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The Divorce Process in California

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Many people who consider divorce are unsure what filing will entail or how it will affect their family. Each case is different, but there is a general procedure that each case follows. Since California is a "no-fault divorce" state, that might be one choice. In order to qualify for a no-fault divorce, one of the spouses would have been a resident of the state for six months minimum and a county resident for a minimum of three months. One would file the petition to the Court and, once the Respondent is served with the Summons and Petition, the marital status would not be able to be terminated earlier than six months from the day of service.

One of the parties then usually requests a temporary order for a hearing. This hearing is where the judge would make the temporary support, child custody, and restraining orders. The parties then engage in the discovery phase before the judge. This is where any relevant documents or information is presented. One of the required aspects of this is the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. In this, each party must list what they consider community and separate property.

After this is completed, the parties and their respective divorce attorneys will discuss the settlement of the case. If a settlement can be reached, one of the attorneys will prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement. This is a contract that is signed by the two parties and their attorneys. If an agreement is not reached, a trial will take place.

The Steps of a California Divorce

After the parties sign the Marital Settlement Agreement or the trial ends, one of the attorneys then prepares a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. This paper holds all the Court's orders and it is then filed and the court mails a Notice of Entry of Judgment to each attorney who then forwards it to their clients.

If the Court feels there is a reasonable possibility that there may be a reconciliation, the Court will stay the dissolution of marriage proceedings for 30 days. If there is no reconciliation, either spouse may then file for a divorce or legal separation. Concurrently, a counseling statement must also be filed to the Conciliation Court. Additionally if child custody is contested, then a mediation conference will be ordered and the mediator has the right to exclude any attorneys of the parents at such mediation.

Because California is a community property state, any jointly held property is considered community property. There are some exceptions to this, however, such as if the property is in one name only, or the spouses agree otherwise. However, anything that is considered bona fide community property is divided equally. The Court may award support to either spouse in the amount and for the duration the Court deems reasonable based on the standard of living achieved during the marriage.

How to Simplify the Divorce Process: Summary Dissolution

Divorce does not always need to be complex. In fact, this should only be the case in matters of contested divorce in which the splitting couple is unable to mutually agree upon the terms and conditions of their divorce. Under the state's process of summary dissolution, a divorcing couple will not necessarily be expected to appear in court, and the paperwork will be significantly less, as well.

If you and your soon to be ex-spouse can agree (in writing) as to the proceedings of the division of your assets and any existing debts, then you may be eligible for summary dissolution.

Important qualifiers for eligibility of summary dissolution include:

  • A marriage that did not result in children
  • A marriage that lasted no more than five years
  • A marriage in which both spouses have waived spousal support
  • A marriage in which community property value is no more than $25,000
  • A marriage in which neither spouse owned home or other real estate property
  • A marriage in which the spouses' combined debt is no more than $4,000 (excluding autos)
  • A marriage in which either spouse's personal property is more than $25,000 (excluding autos)

There are no exceptions or special allowances when it comes to the agreements made for a summary dissolution. Each party of a dissolving marriage must agree to every single one of the terms of the dissolution in order for the process to be carried out with success. If, ultimately, you and your spouse decide that summary dissolution is not the right option for the termination of your marriage, you have the legal right to cancel the process at any time before the dissolution of your marriage is finalized.

Call our firm at (949) 416-2057 as soon as possible and speak with a divorce lawyer in Newport Beachabout your case!

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