Many of our clients had never contemplated divorce before their spouses served them with divorce papers. Others had put off filing for divorce for a long time because they simply didn’t know how it worked. The process of divorce in California is rather simple, but it’s the human element that makes it complicated. However, with an experienced attorney to guide and advise you, you can make it through your divorce better than you may have imagined.
Many of our clients describe the experience of divorce in their lives as “the most trying time.” Nevertheless, our clients appreciate the attention, care and professionalism they receive at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer. If you’re considering divorce in the state of California, here is the process you can expect to pursue:
Step 1: The petitioning spouse files for divorce
The spouse who is requesting the divorce must complete several forms and file them with the family court in the county where one spouse resides. For example, if you live in Alameda County and your spouse resides in Santa Clara, you may file in either of those courts. The forms include:
- Petition Marriage (Form FL-100). This is your formal request to the court to dissolve your marriage.
- Summons (Form FL-110). This form alerts your spouse to the upcoming action and provides valuable information for both of you of your rights and duties during the divorce process.
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120). This form alerts the court as to the identity of minor children who are affected by the divorce proceedings
To ensure that no errors are made, you should consult with an experienced family lawyer who can prepare or review your paperwork prior to filing. A filing fee does apply.
Step 2: The petitioner serves the respondent spouse
A party to a lawsuit must retain a third party, at least 18 years old and not involved in the action, to serve the papers on the respondent. You may ask a friend or relative, a county sheriff, or a professional process server. That individual must present the respondent spouse with all of the papers you filed with the court plus a blank Response — Marriage (Form FL-120). The person who serves process must complete a Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115) and return it to you for filing with the court.
If you don’t know the whereabouts of your spouse, consult an experienced divorce attorney for alternative methods of service.
Step 3: The spouses exchange financial disclosures
No later than 60 days after filing the petition, the spouses must exchange financial disclosure information. You do this by completing a Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140) and having a third party, at least 18 years old, serve it in person or by mail to the other spouse. You don’t file that form with the court, but you must file a Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141), which alerts the court that you have fulfilled this requirement.
Step 4: The respondent spouse answers
If you are the respondent, California divorce laws give you several options:
- No response. This triggers a default, in which case the court likely grants the petitioner the requests in the divorce petition. This is considered an uncontested divorce.
- No response after reaching a written agreement with the petitioner. This is a default but not to the petition. Instead, the petitioner presents the court with the signed, notarized agreement that you and your spouse reached regarding the terms of your divorce. This “default with agreement” is also an uncontested divorce.
- File a response, citing an agreement. Although you may rebut parts of the petition, this response is still an uncontested divorce because you are in agreement as to the terms of the marital dissolution.
- File a response with no agreement. Here you would be stating your intention to fight some or all of what your spouse requested of the court in the petition. This choice leads to a contested divorce.
Step 5: The divorce is worked out
In the case of an uncontested divorce, your work is done unless the court finds a reason to reject your divorce settlement agreement. If your spouse has chosen to contest the divorce, the court schedules a hearing at some time in the future. In the interim, you and your spouse have several alternative methods, such as negotiation or mediation to reach a final settlement agreement. You can also contact our divorce attorneys about litigating issues for you in court.