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California Divorce Process Step by Step 2024

Deciding to get divorced is hard for any person or couple. Unfortunately, it is not the last difficult decision. The procedures involved in divorce are often complex. Understanding the process of divorce and knowing what to expect can make the process a little easier.

Step 1: Preparation

Before you begin the legal filing process for divorce, it is essential to prepare yourself for everything to come. First, check that you are eligible for divorce in California and that you meet the residency requirements.

If you made the decision to divorce without your spouse, it may be a good time to inform them. Surprising your spouse when they are served with divorce papers often does not make the situation easier for anyone. It is also important to tell your children about the situation.

Preparation also includes gathering important documents and statements. It can also be useful to begin working with an experienced Rancho Cucamonga Divorce Lawyer.

Step 2: Filing and Serving Divorce Papers

Your next step is to file the divorce papers, or petition for dissolution of marriage, with your county clerk. This form includes information about your marriage. It also contains requests for property division and other separation agreement aspects.

You will also have to file a summons. This informs your spouse that you are filing the petition and court case. You will have to have the forms you filed “served” to your spouse. Divorce papers can be served by a third party over the age of 18 or a professional process server. You can also serve the papers through the mail, but not by hand. Your spouse will then have 30 days to respond.

If your spouse fails to respond and file their own forms within that time, the court can issue a default judgment against them. This means they will have no say in important decisions like spousal support and child custody.

If you and your spouse are cooperating together through divorce, then they can sign a Notice of Acknowledgement and Receipt. This can be done either in person or once they have received the summons in the mail.

Step 3: Waiting Period and Temporary Orders

In California, there is a six-month mandatory waiting period. This lasts from the time the divorce papers have been served until the divorce can be finalized. During this time, you or your spouse can file for temporary orders. For many couples, waiting those six months without any orders for aspects of separation is not possible.

Temporary orders include:

  • Spousal support
  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support
  • Use of property and assets
  • Attorney fees

These orders do not have a time limit. They are considered temporary because they will be replaced by the finalized divorce court orders. Temporary orders are useful for families who need to be able to live independently during the six-month waiting period. You and your spouse can come to an agreement for temporary orders, or they can be settled by the judge.

Step 4: Financial Disclosure

In California, the division of property is an integral part of the divorce process. Financial disclosure is required by law so that this process can be completed. Financial disclosure includes documenting your assets and debts. This includes:

  • Property and real estate
  • Bank statements,
  • Income and pay stubs
  • Tax returns
  • Insurance policies
  • Retirement account statements
  • Mortgage statements

This financial information is considered a preliminary disclosure. You will have to share this information later in your divorce if your financial information has changed.

Step 5: Settlement or Trial

If you and your spouse are working together, or are attempting compromise, then your divorce can be settled through mediation. Mediation and settlement allow you and your spouse to have control over the outcome of your divorce. You will have to negotiate on many essential aspects of separation, including:

  • Property division
  • Spousal support
  • Child custody and parenting time
  • Child support
  • Debt allocation
  • Marital status

If you are unable to come to an agreement, the divorce will go to trial. This is more expensive and will take much longer. The final decision is also out of your control.

Step 6: Finalizing the Divorce

A judge will review the final forms and ensure that everything is in order. If you and your spouse come to a settlement through mediation, the judge will review it to ensure it is fair to both parties. Then, the judge will approve the final forms and issue the final decree. The divorce process is done, and the agreement between you and your spouse needs to be upheld.

FAQs About California Divorce Process

What Are the Stages of Divorce in California?

The five stages of divorce include:

  1. Separation: This usually happens before a divorce is filed. Spouses may talk about their intention to file for divorce.
  2. Filing for Divorce: One spouse files a petition for dissolution.
  3. Service of Filing: The papers are then served to the other spouse.
  4. Temporary Orders: These are given in some cases until the divorce is finalized.
  5. Final Judgment: The marriage is officially dissolved.

Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First in California?

No, it does not matter who files first. California is a no-fault divorce state. This means that the person filing does not have to cite any reason or fault of the other person. They can instead file under irreconcilable differences. This means that there are simply issues between spouses that they cannot overcome.

What Is the First Step in Filing for Divorce in California?

Once you have prepared, the first step in a California divorce is to file the necessary forms. This includes a dissolution of marriage petition and a summons. The summons will serve the petition form on your spouse to inform them that you have filed the court order. If you and your spouse have children, there is also a declaration form to file.

What Do I Do Before a Divorce in California?

To prepare for divorce, you want to ensure that you meet the residency requirements in California. Either you or your spouse must have been living in California for the last 6 months. One of you must also have lived in the county you are filing in for 3 months. It is also important to talk with your spouse and your children about filing for divorce.

Legal Support for Your Divorce

The attorneys at All American Law can help you file your forms, gather necessary information, and negotiate with your spouse. If you need experienced legal representation, contact our team today.

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