A Comprehensive Guide to the Divorce Process in California

Posted on: January 24, 2024

Divorce is a complex legal process that affects families deeply, both emotionally and financially. Understanding the steps involved in filing for divorce in California is crucial for anyone considering this significant life change.

Law Office of Michael L. Fell is committed to providing clear guidance and support through each phase of the divorce process, ensuring that our clients make informed decisions. Here’s what you need to know about navigating a divorce in California. If you need help, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a legal consultation.

Step 1: Meeting The Residency Requirement

To file for divorce in California, specific residency requirements must be met. The filing party must have been a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months and a resident of California for a minimum of six months prior to filing. This jurisdictional requirement is mandatory, and the court cannot alter it. For those who do not meet these criteria, filing for legal separation is an alternative that doesn’t require the same residency qualifications.

Step 2: Filing The Petition

The divorce process officially begins with the filing of a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage at the Superior Court. These documents must be served personally by an individual over 18 who is not involved in the divorce case. Law Office of Michael L. Fell advises against having family members or friends serve these documents due to the potential for complications.

There are alternative service methods, such as publication in a newspaper, if personal service is not feasible. The date these documents are served is critical as it marks the start of the jurisdictional period; divorce cannot be finalized until six months and one day from this date, a waiting period mandated by law.

In conjunction with the Summons and Petition, filing an Order to Show Cause (OSC) is common practice. The OSC facilitates the setting of a court date for temporary orders regarding child custody, support, and property control, pending a settlement conference and trial. This early stage is pivotal, making it essential to engage a skilled attorney to navigate the proceedings effectively and safeguard your interests.

Step 3: Property Valuation and Division

Characterizing and valuing property is a key step in the divorce process. Typically, assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered community property and are divided equally. However, property acquired before the marriage or after separation is usually deemed separate property. The nuances of these general rules underscore the importance of legal representation for accurate property evaluation and protection of property rights. Discovery is an essential part of this process, ensuring a thorough assessment of all property issues.

Step 4: The Settlement Conference

A settlement conference offers a chance to resolve disputes with the help of an experienced attorney or judge. This stage aims to negotiate a settlement, potentially resolving some or all issues without the need for a trial. Unsettled matters proceed to trial, which in family law cases, typically involves a judge rather than a jury. Dissatisfaction with trial outcomes can lead to an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

Throughout the divorce process, having knowledgeable legal assistance is invaluable. The complexity of California’s divorce laws, coupled with the emotional strain of ending a marriage, calls for compassionate and competent legal guidance. If you’re considering divorce and reside in Southern California, Law Office of Michael L. Fell is here to help. Contact us at (949) 585-9055 to discuss your legal rights and options, ensuring you navigate your divorce with the support and expertise you deserve.