Overview of the Divorce Process in California
1) Determine if CA has Jurisdiction and which County is the Proper Venue
To meet the jurisdiction requirement to file for divorce in California either party must be a resident of the state for six (6) months prior to filing. If California has jurisdiction, then the county in which you reside is where you should file for divorce. In some counties, there are several Superior Court locations that hear family law matters. In San Diego County, your zip code is used to determine which Superior Court is the proper venue to file for divorce.
2) File the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is the initial form that must be filed to request a divorce. This form outlines your requests and the issues the Court can decide. There are considerations that must be contemplated when completing this form as it is the underlying structure for the Court to make its orders.
3) Serve the Other Party with the Divorce Paper s
Service of process is a critical step in the divorce process. This ensures that the other party was given notice and the opportunity to be heard. Typically, service of process is accomplished when a third party over the age of 18 personally delivers the initial divorce papers to the other party. However, there are other manners of service that are accepted depending on the circumstances.
4) Response to Dissolution of Marriage
Once the Petition is served, the other party has 30 days to file a Response. The Response to Dissolution of Marriage is very similar to the Petition and should be completed carefully. If the Response is not filed within 30 days after service, the moving party could obtain a default Judgment.
5) Decide Whether Temporary Orders are Necessary
Often, issues arise during the divorce process that require interim agreements or orders before a final divorce Judgment is entered. For instance, you may need temporary orders to set forth a child custody and parenting schedule, determine financial arrangements such as payment of community expenses and support, and to decide whether to disburse and/or divide certain property. These issues could warrant a request for temporary orders pending a final Judgment.
6) Exchange Financial and Property Disclosures
The Court requires the parties to verify that they have exchanged financial disclosure documents before entering a final Judgment. This includes completing and exchanging Income and Expense Declarations, Schedule of Assets and Debts and/or Property Declarations, and Declaration of Disclosure forms.
7) Conduct Discovery
Discovery is a process whereby the parties can request documents or answers from the other party, or third parties, to obtain complete and accurate information. Some forms of discovery are Demand for Production of Documents, Subpoenas, oral Depositions, and requests for written responses to Interrogatories.
8) Settlement Conference and Negotiations
The Court encourages the parties to meet and confer to attempt settlement negotiations before setting a trial date. In San Diego County, the Court will order the parties to attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference with a Judge Pro Tem (experienced attorney who acts as a temporary Judge) to reach a global resolution. This generally occurs after discovery is complete and before setting a trial date.
If settlement negotiations fail, or certain issues cannot be resolved informally, then the Court will set the case for trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial could take a couple of hours or several days.
10) File Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage
Whether a case is resolved by agreement or Court order, a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage needs to be filed. The Judgment should set forth the specific orders and/or agreements reached by the parties regarding child custody, child support, alimony, property division, and any other issues specific to your case. Typically, the parties are legally divorced when the final Judgment is entered.
If you are going through a divorce in California, please contact the McKinnon Law Firm to discuss your individual situation. There are circumstances and events that could alter the above guidelines. Please contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.
Disclaimer: The above information is not intended as legal advice and is not case specific. This is general information about the divorce process in California. The facts and circumstances of your particular situation could alter the above guidelines. The review or receipt of this information is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.