Divorce can be hard on everyone. In addition to the emotional stress, it involves figuring out child custody, alimony payments, child support payments, and the like.
Most couples would prefer to keep things amicable, but plenty of factors can prevent you from remaining friendly with your soon-to-be-ex. Perhaps there was infidelity or some other form of betrayal, or maybe one spouse isn’t ready to let the marriage end. It’s in cases like these when a contested divorce may be on the table.
Whatever the cause of your divorce might be, the California court system has accounted for it. There are two types of divorces in California: uncontested and contested. Let’s take a look at what they each mean and how you can jump-start your divorce in California regardless of the hurdles.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
If you and your spouse mutually agree on the terms of the divorce, then it becomes uncontested. This is also known as “summary dissolution.” Most uncontested divorces can be resolved in two to seven months. All you need to do is file a petition, pay a filing fee, and send the paperwork to your local court. You don’t even need to hire an attorney; a legal document assistant is more than enough if you need help with filling out the petition forms.
California courts require at least six months from the time when the papers are served to finalize the divorce. Once the waiting period runs out, you’re both free to remarry. The date you’re both considered “single” is stated on the final judgment.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce in California basically means you and your spouse couldn’t agree to the terms outlined in the divorce petition. This includes stuff like alimony, child custody, child support, the validity of a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, and distribution of assets.
Perhaps you may agree on some of these issues but disagree on others. If that’s the case, you must file a declaration of the issues you have worked out and leave the rest for a judge to decide in court. Most California courts require one of you to file and serve a form to set a trial date if there are issues you can’t resolve yourselves. Both parties then have to attend a settlement conference before the trial.
However, California courts recommend that couples seek mediation to try to resolve the case themselves instead of getting a contested divorce. This saves you a lot of money and time, not to mention the emotional stress of fighting over your problems in court.
If you’ve reached a point of no return and are unsure about what steps to take, contact your local court. A court clerk will advise you on what to do and let you know what forms you need to fill out. You can find the website and telephone number of your local court here.
Steps to Take When Contesting a Divorce in California
If you have no choice but to file for a contested divorce in California, the first step is to file a response (Form FL-150) within 30 days of receiving the petition. Like the divorce petition, the response form asks for details about the marriage and relationship. It also asks about your assets, child custody, child or spousal support, and other issues. Once you’ve filed the response, serve a copy to your spouse or domestic partner.
The next step is to fill out and serve a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure (i.e. financial documents). California family law requires you and your spouse to give each other written information about your assets, debts, income, and expenses. You must also attach any tax returns you filed in the last two years.
The point of the disclosure is to make sure you and your spouse know about all of your property and debts so you can divide them up equally. This information can also help with decisions about child and spousal support. The declaration must be filed no later than 60 days after the response. You can’t get a divorce in California if you don’t exchange financial disclosures, so this is an important step.
A contested divorce in California can take at least six months before they become finalized by a judge. Some cases can take much longer if a couple is unable to cooperate or agree on a settlement.
Note: The steps outlined in this section are very general. What you and your spouse need to do will largely depend on the individual circumstances of your case. Contact your local court for more detailed information.
Get Help Filing for Contested Divorce in California
Divorce doesn’t have to be complicated. From a legal perspective, it’s all just paperwork. Most divorces can easily be settled without an attorney if you can prepare and file the correct documents.
If you need to get a contested divorce in Calinfornia, contact A People’s Choice for more information on your options. Our team of experienced legal document assistants can take the complexity out of the divorce process. Call us at 800-747-2780 to get started!
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