Learn everything you need to know about the California divorce process, including options on how to get an inexpensive uncontested California divorce without a lawyer. Read about the differences between a default and uncontested divorce, how to file an uncontested divorce, and what you can do if the California divorce process becomes contested.
Contested Divorce: A contested divorce is where one party has filed a Petition for divorce to start the case, and the other party has filed a written Response with the court objecting to what was asked for in the divorce Petition. For example, a Petition could ask for sole custody of a child, or could ask for spousal and/or child support. If the other party objects to what is being requested, they can file a Response with the court indicating they do not agree. In a contested divorce proceeding, neither party agrees with the other, and a resolution can only be made by a Judge in a court hearing or trial. A contested divorce is certainly not cheap and could cost thousands of dollars if the parties hire lawyers to represent them. It is possible, however, for a self-represented person to handle some contested issues without hiring a lawyer.
Uncontested Divorce : An uncontested divorce is a divorce where 1) the parties are amicable and agree to the terms of the divorce paperwork or 2) a divorce proceeding where one party fails to appear or respond. The advantage of an amicable or uncontested divorce is that it can be very inexpensive and easy. The entire matter can be completed just by the paperwork filed with the court and neither party ever has to appear in a courtroom before a Judge.
Using a divorce document preparer or divorce preparation service is the easiest and fastest way to complete a divorce in California. A People’s Choice has been preparing California divorce documents for over 35 years and has successfully helped thousands of couples navigate through the California divorce process.
The steps and legal process for an uncontested California divorce come from California statutes, the California rules of Court, and the local rules of court. The process of a simple uncontested divorce can be outlined as follows:
In order for a case to be processed as an uncontested divorce, the parties must either 1) agree on all the terms of the divorce or 2) the Respondent (non-filing party) must fail to appear in the case and the issues of the divorce are settled with approval from the judge.
Our experienced staff is available to answer procedural questions along the way, and we keep you informed regarding each step we take as your divorce proceeds through the legal system.
If you have questions about your particular case and how we can help you, please give us a call. We offer a free phone consultation and have staff available to answer your questions Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:30 pm during normal business hours. Need to call after hours? Don’t worry. We understand that this process can be stressful and we will always try to return your after hour call, even on weekends.
For more information on a specific topic of interest, visit the California family law news section of our website.
A Final Judgment of Dissolution or Legal Separation can be requested and approved by the court no sooner than 31 days after the date that the other party was served with divorce papers. There are three ways to get a final judgment in a divorce that was filed in California:
Filing for divorce in California doesn’t have to be difficult!
For anyone looking to file divorce, we’ve listed the seven basic steps that must be completed in most uncontested California divorce proceedings.
These steps and procedures are outlined in California Family Code, the California Rules of Court, and various local rules set up by each county.
The summons is the formal notice that the other party is served with divorce paperwork. It acts to restrain both parties from removing minor children from the state and selling off assets of the marriage. Following the summons, parties have 30 days to respond.
The petition, on the other hand, identifies the parties, their date of marriage, and their date of separation. It also declares community and separate property and debts and identifies children of the parties born before or during the marriage. If the parties have children, they must attach a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) FL-105 and FL-105A, if applicable.
At the time the summons and petition are submitted to the court for filing, parties must pay a court filing fee unless they qualify for a fee waiver.
Upon acceptance of the petition for filing, the court clerk will assign a case number to the party’s case for use on all future documents in the case.
Service starts the clock on your divorce and gives the court authority to make decisions in your case.
Sometimes, the party filing for divorce may not know the whereabouts of their spouse. In this situation, they can make special applications to the court to serve their spouse through publication.
The court will not approve this request without proof that the filing spouse has made specific efforts to locate the other party and there is no other way to serve them.
Specific efforts may involve conducting a personal search by checking telephone directories, contacting relatives and friends, and checking tax records or voter registration.
Additionally, some courts may need a formal investigative report showing efforts by an investigating service to locate the other party. Such services can cost $100 or more.
If an investigator cannot locate an address for service on the other spouse, filing parties can apply to the court to serve their spouse by publication and/or posting using form FL-980.
If the court grants the request for publication, notice of the divorce proceedings must be published by a legal newspaper for four successive weeks, with at least five days between successive publications.
Service is considered completed on the 28th day after the first date of publication. After the 28th day, the defendant has 30 days to respond (Gov. Code Section 6064).
On the other hand, if service is accomplished by posting at the courthouse, it is considered complete at the end of the 30th day after the posting.
Otherwise, if the spouse is available, a process server or friend willing to hand the spouse the paperwork can complete the service. Alternatively, the spouse can voluntary accept service of the divorce paperwork by signing a notice and acknowledgment of receipt.
Either way, parties must file proof of service with the court by completing a Proof of Service FL-115. This form informs the court of the starting date and time of the case, which establishes the earliest date of termination of the marriage.
California requires either the petitioner or both parties to show and exchange financial information to identify all community and separate property and debt. Although these disclosures are not filed with the court, California statutes require the exchange of information.
Proper completion and exchange of the mandatory disclosures are extremely important. California law requires that two exchanges of information take place during the divorce process; however, the parties can mutually agree to waive the second and final disclosure requirement. Under no circumstances can the parties agree to waive the statutory requirement of the preliminary disclosures.
The petitioner must always complete the preliminary disclosure documents. However, if there is a signed marital settlement agreement, both parties must complete the preliminary disclosure documents. California law requires the parties to complete these disclosures within 60 days of service.
Failure to properly comply with this statute could result in the court setting aside a judgment.
Most uncontested divorce proceedings are completed once the parties sign a marital settlement agreement.
The marital settlement agreement sets forth all issues resolved through the divorce process including, but not limited to:
This agreement attaches to and becomes part of the final judgment of dissolution. It also acts as the “go-to” for the court should the parties later dispute their decisions.
If both parties do not sign a marital settlement agreement and one spouse does not file a response, the paperwork becomes a bit more complicated. In this case, the court will need additional attachments that address specific issues and their proposed resolutions.
If the parties agree on all issues without a formal response to the petition, the couple can file a request to enter default at least 30 days following the service. This request allows the divorce process to continue without the other party paying an extra fee for filing a formal response.
More specifically, a request to enter default informs the court of the following:
Note that a request to enter default cannot be filed if the other party files a formal response less than 30 days following the service.
If signed, a marital settlement agreement will be attached to the final judgment and become a court order. The court will approve the agreement if it complies with requirements set forth under California law.
In addition to the final judgement, parties file a Declaration for Default or Uncontested Divorce FL-170 upon agreement on all issues or if the respondent defaults and does not file a response.
Declarations of Service of Disclosures FL-141 are also typically filed at this point. These declarations confirm that the parties have complied with the statutory requirement of exchange of financial information. Additionally, they confirm the parties’ mutual waivers of the final disclosure if agreed upon.
If an agreement is not reached, an Income and Expense Declaration FL-150 is required. This declaration allows the filing spouse to request that the court make orders involving financial issues, debt, and support.
Finally, if there is no marital agreement, the judgement will require various attachments regarding issues to be determined by the court. These supplemental attachments may include FL-341(A-E) which address issues of child custody and visitation, FL-342 and FL-342A which address support, and FL-160 which addresses property division.
A Notice of Entry of Judgment FL-190 is also submitted with the judgement.
Also note that the court may require other necessary forms in special circumstances. For example, if the respondent is in the military, the court may require the filing of FL-130A, a declaration and waiver of rights for people in the military. Additionally, some courts require a Judgment Checklist FL-182 with the final judgment package.
The marital termination date is six months and one day after the service date (Step 2). Once the termination date has passed, parties will receive no further paperwork and will be free to remarry.
The time for a court to process the final judgment in a divorce case varies greatly between courts. For instance, Los Angeles Superior Court may take three to four months to process a final judgment. On the other hand, Ventura County Superior Court may take only a few weeks.
Once the judge has approved the judgment, the court clerk will mail a copy of the notice of entry of judgment to both parties. The notice of entry of judgment clearly identifies the marriage termination date; theoretically, the parties are married until that day arrives.
If the parties reconcile and want to stop or cancel their divorce proceedings, they can file a request for dismissal prior to the termination date. Once that date passes, however, they may not submit the request as the marriage will already be terminated by that time.
A People’s Choice offers low-cost help to file divorce in California, from filing the petition to the final judgment of dissolution. The combination of our 40 years experience, streamlined processes, and informational materials make the divorce process both educational and stress-free for our clients.
Why pay an attorney thousands of dollars when A People’s Choice can prepare and process the necessary paperwork for you at a lower cost? Contact us today.
An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree to the settlement terms of the divorce. This means that the parties agree on the division of assets, debts, child custody and visitation, child support, retirement benefits, and alimony. An uncontested divorce means there no issues in disagreement between the parties that require the court to resolve.
There are many benefits of an uncontested divorce. If a divorce is uncontested, this means that the parties are not spending thousands of dollars in court and attorney fees fighting over issues. When a divorce is uncontested, both parties remain in control of the divorce process. This means that both parties get to decide between themselves how their marital property will be divided, what the best parenting plan for their children are, what custody and visitation schedule works best, and how marital debts will be settled. Uncontested divorces help couples reduce and/or completely eliminate the hurt and anger often associated with the divorce process.
Most uncontested divorces can be resolved within 2 to 7 months. California family law requires a six-month period from the time the respondent is served with the court summons and divorce papers to allow a divorce to be finalized. This means a judgment for divorce can be entered six months from the day the respondent is properly served. In most of our cases, however, the parties have reach an agreement within as very short period of time after filing. As a result, many of our divorce cases are completed with the entry of a Final Judgment in 2-3 months. After the Judgment has been entered by the court, the six month “waiting period” simply continues to run. Once the time has expired, the parties are free to remarry. The date the parties are legally considered “single” is clearly stated on the Notice of Entry of Judgment.
In order for our office to provide the lowest cost of services to our clients, we have made every effort to streamline the legal process into several easy, defined steps to help you complete your proceedings in the most efficient way. Here is what you should expect when using A People’s Choice for your divorce, legal separation or annulment.
Online Interview Process: Once you have retained our office (signed required contract and processed your payment for our fees) we will need to gather statistical facts about your case. To do this in the most time and cost efficient way we have created an online interactive interview process which captures all the information we will need to prepare your paperwork. The link to the interview will be emailed to you. The online interview normally takes between 10-25 minutes depending on the complexity of your particular case.
Petitioner’s Dissolution Documents: Our office prepares all the standard documents required to be filed with the court in your proceeding. To streamline the signing of the standard documentation, our office prepares most on the front end. Once you have completed the interview process, our office will send you (the Petitioner) all the documents you will need to sign to start your divorce case. In addition, we will include some other documents that we will need later down the road. You will see that some documents will be dated and others will not. We will send you a detailed email with the documents with instructions on what you need to do next.
Filing of your Case: Once you have signed your documents and returned the originals to us with the court filing fee check, we will then send them to the court for processing. The time it takes for the court will vary based on your choice on how you wish us to process your paperwork. We will send you the filing options when we send you your divorce paperwork to sign. Some options are faster than others, some are cheaper than others, so please review the filing options and decide what best fits your needs and budget.
Petitioner and Respondent Packages: Once you reach step this step, you will have an active divorce case. Upon receiving your filed paperwork from the court which will give you CASE NUMBER, we will generate two separate packages for you with detailed instructions on the next steps to proceed. We typically send these package by email in pdf format. You will need to print them off on your end. In these packets, you will find your FILED Petition which will need to be given to the Respondent.
Marital Settlement Agreement: If you paid for our office to prepare a Marital Settlement agreement, you will find a draft copy of your marital settlement agreement in your package attached to Step 3. This document addresses all the issues required by the court. Our office includes one FREE revision of the Marital Settlement Agreement. Supplemental revisions after the first revision will incur added charges.
Return of Signed Documents: Once you and your spouse have completed all aspects of the steps included in each of your packages, you can now return all the signed documents to our office. Once this has been done, we will be able to send your final judgment to the court for filing. We cannot send the Final Judgment documents to the court for processing until at least 31 days after the date your spouse has been served or signed the voluntary acknowledgment.
Submission of Final Judgment: At the proper time, if you have provided everything requested, we will send the Final Judgment to the court for processing. The amount of time the court takes to process the Final Judgment varies but on average it is about 3-8 weeks. Once the Judgment has been signed, your case is considered concluded. Our office will give you a copy of your filed judgment if the court returns it to our office. Sometimes depending on the county in which you filed, the court will mail the judgment directly to you. In divorce proceedings, pay particular attention to the Date of Termination of Marriage as often our cases are concluded BEFORE THAT DATE HAS PASSED. Once that date passes, you are considered single and free to remarry. You will NOT get any more paperwork from the court.
How long does it take to get a divorce in California? Well, there are two separate dates to keep in mind – 1) when the case has been completed and a Judgment entered, and 2) when a divorce is terminated.
Divorce – The clock starts ticking as soon as the other party is served with the Petition. From this date, the earliest termination date that can be entered (when the parties are considered single) is 6 months plus 1 day from the date of service. For example, if a Petition for dissolution was filed January 1st, but not served on the other party until March 1st, the earliest termination date of the parties marriage would be September 2nd. It is important to understand that the termination date of the marriage is different than the date the Judgment is entered. Keep in mind, however, that the court proceedings can be completed long before this termination date. In most of our cases, when the parties agree and timely complete their steps in the process, the court proceedings can be concluded and a Judgment entered within 2-3 months. In our earlier example, a final Judgment could be submitted on April 2nd and entered by the court shortly afterwards. As you can see, a Final Judgment can be entered by the court months before the real “marriage termination” date. The parties would not be able to remarry until after the termination date noted on the Notice of Entry of Judgment.
On the other hand, if the parties do not agree, the other side files a Response and the matter proceeds to trial, this will substantially delay the process. Often the setting of a trial may not take place for a year or two after the Petition is filed.
Legal Separation – There is no termination date in a legal separation. The time-line process is exactly the same as a divorce, except for the termination date. Once a Judgment of Legal Separation is entered, the case is completed.
Annulment – An annulment always requires a court hearing. A hearing can be requested 30 days after the date of service. At the hearing, a Judgment can be entered if the annulment is approved and the case is completed at that time. There is no future “termination date” and parties would be able to remarry immediately.
In California, it does not matter who files divorce first; meaning, if your spouse filed for divorce first, it does not impact the case. Unlike other states, it does not matter if a spouse was involved in adultery or why a party wants a divorce. The majority of divorce are filed simply due to the parties having “irreconcilable differences”, meaning California is a no-fault state.
California law requires a person to live within the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. If you do not meet this criteria, you may be able to for legal separation. Afterwards, once you have lived in the state for six months, you can amend your legal separation documents and file for divorce.
If you and your spouse cannot agree, you may be able to use mediation to resolve your divorce disputes. Mediation allows each party to discuss concerns and specific issues that need to be resolved. If divorce issues can be settled through mediation, then the divorce case can proceed as an uncontested matter and most likely neither party will need to appear in court. Sometimes, if there has been a substantial delay since the case was filed, you may have to attend a status hearing to provide a judge with an update what is going on in the case. Contact us if you have questions about how to settle your case without going to court.
If you and your spouse agree to all the issues, you do not need to hire an attorney to file an uncontested divorce. Most people can navigate through the family law system on their own accord with the help of A People’s Choice for the paperwork. On the other hand, if the matter becomes contested, you may want to give thoughtful consideration to determining your exact needs before rushing out and hiring a lawyer. For example, some contested matters such as custody and visitation, can be easily handled without the need of an attorney. Often these matters proceed through mediation from which process the attorneys are excluded. In the end, the mediator offers their recommendation. In most cases, the Judge hearing the matter simply places his/her stamp of approval on the mediator’s recommendation.
Nowadays, people can hire an attorney under a limited scope of representation agreement. This means that you get more bang for your dollar by being able to use a non-attorney such as A People’s Choice for necessary document preparation and an attorney for any complex court hearings. Contact our office to discuss your needs. We can explain how other clients have handled similar situations using our services so you can make the best choice for yourself.
If you were providing health insurance for your spouse before you filed for divorce, the answer is “Yes”. In California, any existing health insurance policies must be maintained until a divorce is finalized. When a divorce is filed, a Summons is issued by the Court which specifically states, in part:
“Starting immediately, you and your spouse or domestic partner are restrained from: cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile, and disability, held for the benefit of the parties and their minor children.”
A party in the middle of divorce may face serious penalties if they remove their spouse from an existing plan. If there is a cost to maintaining the plan, you could consider filing a motion with the court to address that issue until the divorce is finalized.
Although California community property laws require courts to divide marital assets between both spouses 50/50, the parties can mutually agree to any other division they feel is fair and equitable. If the parties do not agree, then most likely the court will divide all community assets and debts down the middle between both parties. This includes bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, household goods and furniture and vehicles.
First, keep in mind that the mandatory Preliminary Disclosures (Step 2 in our process) are only required to be exchanged by both parties if they are signing a Marital Settlement Agreement or the matter goes to a full trial. If the other spouse does not file a formal Response to the Petition AND a Marital Settlement Agreement is not being signed, the case can go ahead without the non-filing spouse completing this step. On the other hand, the Petitioner always must complete the preliminary disclosures. The final disclosures can be mutually waived by both parties if they are signing a Marital Settlement Agreement. The final disclosures can also be waived by the Petitioner if the matter is proceeding by default without a Marital Settlement agreement.
Since there is no termination date in a legal separation, a Judgment of Legal Separation can be submitted for processing 31 days after the date of service. This is based on the parties signing a Marital Settlement Agreement or the matter proceeding by way of default. The amount of time it takes the court to process the Judgment will vary but can be as quick as 2 weeks or as long as several months. Once a Judgment of Legal Separation is entered, the case is completed.
Keep in mind that the parties remain legally married in a legal separation. Therefore, if the parties later decide they want to proceed with a divorce proceeding, they will need to refile an entirely new proceeding with another court filing fee.
There is no imposed “deadline” for two people to complete a divorce or legal separation but the courts do not want cases sitting idle and will ultimately dismiss the case if there is no activity over a long period. There are usually deadlines to file the Proof of Service and to file proof of completing the mandatory preliminary disclosures. Sometimes courts will set follow-up status conference dates when the Petition is filed to make sure the case is moving along. Refer to your paperwork for a court notice about scheduled status conference dates. If the actions stated in the notice have not been completed, the Petitioner and/or Respondent may be required to appear before the Judge and explain the delay.
The residency requirement for California divorce provides that at least one of the spouses has to have been a resident of the state of California for at least six months before filing the divorce petition. You must also live in the county where you file the divorce petition for at least three months before filing. If neither spouse meets the six month residency requirement for California divorce, they can file a legal separation and then amend the Petiton at a later time once they have met the residency requirements.
An annulment always requires a court hearing. If the other side does not file a Response to the Petition for Annulment, a hearing can be requested 30 days after the date of service. At the hearing, a Judgment can be entered if the annulment is approved and the case is completed at that time. There is no future “termination date” and parties would be able to remarry immediately.
Once you file the divorce petition and serve it on your spouse, the earliest effective date of termination of marital status will be six months and 1 day from the date your spouse was served the divorce papers. The actual Judgment can be entered prior to this termination date and can be submitted to the court for processing any time starting 31 days after your spouse was served.
A People’s Choice is a unique online service that provides custom, hands-on help for our clients, preparing their California divorce and family law forms as well as filing them with the court.
Do you have to appear in court for divorce? Probably not, if you and your spouse can agree to all terms of the divorce: child custody and visitation, property division, spousal and child support etc. When the parties agree, the case can usually be settled as a non-contested divorce without ever appearing before a judge. A Marriage Settlement Agreement (MSA) is presented to the court for approval by the judge that outlines all the specifics of the above items. The judge will grant the Final Judgment incorporating all the elements of the MSA without ever seeing the parties in person.
If you and your spouse cannot or do not agree and your spouse does not file a Response to the Petition for divorce, it is possible to get a unilateral Judgment by default. There is extra paperwork that the court will need if there are issues that must be addressed in the Judgment such as child support, child custody and visitation, or the division of community property and debt. A party still will not have to appear in court to get a Judgment, but it will be up to the Judge to sign and approve the proposed Judgment terms because the court wants to be sure that the party who has not appeared in the case is being treated fairly and equitable.
Either party can file a Request for Order to have the court make a temporary child custody, visitation and/or support order. This triggers the court scheduling a mandatory mediation sessions. Some courts also require the parties to attend a pre-mediation class or a parenting class. Most child custody disputes are settled through the mediation process. If the parties do not reach an agreement through mediation, the matter will go before a Judge. The mediator will present the Judge with their recommendation. Often the Judge will go along with the mediator’s recommendation. Once a parenting plan has been put into place, the judge can then set a child support order. Many factors are considered when ordering child support. This includes the amount of time each parent spends with the child(ren), each parent’s income and expenses, and the children’s living expenses.
The faithfulness of a spouse generally has no bearing on child or spousal support. California family law requires both parents to pay child support. However, one parent may be required to pay more support than the other if he/she earns more money and spends less time with the child.
Separate property is typically property that you owned before you got married. It also includes property that you inherited, even if you inherited it after you got married. Property that was acquired after the marriage but may be titled in only one of the parties’ names is considered community property, not separate property.
Joint property (community property) is property that you acquired with your spouse during the marriage, no matter if it is only in the name of one of the parties. Keep in mind, however, that a community property interest in separate property can be later acquired by a spouse in some situations. For example, if one party had a rental property before they were married, but joint/community funds were used to take care of that property (mortgage payments, taxes, maintenance, etc), an unrecorded community property interest for the spouse that is not on title may accumulate a community property interest in that property.
Most family law documents that are filed with the court do not require notarization. The one exception is the Marital Settlement Agreement which will need to be signed in front of a notary by both parties.
A default judgment is an easy way to get a final divorce judgment, and can be obtained when the other spouse does not formally file a Response to the Petition. A “Default Judgment” can occur when the other spouse (the respondent) does not formally respond to the Summons and Petition for Dissolution. When a case proceeds by way of a default judgment, the other party does not have to pay a “first appearance fee” which is now $435.00. It should be noted, however, that in most default judgement cases, the parties mutually agree to resolve all of their issues surrounding their marriage. Their agreement is formalized in a marital settlement agreement which is then attached to the Judgment and becomes a court order.
Sometimes, however, the parties do not sign a marital settlement agreement. Perhaps there are no assets or debts to divide and no issues of child custody, visitation, support or spousal support. In this situation, there is no need for a marital settlement agreement. When there are no assets or debts to divide and no other issues to be addressed, the judgment paperwork is fairly simple.
In other situations, the other spouse may be refusing to cooperate. When this happens, obtaining a default judgment is a little more complicated and requires extra paperwork to address the issues of assets, debts, children or support.
California law requires financial disclosure in divorce. This means that both parties are mandated by law to exchange financial information which includes a statement of assets and debts and community and separate property. There are two disclosures that are required under California law, the preliminary disclosure and the final disclosure. When the parties sign a marital settlement agreement, the preliminary disclosures between the parties cannot be waived under any circumstances. If there is no marital settlement agreement and the matter is proceeding as a default case, the Petitioner will have to complete the mandatory preliminary disclosure but can waive Respondent’s preliminary disclosure. Failure to properly complete the preliminary disclosure process could result in a final Judgment being later set aside. The final disclosure can be mutually waived by both parties.
In order to complete the California divorce process, the other party must be provided legal notice of the divorce proceedings. This can be done by 1) voluntary acceptance of the documents, 2) personal service of the documents, or 3) legal publication.
If you have filed a California divorce, cannot find your spouse and you want to go ahead with the process, you may be able to serve them through legal publication. In order for the court to allow one party to serve the other party through legal publication, attempts must be made to find the missing spouse. This is typically done by hiring an investigator (usually approximately $100-$150) to try to find a current address for the missing spouse. The investigator will give a formal report of their investigative results and in many cases, will find a valid address for personal service.
In some instances the investigator may not be able to find a viable address for service and a spouse cannot be found. At that point, application can be made to the court showing what attempt has been made to find the other party and ask that the court allow the party to be served through publication. This means that the Summons will be published once and week for 4 weeks in a newspaper approved by the court to offer notice to the missing spouse. Service by publication is complete at the end of the 28th day after the first date the document is published in the newspaper. If at any point during the 28 days of publication you find your spouse or partner’s address, you must have someone 18 or older mail a copy of the documents to him or her and file a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and return to you to file with the court.
A People’s Choice is a unique online service that provides custom, hands-on help for our clients, preparing their California divorce and family law forms as well as filing them with the court.
The enforcement of a retirement plan division in divorce requires the parties to file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) with the court . A copy of the filed QDRO is then given to the Plan administrator. The QDRO will outline the division of retirement benefits according to the Judgment of divorce or legal separation. Typically the divorce Judgment will explain how the retirement benefits are to be divided. Most Plans provide a package of instructions regarding the Plan’s language requirements for a QDRO. A draft of the QDRO is sent to the Plan Administrator for pre-approval. Once the QDRO has been pre-approved by the Plan Administrator, the QDRO is signed by both parties and submitted to the court for filing. Most Plans require receipt of a certified copy of the filed QDRO before they will divide the retirement benefits pursuant to the provisions of the retirement plan division in the divorce.
If you received a Notice of Entry of Judgment, this usually means that the court has approved and entered a Judgment in your case. If you and your spouse signed a Marital Settlement Agreement, the Judgment will have that agreement attached which has now become a court order. Take a look at the Notice of Entry of Judgment document carefully. On the form there will be a section with a box around it that pertains to the termination date of the marriage. Often in our cases, the Judgment is entered long before the termination date of the marriage. Once you have located the termination date of the marriage, this is the date that you will officially be considered “single”. What does this mean? Although your divorce case may be completed in the court’s eyes, don’t get remarried until after the termination date as noted on this form!
Keep in mind, sometimes it is possible to split the divorce issues from the act of dissolving the marriage. This allows the parties to terminate their marriage without resolving all of the issues of the marriage. In that case, some aspects of the divorce may still be pending. Lastly, if the Judgment includes retirement division, the QDRO process is a separate process that continues after the Judgment has been entered.
When a California divorce Judgment has been entered, there are two important documents.
The Judgment has the details of the division of assets, debts, child support, custody, visitation, etc. If the parties sign a Marital Settlement Agreement, that is typically attached to and is a part of the Judgment document. This document would be considered the divorce decree of Judgment.
The Notice of Entry of Judgment is simply a Notice of court action. This document has the date of termination of the marriage and lets both parties know that the case is now considered concluded by the court.
If many of our cases, the Judgment is entered months before the termination date of the marriage. Be aware that the court will not send any subsequent documentation to the parties regarding the termination date. The termination date will simply pass and at that point the parties are free to remarry.