The only way to get divorced in California is by having a document signed by a judge called a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. There are procedures you must follow to get that document.
4 Steps to Getting a Divorce in California
1) Filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the Family Law Court of your County. Either party can file this Summons and Petition. The Petition must include:
- Verification that the person filing has been a resident of the state for at least six months and a resident of the county where the petition is filed for at least three months prior to filing the Petition. You must also indicate on the Petition the matters about which you are asking the Judge to make orders, such as property division, support, child custody, etc.
- If you have children, you must also file a UCCJEA declaration. This is a Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody, Jurisdiction, and Enforcement Act. This document tells the judge where the children live and that the judge has the ability to make orders concerning the children.
- There may be other forms, called pleadings, that your County Court requires.
2) Serving the other party with the Petition and other pleadings. There is a process for making the required official delivery of the initial Summons, Petition, UCCJEA declaration and other pleadings to the other party. called service of process. This is to make certain the party who did not file the Petition is aware of the divorce proceeding. That spouse has 30 days from the date he/she was served with the Petition to file a Response.
3) Exchange Declarations of Disclosure. The spouses must provide financial information to each other. This is done by completing a Declaration of Disclosure package. This includes:
- Income and Expense Declaration.
- Schedule of Assets and Debts.
- Declaration of Disclosure. You sign these pleadings under penalty of perjury, declaring that you have provided the required disclosures and your tax returns for the last two years. There are three other questions on this form that you must answer.You deliver, or serve, these Declarations to each other, generally through your attorneys. The Declaration of Disclosure is not filed with the court. You must file Declaration regarding Service with the Court signed under penalty of perjury that you have served the other party, so your financial documents are not filed with the court. If you cannot come to an agreement and need the court to make decisions for you concerning your finances, then some of your financial documents will need to be filed or submitted to the Court.
4) File your Settlement Agreement or go to trial. If you can reach an agreement on the issues, you put it all in writing and that settlement agreement is filed with the court along with a Judgment form. Once signed by the judge, it becomes the Court’s final order of dissolution. If you cannot agree, you will go to court and the judge will consider all relevant evidence and decide for you.
A Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage cannot be issued until six months and one day after the date upon which the non-filing party was served with the divorce Petition. That is the minimum time. The divorce process often takes much longer.
Our attorneys at Chase, Berenstein and Murray, Counselors at Law can discuss with you the best way to approach your divorce. Contact us online or by calling 650-642-3897 to schedule a confidential consultation.