First, I must tell our readers that Los Angeles County is not the easiest court with which to interact. They have many local rules and special requirements not only for divorce cases, but many other types of cases. For this reason alone, we often are contacted by couples who have tried to file divorce in Los Angeles County by themselves and gotten “stuck” in the process when the court rejects their judgment documents because they do not comply with Los Angeles County local rules. Most importantly, this is where the experience of A People’s Choice can be invaluable. A People’s Choice has helped thousands of Los Angeles couples complete their divorce. Although we prefer a customer to hire us from the beginning of the case, we will most certainly help people finish their divorce in Los Angeles County if they have gotten stuck along the way.
Which Service to Use to File Your Divorce?
As mentioned above, there are many options for help to file divorce in Los Angeles County. Yes, there are undoubtedly low-cost options advertised online as low as $99 to $139 for divorce paperwork. When comparing alternatives, you need to understand what service you are paying for and getting. Remember, these super low-cost options only “prepare” paperwork. Often this paperwork does not include required local forms. These services do not help in any way in the actual divorce process, nor help people maneuver through the various court steps required to get a final judgment. Personally, if someone is taking this route, they could just as quickly go to the Los Angeles County Self-Help Center which is free and offers the same type of help.
There is a definite advantage to using an experienced Legal Document Assistant to file your Los Angeles County divorce. Keep in mind, just like any service, legal service providers are not all the same. Although all legitimate California Legal Document Assistants are licensed and bonded, you will also find unlicensed and illegal “paralegals” or “preparers” advertising legal document help. One example is Studio Green Divorce in Ventura County. In this example, Studio Green Divorce is a company who is not a registered legal document assistant, yet advertises legal document preparation services. More importantly, this company is not bonded nor do they have the state-mandated qualifications to prepare legal paperwork. In other words, this company is being operated illegally and is advertising court document preparation services at a cheap cost. More disturbing is the fact that the operators of this company have no legal qualifications nor experience; and are putting their unaware customers and their cases at grave risk. This would be similar to an unlicensed dentist performing dental services without being a real dentist – or a person selling real estate without being a licensed real estate agent. In every profession, these fraudulent companies can do great harm to unsuspecting consumers. In the field of legal document preparation, our profession is regularly monitored by Calda.org who then reports these illegal companies to the local district attorney’s office. Once contacted, the district attorney has the long task of taking the necessary legal steps to prosecute and close their doors. This resolving process protects unsuspecting consumers and preserves the integrity of our profession. With this in mind, if you choose to hire someone to help you with your paperwork, I cannot stress the importance of doing your due diligence. Here are some tips:
- Make sure the company you hire is registered and bonded. Under California law, the document preparer/legal document assistant must display this information on their website.
- Call the County Clerk to verify current registration and bonding. All legal document assistants must renew their registration and bond every two years. If registration has lapsed, look for someone else.
- Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau.
- Check customer reviews. How many are there? Are there legitimate reviews from legitimate customers? Are the reviews consistently spread out over an extended period? Keep in mind, multiple reviews of a business within a short period are often “fake” and from family members and friends.
A People’s Choice has been in the legal document preparation service business since 1980. Our long-standing reputation and countless reviews offer our customers confidence in selecting us to help them file divorce in Los Angeles County. Better yet, our divorce services cover all California counties. Please check our ratings and reviews on the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Superpages, Facebook, Google + and other social media outlets.
Steps to File Divorce in Los Angeles County
In order to file divorce in Los Angeles, you must first meet the residency requirements. What does this mean? First, either spouse must be a resident of California for at least six months before filing the petition. Secondly, one of the parties must have also lived a minimum of three months in Los Angeles County immediately before filing the petition. In this regard, either the Petitioner or the Respondent can meet the requirements to file divorce in Los Angeles County.
Where to File Divorce in Los Angeles County
Another aspect of filing divorce in Los Angeles County is to determine which division of the Los Angeles Superior Court is proper to hear your case. Twelve different court divisions handle family law cases. In this regard, Los Angeles County has a unique court locator system which will help determine where your case belongs.
File the Dissolution of Marriage
Once you have determined you meet the residency requirements, the petitioner will need to complete and file the following legal documents with the court clerk to file a basic divorce Petition in Los Angeles County:
- FL 100 – Petition
- FL 105 (if children) – UCCJEA
- Fl 110 – Summons
- FL 115 – Proof of Service of Summons
- FM-020 – Los Angeles Family Law Cover Sheet
As you can see, the Los Angeles Superior Court requires extra paperwork to the standard Judicial Council forms to comply the court local rules where you file the Petition.
Serving Your Spouse in Divorce
After the Los Angeles Superior Court Clerk files the Petition and assigns a case number, you need to serve a copy of the above-referenced documents on the respondent. The respondent will have thirty (30) days to file a response to the petition for dissolution. If a response is not filed, the case can go ahead as an uncontested matter by default.
Attend Family Resolution Conference
The court clerk will set the first Family Resolution Conference (FRC). During the FRC, each party will provide the judge with an update as to the status of the case. The FRC may be continued at the request of either party if the case will be settled without the court’s assistance.
Exchange Financial Disclosures
California law requires the parties to exchange financial information in all divorce cases. Both parties are expected to make initial financial disclosures within 60 days of serving each other. The Petitioner will always need to complete the Preliminary Disclosures, even if the other party does not respond. If the parties are filing a Marital Settlement Agreement, both parties will need to complete the Preliminary Disclosures. Financial disclosures consist of each party identifying the assets and debts in which they believe are separate and community property. A secondary Final Disclosure is also required; however, this requirement can be waived by both parties. Once the parties complete the exchange of financial disclosures, the final judgment documents can be prepared.
Completing your Los Angeles County Divorce
The easiest way to finish a Los Angeles County divorce is when both parties are willing to sign a Marital Settlement Agreement. The Los Angeles Superior Court will need a Marital Settlement Agreement for marriages with children or marriages of usually more than 3-5 years. The final divorce judgment will contain a marital settlement agreement. The marital settlement agreement will outline how the marital estate will be divided pursuant based on the agreement of the parties. Both parties will sign the agreement and file it along with the judgment with the court clerk to finish the divorce.
In shorter marriages or marriages without children, assets or debts, it is possible to complete the divorce case without an agreement if the other party has not filed a response.
We strongly recommend that you refer to the Los Angeles County local rules for family law cases if you are not using the services of an experienced legal document assistant to prepare your paperwork. When filing divorce in Los Angeles without professional help, this final phase of the process is where people often find problems with the court rejecting their Judgment.
We urge you to contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to file divorce in Los Angeles County. We offer a streamlined process that allows our clients to provide all the necessary information through a secure online portal. Out interview portals enable our clients the convenience of moving their case along without having to take time off work. Between our online worksheet/interview portal and customer service and case management, clients receive the best of both worlds with convenience and personalized hands-on help. Using A People’s Choice to file divorce in Los Angeles County will avoid the pitfalls that typically occur when tackling this process without experienced, professional help. Call us today at 800-747-2780.