The Divorce Timeline And What To Expect In California
While every divorce is different, there are protocols and predictable steps in the legal process. The knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys of Maggio Law will guide you throughout this stressful journey. We take the time to educate you about each phase to help you make good decisions and alleviate your anxieties.
We handle contested and uncontested divorce and all related dissolution of marriage and family law matters in Orange County and surrounding Southern California.
Preparing For Divorce Or Separation
Whether you are initiating a divorce or your spouse has asked for a divorce, it pays to be proactive. You should talk to a lawyer sooner than later if you are thinking of getting divorced or if you have already separated. An attorney can help you get organized and start thinking about important questions regarding your finances and your children.
Filing The Papers
The first official step is filing a divorce petition (Form FL-100) with the family court in the county where you live, including a declaration of children you have together. If you want the court to rule on parenting arrangements, you can also file the child custody and visitation (parenting time) application attachment.
Either spouse can file for divorce or separation. It is not necessary to prove grounds for divorce in California other than “irreconcilable differences.” Filing the petition and paying the filing fee automatically invokes restraining orders relating to joint finances, joint property and joint custody. If there has been abuse or threats in the marriage, it may be prudent to seek a domestic violence protective order with the help of a divorce lawyer.
Serving The Summons
An adult other than the petitioner must serve the spouse with the divorce papers. This does not have to be a surprise or adversarial event. A friend or family member can deliver the papers, for instance, or you can hire a process server.
Responding To The Petition
The spouse (respondent) has 30 days from the date they are served to file their response to the terms of the divorce action. The soonest you can be divorced is six months from the date of service (if no response) or from the date the response is filed.
When the divorce is filed, the petitioner has 60 days to submit financial disclosures to the court. The respondent also has 60 days from the filing of their response to submit the same information. The sooner the paperwork is filed, the sooner the next phase can commence. The court requires the following:
- A preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140)
- Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150)
- Schedule of Assets And Debts (Form FL-142) or Property Disclosure (Form FL-160)
- The two most recent years of your tax returns
Once the divorce/separation petition is filed, either party may request that the court issue temporary orders relating to custody and visitation, child support and/or spousal support/partner support. These interim orders will remain in force until the terms of divorce and custody matters are litigated or your written agreement is finalized by the court.
Resolution By Default Or Agreement
The next steps depend on the circumstances of your case.
1. If your spouse has not responded to the petition and you have not worked out the terms with your spouse, the court can issue a true default judgment based on your proposed solutions for community property, custody and support.
2. If your spouse did not file a response, but the two of you have a written divorce or separation agreement, you can submit your settlement and request that the court enter it as a default with an agreement.
3. If your spouse filed a response and you have a written agreement on all the issues, the court can enter the judgment for your uncontested divorce.
Scenarios 2 and 3 require that you each submit a Final Declaration of Disclosure with updated financial information.
Resolution By Negotiation Or Litigation
If your spouse filed a response, but you are not in agreement on all matters (property, debt, custody, visitation and support), your contested divorce will continue.
• If you agree on some issues or feel that you could agree with outside help, you may consider divorce mediation. If mediation yields an agreement, you can submit it to the court to have it entered as a judgment.
• If mediation does not pan out or you choose not to mediate, the court will set a trial date. You can still negotiate, with the help of your lawyers, up until the trial to resolve some or all of your disputes.
• You can request a separate trial on specific unresolved issues, as opposed to one big divorce trial.
Litigation adds to the cost and length of divorce proceedings. Custody litigation is particularly expensive because of the many professionals involved. We encourage clients to explore workable middle ground, but we are capable trial lawyers when conflicts reach an impasse and must be resolved before a judge.
What Is Left To Consider After Divorce Is Finalized
Once you finalize your divorce, it is important to make sure you update the details of your life to accommodate this change. For example, make sure to update your insurance policies to remove necessary individuals as beneficiaries and from coverage, update your estate plan to reflect your new wishes after divorce, remove anyone that needs to be from mortgages and other ownership documents, make sure your bank accounts are in your name only, and update your passwords to prevent account tampering.
We Are Here To Guide You Through This
There are many steps and working parts to a divorce process. Our attention to detail and client-centered focus will make sure you are informed and prepared for each stage.