Getting Divorced in California; a guide

Have you and your spouse begun discussing divorce? If you have begun discussions, the next stage is to consider the 8 steps in a divorce process. Most people are aware of the finalization of a divorce, but there are a few steps to consider in the process.

Every divorce is different and during your consultation, the Hills Law Group will work with you to explain the California state governing laws of divorce and provide you with a more detailed outline of the steps and what you can expect. The information below provides a brief overview of the steps required to initiated and finalize a divorce.

Separation

Most couples consider separation as the first step in a divorce. Many couples will separate long before divorce proceedings begin, while some couples may choose a Legal Separation as an alternative to a divorce as a way to attempt to save the marriage. A legal separation is an official separation that requires an attorney and an appearance at court. In California, couples who have decided on a separation may enter into a separation agreement. The separation agreement enables the couple to arrange and settle on marital matters including:

  1. Living arrangements.
  2. Custody and visitation arrangements.
  3. Financial arrangements.
  4. Assets management.

During a separation agreement, couples generally negotiate these issues together as much as possible and then meet with an attorney to develop a valid formalized separation agreement.

If you are considering separation, the Hills Law Group can help you learn more. See Understand legal separation and its consequences before taking action.

Filing for divorce

Filing for divorce can be a challenging process to navigate. Couples who are considering filing for divorce should be aware of the details and particulars involved in filing for divorce. Because California is a “no-fault” state, there is no need for either party to explain or describe the reasoning in the dissolution of the marriage. The “no-fault” status also makes it possible for either member of the marriage to file for divorce.

There are a few steps involved in filing for divorce but to start formal divorce proceedings, one party must file a Petition for Dissolution with the local court. The Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage requests that the court allows the divorce. The partner in the marriage filing the petition is known as the petitioner while the other partner in the marriage is known as the respondent. The Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage will identify the two partners in the marriage as well as any children from the marriage, and list requests for the settlement of finances, housing, assets and custody arrangements.

If you have decided to begin divorce proceedings, contact the Hills Law Group today!

Serving the petition

Once the Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage has been completed by the petitioner, the petitioner will need to serve the respondent with the papers. Because the Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage is a legal document that requires notification to the respondent, serving the papers must be done formally. Serving the papers is usually completed by the local sheriff’s office. Once the respondent has been served the papers, the respondent has thirty days to hire an attorney and respond to the Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage.

Once service is effectuated, the responding party has thirty days to file a response. If they do not respond, the Petitioner may request a default judgment. Note that a judgment may not be entered within six months of the response date so as to encourage reconciliation between couples.

If you are interested in beginning divorce proceedings, the Hills Law Group can create a Petition for the Dissolution of the Marriage and arrange the serving of the papers for you.

If you have been served a Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage, the Hills Law Group can help you respond appropriately and effectively.

AUTOMATIC TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDERS (ATROS)

Once service of the Petition for Dissolution of the Marriage is made, Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROS) are initiated. In the state of California, there is no need for either party to apply for ATROS, ATROS are automatically applied to the parties involved. ATROS stay into effect until a court order dissolves them or there is a final judgment by the court in the divorce. ATROS are designed to prevent parties from engaging in negative activities out of frustration or spitefulness and include the following orders:

  1. Children cannot be taken by either party out of the state of California.
  2. Shared property or assets cannot be sold or disposed of.
  3. Notification of large purchases.
  4. Changes cannot be made to insurance policies.

If you are considering a divorce but want or have been served divorce papers, the Hills Law Group can help you understand ATROS before you violate them.

TEMPORARY DIVORCE ORDERS

After the Petition of Dissolution of a Marriage has been served, there is a mandated six month waiting period before finalization of the divorce can be completed. During this six month waiting period, the court allows parties to initiate temporary divorce orders. Temporary Divorce Orders enable couples to create temporary terms including:

  1. Living arrangements.
  2. Custody and visitation arrangements.
  3. Financial arrangements.

Temporary Divorce Orders are valid until the divorce is finalized. If you are considering temporary divorce orders, the Hills Law Group can help.

DIVORCE DISCOVERY & DISCLOSURES

Discovery is the legal term used to describe the process of obtaining information regarding assets and debts about the parties initiating the divorce. Essentially, discovery enables each party to identify and share assets and debts with the other party. There are four stages of discovery including:

  1. Interrogatories: Attorney’s for each party create a list of questions or queries and send them to the other party. These lists contain the disclosure information necessary. Once interrogatories have been sent to the other party, they have thirty days to respond to their disclosures.
  2. Disclosure: During a marriage, there are many financial considerations that are shared between a married couple. Each party must fully disclose the nature of their assets and debts to the other. These disclosures are extensive and thorough. These disclosures are mandatory and are made at both the beginning and the end of the process to ensure accuracy, completeness, and consistency.
  3. Admission of Fact: Sometimes attorneys may create a list of facts for the other party to identify as true or false. This can be helpful when a party believes items are missing from disclosures.
  4. Request for Production: This may be used to obtain financial documents necessary in finalizing a divorce.

Depending on the number and complexity of shared assets, the discovery phase is often where divorce proceedings slow down. For valuable assistance in obtaining discovery materials, contact the Hills Law Group today.

JUDGMENT

After discovery and the six month waiting period concludes, settlement negotiations commence. This stage ends in a finalization of the divorce. Depending on the complexity of the marriage assets, the materials released during discovery and the amiability of the parties involved, judgment and finalization of the divorce may be completed between two attorneys, through a mediator or in court with a judge. Once both sides have agreed to the terms of the divorce settlement, the judge will sign and finalize the divorce. Once the judge has signed and the divorce is finalized, the marriage has been terminated and the terms of the settlement are initiated.

Settlement negotiation can be done regardless of the entry of temporary orders if the parties are amicable and the discovery process is uncomplicated. Whether you are drafting a judgment, negotiating a judgment, or just reviewing a judgment; the Hills Law Group can help.

APPEAL & ENFORCEMENT

Once the divorce has been finalized by the judge, it is possible to file for modification of the judgement. There are legal conditions that are required to be completed prior to an appeal, however, it is possible to successfully appeal finalized court orders and request a new hearing.

Appeals and modifications after the finalization of a divorce order often involve custody arrangements or financial arrangements. Appeals are generally necessary when the parties involved in the divorce make changes that impact the financial or custodial obligations set out in the divorce finalization. If you think you’re entitled to an appeal, contact the Hills Law Group today.