Category Archives:Riverside County Divorce Help


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How to File for Divorce

  
There are three main ways to end a marriage or registered domestic partnership in California: divorce, legal separation, and annulment. It is not necessary for both spouses or domestic partners to agree to end the marriage.  Either spouse or partner can decide to end the marriage, and the other spouse/partner, even if he or she does not want to get a divorce, cannot stop the process by refusing to participate in the case.
After you decide how you want to end your marriage or domestic partnership, you need to plan your case ahead of time.  Think about how you are going to handle your case.  Planning before you start and talking to a lawyer can save you time and money as you go through the court process.
The following chronology will give you a general idea of how the average divorce process works.  Your divorce may be a little different because of specific legal issues which may arise between you and your spouse.

How to File for Divorce:

  • To begin a divorce in California, one spouse must file a divorce petition in his/her local courthouse.  The local family law courthouse in the Orange County area is the Lamoreaux Justice Center in Orange, California.  The person who files the divorce petition is called the “Petitioner.”
  • After the summons and divorce petition are filed with the court, the divorce petition must be personally served.  The person who is served with the petition is called the “Respondent.”
  • After the lawsuit is served, the Respondent has thirty (30) days to file a response to the petition with the court.  The Response tells the court that the Respondent intends to participate in the divorce proceedings and wants to be notified of any upcoming court divorce hearings.
  • If the Respondent fails to file a response to the divorce within 30 days, the case proceeds without the Respondent’s participation.  This is called proceeding by “default.”
  • If the case proceeds by way of default judgment, the Petitioner prepares a divorce judgment and submits it to the court and the case is concluded.  The parties become single after the statutory waiting period has expired.
  • If the Respondent files a response to the divorce, the parties exchange documents and other information about their property and incomes.  This is called “discovery.” By examining important documentation beforehand, sometimes the parties are able to settle their dispute without ever having to go to trial.
  • Sometimes one or both of the parties will need the court to make orders before the divorce case is concluded.  Either spouse may file an Order to Show Cause at any time before the trial.  An Order to Show Cause is a request for the court to make temporary orders. Usually these temporary orders concern child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, or attorney fees.  These orders are only good until the trial.
  • Sometimes the parties never have to go to trial because they agree on the terms of the divorce beforehand. If a divorce settlement is reached, the spouses will have a Marital Settlement Agreement prepared. This becomes the divorce judgment and the case is concluded. The divorce is granted after the six month waiting period has elapsed.
  • If the parties are not able to reach an agreement, the divorce will go to trial.  Even if the parties cannot agree on everything, sometimes will be able to agree on some issues.  If this happens, the parties can prepare a Partial Judgment.  This becomes part of the final judgment after the parties have a hearing on the remaining issues in the case.
  • At trial, each side presents evidence and arguments. The judge decides all remaining matters, including child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney fees and property division.  The divorce judgment is prepared.
  • Once the judge signs the divorce judgment and the six month waiting period has elapsed, the divorce becomes final, and the parties are single and free to remarry.
  • Even after the divorce judgment is entered if the parties’ circumstances change, either party can later return to court and ask the judge to change certain orders in the divorce judgment.  However, the court’s power to change the orders in a divorce judgment are limited to child custody, child visitation, child support, and spousal support.
Legal updates brought to you by the Orange County and Riverside Law firm of Don Ho, LLP. 
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