How to File for Divorce in California | Danielle Carter

Have you decided to file for divorce from your spouse, but are unsure what your next steps should be? Here are a few tips on how to file for divorce.

Procedurally, the first step is to ensure that you meet the mandatory residency requirement. This means that either you or your spouse must have lived in California for the past six months, and that either you or your spouse must have lived in the county where you are filing for at least three months.

The next step is to prepare a Petition for Dissolution, Summons, and accompanying forms to be filed with the appropriate court. These forms are available at the nearest California Superior Court or through an attorney. The Petition outlines the relief that you intend to seek and the legal grounds for the relief sought. The Summons brings your spouse into the legal proceedings. Our office can prepare these forms in less than a day. Once we obtain your signature, we can send the forms for filing immediately. The Court will return conformed copies to our office within a couple of days.

The Petition, Summons, and accompanying forms must be officially served on your spouse. If your spouse is cooperative, service can be accomplished by mail with a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt. Otherwise, your spouse must be personally served, usually through a courier company.

While the initial steps in dissolving a marriage are fairly straightforward, there are certain nuances that must be given special attention. The following pointers will help you to avoid common pitfalls.

Even before filing a Petition, you generally have a duty not to conceal assets from your spouse or destroy evidence in anticipation of divorce proceedings. Conversely, you may not attempt to gather evidence for a divorce through illegal means, such as by secretly recording conversations involving your spouse. If you are concerned that you or your spouse may have already broken these rules, candidly discuss the situation with an experienced family law attorney.

As you fill out the Petition, take time to understand the legal significance of each matter specifically addressed therein. Statistical matters that might at first seem mundane can have serious consequences. For example, the date of separation determines how much property will be subject to division at divorce. Yet, the parties may take different positions on the question of when they separated. Additionally, when filling out the portion of the Petition that outlines your requested relief, the prudent approach is to make all reasonable requests that might subsequently be desired. This approach will ensure that a favorable default judgment can be entered in the event that your spouse does not respond to the Petition.

Within 60 days after filing the Petition, be prepared to complete and serve mandatory financial disclosures on your spouse. Given each party’s duty to make complete and accurate disclosures, you may wish to begin taking inventory of your financial situation early. Consider bringing a copy of your most recent tax returns to your initial consultation with an attorney. If you do not typically handle finances within your marriage, consider meeting with an attorney sooner rather than later. An attorney can help you take steps to ensure that your spouse is not concealing or draining income or assets in anticipation of divorce. Next is the hard part, telling your children about the divorce.

If you are considering filing the necessary paperwork to commence a divorce proceeding, please call (949) 221-1000 to consult with one of Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara’s experienced family law attorneys.

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