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How Does the Divorce Process in California Work?

By Terence Doyle

Posted on January 20, 2014 in Legal Considerations

A marriage is a legal relationship recognized by the state and federal government.  If it is decided that you no longer wish to be in a relationship with your spouse, a formal divorce process is required in California in order to have the court dissolve your marriage.

There are several steps that must be taken as part of the divorce process. To ensure your divorce goes as quickly and smoothly as possible and your legal rights are protected, it is advisable to consult with an experienced divorce and family law attorney to guide you through the divorce process.

How Does the Divorce Process Work?

The divorce process begins when either the husband or wife decides to file for divorce. Divorce proceedings must be filed in a state where one or both of the spouses are residents. To start the process, you will need to go to the family court and file the correct paperwork or have your family law attorney work with you.  A filing fee may be required. While the clerk of court can provide the divorce paperwork, assistance is not provided at the courthouse to complete the paperwork. A divorce attorney can help you complete the divorce filing.

After the divorce papers are filed, the spouse who did not submit the papers will be served with papers and a summons. This means that an official of the court will deliver the papers to your spouse (unless service of process is waived).  The spouse who receives the divorce papers must respond with an answer to the court by the required deadline.

The next steps involve decisions on issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support and division of marital assets. To facilitate this step, there is a discovery and disclosure period whereby spouses must exchange information on their finances and other factors relevant to the divorce. If either spouse refuses to turn over necessary financial documents, the court can order him or her to do so.

The decisions on issues of support, property and custody can be made out-of-court by the two spouses working together to create a divorce settlement agreement. This is the preferred solution as it is less expensive, less acrimonious and much faster. It is also more likely to result in a divorce agreement that all parties involved are satisfied.

If the couple is not able to come to an out-of-court agreement on their own, then the couple may opt for a litigated divorce whereby decisions are made by the judge after each spouse is given the opportunity to present arguments to the court.

Whether the couple creates their own divorce settlement or the judge decides the issues, the process will be completed when the judge finalizes the divorce  officially dissolving the marriage and the divorce becomes final.