Filing a divorce in California can be a long, stressful, and more importantly, expensive endeavor. Here, we’ve laid it all on the table in a quick class to get you pointed in the right direction. If you’d like to do some more research on your own, there’s always the California Family Code and the California Rules of Court.
Preparation of your Initial Petition
Every divorce case will always begin with one party generating and filing a Summons (FL-110 Form) and a Petition (FL-100 Form). A Summons is essentially a notification to your spouse that they have 30 days to make a response. Worried about your spouse leaving or disappearing? Don’t worry, this document restrains both of you from taking a (minor) child(ren) from your state of residence or selling off financial assets in your marriage.
After both the FL-110 and FL-100 are submitted to your local court, you must pay the cost of the court filing fee. Many qualify for a fee waiver. After the court accepts your correct forms, the clerk will begin the rest of process and you will receive a case number. Wondering what the status of your process is? Remember to keep that number on hand.
Finding a Server
The next step is to find a server (either a friend, family member, or someone from the court) and have them deliver the documents to your spouse. As soon as the documents are served, the “clock” will also start ticking regarding the 30-day limitation mentioned above. If you don’t know the whereabouts of your significant other, there is a process in place. In special occasions, you can have the court serve their spouse through a publication. In this situation, you must prove that you’ve tried all feasible attempts to locate/communicate with them, and there is no other way to deliver the documents. Things to try:
- Internet searches
- Checking telephone directories
- Contacting family members
- Checking tax records
If, after all avenues are exhausted, the application to the court can be made through a FL-980 Form. If the court accepts this form, a legal newspaper for several weeks, in successive attempts. The defendant (in this case, your spouse) has 30 days to respond after the initial posting in the legal newspaper.
There are a few ways to serve your spouse, as mentioned before, or you can deliver the papers to them directly, if they choose to accept the documentation by signed what’s called a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt.
Whether you choose to utilize a server, or you do it in person, don’t forget to ensure a FL-115 (Proof of Service) form is completed.
Exchanging Financial Material
In California, both you as the petitioner and the other party to exchange financial material. These meetings are not filed with the California court, but is still mandated. If you don’t ensure this exchange occurs, the court can set a judgment later on in proceedings and litigation if one or both of you bring up this lack of disclosure to the judge.
This step can’t be stressed enough. In California, the law mandates that the initial financial information meeting take place. Although this preliminary exchange should take place, if both parties agree to it, they can elect to waive their second and final disclosure obligation.
During the initial meeting to swap financial information, both parties should ensure that the following are completed accurately and in its entirety:
- Declaration of Disclosure FL-140 Form
- Schedule of Assets and Debts FL-142 Form
- Income and Expense Declaration FL-150 Form
Ensure all disclosures are completed before the 60-day mark after the defendant was served.
Signing a Marital Settlement Agreement
At this point, as long as you and your significant other agree, the Marital Settlement Agreement can be processed. This document lays out all the concerned issues that will be resolved through the divorce. This step of the divorce proceedings allows both parties to continue towards a final ruling without having to go formally in front of a judge.
Typically, divorces without complications are finished with the signature of a marital settlement agreement. This will allow the court to develop what’s called a Final Judgment of Dissolution. This document should speak to all concerns regarding the marriage and the agreed upon resolution of affairs. Things like spousal support, dependent concerns (visitation rights, split custody, child support, etc.), and the separation of property and other financial assets need to be identified and future actions finalized.
If one or both of you refuse to sign the above document, things will begin to get more difficult. Instead of assigning a Marital Settlement Agreement to the judge’s disposition, the California court will require more documentation attached to the disposition to address the specified issues regarding the marriage and a proposal of how the issues will be resolved.
Application to Enter Default
If both you and your spouse concur, filing for a Request to Enter Default will enable the separation process to advance without the other party needing to file for what is called a formal Response (which incurs additional filing fees).
What the Request to Enter Default enables:
- The court is formally notified that you and your spouse have reached an agreement or
- An agreement could not be achieved and your spouse did not respond to being served or
Submitting a Final Judgment
Now that you and your spouse have agreed to terms on documentation up to this point, you can move towards the Final Judgment. The court will give their approval on the court agreement and strive to finalize the proceedings. During this stage the court will need:
- The Declaration for Default or Uncontested Divorce FL-170 Form
- Declaration of Service of Disclosure FL-141 Form
- Income and Expense Declaration FL-150 Form (if you and your spouse did not agree on all financial, physical assets, or debt issues)
- Judgment FL-180 Form
- (If there are underage dependents involved) A FL-341(A, B, C, D, or E), FL-342, FL-342A Form and FL-160 Form will be required
- Notice of Entry of Judgment FL-190 Form
Setting a Termination of Marriage Date
This date is the date that must be passed which enables either you or your spouse to be eligible to get married again. This date is typically the date in which all the above forms are completed and filed. It is typically six months and one day after the date your spouse is served.
Good news! The end is in sight; after the termination date has come and gone, there will be no further required documentation or forms. On the flip side, the time it takes to process the Final Judgment varies from court to court (a few weeks to several months).
After the judgment is finalized by the court, the county clerk will mail both parties a copy of the Notice of Entry of Judgment. This copy will encompass the marriage termination date (note: you are both technically married still until that date passes).
If you and your spouse wish to cancel the divorce proceedings at any time during the above process, either party can file for a Request for Dismissal at any time before the termination date.
Farbod Majd Esq.
Divorce Attorney w/ offices in Beverly Hills/Los Angeles
Services in English, Turkish, and Farsi/Persian (Iranian/American Lawyer)
8383 Wilshire Blvd Suite 646, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
310.956.4600 | Fax: 310.878.8989 | [email protected]