This entire packet would be submitted to the court for its approval. This is sometimes the preferable method for some individuals because only one party has to pay the filing fee and this could expedite an amiable divorce.

For our complete guide to how divorce works in California, click here.


Discovery is a formal legal process by which attorneys can request for information or documentation from an opposing side that would otherwise not be disclosed voluntarily. This process can be necessary when a spouse suspects the other spouse of hiding assets or debts. This may be necessary more often with the Vietnamese community as there can be individuals who are not as trusting of such institutions as banks. Without the process of discovery, a spouse could be oblivious as to the actions of another spouse which can be customary in many Vietnamese marriages where one individual had complete management and control of the marital assets.

To learn more about discovery, click here.

Child Custody and Visitation

In any case involving children, custody orders should be established so that disputes over physical custody of the children can be avoided. Vietnamese put a heavy emphasis on their children as children are usually the reason why Vietnamese spouses stay married despite being extremely unhappy. As such, arguments over custody of the children is likely to occur in a Vietnamese divorce. Unless the parties are able to come to an agreement, court determination of a child custody schedule certain. Either party can request custody orders. The court uses an analysis of the best interests of the children. Courts in California generally do not care what either parent wants. Courts analyze the history of the relationship of the children with either parent and sometimes consider the opinions of the children, depending on age, in order to determine with whom should the children reside and with whom the children shall have visitation. The court will order the parties to go to mediation in order to verbalize and convince the mediator that a particular party should be the primary custody parent. After mediation, the mediator will issue a report which recommends a particular custodial schedule based upon what the mediator believes to be the best interests of the children. The parties can either adopt the report or go to court in order to convince the court what the parties believe to be the children’s best interests. Normally, the party who did not have a good outcome from the report would be the more likely individual to contest the report and request a trial to determine custody and visitation.

For our complete guide to child custody in Orange County, click here.

How Do You Enforce a Support Order?

Ensuring that parties comply with a court order may be more difficult than obtaining the court order which is a very common problem.  Often the family courts order one party to pay the other child support or spousal support (alimony).

Child Support/Spousal Support Orders

After obtaining a court order for support, attorneys will typically file what is known as an Income Withholding Order which contains information as to the payor’s employer and the terms of the court order. This form is then forwarded to the payor’s employer so that any support shall be automatically garnished from the payor before he/she even receives their paycheck. This takes payment for support out of the payor’s control and guarantees the payee to receive payment as opposed to trusting the fact that the payor will comply with the court order. However, the garnished money is sent to the California State Disbursement Center prior to distribution to the payee so that there can be an accurate accounting of payments.

For information about collecting on past due child support or spousal support, click here.

Move-Away Cases Involving Children

When a parent wants to move with the children out of the current county for work-related or personal reasons, this is only allowed under the following certain set of circumstances: permission from the other parent or by court order. While permission from the other parent would be the easiest way, this is usually not the case. In most cases, the moving parent has to request a court order to be allowed to move to a different county by providing compelling reasons and that the move would be in the children’s best interests. This particular request is often complicated and necessitates the need for an attorney as testimony would be taken of not only the parties but of third parties including school teachers, doctors, and even family members. The court does a thorough analysis of factors to determine whether the requested move is in the best interests of the children. Although the courts tend to disfavor moving children from their county of residence, it is not impossible for a parent to successfully request a move-away. Having an attorney to advocate for you by presenting the best case in front of the court may be crucial and necessary. If granted, a 30-day stay will be issued so that the parent who stays in the county will be given ample time to spend time with the children prior to the move and to file an appeal.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is physical or verbal abuse between parties who have a current relationship or who have had a past relationship. Not only does domestic violence exist in the American family but also in the Vietnamese family. No longer do Vietnamese have to subject themselves to years of abuse as there is a remedy for victims. The remedy in such a case is to seek a restraining order against the other party. When a court issues a restraining order, the court looks to recent incidences of abuse and a history of domestic violence. If issued, a restrained party may not go physically near a protected party’s personal location or near their property, including but not limited to their residence, vehicle, and school. If children are involved and there is a risk to the children, they can also become protected parties.

For information about DV, click here.

Temporary Restraining Order/Permanent Restraining Order

When seeking a restraining order, a temporary restraining order will be issued first pending a full hearing on any testimony or evidence that would give rise to a permanent restraining order. A temporary restraining order will last only until the court hearing. For temporary restraining orders, courts generally only consider submitted paperwork which makes providing a detailed account of all recent and past incidences of domestic violence extremely important. At the court hearing, parties will be able to provide testimony and documentation to persuade the court to order a permanent restraining order which can last between 1 to 5 years. When a permanent restraining order expires, the protected party must seek a renewal of the restraining order. Otherwise, upon expiration, a restrained party would no longer be bound to the restraining order.

We hope that you have found this page about Vietnamese divorce in Orange County useful.  If you are interested in setting up a free consultation, contact our office by email or call us at (949) 955-9155.  If you wish to speak with Andrew directly, he can be reached at the same number.