The thought of filing for divorce can be an overwhelming one, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process and aren't sure about what you're getting yourself into. At Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich, we understand the stress and uncertainty that you are experiencing and we are here to help. Let us guide you through a step-by-step overview of the California divorce process before you consult a Riverside County divorce attorney to help you.
1. Consult a Divorce Lawyer
No legal decision, especially one involving your family, should be made without the counsel of a seasoned attorney. Our firm has decades of combined experience and includes a Board Certified Family Law Specialist*. You can trust us to help you make the best decisions for your family and your future, so consult a family law attorney from our team to represent you in your divorce.
2. Decide if You Want a Divorce or Legal Separation
While our divorce attorneys help numerous clients through divorce every year, we do not believe that anyone should rush into a divorce without considering all their options. We can help you weigh the pros and cons of both divorce and legal separation and help you pursue the option that is best for you. Should you choose divorce, our team will help you take the next step in the process.
3. Decide What Type of Divorce You Want
Are you and your spouse in agreement about your divorce? You may be able to pursue an amicable divorce without a courtroom battle, either through collaborative divorce or mediation. These options allow you and the other party to negotiate your own terms for property division, child custody, child support, spousal support, and every other aspect of your divorce. Can't come to an amicable agreement? Then you'll need to take your case to family law court for a judge to decide.
4. Complete & File All Necessary Forms
Once you've decided how you want to get your divorce, you will need to fill out all of the required forms to file for divorce. These forms include:
- FL-100, Petition – Marriage
- FL-103,Petition – Domestic Partnership / Marriage
- FL-110, Summons
- FL-115, Proof of Service of Summons
5. Serve / Be Served the Divorce Papers
This may be the first step for you if your spouse is the one who is pushing for a divorce. He or she will have someone "serve" you a petition and summons for dissolution (divorce). You could also have this petition and summons served to your spouse.
6. Respond / Wait for a Response
If the recipient of the petition does not respond, it is known as "divorce by default" or an uncontested case. The Court will generally grant whatever the petitioner requested.
If the recipient responds and agrees, then the divorce could be achieved through collaboration or mediation. If the recipient responds and disagrees, the case will need to be taken to court for divorce litigation.
Forms for response:
- FL-120, Response – Marriage
- FL-123, Response – Domestic Partnership / Marriage
- FL-330, Proof of Personal Service
- FL-335, Proof of Service by Mail
Once the divorce papers have been served, each party will need to provide documentation showing what property and assets they own, as well as what debts they owe. This is known as the "discovery process" or the "preliminary declaration of disclosure." This is necessary in order for there to be a fair division of community property.
8. Negotiation or Trial
Every divorce will involve matters such as property division; child custody; visitation and parenting time; child support; and spousal support. This can be achieved through negotiation between the two parties, or it can be taken to court and litigated before a family law judge who will make the final decisions.
9. Entry of Final Judgment
Once every aspect of the divorce has been decided, either by the two parties or by the family law judge, a judge will have to enter the final divorce judgment. In a contested case, the judge will do this at the end of the divorce proceedings. In uncontested cases, the two parties will have to make an appointment to bring their divorce agreement before a judge to be entered and finalized.
Contact an Attorney Near You
Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich has more than 50 years of combined experience and has represented clients in thousands of successful cases. We are a seasoned team of attorneys, including a Board Certified Family Law Specialist*.
*Attorney Danica Hanich is Board Certified in Family Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.