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Getting Divorced in California: 5 Steps from Beginning to End

Understanding the California Divorce Process

One of the most challenging aspects of divorce is when you and your partner decide it’s time to move on. The divorce process is emotional, stressful, confusing, and everything else in between. While the road ahead may be a difficult one, knowing how to start the divorce process can make all the difference in making it a much smoother transition. Here are the steps you’ll need to take.

Step 1 - Get Paperwork Started

Starting a divorce means filling out the following two forms:

  • Petition: a legal document filed with the court by the spouse who is seeking the divorce.
  • Summons: a legal document that notifies the defendant an action for divorce has been started.

After you’ve prepared your initial paperwork, you must make two copies — read on to learn why multiple copies are necessary. Getting started on your own may be a difficult task, so having an experienced attorney assist you with your paperwork can be critical to getting the process started on the right foot.

Step 2 - Court Filing

After the filing of forms has been completed, you can then file your paperwork with the county clerk. You will give the court clerk the originals, plus two copies. You will then receive a case number, and the court will stamp the documents and keep the originals. Two copies will be returned to you — one for you, and the other will go to your spouse. Filing fees may apply. Speak to the court clerk or your attorney regarding how much the cost will be in your county.

Step 3 - Serve Documents

After the papers have been filed with the court clerk, you can now serve your spouse with the prepared divorce documents. The first papers are served via personal service. This means that another adult (not you) will hand-deliver them a copy of the documents you filed in court. The person who gives the papers to your spouse is called a “server.”

Once the server delivers the documents to your spouse, he or she is responsible for filing a form with the court proving the papers were served. Your spouse has 30 days to respond. If they do not respond within 30 days, you can still move forward with the divorce or legal separation.

In some cases, there may be difficulty in serving papers if you don’t know where your spouse is or if they live in another state or country. Enlist the help of an attorney to assist you with locating your spouse so papers can be delivered sooner rather than later.

Step 4 - Gather Financial Information

In California, sharing your financial information with your spouse is required for getting a divorce or legal separation. This is known as “financial disclosure.” Financial documents do not need to be filed with the court. Once you share your financial information with your spouse, you must complete and file a form with the court to prove you shared your financial information with your spouse.

All preliminary financial disclosures must be shared with your spouse 60 days after filing your divorce petition. You may need to share your information again later in your case. Your attorney can guide you through the financial disclosure process to ensure you have complied with court protocol.

Step 5 - Come to an Agreement

The last step of the divorce process is for you and your spouse to come to an agreement. You must decide on the following:

If you and your spouse agree on all terms, a written agreement must be signed. If you and your spouse cannot agree on any issues, you can ask the court to decide on your behalf.

Need Help With Your Divorce? Dan McCandless Law is Here for You.

Going through a divorce is hard, but when you find the right team to help you get through it, you’ll have peace of mind. When unsure of which direction to turn, we are here for you. We understand the divorce process can be trying, but we are committed to defending your rights while keeping your best interests in mind. We will guide you through these difficult times and ensure you receive a fair deal in your divorce.

You do not have to go through your divorce alone. Contact Dan McCandless Law today at (858) 266-9171 to request a free consultation.