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  • Writer's pictureDimitry Erudaitius

How To File For Divorce In California In 13 Steps

Starting the journey of filing for divorce can feel overwhelming, but having a clear roadmap can make the process more manageable. If you're considering a divorce in California, knowing the steps involved will help you face this challenging time with more confidence and clarity. Here’s how to file for divorce in California, breaking down the process into manageable steps.


Determine Eligibility

Before filing for divorce, you need to ensure that you meet California’s residency requirements. At least one spouse must have lived in California for the past six months and in the county where the divorce will be filed for at least three months. Meeting these residency requirements is essential to proceed with the filing.


Complete the Necessary Forms

The initial paperwork to start a divorce includes several forms. The most important of these are the Petition (Form FL-100) and the Summons (Form FL-110). The Petition outlines the basic information about your marriage and what you are requesting in the divorce, while the Summons provides your spouse with information about their legal rights and obligations.


File the Forms with the Court

Once the forms are completed, they must be filed with the clerk of the court in the county where you meet the residency requirements. There is a filing fee, although fee waivers are available for those who cannot afford it. After filing, the court will assign a case number to your divorce, officially starting the legal process.


Serve Your Spouse

After filing, the next critical step is to serve your spouse with copies of the divorce papers. This can be done through a process server, a sheriff, or anyone over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case. Proper service is crucial as it ensures your spouse is formally notified of the divorce proceedings and allowed to respond.


Financial Disclosures

Both parties in a California divorce are required to complete and exchange financial disclosure forms. These documents provide a full picture of each party's financial situation, including income, expenses, assets, and debts. The Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140) is used for this purpose. Accurate and honest disclosures are essential for a fair settlement.


Response from Your Spouse

Your spouse has 30 days to file a response to the divorce papers. If they respond, the case proceeds as a contested divorce, where both parties negotiate the terms or go to court if they cannot agree. If your spouse does not respond, you can request a default judgment, which means the court may grant the divorce based on the terms outlined in your initial filing.


Settlement Agreement

If both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, including asset division, child custody, and support, they can draft a Marital Settlement Agreement. This agreement outlines the terms and is submitted to the court for approval. Reaching an agreement can significantly expedite the divorce process and reduce legal costs.


Court Review and Final Judgment

After submitting all necessary forms and agreements, the court will review the documents to ensure everything is in order. If the court approves, a judge will sign the final judgment of dissolution, officially ending the marriage. This judgment will include all terms related to property division, custody, and support.


Temporary Orders

During the divorce process, you might need immediate decisions regarding finances, child custody, or support. You can request temporary orders from the court to address these urgent needs. Temporary orders provide a way to ensure stability and support until the final divorce judgment is issued. Forms like the Request for Order (Form FL-300) are used to make these requests. The court will hold a hearing to consider the temporary orders.


Mediation and Negotiation

Mediation can be an effective way to resolve disputes without going to trial. In mediation, a neutral third party helps both spouses negotiate and reach an agreement on contentious issues like property division, child custody, and support. Mediation is often less adversarial and more cost-effective than litigation. If mediation is successful, the agreement reached can be incorporated into the final divorce judgment.


Trial Preparation (If Necessary)

If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement through negotiation or mediation, the case will proceed to trial. Preparing for a divorce trial involves gathering evidence, preparing witness lists, and developing legal arguments. You must work closely with your attorney during this phase to build a strong case. Trials can be lengthy and complex, so thorough preparation is key to presenting your case effectively.


The Divorce Trial

At the trial, both parties present their cases before a judge. This includes testimony, evidence, and witness statements. The judge will consider all the information presented and make decisions on unresolved issues such as asset division, child custody, and support. The trial process can be emotionally taxing, but it is the final opportunity to present your case before the court makes a binding decision.


Post-Judgment Modifications

Life circumstances can change after a divorce judgment is issued. Either party can request a modification of the court orders if there is a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income, relocation, or changes in the needs of the children. Modifying court orders involves filing a request with the court and may require attending a hearing to explain the reasons for the requested changes.


Tips for a Smoother Divorce Process

  • Stay Organized: Keep all your documents and forms well-organized. Create a file for your divorce case and include copies of all filed forms, correspondence, and financial records.

  • Be Honest and Transparent: Accurate financial disclosures are crucial for a fair divorce settlement. Ensure you are honest about your assets, income, and expenses to avoid legal complications.

  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consulting with a qualified divorce attorney can provide valuable insights and ensure you are following the correct legal procedures. An attorney can also represent you in negotiations and court proceedings.

  • Consider the Well-being of Children: If you have children, prioritize their well-being throughout the divorce process. Aim for amicable custody arrangements and be mindful of the impact on their lives.

  • Utilize Support Resources: California offers various resources, including legal aid, counseling services, and support groups. These resources can provide emotional and legal support during this challenging time.


Divorce Done Right: Partner with Erudaitius Law

Filing for divorce in California involves multiple steps, from meeting residency requirements to finalizing the divorce judgment. At Erudaitius Law, PC, we are committed to protecting you through challenging times with legal representation you can trust.

Our San Diego-based firm, led by Dimitry F. Erudaitius, handles all aspects of divorce—from standard to high-net-worth and military cases. Dimitry fights as hard for you as he would for his own family, ensuring your rights and interests are safeguarded.

We specialize in child custody, spousal support, and property division, making sure support orders are fair and just. Our mediation services help reduce emotional and financial stress, promoting cooperative resolutions. Contact us now for a free consultation. Let Erudaitius Law guide you to a resolution that respects your needs and outcomes.

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