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Understand the divorce process

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Understanding Divorce in California: A Simple Guide

In the Golden State, divorce is more than just a legal termination of a marriage; it’s a process that involves various aspects such as property division, child custody, and emotional upheaval. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you navigate through the complexities of divorce in California.

Understanding California’s No-Fault Divorce Law

California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that you don’t need to prove your spouse did something wrong to get a divorce. Instead, most divorces are filed on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences,” which basically means that you and your spouse can’t get along anymore and don’t believe the marriage can be repaired.

Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce in California, make sure you meet the residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county where you plan to file for divorce for at least three months.

The Divorce Process

The divorce process begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a petition for divorce with the court. The other spouse (the respondent) then has 30 days to respond. If both parties agree on all terms (like property division, child custody, etc.), they can draft a marital settlement agreement. If they can’t agree, they may need to go to court to resolve their differences.

Division of Property

California is a community property state, which means any assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered jointly owned and will be divided equally in a divorce. However, property one spouse owned before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage is typically considered separate property and not subject to division.

Child Custody and Support

If you have children, deciding on custody and child support can be one of the most challenging parts of a divorce. California courts focus on the best interest of the child when making these decisions. Joint custody is common, but the exact arrangement will depend on the family’s specific circumstances.

Spousal Support

In some cases, one spouse may be required to pay spousal support (alimony) to the other. Factors influencing this include the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial situation, and whether one spouse stayed home to care for children.

Self-Representation vs. Hiring a Lawyer

While you can represent yourself in a divorce, it’s often wise to hire a lawyer, especially if there are complex issues like significant assets or custody disputes. A lawyer can help ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

Conclusion

Although divorce in California can be complex, understanding the basics of the process can help you approach it with more confidence and clarity. Remember, every divorce is unique, and seeking professional legal advice is always the best course of action. With the right approach and support, you can navigate this challenging time and move forward towards a new chapter in your life.

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Divorce in California: A Basic Timeline

Here’s a general timeline to give you an idea of how the process may unfold:

  1. Meeting Residency Requirements: Before filing for divorce, you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county where you’re filing for at least three months.

  2. Filing the Petition: The divorce process officially begins when one spouse (the petitioner) files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. This can be done anytime after meeting the residency requirements.

  3. Serving the Petition: After filing, the petitioner must serve the other spouse (the respondent) with the divorce papers. The respondent then has 30 days to respond.

  4. Mandatory Waiting Period: California law requires a minimum waiting period of six months from the date the respondent is served with divorce papers before the divorce can be finalized. This is the soonest a divorce can be legally completed, but it often takes longer if there are disputes over assets, custody, or other issues.

  5. Financial Disclosures: Both parties are required to exchange financial disclosures detailing their income, expenses, assets, and debts. This step usually occurs early in the process, often within 60 days of filing the petition.

  6. Negotiation and Settlement: During this period, spouses can negotiate terms regarding property division, child custody and support, and spousal support. This can be done privately, through attorneys, or via mediation. If an agreement is reached, it can be submitted to the court for approval.

  7. Litigation (if necessary): If spouses cannot agree on key issues, the divorce may go to trial. The length of this phase greatly varies depending on the complexity of the issues and the court’s schedule. It can take several months to years.

  8. Final Judgment: Once all issues are resolved, either through settlement or court judgment, the court will issue a final divorce decree. This happens after the mandatory six-month waiting period.

  9. Post-Judgment Modifications (if applicable): After the divorce is finalized, either party can request changes to the divorce decree if circumstances change significantly, especially concerning child custody, visitation, and support.

Divorce in California: Common Forms For An Easier Divorce

Here’s a list of common forms that are typically used in the divorce process in California:

  1. FL-100 (Petition — Marriage/Domestic Partnership): This form starts the divorce or legal separation process.

  2. FL-110 (Summons (Family Law)): This form notifies your spouse that you have filed for divorce.

  3. FL-115 (Proof of Service of Summons): This form proves that you have served the divorce papers to your spouse.

  4. FL-105 (Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)): If you have children, this form provides information about their residence and any custody cases involving them.

  5. FL-120 (Response — Marriage/Domestic Partnership): Your spouse uses this form to respond to the divorce petition.

  6. FL-140 (Declaration of Disclosure): This form is a cover sheet for your preliminary and final financial disclosures.

  7. FL-141 (Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure and Income and Expense Declaration): This form states that you have served the financial disclosure forms.

  8. FL-142 (Schedule of Assets and Debts) or FL-160 (Property Declaration): These forms list all your assets and debts.

  9. FL-150 (Income and Expense Declaration): This form provides details about your income and expenses.

  10. FL-155 (Financial Statement (Simplified)): In some cases, you may be able to use this simplified financial statement instead of the FL-150.

  11. FL-170 (Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation): If your divorce is uncontested or if your spouse doesn’t respond, this form can be used.

  12. FL-180 (Judgment): This form is the final judgment in your divorce case.

  13. FL-190 (Notice of Entry of Judgment): This form notifies the parties that the judgment has been entered.

  14. FL-195 (Income Withholding for Support): If child or spousal support is ordered, this form is used to arrange wage garnishment.

  15. FL-300 (Request for Order): Used to request court orders for things like child custody, visitation, or spousal support during the divorce process.

  16. FL-310 (Application for Order and Supporting Declaration): Accompanies the FL-300 in requesting court orders.

  17. FL-311 (Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment): This is an attachment to the FL-300 for child custody and visitation requests.

  18. FL-341 (Child Custody and Visitation Order Attachment): Details the custody and visitation arrangement.

Remember, depending on your specific case, not all of these forms may be necessary. Additionally, there might be other forms required in certain situations. It’s always best to consult with a legal professional or visit the California Courts website for the most current information and forms.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Different people face different challenges, depending upon their individual circumstances. Common concerns when considering divorce include:

  • Money: “I am ready for divorce, but how can I afford a lawyer?”
  • Grief: “How can I move on when I’m not ready to let go?”
  • Expectations: “Why can’t I get everything I want out of this divorce?”
  • The future: “Where will I go from here?”

You can always start the divorce process without your spouse. However, there are certain aspects of divorce in which a spouse needs to be involved, such as hiring a mediator, parenting coordinator, co-parenting coach.

Online access and virtual consultations allow you to learn about the divorce process on your own time. Not everyone is ready to meet with a lawyer. Not everyone has the same schedule or availability. DivorcePlus puts you in control.

If you are curious about the process and want trustworthy information, we make that available to you for free. And if you are ready for the next step, our professional service providers are here and ready when you are.

We recommend that you start keeping a diary as soon as possible. A clear record and timeline of events can be very useful down the line. The more information, the better.

If you are happy with your divorce lawyer, stay with them. Our free resources address common divorce concerns so you won’t have to pay for as much time with your lawyer. We also provide a wide range of professional services if you’re looking for a little extra guidance.

Listen.

During the divorce process, some people ask questions and then ignore answers they don’t like. Keep in mind, even when you don’t like an answer, there are always ways to work through the process.

Trust your lawyer to help get you where you want to be. The best pathway forward is to listen and learn how to work with the law.

Unlike other legal websites that charge monthly subscription fees for access to general information on all areas of law, DivorcePlus specializes in providing  free online legal and divorce educational resources without any cost to you. You only pay for professional divorce services when you need them.

An online divorce is exactly what it sounds like. During the covid-19 pandemic, most States and Courts implemented laws and procedures that permit individuals to file and obtain their divorce online! But that doesn’t help if you still have to meet with a legal professional in person. The DivorcePlus professional marketplace gives you the ability to locate an attorney in your State and find out if an online divorce is right for you.

Note: This information contained here is not legal advice and should not be relied upon a legal source; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.  It’s important to keep in mind that legal statutes can be subject to amendments and interpretations. For the most current and detailed legal information, it’s advisable to consult the actual statutes or a legal professional.