California Divorce in 6 Simple Steps — A Primer

Divorce is never easy. Along with the emotional strain, dealing with all the forms, procedures, and rules required to file a divorce in California can become overwhelming. Understanding the basic process can help mitigate the stress.

Step 1: Prepare to File for a California Divorce

The first thing you want to do is inform your spouse about the divorce in person. If doing so is impossible, send an email, or call. Blindsiding your spouse may affect your case down the line, especially when it comes to agreeing to the division of property and support.

If you have children, talk to them about what’s happening and give them time to ask questions. Answer honestly and never disparage or speak badly of your spouse.

Once all parties are aware of the divorce, collect your passport, birth certificate, insurance policies, bank statements, and any other important documents.

Step 2: File Initial Documents

Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to file the paperwork. To initiate divorce proceedings, you must be a resident of California for at least six months and a resident of the county for at least 3 months. If this residency requirement is met, fill out and file a petition and a summons with your local courthouse, along with the required $435 filing (or “first appearance”) fee. If you have children under 18, a Declaration under Uniform Child Custody and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) will also need to be filed.

Step 3: Deliver the Documents to Your Spouse

Once the paperwork is properly filed, ask a friend, contact the sheriff’s office, or hire a licensed process server to deliver, or serve, the papers to your spouse, who will then have 30 days to file a response. You cannot serve the paperwork yourself. It must be a third party over the age of 18.

After they’ve served the papers, ask the third party to file a Proof of Service of Summons with the court as proof they were delivered.

Step 4: Share Your Finances

Within 60 days of filing the petition for divorce (or filing a response), California fiduciary laws dictate that you must fill out a Declaration of Disclosure, an Income and Expense Declaration, a Schedule of Assets and Debts, and a Property Declaration.

Step 5: Make Decisions About Finances, Property, and Children

Through the process of discovery (the obtaining of documents and asking questions under the penalty of perjury), you and your spouse will come to terms with the division of assets, property, and childcare. If for whatever reason, a mutual consensus becomes impossible, mediation or a court hearing may be necessary.

Step 6: File the Final Forms

To finalize your California divorce, you will file a set of final forms. These vary depending on whether written agreements or support orders are included. If all information is accurate and complete, a judge will sign off on the divorce. There is a six-month waiting period before this final judgement is filed.

If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to contact King Law Firm Attorneys at Law, Inc.

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