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Divorce Process in California
A California divorce process, despite common misconceptions, is actually very streamlined throughout the county court system. The majority of variables come into play when the case is contested (both parties do not agree). Due to the fact that our office only handles “Uncontested Divorces”, we can quickly and efficiently provide our clients with the initial filing forms and final court orders, which saves you money. Even though the court process can vary case to case, especially contested cases, we look for the quickest route so your case can run smoothly and without incident. There are many choices in California for divorce attorneys, but because we charge a simple FLAT FEE, your case may be completed at a low cost and in a professional manor.
Divorce Myths Busted
The California Divorce Overview
For the sake of our overview of the California divorce process, we will mainly address the process from an uncontested (by agreement) point of view. If you expect your case to be a fight, you should contact an attorney who handles contested cases. The information below reflects a divorce by agreement, and contested cases can typically have many more sub phases integrated into them. If you want to get through the process without going to court, having the ability to make your own orders and want to save money, please read on. There are some variations to this process like in a “Summary Dissolution”, or most all contested cases, but you can view our “FAQ” section to learn more. The California divorce process, when by agreement of both parties, can be observed easily within 2 major phases:
- Phase 1: Petitioning the Court (Initiating the Case/Asking for the Divorce)
- Phase 2: Finalizing Your Case (Obtaining Your Orders/Decree/Judgment)
Phase 1 of a divorce involves petitioning the court for the divorce and providing general information about the case to the court. No orders are made in this phase, rather the petitioner is just letting the court know what issues are involved in the divorce case. If you are seeking immediate orders, you may be experiencing a contested case in which our office does not assist. Please seek the guidance of an attorney who handles contested divorce cases, for everyone else, here are the major aspects of initiating a divorce case:
- A petition for divorce is filed at your local court. This document opens the case up and the court issues a case number. This is when the court will receive their “Filing Fee”. The filing fee is a one time payment to the court to open the case and issue a case number. With the petition, depending on your circumstances, the court requires certain attachments. These attachments usually cover information about minor children and other related aspects. Every one of our cases includes these additional document requirements in the filing.
- Disclosures. In all divorce cases, the court requires at least some “Disclosures” to be served. These are additional attachments which usually include income, expense, assets and debts. In contested cases these are usually filed and served later, but to get our clients through the process as quickly as possible, our team completes this court requirement with the initial petition filing.
- The Serve. Once documents have been filed at the court and a case number issued, the court requires the other party be notified of the court case. The official term is “Serving the Documents” or “Being Served”. The initial documents do not indicate an agreement by the parties, which is why the court requires the other party be officially notified. For our clients, we can facilitate discrete methods of serve which include mailing, or the other party visiting the office to receive their copy of the documents.
- The 30 Day Wait. Upon serve, California requires that the other party has 30 days should they want to contest the case. In your situation a response won’t be filed, as no one is contesting the divorce, but you MUST fulfill this 30 day requirement anyway. The court does not require the other party to file a response to contest the case, and doing so would result in an additional court filing fee.
So in summary, the initial phase of a divorce by agreement/uncontested in California is a preparation of the petition and disclosures. Those documents are then filed at the court. The court takes their filing fee and issues a unique case number. The documents are served on the other party and a 30 day period must elapse before moving on to finish your divorce. Our office can typically have documents prepared, filed & served within 5 business days, then you just wait your 30 day period to move forward to phase 2.
Phase 2 is when a Judge will sign orders on the case. In the situation of an uncontested/by agreement divorce, both parties sign an agreement on the issues of, but not limited to, custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and asset and debt division. These documents are then signed by the Judge and made an official order of the court. This process typically takes a few days to prepare the documents, a few days to obtain signatures of the parties, and then the documents are submitted to the court for the Judge to sign the documents making them orders. Note, nothing is official until the Judge has signed the orders. Here is an overview of phase 2 of the divorce process:
- The final “Judgment” documents are drafted. This set of documents will make the orders for the divorce case. In an agreement, the parties will determine what orders they want to have made concerning child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and asset and debt division. Other orders can also be included such as a restoration of a former name, who claims tax exemptions and equalization payments.
- The documents are signed by both parties. Once the documents have been completed and approved by both parties, the documents can be signed and notarized. The final Judgement documents include court forms, as well as the custom Stipulated Judgment/Marital Settlement Agreement.
- Documents are submitted to the court for approval. After signatures from the parties, the court will now accept the final Judgment documents. Several copies are made to meet the requirements of the court. All documents are organized, and then submitted to the court for processing. Most courts in California take about 6-8 weeks for the Judgment documents to be processed by the court and then signed by the Judge.
- Documents are returned to each party by first class mail. After the court processes the final Judgment documents and the Judge has signed the orders into effect, the court will return a copy of the final Judgment to each party. The return of documents is done by mail from the court. At this point the process, in terms of procedure, is complete. Lets remember that the marital status is not terminated until 6 months and 1 day from the date of serve, which is typically about 3 months prior. Your final termination date will be indicated on the divorce Judgment. All other orders on the Judgment are effective at this point.
In summary, phase 2 of the divorce process is made up of drafting a final agreement to be incorporated into the Judgment. Both parties will sign and notarize the documents. These signed documents are then copied and organized and then submitted to the court. 6-8 weeks after submission the court has processed the documents and the Judge has signed the Judgment. A few days after this the court will mail all documents back to you. This Judgment is your divorce agreement, commonly referred to as “Divorce Decree” or “Divorce Orders”.
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We are dedicated to clients who want to get through the uncontested divorce process. If you and your spouse want to save time, money & not have to appear in a courtroom, our office is here to help.
If you have any questions, please complete the form below and we will contact you as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours. For immediate assistance, please contact us at 951-821-8842. Use of contact forms and/or communication with this office does not establish an attorney-client relationship. We typically reply to all emails within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays.
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