Experienced Sacramento Divorce Lawyer Explains California Divorce Filing Procedures
Certified Sacramento family law attorney guides you step by step
If you have decided to dissolve your marriage or domestic partnership, you probably have many questions about the divorce process. Court filings, hearings, settlement conferences and mediation can be intimidating, but with the personalized guidance you receive from Williams Family Law, you can have confidence every step of the way. No attorney can take all the stress out of divorce, but as a family law specialist, certified by the California State Bar, Ms. Williams is prepared to manage any problems that might arise.
Different marital dissolution options in California
Before you commit to a particular course of action, it’s important to know all your options. In California, there are several ways you can dissolve your marriage:
- Annulment — A civil annulment declares that a legal marriage was never formed, due to circumstances that render it invalid from the beginning.
- Divorce — A final divorce legally ends the marriage and settles matters of spousal support, child custody, child support and division of property.
- Legal separation — If parties are not ready for a final divorce, or if one or both spouses has a religious objection to divorce, legal separation settles all ancillary issues. The only difference is that the spouses are not free to remarry.
- Summary dissolution — If you have been married or in a domestic partnership for less than five years, have no children from the union, and have limited property issues, you can file for this expedited divorce process.
If you choose to get a divorce, you must meet the residency requirement: either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least six months and a resident of the county where the action will take place for at least three months prior to the filing.
Basic steps in a California divorce
Everyone’s circumstances differ. Some people have time to do advance planning for a divorce, while others urgently need to get out of an abusive relationship. The following steps are representative of most divorces:
- Consultation with an attorney — Getting advice from an experienced divorce lawyer in Sacramento is vitally important if you want to protect your rights and achieve your goals for divorce.
- Petitioner files — There are several required forms, including the Petition, which is your request for the court to dissolve your marriage along the terms that you include. There are fees for filing.
- Service to Respondent — The Petitioner must arrange for an adult who has no connection to the case to deliver a copy of the Complaint and a Summons to the other spouse.
- Respondent files Answer — After being served with the Summons and Complaint, the Respondent spouse must decide whether to file an Answer, due within 30 days, or allow the court to dissolve the marriage on the basis of the Complaint alone. Usually, the Respondent files an Answer,and arranges service of the Answer on the Petitioner.
- Financial disclosures — The declaration of disclosure requires each party to report on assets and debts.
- Obtaining the judgment — The court must issue an order dissolving your marriage, but there are many paths to this end. You can negotiate a marital settlement agreement and present it to the court for approval. You can also mediate your disputes to reach a settlement. However, any issues that you cannot settle are set for trial, and the judge decides.
It is impossible to say how long a divorce will last or how much it will cost. Various facts, such as the complexity of the marital estate, the number of children, the willingness of each parent to let the other parent maintain a relationship with the children, and the extent to which the parties can cooperate during the process affect the time and cost. An uncontested divorce, where parties reach a marital settlement through negotiation or mediation, may last a few months. A more complex divorce requiring hearings on multiple issues can run for several years.
It is vitally important for you to get the best advice and counsel available to make the process work as well as possible for you.