How to File for Divorce in California
Deciding to end a marriage can be emotionally draining and stressful. This is perfectly understandable since getting a divorce means creating an uncertain future where you are no longer tethered to your spouse. The stress also emanates from the potential animosity and acrimony that may occur between you and your spouse during the divorce proceedings. If you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious about moving forward with a divorce, do not fret. This page breaks down, in an easy-to-understand manner, how to file for divorce in California. Once you are done reading, take action by contacting a skilled Marin County divorce lawyer such as Jeremy Castro to help you get the ball rolling on your divorce. Jeremy Castro possesses the experience you need to handle an array of complex divorce matters. Contact his office today so Jeremy can go to work for you.
Waiting Period Before Finalizing Your Divorce
Even if you and your spouse are on the same page and want to file for divorce tomorrow, you need to pump the proverbial brakes. Why? Because California adheres to a six-month waiting period before granting entering a Judgment of Dissolution. This is a mandatory minimum waiting period so there are no shortcuts to get a divorce finalized sooner. Nevertheless, during this waiting period, you have the ability to negotiate with your spouse and try to reach an agreement on big issues such as separation of property, any spousal support, custody, etc.
Deciding Where to File for Divorce
An important issue that needs to be addressed at the preliminary phase of a divorce is where to actually file the paperwork. In California, either you or your spouse need to have lived in the state for at least the previous six months and in a specific county for at least three months.
Filing the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage
With the waiting period and logistical issues addressed, now is the time to discuss the actual steps to file for divorce in California. The first step is to have either you or your spouse file a petition for the dissolution of marriage that is submitted to the appropriate clerk of court. The exact form is known as a “FL-100” in California. You need to list all the pertinent information related to your marriage, including children, dates, and property. In addition, when filing the FL-100, there is a fee that must be paid to the court clerk, unless you qualify for a fee waiver.
Serving Your Spouse with Divorce Papers
Once the FL-100 has been filled out and filed correctly, the next step in the divorce process is to serve your spouse. This means presenting the petition to your spouse to ensure they are aware of the decision to file for divorce.
Responding to the Divorce Filing
Once service of the petition is complete, your spouse has thirty days to file a response. In California, this means your spouse will likely respond using the FL-120 form.
Once a response has been filed by your spouse, the next step is conducting discovery, which includes completing an array of forms to help identify marital assets, marital debts, and other financial issues that will need to be addressed before a divorce is finalized. The relevant forms include:
- Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140),
- Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150),
- Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142),
- Family Law Form Interrogatories (Form FL-145).
Seeking Temporary Orders
Once discovery is complete and a judge has the opportunity to review the relevant forms and financial records, you have the option to request temporary child custody, child support, spousal support orders, and so forth. This is also a period of time where you and your spouse, through your Marin County divorce attorney, can negotiate to try and reach an agreement that can be presented to the court.
If, on the other hand, the divorce is acrimonious and one spouse wants immediate orders before finalizing the divorce, they can file an Order to Show Cause. Once filed, the court will schedule a hearing to rule on pressing issues that need resolution sooner rather than later.
Reaching an Agreement
If you and your spouse are on the same page, getting a divorce finalized can go relatively smoothly and not drag on for weeks or months. This is particularly true if you were not married for very long or you were married and had no children. In these scenarios, negotiating the details of an agreement can be relatively straightforward and simple. Though, it is fairly common for divorce proceedings to get contentious during the negotiation phase.
Three Ways to Reach a Judgment and Finalize a Divorce
In California, there are generally three ways to get a divorce finalized:
- Negotiating a settlement – A settlement happens when both parties agree on the terms of the divorce. This avoids the need for mediation, trial, or other litigation.
- Filing for a default divorce – A default occurs when your spouse fails to respond to the initial service. When the other party defaults, the requesting party may file a request for default so that the divorce may become finalized.
- Going to trial – A trial may be necessary if you and your spouse are unable to come to terms on your own or through mediation. In order to hash out the division of property, custody arrangements, parenting plans, and all the other details of the divorce agreement, you may have to go in front of a judge and state your case. It is important to note that, prior to reaching trial, the court could very well order a mandatory settlement conference, where both you and your spouse meet to try and reach a settlement.
Signing the Finalized Divorce Papers
Once an agreement is reached, no matter through settlement, default, trial, etc. there will be a time when you need to sign and file the finalized divorce paperwork. The finalized documents will typically include agreements between you and your spouse regarding:
- Division of assets and debts;
- Child custody;
- Child support;
- Spousal support, and
- Any other topics.
Have Questions about Filing for Divorce in California? Contact Castro Law Offices Today
If you are considering filing for divorce or have already begun the process of filing for divorce, then there is a good chance you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and uncertain about your future. This is understandable because the end of a marriage is the beginning of a series of significant issues that must be addressed before your divorce can be finalized. During this emotionally-draining and challenging time, it makes sense to have an experienced and knowledgeable Marin County divorce attorney on your side who is ready, willing and able to fight for your best interests during the divorce proceedings. If you are looking for legal counsel, then contact Castro Law Offices today to schedule a confidential case review.