Divorce, how does the process work and what does it entail?
The dissolution process in California is a process that entails filing multiple packets of forms that can be very confusing and sometimes overwhelming. Below is an overview of steps that must be completed in every divorce that does not qualify for a simplified dissolution. This may not be all that is required to finalize your divorce, but you can at least know and understand that these steps are required to finalize the process, if they are not completed your case can sit stagnant and eventually could run the risk of being dismissed.
In every dissolution a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must be filed with the court that has jurisdiction over the matter. Jurisdiction is determined by where you live and if there are minor children of the marriage it is best to file in the court that will have jurisdiction over them to avoid any unnecessary issues. Along with the Summons and Petition for Dissolution you will need to complete a Certificate of Assignment and any local forms the court requires. If there are minor children of the marriage you will also need to complete a UCCJEA (Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act) form and list their current and former residence information. There are other forms that you can include in this initial filing however they are not required. These forms can be property and debt declarations, child custody and visitation forms, spousal support or attorney’s fees requests, or a declaration explaining your position in the dissolution, but again they are not necessary at this stage.
The next step is to get the other party served with the initial documents. After they have been served you must file a proof of service form. The first instance of service in a new case must be by personal service by someone who is over the age of 18 and not a party to the case. The person who serves the divorce papers fills out the paperwork and then you file that with the court. The day they are served starts the clock to determine whether they default on their rights to respond and it also starts the timer for the mandatory waiting period that California requires, which is six months and one day.
The next step, which you can complete while waiting the 30 days for the other party to respond, is to complete the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures. These disclosures must be made whether both parties agree to the divorce, whether the respondent is ignoring the situation, or whether the matter is a highly contested situation. The Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures disclose the party’s assets, debts, liabilities and income information. You have to also include all supporting documents to confirm all assets, debts and liabilities. The standard supporting documents include: pay stubs, tax returns, titles, credit card statements, bank statements, loan information, mortgage information and the like. Each situation is different but every divorce requires the Petitioner to serve this information on the respondent. And after you’ve served the information and the accompanying forms you must also file Proof of Service of your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures with the court. You do not file the disclosures themselves with the court; merely you only file the Proof of Service form.
And the last step that is required in every dissolution is a judgment. No matter how the divorce proceeded, contested, uncontested, by agreement, or default every case needs a judgment to be completed to finalize the divorce. The judgment packet is submitted to the court with all of the necessary forms to reflect the orders in the case. This packet can be done in several ways but it must conform to the orders of the court that have been previously made or it must conform to what was requested in the Petition. Once it has been submitted to the court it undergoes a rigorous process by which a judgment clerk reviews it for completeness and then submits it to the judge for signature. Once a judgment is signed by the judge the divorce become finalized and the parties go back to being single individuals.
While not every divorce travels along a simple path as it has been laid out above, every divorce does have to check off each of the above stages. If you are having trouble with any of the steps above or have an issue that requires court intervention please contact an attorney at The Haynes Law Firm, APLC at (833) 526-5197 so that we may assist you.
Crista Haynes is the principal attorney at The Haynes Law Firm, APLC and is highly experienced in the areas of family law, criminal defense and estate planning.