Step By Step Guide For A California Divorce

Filing for divorce can seem complicated, so we’re here to help. Here is a step-by-step guide to the California divorce process.

Filing And Service Of Petition

The California divorce process starts with the filing of a summons, petition for dissolution of marriage and related forms. Under California divorce law, the filing spouse is known as the petitioner, and the other spouse is referred to as the respondent. The petition mostly serves to identify the parties and provide some basic information about them. This includes a financial information identifying all of your assets and liabilities, regardless of whether they are shared with your spouse. Once filed, the California divorce process officially begins.

The divorce summons and petition are typically personally served on the respondent. There are some restrictions regarding who is allowed to serve the respondent. In California, service can be effectuated by using a professional process server or anyone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case. You also have the option of serving the other side by mail if your spouse agrees to accept this method of service. Depending on the method of service, the respondent then has a certain statutory time to respond. With personal service, that time is no later than 30 days from the date of personal service.

Response To Petition

The respondent’s response to the petition requests information from the respondent that is very similar to what needs to be disclosed by the other spouse in the petition. Once the response to the divorce petition is completed, it is signed and filed with the court. The responding party then needs to serve the petitioner with the response, which is typically accomplished by mail.

Default Proceedings

If the respondent does not respond, the California divorce process then allows for the court to enter the default of the responding party after receipt and review of the default paperwork.

Do not assume you will get everything you requested in the Petition. For example, child custody laws require the judge to decide such cases based on the children’s best interest. The court may not order what you want if the court believes it is not in the children’s best interest. Regarding child support, the court typically orders guideline child support unless there is a lawful ground to deviate from the guidelines. On California spousal support, the court may decide not to terminate spousal support even if you ask for it, especially in a long-term marriage.

Requests For Orders

After the petitioner and files and serves the petition and either before or after the respondent files and serves the response, one of the spouses typically file a request for order to resolve any contested issues in the divorce. The request for order commonly seeks temporary orders on the following issues

Child custody,

Parenting time (also called “visitation”),

Child support, Spousal support (also called alimony),

Property Control Orders

The California divorce process has a set procedure for the filing and service of such requests for orders as well as the hearings for them. The petitioning spouse may file the request for order at the same time as the divorce petition or after filing the divorce petition. The respondent may file the request for order at the same time or after he or she files the response to the petition. Once properly served, the other spouse needs to be notified of the hearing date, time, and what exactly you seek and why. The court stamps a hearing date on the paperwork. The hearing is typically set 30-90 days from the date of filing, depending on the court’s calendar.

Declarations of Disclosure

Serving preliminary and final declarations of disclosure and filing the proof of that service is one of the essential parts of the California divorce process. A declaration of disclosure is a set of mandatory forms and other documents that disclose to the other spouse all of the community and separate property assets, debts, income, and expenses.

The law requires the preliminary declaration of disclosure be served on your spouse within 60 days of the filing of the petition (if you are the petitioner) or within 60 days of the response (if you are the respondent). These timelines are designed to ensure spouses are not fully aware of all the assets and debts and income and expenses are before they enter into settlement agreements or proceed to Court.

The Discovery Process

Discovery is an essential part of most California divorce proceedings, which comes into play when spouses need answers to questions or documents from the other spouse. The most common forms of discovery are:

Form and special interrogatories,

Request for production of documents,

Request for admissions,

Oral depositions.

Subpoenas for information from non-parties.

Responses to discovery requests are typically due within 20-30 days, depending on the type of discovery method used by the asking party.

Settlement Negotiations

The California divorce process gives spouses the option of finalizing their divorce by way of a settlement or a trial. California courts promote settlements and gives the spouses many opportunities to resolve their disputes.

Settlement negotiations can be voluntary, or court ordered. Court mandated settlement negotiations normally take place at the courthouse, and there is a settlement officer of some type that is appointed to discuss settlement of the divorce case with each spouse. Stipulated judgments memorialize the settlement terms and conclude the matter, assuming all issues have been resolved.

The Divorce Trial

If the case does not settle the unresolved issues will need to be decided by way of a trial. At the trial, the family law judge will make the decisions that will become a court order, because the spouses and their lawyers were unable to reach an agreement.

The California divorce process gives the court the power to set a trial when the court believes it is appropriate. The process for setting a divorce trial varies from county to county. The primary factors the court considers when setting the trial date is length of time the trial is estimated to take, the court’s availability, and each lawyer and spouse’s availability. Both spouses must typically appear and testify at trial. If everything is in order, you will then receive a final divorce judgment (alternatively known as a divorce decree).

There is a six month waiting period to finalize a California divorce. This time period relates only to ending the marriage status and restoring each person to the status of an unmarried person.

Lynx has extensive experience with the documentation that needs to be filed in a divorce proceeding. Using our services will save you thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees you otherwise would have spent to complete the process. Please contact us at 888-441-2355 or with any questions or if you would like to start a case.

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