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3699 Wilshire Blvd. Ste 700, Los Angeles, CA 90010 Mon-Fri 9am-6pm +1-213-387-4508

California Divorce Process

los angeles divorce lawyer

In life, relationships don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, opting for a divorce may be a difficult choice, but it could be the most suitable path for you and your family. As you embark on this new phase, it’s vital to understand the legal and financial choices available to you. The dedicated divorce attorneys at Charles M. Green, APLC in Los Angeles are here to guide you through this challenging period.

Our legal team, led by Charles M. Green, a former CPA with financial expertise, possesses over 25 years of experience in divorce and family law litigation. We have assisted countless families across Los Angeles in navigating their most complex divorce situations. When children, businesses, and high-value assets are involved in your divorce, it’s essential to work with a compassionate and effective attorney who understands your unique needs. Our multi-lingual paralegals and staff are also available to provide support throughout the process.

I. Importance of understanding the California divorce process

Embarking on a divorce can be a daunting and emotionally charged experience, making it crucial to understand the California divorce process. Being informed about the steps and requirements involved empowers you to make better decisions and approach each stage with confidence.

Familiarizing yourself with the process helps reduce the stress and anxiety that often accompany the unknown and allows for more effective communication with your attorney. By understanding the legal intricacies, you can actively participate in the decision-making process and collaborate with your attorney to achieve the best possible outcome.

In summary, gaining a comprehensive understanding of the California divorce process is essential for navigating this life-changing event with confidence and clarity. By educating yourself on the process, you can better advocate for your interests and those of your family, ultimately securing a more favorable outcome for all parties involved.

II. Divorce Residency Requirements

A. California residency requirements for filing a divorce

Before filing for divorce in California, at least one of the spouses must meet the state’s residency requirements. To be eligible, one spouse must have lived in California for a minimum of six months prior to filing the divorce petition. It is important to note that this requirement must be met by the filing spouse or the respondent, not necessarily both.

B. County-specific requirements

In addition to the state residency requirements, there are county-specific requirements that must be met before filing for divorce. The spouse filing for divorce must have resided in the county where the divorce petition is being filed for at least three months prior to submitting the paperwork. If neither spouse meets the county residency requirement, they will need to wait until the requirement is met before filing in that specific county. If the residency requirements are not met, the court may dismiss the case or transfer it to the appropriate county where the requirements have been satisfied.

III. Initiating the Divorce Process

A. Preparing and Filing the Divorce Petition

The first step in initiating a divorce in California is preparing the divorce petition. The spouse who initiates the divorce is known as the petitioner. They must complete the required court forms, including the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Form FL-100) and the Summons (Form FL-110), as well as any additional forms specific to their case, such as those related to child custody or spousal support. The petitioner must then file these documents with the appropriate county court where either spouse resides, and pay the required filing fee.


B. Serving the Divorce Papers

After filing the divorce petition, the petitioner must serve their spouse, known as the respondent, with copies of the filed documents. This must be done by a third party who is at least 18 years old and not involved in the divorce case, such as a friend, family member, or professional process server. The respondent must be served with the divorce papers within a specific time frame, typically 60 days from the date of filing the petition. Proper service is essential, as it informs the respondent of the divorce proceedings and gives them an opportunity to respond.


C. Responding to the Divorce Petition

Once the respondent has been served with the divorce papers, they have 30 days to respond to the petition. To do this, they must complete the Response to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (Form FL-120) and any additional forms related to their case. The respondent must file their response with the same court where the petitioner filed the divorce petition and serve copies of the response on the petitioner. If the respondent fails to respond within the 30-day window, the petitioner may request a default judgment, which could result in the respondent losing their opportunity to participate in the divorce proceedings.

IV. Types of Divorce in California

a. Contested Divorce

A contested divorce occurs when the spouses cannot agree on one or more issues related to their divorce, such as property division, child custody, or spousal support. In these cases, the divorce process may involve negotiation, mediation, or a trial where a judge makes the final decisions on the disputed issues. Contested divorces can be more time-consuming and expensive, but they may be necessary when the parties cannot reach an agreement.


b. Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree on all the terms of their divorce, including property division, child custody, and spousal support. The couple can work together to draft a marital settlement agreement outlining their agreed-upon terms. This type of divorce is typically faster, less expensive, and less emotionally taxing for the parties involved.


c. Default Divorce

A default divorce occurs when one spouse does not respond to the divorce petition within the required timeframe (usually 30 days). In this situation, the court may grant a divorce by default, and the spouse who filed for divorce will usually receive what they requested in their petition. The non-responsive spouse loses their opportunity to have a say in the divorce proceedings.


d. Default with Agreement

A default with an agreement is similar to a default divorce, but the spouses have reached an agreement on the terms of their divorce, even though one spouse did not formally respond to the divorce petition. The couple can submit their agreement to the court, and the judge will generally approve the terms without requiring the non-responsive spouse to file a response. This option can save time and money while still allowing both parties to have input on the divorce terms.

V. Preliminary Disclosures and Discovery

A. Purpose and Requirements for Preliminary Financial Disclosures

During the divorce process, both spouses must provide preliminary financial disclosures. These disclosures aim to ensure transparency and fairness in the division of assets, liabilities, and determination of support obligations. California law requires both parties to exchange the Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140), the Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142), and the Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150), among other relevant documents. The information provided in these documents will help establish a clear financial picture of the marriage and assist the court in making informed decisions regarding property division, spousal support, and child support.


B. The Discovery Process

The discovery process is an essential aspect of divorce litigation, allowing both parties to request and gather information from each other to support their case. Discovery tools include interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions. These tools help the parties obtain evidence, clarify facts, and better understand their spouse’s position. Additionally, discovery can unveil undisclosed assets or income, ensuring a fair and equitable resolution in the divorce proceedings.


C. Importance of Accurate and Complete Information

Providing accurate and complete financial information is crucial during the divorce process. Failure to disclose assets or liabilities, or providing misleading information, can result in severe consequences. These may include penalties, sanctions, or even a court order to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees. In some cases, if the concealment is discovered after the divorce has been finalized, the court may set aside the judgment and reevaluate the division of assets and support orders. Therefore, it is essential to be honest and thorough when disclosing financial information to ensure a just and equitable resolution for both parties.

VI. Temporary Orders

A. Purpose of Temporary Orders

Temporary orders serve as provisional arrangements to address immediate concerns and maintain stability during the divorce process. They help to establish short-term guidelines for issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and the use of marital assets. These orders are intended to protect the rights and interests of both parties and their children until the final divorce judgment is issued.


B. Types of Temporary Orders

There are several types of temporary orders that the court may grant during the divorce process, including:

  1. Child Support: A temporary child support order ensures that the children’s financial needs are met during the divorce process.
  2. Spousal Support: Temporary spousal support, also known as alimony, may be granted to provide financial assistance to a lower-earning spouse.
  3. Child Custody and Visitation: Temporary child custody and visitation orders help to establish a parenting plan and ensure the children’s best interests are met during the divorce process.
  4. Property Control: These orders may determine temporary possession and use of marital assets, such as the family home, vehicles, or bank accounts.


C. Process for Obtaining Temporary Orders

To obtain temporary orders, a party must file a Request for Order (Form FL-300) with the court, specifying the type of relief sought. The requesting party must serve the other party with a copy of the request, along with any supporting documents, allowing them an opportunity to respond. A hearing will be scheduled, during which the court will review the evidence and arguments presented by both parties before deciding on the temporary orders. These orders remain in effect until the final divorce judgment or further court order.

VII. Settlements and Agreements

A.Resolving Divorces Through Negotiation

In many divorce cases, negotiation is a critical phase where both parties attempt to resolve their issues without resorting to a trial. This process includes discussing and agreeing on crucial matters such as child custody, spousal support, property division, and more. With the assistance of a skilled attorney, negotiations can result in a divorce settlement that is mutually beneficial and meets the needs of all parties involved.


B. Charles M. Green, APLC’s Approach to Settlement

At Charles M. Green, APLC, our approach to divorce settlement is rooted in understanding, respect, and a firm commitment to our clients’ best interests. We believe in the power of constructive negotiation and the importance of reaching agreements that protect our clients’ rights and maintain their financial stability.

We begin by listening to our clients, understanding their unique circumstances, and identifying their goals and needs. Our team is skilled in strategic negotiation, using a combination of our legal and financial expertise to advocate for our clients effectively. Our experience allows us to present compelling arguments that aim for fair and equitable outcomes.


C. Preparing for Negotiation and Drafting Agreements

Preparation is the key to successful negotiation. We work closely with our clients to gather all necessary information, including financial details, property records, and other relevant documents. This thorough preparation allows us to build a robust case for our clients and propose well-informed solutions during the negotiation process.

Once we reach an agreement, our team meticulously drafts the necessary documents to ensure the terms are clear, comprehensive, and enforceable. We make sure our clients understand every aspect of the agreement before it is finalized, offering them the opportunity to ask questions and make any necessary adjustments.

The team at Charles M. Green, APLC, is ready to provide the legal support and guidance you need during this challenging process. Trust us to navigate the complexities of the divorce negotiation process on your behalf, always advocating for your best interests.

VIII. Divorce Trials

A. When a Divorce Trial is Necessary

While many divorce cases are resolved through negotiation or mediation, sometimes a divorce trial becomes inevitable. This may occur when the parties cannot agree on certain critical aspects such as child custody, alimony, or property division, or when one party refuses to cooperate in the divorce process. It’s important to understand that a trial is often the last resort, given its emotional and financial implications.


B. The Trial Process and Timeline

The divorce trial process follows a structured path which includes the presentation of evidence, witness testimony, and arguments by each party’s attorney. The timeline for a divorce trial can vary, but it generally takes several months from the filing of initial divorce papers to the final judgment. This is due to factors such as court availability, the complexity of the case, and the readiness of both parties.

The process starts with pre-trial motions and discovery, followed by the trial proceedings where each side presents their case. After all evidence has been presented and arguments made, the judge will make a decision on all contested issues. The final step is the issuance of a divorce decree, which legally ends the marriage and outlines the terms of the divorce.


C. Importance of Skilled Legal Representation in a Divorce Trial

In a divorce trial, it’s crucial to have skilled legal representation to advocate on your behalf. The outcome of a trial can significantly impact your future, affecting your financial stability, parental rights, and more. An experienced attorney can effectively present your case, challenge the opposing party’s claims, and work towards an outcome that protects your interests.

At Charles M. Green, APLC, we understand the stakes involved in a divorce trial. With over 25 years of experience in family law litigation, our team is well-equipped to handle even the most complex trials. We bring a combination of legal acumen, strategic thinking, and relentless advocacy to every trial we handle, always aiming for the best possible outcome for our clients. Trust us to stand by your side in the courtroom, fighting for your rights and your future.

IX. Finalizing Divorce

A. Obtaining a Final Judgement

Finalizing a divorce involves obtaining a final judgment from the court. This judgment, also referred to as a divorce decree, officially ends the marriage and outlines the obligations and rights of each party. It includes details on property division, child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, and any other issues that were part of the divorce proceedings.

Once the court issues the final judgment, both parties are legally bound to abide by its terms. Understanding the contents of this document is crucial, as it can have long-term implications for your personal and financial life.


B. Post-judgment Modifications

Life is unpredictable and circumstances can change after a divorce is finalized. If a substantial change in circumstances occurs, such as a job loss, relocation, or significant change in a child’s needs, it might be necessary to seek a modification of the divorce decree.

Modifications can adjust aspects of the original order, like child support, spousal support, or custody arrangements, to better suit the current circumstances. Similarly, if a party fails to comply with the terms of the divorce decree, enforcement actions may be necessary.

At Charles M. Green, APLC, we understand the nuances of post-judgment modifications and enforcement. We can guide you through the process of requesting a modification, or assist you in enforcing a court order if your ex-spouse isn’t complying with the terms of the divorce decree. Our goal is to help you navigate these post-divorce challenges and ensure that the terms of your divorce continue to serve your best interests.