The prospect of commencing any type of litigation can be overwhelming, but none more so than making the decision to dissolve your marriage. Simply put, a divorce in the State of California occurs in three stages:
Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)
Somebody files and somebody is served with the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, as well as other statutory documents (a “Service Packet”.) Service of Process can occur in many ways, including personal service or service by mail and the signing of a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt.
In the State of California, a Dissolution of Marriage takes at least six months to finalize. This clock starts running the day the other party is served with the Service Packet. If your case is not resolved within six months, your case will continue until all matters in your case are resolved. This may and most often takes more than six months to achieve.
If your case settles quickly, you will still need to let the six month clock run. We can enter all your documents prior to the six month date, but you will not be divorced until six months after the other party is served.
Stage Two is usually the most cumbersome part of the case. During Stage Two, each party is required by the State of California to serve a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, which includes an Income and Expense Declaration or Property Declaration, a Schedule of Assets and Debts, documents which support your income and value of assets and liabilities and two years’ worth of tax returns.
This process allows us “take a picture” of the assets and liabilities which existed at or about your date of separation and allows us to develop a balance sheet which will be utilized in settlement discussions. In addition, once we understand each party’s income and expenses, we can use this information in determining guideline child support and reasonable spousal support.
Once this process is complete, each party is required to file a one page document with the Court which indicates you have completed this process.
Discovery will occur during Stage Two as well. Discovery is when we serve documents on the opposing party seeking documents and/or requesting that party answer questions under penalty of perjury. Discovery usually occurs if your matter becomes contested and a court date is pending.
Stage Three is where your case either settles or goes to trial. There’s only two ways out of your case: A negotiated settlement once based upon all information gathered regarding income, debts, assets and liabilities or your case goes to trial and a judicial officer makes orders regarding your unresolved issues.
At the conclusion of your case, a Judgment of Dissolution (or a divorce decree) is entered with the Court which incorporates either your settlement agreement or the ruling of the Court. Once that document is filed, your marital status is terminated and you are divorced.