Filing for divorce in California can be a lengthy and often stressful process. You and your former spouse will need to undergo negotiations, file paperwork, and potentially attend a trial in family court. It typically takes about six months from the beginning of the process to the end to successfully file for divorce in California.
First Steps to File a California Divorce
There are multiple steps you need to undertake when you decide to file for divorce in California. To assist you with the paperwork and to walk you through the process, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
First, you will file Forms FL-100 and FL-110, which are the Petition for Dissolution and Summons, respectively. If you have children, you may need to file additional paperwork. After you serve your spouse with the divorce papers, you will wait for him or her to file a response within 30 days.
If your former spouse is uncooperative and does not file a response within 30 days, the court may enter a default judgement against him or her. Whether your spouse agrees to a divorce immediately or fails to submit a response, you will enter a six-month waiting period after the court officially files your divorce paperwork. The court officially files your paperwork when it assigns your divorce a case number and stamps your Petition.
The Waiting Period and Finalization Steps
When the court officially files your paperwork, this means that you can enter California’s waiting period for divorce. The date of filing can either be the day that you serve your spouse with the divorce papers, he or she files a response, or if you or your spouse file an Appearance, Stipulation, and Waiver.
California requires divorcing couples to wait six months from the date of filing to finalize a divorce. During this time, you may enter into negotiations for custody and the division of assets, and you may also prepare for a trial. Your divorce will not be final until six months and one day from the date of filing.
The purpose of the waiting period is to give you and your former spouse an opportunity for resolution – even if you both want the divorce. Your marriage may terminate prior to the end of the waiting period, but it is important to remember that you will not be legally divorce until the waiting period is over.
The court will give you a proof of written judgement that lets you know that your divorce is final. You can request a copy of this judgement from the court in your jurisdiction – contact the courthouse or visit its website to see what its specific procedures are.
What Happens After the Divorce?
After the courts finalize your divorce, it is important to take steps to protect your financial assets and to satisfy court requirements. According to the Judicial Council of California, you should take the following steps after your divorce.
- If your former spouse is a beneficiary in your will or life insurance policy, consider updating these documents.
- Close any joint credit card accounts and open up new ones in your name.
- A divorce judgement may state that one spouse will have sole ownership over a motor vehicle that you jointly owned. If so, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles and file documentation to transfer the title of the vehicle.
- Inform your employer of your divorce so that you can update your tax withholding status and remove your former spouse from your benefits.
Filing for divorce in California requires a significant amount of your time and energy if you do not have someone to assist you. Hiring a family law attorney to represent your best interests can help you navigate this already stressful time, allowing you to focus on yourself. As soon as you decide to file for divorce or when your spouse serves you with papers, contact a California divorce attorney to assist with your case.