Divorce is hardly ever an easy process, but it can be made easier by following sound legal advice. It is especially helpful to have representation on your side when filing a petition for dissolution of marriage in California, as the paperwork and legal obstacles involved can trip up even the most tedious people. At the very least, it is important to know what you have in store for you before starting a petition.
The Law Office of Steven L. Fritsch has therefore prepared the following educational guide that can help you to assess your options during this complicated time.
Understanding California Divorce Law
The state of California is a “no fault” state, meaning that the courts are not interested in assigning blame to one spouse or the other for the dissolution of their marriage. Instead, grounds for divorce are almost always labeled under “irreconcilable differences,” with the implication being that both parties have done their best to make the marriage work. You may also petition for a divorce on the basis of permanent legal incapacity.
Timeline for Petitioning
If you are submitting a petition for dissolution of marriage in California, you must meet certain residency laws. Generally speaking, you or your spouse must be living within the state at least six months before filing, including three months in the county in which you will be filing. Please note, however, that there are slightly modified requirements for same-sex couples.
Once the petition has been submitted, your spouse has 30 days to respond, though the court might decide to extend this period. Typically, you can expect a six-month wait from when the papers were served to the divorce actually becoming official, during which time it is expected that both parties will come to agreements on major issues such as property ownership and custody.
Petition Forms & Paperwork Involved
The state requires that you fill out many different forms to complete your petition, and the local county court system will probably supply you with additional forms as well. To start the filing process, you will need to visit a regional center in your county.
For example, in San Diego County, where the Law Office of Steven L. Fritsch is located, there are four regional offices in which you can start filing the petition. The specific forms involved are the incredibly lengthy Dissolution Packets (~50 pages for each packet) that cover everything from property and financial declarations to custody information sheets. There is also a number of local family and children forms you may need to complete based on the circumstances.
Possible Causes for Delay
In California, six months is the standard wait time you can hope to expect before settling things officially, but there are a number of items that could come up during the petitioning process that might delay your case even longer.
For instance, if you have children and are unable to agree to a custody plan with your spouse at the time you file for divorce, the state of California will actually require that you undergo custody mediation. On a related note, failing to explicitly define beforehand how property is to be divided will, more often than not, lead to messy situations and definite delays. While this is obviously a difficult prospect during an acrimonious divorce, you must still keep this fact in mind nonetheless.
Alternative Divorce Options
Depending on the circumstances behind your divorce, you may feel compelled to see your case all the way to court. However, there are alternative options for those looking to get on with their lives as quickly as possible. An uncontested divorce is typically the best option here. Much faster and easier to perform than court system counterparts, an uncontested divorce is used when both parties have agreed to terms and are ready to move forward.
It should still be said that even an uncontested divorce requires you to wait six months before the divorce is official. This is set by the state of California in the hopes that troubled couples attempt to reconcile.
Filing a Summary Dissolution
An even simpler process is to file a summary dissolution. This is designed for couples without children who have only been married a few years and own little to no real estate or property. In a summary dissolution, both parties will divide any property they own and submit a divorce petition together. The waiting period is still six months, but this is the most streamlined option.
Get Help from a Divorce Attorney
Keeping track of all the legal paperwork involved in even the simplest separations can often be too much to bare for individuals still overcoming the emotional shock of a divorce. This is where the Law Office of Steven L. Fritsch can help. By contacting one of our representatives for a free case evaluation, we can look to put your life back on the right track right away.