Serving the initial documents gives your spouse notice that a case has been opened and that he or she is subject to the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders. Proper service is essential for moving forward with the divorce process — until service happens, the minimum waiting period of six months and a day does not begin. In addition, your server must give the other side the documents needed to respond to the divorce. Assuming there is no domestic violence and no reason to believe that your spouse will go out of his or her way to avoid being served, it may be a good idea to have a conversation with your spouse about service.
In general, there are two ways of serving your spouse: Personal service happens when your server personally hands your spouse the divorce papers and blank response form or forms. You do not have to serve your spouse in a public venu e, such as their place of employment. Embarrassing your spouse or trying to inflict pain is rarely a good choice. While it may make you feel better initially, you may come to regret your decision when it causes further conflict and increased litigation.
Finally, at all costs, avoid having your spouse served in front of your children. Service can also happen by mail. This requires your spouse to sign a document acknowledging service of the divorce papers. Remember, even if you are serving by mail, you still have to use an adult-aged third party. Think of service as opportunity to write the first chapter of your new life. Every decision you make is another part of your story. Do you want it to be filled with conflict and regret? Or, do you want to be able to look back and feel confident that you went about this process respectfully and with dignity?
In general, you will want to serve the divorce papers soon after filing. Your spouse will see the date you filed, and if there is a large gap between the date of filing and the date of service, this may cause your spouse to feel deceived. On a practical note, the date of service of the Petition and Summons is very important because it commences the mandatory six-month and a day waiting period to obtain a divorce in California. While a short delay to make sure service is accomplished smoothly makes sense, your case cannot move forward until your spouse has been properly served.
Once the Respondent has been served, you will need to make sure that the Court has proof of service. For the initial divorce papers, this proof is given with a form called the Proof of Service of Summons FL If you have served by mail, the completed Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt must be attached to the Proof of Service of Summons.
Completing this form correctly is vital to moving your divorce forward, and missing any of the information will result in delays. You will also need to file your proof with the court. While you are waiting for your spouse to respond, we suggest that you start on your financial disclosures. For more information on how to complete your financial disclosures, please see Step 5: You are subject to these orders the minute you are served, and ignorance is not a defense to violations. For more information about these restraining orders, please review Step 1, Filing for Divorce.
After service, you have 30 calendar days to respond. If you miss the deadline, the Petitioner has the option of moving forward with the divorce without your input. California only requires one spouse to seek a divorce. By filing for a divorce, the Petitioner is making a clear statement of intent to divorce. Therefore, even if you do not agree, the Petitioner has the unilateral right to seek and obtain a divorce. It does, however, allow your judge to hear your side of the story and protect your legal rights. It lists the same factual information as the Petition, and allows the Respondent to either agree or disagree with the facts stated in the Petition.
This includes the same opportunity to provide residency information, statistical information such as the date of marriage and separation, and your general position on the five basic categories of divorce issues.
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Reviewing the Petition can help you complete the Response since the same questions are asked on both forms. Make sure that you are completing the form based on what you want, and what you believe is true — do not simply mimic what the Petition states if you disagree with the information provided. For more information on this form, please review Step 1, Filing for Divorce.
For assistance on completing these forms, please watch our videos. You have 30 calendar days after service to file your response with the court and serve the Petitioner. There are mandatory filing fees when you respond to the divorce. If you are on disability or another form of state aid and apply for a waiver, you will automatically qualify to have these fees waived.
If you need a payment plan or cannot pay the filing fees at all, you can apply for this assistance. Since most counties have multiple courthouses in multiple locations, make sure you look up the address of the family law courthouse. Since the Petitioner has already appeared in the case by filing the Petition, you can serve the Petitioner by mail without a Notice and Acknowledgment of receipt. While you certainly can personally serve the Petitioner or serve by mail with Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt, this is a legally unnecessary step. Regardless of whether service is personal, by mail with Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt, or by mail, the same requirements apply.
Service must be by someone at least 18 who is not part of the divorce case. That means that another adult has to mail the documents on your behalf. You will need to file proof with the Court that the Petitioner has been served. This is done by completing and filing a Proof of Service by Mail. While there are multiple forms that will suffice, the mostly commonly used Proof of Service by Mail form is FL If the Petitioner has an attorney, you will want to serve the attorney.
If the Petitioner does not have an attorney, then you will want to serve the Petitioner directly. Temporary orders can be requested during the divorce proceedings. California divorces take at least six months and a day after service of the initial documents before they can be finalized. For many people, that is too long to go without orders. The word temporary can be a little misleading because temporary orders do not have an automatic expiration date. Temporary orders remain in effect until superseded by other orders, including a judgment. There are many temporary orders that can be requested during the divorce.
These include, but are not limited to the following:. Either party can ask for temporary orders anytime during the divorce proceedings. The orders can be by stipulation agreement or issued by a judge. Having a document in writing that is signed by a judge, and therefore enforceable under the law, provides numerous benefits. Many people find that having formal temporary orders reduces conflict and creates clarity. You can file as soon as your divorce case is open, and the key is to be very honest with yourself regarding the direction of your case. Fear is a terrible basis for decision-making, and the decisions you make in your divorce have very real and long-term effects on you, your children, and your family.
Unless your situation is a true emergency that could not have been predicted, it typically takes anywhere from 8 — 10 weeks before a judge will hear your case for temporary orders. Plan ahead and understand that the court system is not going to automatically work on your schedule. To obtain temporary orders, you will need to file paperwork requesting orders called a motion. A motion will set a hearing date in front of a judge. The paperwork always starts with a form called a Request for Order FL This form will give you a list of typical issues brought before the judge, including: You have the option to pick as many issues as you would like to be addressed in front of the judge.
The orders you ask for may require additional documents to be filed with your Request for Order.
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For assistance on completing these forms, please watch our video. Think of your request for orders as a dinner menu. Pick what works best for your family. In addition to choosing the issues you want the judge to hear, you will also need to clearly explain to the court what you are asking for and why you are asking for these specific orders. This explanation, or statement, is called a declaration. Your declaration needs to describe the facts of your situation and give the judge the important information needed to give you orders.
You want to be honest, easy to understand, and tell the judge exactly what you want. Once you file your motion with the court, you are given a date and time for your hearing. Make sure you have your calendar available when the clerk is scheduling your hearing date in order to avoid conflicts. Like all documents you file with the court, the clerk keeps the original, double hole punched document and stamps the two copies you provided.
The clerk returns the endorsed-filed copies back to you. One copy is for your records, and the other copy is for you to serve on the other spouse. It is up to you to ensure that your spouse is served on time.
Dating While Divorcing
The purpose of CCRC is provide a neutral environment for parents to work out their parenting disputes with the assistance of a mental health professional, called a Child Custody Recommending Counselor. Unless there is domestic violence, parents participate together in the same room with the counselor. The goal of the recommending counselor is to facilitate an agreement between the parents and allow them the first opportunity to make decisions about their own children.
There is no set time limit on these sessions. In some counties, CCRC can be as short as 15 minutes. Other counties allot three or more hours. The amount of time given to the parents typically depends on whether mediation is conducted the day of the hearing, or at a separate appointment prior to the hearing. If you are filing for temporary orders along with the petition, you will need to arrange to have a third party adult personally serve your spouse.
For more information on service, see Step 1, Filing for Divorce. Unless given special permission by the judge, you are required by law to serve your request at least 16 court days before the hearing. If the motion is served by mail, you must add an additional 5 calendar days to your deadline. Court days do not include weekends or any of the 13 state holidays, which are as follows:. There is little strategic value in delaying to serve your spouse with your motion. The more advance notice that can be given to the other side, the greater the opportunity is to reach agreements before the hearing date.
If you miss your deadline to serve, you will have to file additional paperwork and obtain a new court date. If you and your spouse reach an agreement, you may be able to avoid going to court if you are able to write up your agreement into a formal court order. The formal name for an agreement is a stipulation. A stipulation can become an order when the judge signs and approves of your agreement. This is usually called a Stipulation and Order. As part of your agreement, you can drop vacate the hearing. Reaching an agreement and turning it into a court order is usually the best of both worlds.
Not only do you remain in control of your situation and make your own decisions, but you also have the benefit of an enforceable court order. You have the opportunity to tell the judge your side of the story by filing paperwork with the court before your hearing date. Your job is to respond only to the issues addressed in the Request for Orders.
For example, if your spouse requests child custody and visitation orders, you need to tell the judge if you agree or disagree with the requested orders. If you disagree, you should state what you would like the judge to order. A Responsive Declaration is not the right paperwork for asking the judge for orders that are not part of the Request for Orders. Therefore, if your spouse asks for custody and visitation orders, you should not be responding by asking the judge for spousal support.
The deadline to file a Responsive Declaration is usually 9 court days before your hearing date, unless the Request for Order states otherwise. Court days do not include weekends or any of the 13 state holidays. For a list of court holidays, please see above.
It is very important that you file your response in a timely manner.
There are many reasons why you may not be ready for a hearing. Some of these typical reasons are as follows:. Moving the hearing date is commonly referred to as a continuance. You can always ask the other side to agree to a continuance. If the other side does not consent to continuing the hearing date, you can always ask the judge.
Assuming you have a very good reason for not being prepared for your hearing, judges are often willing to give you a new court date. An emergency Request for Orders is called an Ex Parte. When an Ex Parte is filed, the judge is being asked to issue temporary emergency orders in a very short window of time. In order to make Ex Parte orders, the judge has to be convinced that there is a true emergency. An emergency is defined on a case by case basis, but in general, most judges find the following to be emergencies that would warrant the filing of an Ex Parte. Ex Partes require a great deal of detail and adherence to strict procedural requirements.
There are a lot of very specific state rules, local county rules, and statutory requirements that must be followed for an Ex Parte to be granted. Your judge will make orders regarding the issues listed in the Request for Order. You should be prepared to provide the judge with additional information as requested.
Based on the documents filed with the court and what each of you says at the hearing, your judge will make oral orders. These orders need to be formally memorialized in writing with a form called a Findings and Order After Hearing. Depending on the issues, you may need to complete a number of other forms. It is very important that the orders be written up accurately and filed with the Court. Your Findings and Order After Hearing will provide both you and your spouse with clarity on what the judge ordered. You are required to obey what the judge ordered, and failure to do so may result in fines, community service, or even jail time.
Let us help alleviate some confusion and concern regarding spousal support. Start with our spousal support calculator to provide some clarity on what potentially lies ahead. A financial disclosure consists of four forms: It is a specific way of listing out all assets, debts, income, and expenses. In addition, you will state who owns or owes each asset or debt, when the property or debt was acquired, and provide a rough value of each item.
As part of the divorce process, you will be dividing property, including debts, as well as determining support. Financial disclosures can be very tricky and tedious to complete. You are required to provide a substantial amount of documentation, including but not limited to the following:.
All of these documents need to be formatted in a very specific way. You will then need to serve all of your financial disclosures on the other side; however, you will only file FL and FL with the court.
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There are two sets of financial disclosures required during the divorce process. The first disclosure is called the preliminary declaration of disclosure. The second disclosure is called the final declaration of disclosure. While many people choose to waive the final declaration of disclosure, you do not have the option to waive the preliminary declaration of disclosure. California law states that you and your spouse have a fiduciary financial duty to the other. That means that there is a very high duty of loyalty. As part of that fiduciary duty, you are required to be an open book and allow your spouse to see all of your financial information and assets, even if you owned the asset prior to your marriage.
On a practical basis, accurate financial disclosures help spouses, their attorneys, and the court to identify the estate. Identifying the estate makes settlement negotiations easier because there is clarity on what exists and what is owed. Accurate financial disclosures allow both parties to obtain a fair outcome with confidence.
The law states that each party must file a financial disclosure within 60 days of filing his or her initial paperwork. Specifically, the Petitioner must file within 60 days of filing the Petition, and the Respondent must file within 60 days of filing the Response. Final disclosures are required to be filed no later than 45 days before trial. The goal of drafting, filing, and serving the financial disclosures early on in the case is to provide clarity and transparency.
In short, you cannot avoid having to do at least one financial disclosure, called the preliminary declaration of disclosure. It is required by law, period. Many people believe that their situation is unique and that there is some kind of exception to the law based on their circumstances. Common situations include the following:. In every one of the above-mentioned scenarios, the answer remains the same: You will not be able to obtain a divorce without completing your financial disclosures. You may be subject to sanctions fines , and may even lose the assets you refuse to disclose.
Unfortunately, assuming your spouse is participating in the case, you will not be able to obtain a divorce until your spouse completes his or her financial disclosure. The court can sanction fine your spouse and prohibit your spouse from producing evidence about his or her assets and debts if a financial disclosure has not been provided. You will first want to identify the areas in which the disclosure is incomplete or inaccurate. If your spouse still refuses to accurately disclose assets, you have a number of other options, including formal discovery and seeking court orders.
Serving discovery is discussed further in Step 8. In order to waive your final financial disclosures, you and your spouse will need a mutual agreement to do so. Saving yourself time now may hurt you in the future. Use our child support calculator to help estimate your child support obligation under California Child Support Guidelines. Discovery is the formal method of obtaining relevant information from your spouse. During divorce proceedings, you are permitted to obtain discovery up until 60 days before trial. You can serve discovery directly on your spouse using the following general categories:.
This is a formal legal request for documents, electronically stored information, or other records. It is a very useful tool to obtaining documents such as bank records, medical records, paycheck stubs, and tax returns. These are written questions that must be answered under penalty of perjury. There are two types of interrogatories in family law matters: Form Interrogatories and Special Interrogatories.
Form Interrogatories are standard questions that are commonly asked in divorce cases. Special Interrogatories are questions that are specifically tailored to your situation and spouse. This requires your spouse to admit or deny the truth of a statement under penalty of perjury. If your spouse admits a statement it is considered to be a fact that can be used at trial. Requests for Admissions are generally unhelpful without being used in conjunction with interrogatories.
Your spouse is required to answer a series of questions, and the proceeding is memorialized in a written transcript. You also have the option of serving discovery on third parties through something called a subpoena. Subpoenas can require the third party to provide documents, much like a Request for Production of Documents, or to testify in a deposition.
Subpoenas can be very good tools for obtaining employment records, medical records, bank records, and other records that your spouse may not have in his or her possession. Discovery is one of the many tools you have at your disposal during the divorce proceedings. At its core, discovery is a process of information gathering. Every case is different, and as such, you need to determine whether or not discovery is the right strategy for your situation. The key to protecting your rights in a divorce is to make sure that you know what exists, including the good, bad, and ugly.
You cannot fully protect yourself without knowing what is out there. In general, discovery is one of the most expensive investments in a divorce. Not only does it cost money to prepare and serve discovery, but it also takes a substantial amount of time to review the documents and other answers to the discovery. In addition to cost, discovery is often considered to be an act of war. Whenever you serve discovery, you should be prepared for your spouse to retaliate with the same requests and interrogatories. This may ultimately increase the conflict and tension. Finally, discovery can be abused.
Some people can use this tool as a weapon, and so long as it is masked under a guise of being relevant, you will have little protection from the law. Discovery responses are generally due 30 calendar days after service. If the discovery was served by mail, you have an additional 5 calendar days, changing your deadline to 35 days after service. If you or your spouse miss the deadline to respond to discovery, any objections to responding are automatically waived. If you need more time, you should ask for an extension.
Discovery extensions are fairly common, and obtaining a written agreement for an extension that also preserves your ability to object to the discovery will protect you and your rights. If a person fails to respond to discovery, or the answers are incomplete, the party seeking the discovery may file a motion with the court to compel answers or the production of documents.
It is generally a good idea for both parties to discuss the outstanding discovery before going to the time and expense of filing a formal motion. If there was no response, the meet and confer is a suggestion but not a requirement. Once all reasonable and good faith attempts have been made to resolve the issue, commonly known as a discovery dispute, then the motion to compel will likely be filed. The court can issue sanctions for failure to comply with the discovery process.
These sanctions include the following:. While the code does not specifically state the amount of attorney fees, the goal is to encourage both sides to be transparent and comply with the discovery process. If a party continues to fail to respond to discovery, a judge can issue a number of various nonmonetary sanctions. A motion to compel must be filed no later than 45 days after the response to the discovery was filed. If a person does not respond at all to discovery, he or she can be served with a motion to compel at any time.
In the event that a trial date has been set, a hearing on a motion to compel must be scheduled at least 15 court days before trial. A complete settlement involves a full resolution of all issues related to the divorce. Settlement is a two-way street, meaning that it truly has to be an agreement between you and your spouse. Your final judgment, or divorce decree, will recite the terms of your agreement. Divorce issues include the following:.
A full agreement will be detailed enough so that both of you understand the terms and conditions. It will also need to be written down in a proper legal format that can be approved by your judge.
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In order to settle, both of you will need to compromise. Neither spouse is going to get everything on his or her wish list. At the same time, a good settlement will be one that both of you can live with. As for the other issues, there is no automatic timeline for when settlement can begin. Your specific situation will dictate the best time to begin discussing settlement. Keep in mind that you may not be in a position to settle your case for a long time, and there is nothing wrong with waiting. Your family is going through an enormous amount of change, and it can take time to get settled in.
Your children may need to adjust to living in separate residences before you can determine whether or not the visitation schedule is best for them. As for the issue of support, it can be very daunting to try and determine what amount is reasonable. Divorce is a time of upheaval, and many people have to move to new residences and even new cities.
Monthly budgets change, some spouses are looking to enter the workforce, and both spouses are recovering from the financial impact of divorce. In other words, rushing to resolve the issue of support can be financially detrimental to one or both spouses. While settlement for the sake of settlement is rarely a good idea, there are many advantages to reaching a resolution with your spouse.
Settling your case with your spouse allows the two of you to retain control over your own lives. You and your spouse are in the best position to determine what is best for you and your children. No matter how compassionate your judge is, that person is still not going to have to live with the consequences. You and your spouse will live with the decisions that are made in your divorce. It is your choice as to whether or not you want to be the ones making the decision, or if you want to give that power to a third party who will never really know you as people.
Settlement allows for greater creativity in the divorce process. By settling, you and your spouse have the opportunity to do better than what the law gives you. You can come up with unique and creative solutions to your problems. While a judge is limited by the law, you and your spouse are only limited by your creativity and willingness to work together. In addition, settling your divorce is very empowering and teaches you important tools to working together in the future. Divorce changes your relationship, but in most situations, it does not end the relationship.
It is your choice as to whether you want your future relationship to be cordial and friendly, or contentious and bitter. Once your divorce is done, you want it to really be done. A judge can help you with your case through something called a Settlement Conference. A Settlement Conference is a court hearing where a judge assists parties with resolving their differences.
Judges assist with the settlement process by listening to both sides and suggesting compromises. Some judges will provide input as to their thoughts on the legal aspects of the issues or give insight as to how they might rule if the issues were presented at trial. Settlement Conferences, if used correctly, can be an effective and positive method to resolving divorce cases. A final settlement agreement is documented in a divorce Judgment. If it is an agreed-upon judgment, it is called a stipulated judgment.
The Judgment contains the legal terms and provisions as related to your agreements.
Every county has its own specific procedural requirements for a divorce judgment, but in general, you will be required to use form FL and cover the following issues:. There are two types of child custody, legal and physical. Your agreement should state whether you will share joint custody, or if one parent will have sole custody.
You should have a clear parenting schedule that defines when your children are with each parent. Detailed visitation agreements will also contain provisions related to holidays and vacations. The amount of child support payable from one parent to the other should be stated. If you are choosing an amount of child support that deviates from what a judge would order under the state guidelines, you should be clear as to why you are choosing to do something different. Child support agreements should also clarify which parent is claiming the children as dependents on tax returns, how uninsured medical expenses, child care, extracurricular activity, and other child-related expenses are divided, and who will be providing health insurance.
The amount and duration should be specified as to each spouse, as well as the tax consequences. You should be prepared to clearly state what you and your spouse each receive in the divorce. This includes everything from the household items to the retirement accounts. It is very important to clarify which spouse is responsible for what debt in order to avoid missed payments and credit damage. Even if each of you will be paying your own attorney fees, you should say so in the Judgment.
You have the option to pick the date you become single again, although you generally cannot pick a date before you actually submit your judgment or before the mandatory six month waiting period. If you do not have a preference, the date will be selected on your behalf. This means neither spouse has to accuse the other of marital misconduct; if the marriage has broken down due to irreconcilable differences, the couple can get a divorce. This article answers some frequently asked questions about divorce legally referred to as "dissolution of marriage" in California.
What are the grounds for a divorce? Are there any residency requirements in order to obtain a dissolution of marriage? After the dissolution case is filed, how long does it take to get a divorce? What is the process for getting a divorce? What else should I know? California was the first state to adopt the "no-fault divorce" concept.
In California, a dissolution of marriage can be granted if the court finds that "irreconcilable differences" have caused an irrevocable breakdown of the marriage. In effect, this simply means that a married person who wants to end the marriage can do so, even if the other spouse wants to stay together. To get a divorce in California, at least one of the spouses has to have been a resident of the state for at least six months before filing the divorce petition.
You must also live in the county where you file the divorce petition for at least three months before filing. Once you file the divorce petition and serve it on your spouse, you will have to wait at least six months for your divorce to be finalized. If you have been married for less than five years, have no children, don't own real estate, and have relatively limited property and debts, you may qualify for a summary dissolution. This is a simpler process, which generally doesn't require an appearance before a judge.
You and your spouse must create an agreement about how you will divide your property and debts, and file it -- along with a joint divorce petition and other required forms -- with the court. Although you still have to wait six months before your divorce becomes final, you don't have to go through a lot of the procedures and appearances required for a regular divorce.
You can find more information on summary dissolution in California in, " California Summary Dissolution: The Simple Divorce ". If you don't qualify for a summary dissolution, a typical dissolution of marriage requires the following steps:. For more on your options to proceed with a divorce, see The Divorce Process. If you're considering a divorce, there are several major issues you have to consider. You'll need to understand how property and debt will be split between you and your spouse, who will get custody of any children, who will pay child and or spousal support alimony , and how much.
You can find legal information on all of these topics and more in our section on California Divorce and Family Laws. The information provided on this site is not legal advice, does not constitute a lawyer referral service, and no attorney-client or confidential relationship is or will be formed by use of the site.