Getting a divorce in California is often a difficult decision, but how difficult the process is can vary depending on how much you and your spouse can come to an agreement about issues including
Meeting Filing Requirements
The requirements to file for a divorce in California are fairly straightforward. First, you need to meet residential requirements, which means you or your spouse need to have lived in California for the last 6 months, and in the same county for the last 3 months. The county you live in is the county where the divorce will be filed. If you don’t meet these requirements, it is wise to contact a divorce attorney about filing for a legal separation, which does not have a residential requirement. Doing so will help protect your rights as you proceed through the divorce process, and you can file an amended petition as soon as you do meet those requirements.
In some cases, same-sex married couples can bypass residential requirements if they have moved to a state where they are unable to obtain a divorce. In these cases, they should file in the county in which they were married. If they are also in a domestic partnership, this can be dissolved at the same time.
Filing in a No Fault State
California is a “no-fault” state for divorce. The person filing simply needs to state that there are “irreconcilable differences” as they file the petition for divorce. The other person does not have to agree to the divorce, and no other infraction needs to be specified.
Filling Out the Paperwork
Filing for divorce in California means filling out several forms throughout the process. Some of these forms include
- Petition- Marriage/Domestic Partnership
- Summons (Family Law)
- Proof of Service of Summons
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
- Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (optional)
- Property Declaration
- Income and Expense Declaration –
- Declaration of Disclosure – the cover sheet for the Income and Expense Declaration
- Schedule of Assets and Debts
In these forms, you will need to list applicable dates, children, property and debts. You will need to distinguish what you believe is community property, and what should be considered individually owned.
It tells the court of how the custody of the children has been handled previously, and if there is a current court order addressing it, as in one reached through a legal separation. The Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment is optional, but including it will clarify your wishes regarding custody. Financial information regarding income also needs to be included. A divorce attorney can help you get the necessary forms together and see that they are properly completed before filing them with the court. When your spouse is served with the petition and summons, he/she will be informed that there is a 30 window in which to respond.
Responding to Divorce Filing
If you’ve been served a divorce summons and petition, California law allows for the ending of the marriage even if the other person does not agree. Marriage can end 6 months after initial papers are filed in court and copies of the papers are served to you. The divorce can go through either as uncontested or contested, depending on how your spouse responds.
In an uncontested divorce there may be no response at all, and in most cases the divorce will simply go through under the conditions that were specified in the forms. They may also file a response that says that they agree to the terms. A default with agreement is another possibility. In this case, there is not an official response, but the couple has worked together to come to an agreement on any issues. Often, the two will work with a mediator in order to smooth out this process. If necessary, they may file for an extension if more than 30 days are needed to reach the agreement.
If your spouse disagrees with some of the terms you have outlined, they may file a response that contests the case within 30 days of being served. If they do contest, they must present an alternative solution within the 30-day time frame. Sometimes, this response prompts mediation proceedings, and other times a judge will decide on the issues in court.
Working With a Divorce Attorney
During each step of the divorce, a divorce attorney can help review forms and help with any mediation needs or suggest other steps you may want to take, such as finding character witnesses. A divorce attorney can help prepare necessary paperwork. Missing paperwork. or asking for something that appears to be one-sided or unfair may delay the divorce process.
When the process is complete, the county clerk mails the Judgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment to each spouse to keep for their records.
After Divorce is Final
There are still things to do after the divorce is final. You may want to
- Update beneficiary information on life insurance or will
- Close joint credit card accounts, open new ones in your own name
- Inform employer of marital status change
- Settle any change of ownership with vehicles
- See if you are qualified for “innocent spouse relief” on any outstanding California or Federal Taxes
If you are considering filing for divorce in California or need advice on how to respond to a divorce summons, contact divorce attorney Steven L. Fritsch. We can help you get through the process with as few complications as possible.