If you have reached the point where you believe your marriage should end, be assured, you are not alone. Recent statistics show that approximately 45% of first marriages end in divorce. Second and third marriages fare even worse, with 60% and 73% divorce rates, respectively.
Depending on your specific circumstances, especially if you have children, many assets, or a lot of debt, ending your marriage can be a very complicated process. In a California divorce, the parties must prepare and file many documents while meeting certain deadlines and following specific court procedures.
If you are feeling overwhelmed about the thought of filing for divorce, here are some basic legal guidelines to help you understand what lies ahead and how you can expect your case to proceed.
Do I have to prove that my spouse did something bad to get a divorce?
No. California is a no-fault divorce state which means you do not have to prove any wrongdoing during the marriage to qualify for a divorce. You only need to allege that you do not get along or that you have certain issues that cannot be resolved. These allegations are known as irreconcilable differences and the court will grant a judgment based upon these grounds.
Can I file for divorce anywhere?
No. You must establish jurisdiction in a specific county before you can file for dissolution there. This means that you must live in an area long enough to give the local court system the right to enter judgments that affect you and your spouse and potentially your children.
To file for divorce in California, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. You also need to file in the county where you have lived for at least three months. At Evans Kingsbury LLP, we are based in Sonoma County, but we also serve clients in surrounding counties.
Do I need to follow a specific process to start my case?
Yes. There are four basic steps to filing a California divorce.
- Complete a Petition for Dissolution, Summons, Declaration Regarding Child Custody, a Child Custody and Visitation Application, and any local forms required by the county where you file. If you need the court to take some action while the case is pending, you may also need to prepare additional forms requesting temporary relief.
- File your forms with the Court Clerk and receive file-stamped copies when you pay the appropriate filing fees.
- Serve your file-stamped papers on your spouse and file the Proof of Service with the court indicating when, where, and how your spouse was served. You can use an attorney, friend, family member, Sheriff, or private process server to accomplish serve divorce papers on your spouse. You cannot serve your spouse yourself. Once your spouse has been properly served, he or she will have 30 days to file a Response with the court. Within those 30 days, you may be able to ask the court for temporary relief, depending on the circumstances.
- Fill out the standard financial disclosure forms and serve them on your spouse within 60 days of the date you initially filed your suit. You do not file these forms with the court.
After I follow the four steps above, am I divorced?
No. The entry of a Judgment of Dissolution is not automatic. Your case cannot be finalized until at least six months after you originally filed your Petition for Dissolution and had it served on your spouse. During those six months, several things may happen, depending on your particular situation.
The final resolution of your marriage will depend on many factors including:
- Did your spouse respond to your Petition?
- Do you have any agreements about financial issues?
- If you have children, do you agree about parenting schedules, support, etc.?
- Will there be spousal support and if so, do you agree how much will be paid?
- Will you attend mediation to facilitate a resolution?
- Are there any disputes over your property?
Because the process is so complex, we highly recommend using an attorney to navigate the divorce court system. At Evans Kingsbury LLP, Attorney Deirdre Kingsbury is a trusted family law attorney who offers decades of family law experience with a compassionate approach. Whether you need a tough courtroom advocate, or a savvy settlement negotiator, Deirdre provides the personalized legal guidance you need to achieve the best results in your California divorce case.
Contact Attorney Kingsbury today at (707) 596-6090 to set up a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your specific marital situation. Or fill out our simple form here and we will contact you to schedule an initial meeting.