This overview is a brief outline of the California divorce process. Understand that there are many issues that are not covered in this overview.
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In California, the divorce process begins when one spouse decides they want to get a divorce and files a Petition with a Superior Court in the State of California. In Sacramento you will file your Petition at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse. The spouse who files a Petition to begin the divorce process is the “Petitioner.” Once filed, the Petitioner must “serve” the other spouse with copies of the divorce paperwork. The spouse served with the petition is called the Respondent. The Respondent has 30 days to file a Response to the Petition. The Response is notice to the Court that the Respondent wishes to participate in the divorce proceedings.
Respondent Does Not Respond
Should the Respondent fail to file a Response, the divorce process will continue without the Respondent’s participation. The Petitioner can then prepare a default judgment. In the judgment package, the Petitioner can request court orders for child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, and the division of all marital property. The divorce process ends and becomes final 6 months and one day after the Respondent is served.
Respondent Does Respond
If the Respondent files a Response to the Petition, both spouses will then be required to exchange financial information about their respective incomes and property; property includes any interest in any real property, investment, or any other financial transaction.
Request for Order
If one or both of the parties need the Court to make orders before trial, either can file a Request for Order. This is often done to establish temporary child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, or to obtain a temporary restraining order. Both parties will be required to appear in court to explain their position.
Mandatory Settlement Conference
This is the pre-trial meeting at which both parties are ordered to appear with their attorneys. At this meeting the parties will attempt to settle as many issues as possible before the trial. A Marital Settlement Agreement is drafted if the parties be able to settle the entire case. If not, all unresolved issues will be set for trial.
At trial, each party’s attorney presents their arguments and offers evidence to support those arguments. At the conclusion, the judge will makes orders on all unresolved issues. The judgment is prepared and approved by the divorce attorneys and then submitted to the court for the judge to sign.
Even after the court signs the judgment, some orders can be modified. Modifications are usually requested for child support, custody, visitation, and spousal support.
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