What does it take to finalize a divorce in California? From the time you file to the time you sign the papers, there are several steps you need to go through. A California divorce is not necessarily a complex process, although it can sometimes be lengthy. It starts before you even file the petition. Let’s take a look at the four main steps in the California divorce process.

Making Sure You Meet California’s Divorce Residency

Before you can even file for divorce in California, you first need to make sure you meet the state’s residency requirements. You may not even be eligible for divorce in California in the first place. California law provides that at least one of the spouses must have been a state resident for a minimum of six months before filing. In addition, one spouse must also have lived in the relevant county for a minimum of three months. If you are new to California (i.e. you have lived here for less than six months) you can’t file for divorce here.

The Petition

Assuming that you meet the residency requirement, the next step is to file the petition. You and your lawyer would fill in and file a Summons (FL-110) and a Petition (FL-100). If there are minor children involved, they would also need to file a declaration related to your children’s residences over the past five years (Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA). Generally, it doesn’t matter which of the spouses actually files the papers as California is a no-fault divorce state. Once the petition is filed, a copy of all the paperwork you have completed needs to be served to your spouse. This gives them formal notice that a divorce case has begun.

Waiting for a Response

Once your spouse has been served, they will have 30 days to complete a parallel set of divorce papers, which is referred to as the response. If they fail to do so within the given timeframe, the court could issue a default judgment against them. This means that they lose the right to voice their preferences regarding matters such as child custody, spousal support and division of property.

Reaching a Deal

If your spouse responds, you now need to go through the process of resolving all the terms of the divorce: child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, etc. There are a number of ways to do this. You could each hire attorneys who then negotiate a settlement on your behalf. If this fails, the case will go to court, where your attorneys will have to fight it out and leave the final decision to a judge. Another option is mediation, which enables you and your spouse to have personal discussions with a neutral third-party overseeing the negotiations.

If the divorce is uncontested, the process is usually much faster and less expensive. Contested divorces, however, will require the help of a divorce attorney

Contact a Divorce Lawyer in California

Westover Law Group is a company of family law attorneys serving Southern California. Contact us for more information about California divorce options, including litigation and mediation.