Overview of the Divorce Process in California
When seeking a divorce in the State of California, it helps to understand the process, so that parties can know what to expect and what needs to occur before their marriage is dissolved. The process may seem simple, but there are certain forms to complete and important steps that must be made before a divorce is granted.
The following describes an overview of the basic divorce process in California.
Filing of the Petition
The first step in any divorce involves the filing of the petition.
The person who starts the court case by filing the petition is known as the “petitioner.” A petition can be prepared and filed by the person individually or through the assistance of an attorney.
If the matter is complicated, meaning the parties have a lot of assets or have minor children, it is almost always recommended that at least one of them hire an attorney. The parties may qualify for a summary dissolution, but an attorney can advise them if that is a possibility.
If the parties want a divorce, they need to determine if the case can be filed in California. And if they can file in California, the also need to determine what county is the proper venue. A fee will normally be required to file the matter in a California county, unless the party qualifies for a fee waiver.
Along with the petition, the petitioner will also need to complete local forms required by the county. Many counties tend to have specific requirements an individual’s filing must meet, so be careful to review local rules to ensure that everything is submitted properly. The petition will lay out all of the legal grounds for the divorce and will tell the court exactly what the petitioner is requesting in the matter.
The other party, known as the respondent, will then need to be served with copies of the court filings.
After the respondent receives the petition, he or she has to decide how to respond. The respondent will normally need to file a formal response with the court.
If the respondent does not file a response, the case will proceed to default and be decided based on the petition’s requests. A response must be filed within 30 days of being served. The response will normally require a filing fee to be paid by the respondent.
Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure
The parties will also need to exchange financial documents to show what assets they own and what debts are owed, including both separate and community property. This process is known as the preliminary declaration of disclosure.
It helps the parties, as well as the court, know what assets and debts exist so that an equitable division can be made.
After the case is filed, the parties are always welcome to work out an agreement regarding the terms of the divorce. Settlement negotiations can be helpful if the parties wish to save on court costs since hearings and trials can be lengthy and expensive.
If the parties are not able to work on an agreement together or through the help of counsel, they can seek the assistance of a third-party mediator. Even if parties are not able to agree on all terms of the divorce, they can come to an agreement on some parts of the case, narrowing down what remains to be litigated.
Judgment of Divorce
In order to fully dissolve the marriage, a judgment of divorce must be entered by the court. How quickly this judgment is given depends on the facts of the case, including whether the respondent filed a response and whether the couple has been able to reach an agreement on any or all of the issues.
If a settlement agreement is reached, the terms of this agreement become incorporated as part of the judgment of divorce.
Under California law, the marriage cannot be dissolved until at least six months have passed after the case has been filed and the respondent has been served with the petition. It is possible that the parties will never need to come before a judge if they are able to reach a settlement agreement.
However, if an agreement cannot be reached, they will need to go to court to present evidence on how each side believes the judge should rule. The judge then makes a determination on all issues in the marriage and issues his or her decision in the judgment of divorce.
Before the divorce is final, it may be necessary to have the court issue temporary orders. Especially if minor children are involved, the court may need to enter rulings regarding child custody and parenting time.
In addition, if concerns exist as to whether one spouse will try to liquidate marital property before the marriage is final, the court can issue orders prohibiting these types of actions.
Contact Voss Law Today!
If you are considering filing for divorce and have questions, contact us today to discuss the best options for your case. Consultations are always free. Call us today at 323-333-4481.