No couple seeks to end their marriage in divorce. However, it is important to protect yourself if you do get divorced. Seeking the assistance and guidance of a California divorce attorney is a useful first step. An experienced divorce attorney can show you what to expect in a contested or uncontested divorce, and they can walk you through the step-by-step process of getting divorced in California.
Before deciding to get divorced, you may want to consider your options and be certain that a divorce is what you want. A divorce is a decision that has life-altering consequences, be they good or bad. Taking a moment to seriously consider your situation is worthwhile.
You should meet with a divorce attorney before filing for divorce to learn about the legal process itself. It’s crucial to understand the process before you put yourself through it. An attorney can inform you of how this all works, what to expect in the divorce process, and how to protect yourself during and after your divorce.
Before you begin the process, make sure you done the following important things:
The party filing for divorce must be a resident of the county in which they file for at least three months and a resident of California for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. This is a jurisdictional requirement, called the residency requirement, and the court does not have the discretion to change this requirement. A legal separation does not have the same residency requirement and is often filed when the residency requirements have not been met.
The process begins when a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed in the Superior Court. This Summons and Petition must be personally served by someone over the age of 18 and not a party to the action. I always advise against having any family member or friend serve the Summons and Petition. There are alternate means of service if personal service is impossible, such as service by publication in a newspaper. The date of service is important because it establishes the “jurisdictional date.” The quickest a person can be divorced is 6 months and 1 day from the jurisdictional date or the date of service. This waiting period is also statutory and can not be modified. Despite what you may hear or see advertised as a “quick divorce,” this can not be changed by the court.
We often file an Order to Show Cause at the same time as the Summons and Petition. By filing an Order to Show Cause (OSC) a court date will be set to get temporary orders pending a settlement conference and trial. The OSC can be filed to get child custody and visitation orders, child and spousal support orders, and property control orders. If there is domestic violence, a restraining order should be filed immediately as well. It is important to hire an attorney during the early stages of the divorce because it will dictate how the rest of the case may go. It may difficult to undo the temporary orders once they are in place.
Once your spouse has been served divorce papers, they will have 30 days to complete their own set of divorce papers, which are referred to as “the response.” If the spouse fails to serve you with a response within the given time frame, the court can rule a default judgment against them.
This would make them powerless to decide almost anything in the divorce process, including spousal support, child custody, and division of assets. In this case, the judge would review the terms of divorce you outlined in your divorce papers. If they are determined to be reasonable and fair, the agreement will be approved.
The next step would the characterization and valuation of the property. The general presumption is that any property, whether it is asset and debt, that is acquired during marriage is community property and would be divided equally. If property is acquired prior to marriage or after the date of separation, then it would generally presumed to be separate property. There are many nuances to these general presumptions and you should hire a divorce attorney in order to properly evaluate and protect any of your property rights. As part of the characterization and valuation process, discovery should be conducted to properly evaluate the property issues.
The next step would be a settlement conference. A settlement conference may conducted with a local experienced attorney or a judge, and they will sit down with the parties and try to reach a negotiated settlement. Some or all of the issues may settle at the settlement conference. Any issues that are not settled would get set for trial. The majority, if not all, family law trials are bench trials and not jury trials. If a person is not satisfied with the trial results, they may be able to appeal the decision in the Court of Appeal.
A: Divorce in California can be categorized into several stages. The process is much more involved than these stages, but this is a useful place to start:
Once you have completed all of these important steps, your divorce will be finalized, and you can begin to move forward with your life.
A: Even if both parties agree wholeheartedly to an uncontested divorce, the shortest amount of time it will take to finalize the divorce is six months. This is a mandatory waiting period set by California state law. In addition, either you or your spouse must be a resident of California for at least six months and a resident of your filing county for at least three months. If you do not meet these requirements, you will have to wait to go through the divorce process. However, you could file for legal separation in the meantime.
A: If you and your partner have been married for less than five years, then you potentially qualify for a “summary dissolution.” A summary dissolution is a quicker, simpler way to end the marriage. In addition to not having been together for over five years, you must also:
A: Yes, a divorce can be finalized in California without the signatures of both parties. If one spouse files for divorce and has their spouse served with the papers, the served spouse has 30 days to file a response. If they fail to do so within that time frame, they effectively forfeit their control in how the divorce proceeds. The serving spouse can file for default judgment, and the court may opt to finalize the divorce without arguments from either side.
Contact Edgar & Dow
It is important that you have legal assistance throughout the divorce process. If you are a Southern California resident who is considering divorce, please contact us to set an appointment to discuss your legal rights and options.
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