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How to File for a Divorce-in-California

How to File for a Divorce in California

The dissolution of marriage or divorce is a life-changing event and often accompanied by emotional and financial challenges. At Moore Family Law Group, we understand filing for a divorce can be a complex process and are here to be a helpful resource and support. In this guide, you will learn how to file for a divorce in California in adherence to the laws so you can navigate your divorce with more helpful knowledge.

How to File for a Divorce in California
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How to File for a Divorce in California – Understanding California Divorce Laws

Before diving into the divorce process, you must ensure you are eligible for a divorce, prepare all the essential documentation, and familiarize yourself with the basic legal terms. Since the legal process can be complex, we advise consulting the best divorce lawyers in California for personalized guidance and completing the process promptly and effectively. 

Residency requirements

In order to divorce in California, you need to meet the state’s residency requirements. You or your spouse must live in California to obtain a divorce in this state. 

The criteria states that either of you must have lived in the Golden State for the past six months and in the current county for three months. Failing to meet these residency requirements may lead to the court dismissing your divorce case. If you haven’t met these requirements yet, you still have an option to file for a legal separation until you fulfill these obligations. 

Grounds for divorce in California

The term “grounds for divorce” refers to the regulations specifying the circumstances under which the court will grant a divorce. Generally, the person filing for a divorce must state a reason why they want a divorce. California is a no-fault state, meaning that you don’t have to prove anyone did anything wrong to file for a divorce. The spouse who files for divorce here typically does so due to irreconcilable differences’’. 

Preparing for Filing – Documents Needed to File for Divorce in California 

Gathering necessary documentation

In California, all courts use the same forms that you must complete to start the filing process. To start the divorce, one spouse must file a petition for dissolution. The forms for divorce include a summons and a Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (if you have children under 18 years old). 

There is also an optional form to include details about parenting schedules. Depending on where you live, you might need to complete additional forms and file them with the court clerk. 

Financial records

During the divorce process, sharing financial information is crucial. This involves providing details about your financial status, including assets, debts, income, and expenses. These documents enable you and your attorney to make informed decisions regarding child support, property division, and other financial matters. 

Property records 

A crucial part of the divorce process is dividing your property or debts. Even if you and your spouse have reached an agreement and decided to divide the property informally, a judge still needs to make a formal decision regarding these matters. 

Communicating to the court your ideal situation, you must get familiar with terms such as separate and community property. Community property encompasses what you own together in a marriage, and is generally equally split. Separate property is individually owned.

Assessing child custody and support 

Understanding California’s child custody laws

Crucial matters such as child custody and parenting time are part of the divorce process. When California’s court issues a custody order, they address physical and legal custody

Physical custody refers to which parent the child will live with on a daily basis. Conversely, legal custody refers to who will make essential decisions about the child including healthcare, education, welfare, etc. 

Custody can be sole, meaning only one parent has the right and the responsibility to make significant decisions for the child. You and your spouse can also agree to joint custody and have equal rights and responsibilities for major decisions concerning your child. 

Determining child support obligations

According to the law, both parents must share financial responsibility for raising the children. In some cases, a couple may agree to specific terms or request a child support order from the court. 

California courts use various factors to determine the specific monetary amounts of child support. These factors include each parent’s income, time spent with the child, how taxes are filed, etc. 

Determining child support obligations
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Initiating the Divorce Process

Choosing the right court

Choosing the proper court involves an understanding of the jurisdictional requirements. Generally you should file for a divorce in the state and county where you and your spouse meet the residency requirements. 

Completing and filing the necessary forms

Petition for dissolution of marriage

Filing a petition is the first step to initiate divorce proceedings. This document outlines the grounds for marriage dissolution and details essential matters such as child custody, support, and property division. 

Timely and accurate completion of the petition is crucial when filing for a divorce. Omissions and errors may lead to delays and complications. The spouse filing the petition is also responsible for covering the filing fee.

Financial disclosures 

Whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce, the petitioner must complete a financial disclosure in California. If both parties don’t complete the disclosure and no agreement is reached, then the matter or the case goes to court. The financial records you need to provide include:

  • Tax returns from the past two years 
  • Proof of your income for the last two months 
  • Documents outling assets and debts 

You may also need to provide legal documents such as:

  • Bank account statements
  • Mortgage statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Retirement account statements 

Serving divorce papers to your spouse

Once the divorce petition is filed, your spouse must be notified and given formal notice. This is known as “serving the papers” and includes delivering copies of the paperwork to your spouse through personal service.

In California, you may hire a professional process server to serve or request the help of an adult who is not a party to the case. If you and your spouse agree, you also have the option of serving them by mail. 

Navigating the Divorce Proceedings

Responding to a divorce petition

Once divorce papers are served to your spouse, they must fill out a response form. This document addresses the issues stated within the petition and outlines their stance and wishes on matters including child custody, spousal support, and property division. 

They must adhere to a specific timeframe to respond, which is 30 days. If they fail to respond, the court can issue a default judgment against them. 

Negotiating settlements

Throughout the divorce process, you can negotiate with your spouse and reach an agreement on various aspects of divorce. If you achieve a settlement, you must submit it to the court for approval.

If you can’t reach a settlement on crucial matters, you may need to move forward with mediation or an alternative dispute resolution. A mediator is used to facilitate negotiations and open a more open communication, guiding you both to mutually acceptable solutions. 

Depending on your case, resolution may be made through one of the various ADR methods including arbitration and collaborative law sessions. 

Court hearings and trial

If disagreements persist, you may be required to attend court hearings to resolve necessary issues. Court hearings are where the advice of an attorney will be most helpful.

Finalizing the Divorce – What Happens After You File for Divorce in California?

Final settlement agreements

Once the details of the divorce are resolved, the judge issues a judgment of dissolution, which officially ends the marriage. This document outlines all of the terms that have been settled upon, such as custody arrangements and property division. 

What Happens After You File for Divorce in California
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Filing for a divorce in California involves careful planning, adherence to legal requirements, and informed decision-making. Seeking professional advice and understanding local regulations is crucial for effectively navigating the complexities of the divorce process and resolving this chapter so you and your family can move onto the next step of your lives.

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