Dissolving a marriage can be difficult, and its impact can have a dramatic emotional toll. When a couple decides to divorce, they often want the process to be quick and encounter as little difficulty as possible. However, in California, even if both parties agree to the divorce and the terms, there are some timelines that spouses must go through before it is legally dissolved. If you are looking for a divorce process that is quick, then knowing how the timeline works can help you meet certain requirements in a timely manner.
In California, there are residency requirements that you or your spouse must meet before you are able to file for divorce. First, one or both of you must have resided in California for at least six months. Additionally, one or both of you must reside in the county in which you are filing for at least three months. However, because California is a no-fault divorce state, the grounds for which you file will not impact either of these requirements.
Once you have met the residency requirements, you must then file for divorce. This includes both a petition for divorce and the summons. If you have children, then additional paperwork may be required in the filing.
After all the necessary paperwork, you will need to arrange to have the summons served to your spouse. Once served, they will have 30 days to process any response. Once the summons is served, the clock begins to run. If your spouse fails to respond, then the court may issue a ruling without it.
The Waiting Period
Once the paperwork has been filed and served, California requires a six-month waiting period in case a couple chooses to reconcile. Even if your divorce is uncontested, you are required to meet the minimum six-month waiting period before a court will offer a ruling on your divorce.
There may be situations where a ruling is granted prior to the end of the six months. However, this does not serve as officially terminating your divorce. The ruling is preemptive and will take effect the day after the waiting period ends as long as the court clerk has filed the ruling in the court record.
During the Waiting Period
During the six months, the other processes of the divorce will go forward. Lawyers for both sides will work with clients to reach settlement agreements on property division, spousal support, and custody if children are involved. The final judgment by the court will include all of the terms.
If your spouse fails to respond to the summons, the court will issue a judgment without their response; they will be subject to the terms of that decision. If you agree to terms without the court, you and your spouse may file a written agreement that the court will take into account for the final judgment.
When determining the terms of the agreement or ruling, you and your spouse will be required to share all financial information, including any assets that may be hidden, debts, and other issues that need to be resolved. This is part of what is known as the discovery process. Each party is allowed ample time to produce the necessary information. The general timeline for this can range from 2-18 months. However, a judge may extend that timeline if they feel one or both parties need additional time to gather or produce the required information.
If the filing is for a contested divorce, then you and your spouse can expect multiple status hearings. In these hearings, the court will seek updates on how the agreement of terms process is going. Anytime during the waiting period, couples who reach an agreement may file their settlement agreement with the court. Many couples choose to utilize mediation during this time to help them come to an agreement.
This can be done at any point in the process, but it will not change the timeline of the waiting period.
After a Decision
While rulings and agreements can happen at any time during the process, a minimum of six months is required. However, even in the event that everything is settled prior to this, the dissolution of marriage is not legal until the judge signs the court order and the clerk enters the information into the court records. This adds an additional layer to the timeline as the speed of the court could play a factor in the process as well.
In some cases, a court can completely dismiss the filing due to a lack of activity. If one party fails to report to court hearings or the process appears stagnant, then the court may dismiss the case. If this happens, then the couple must start the entire divorce process over again with a new filing and a new summons.
When one of the spouses does not respond to the initial summons, if the couple decides to get back together for any reason, then the petitioner can also file to have the case dismissed. If both parties have responded to the process, then both parties must agree to have the case dismissed. Either of these processes can be done at any time during the divorce process.
Divorcing in California
If you are facing a divorce in California, you can expect a minimum timeline of six months due to the waiting period. That is, if the filing and summons are completed in a timely manner. However, there are many other factors that could impact the timeline and the process.
When facing the potential for a divorce, you should contact an experienced divorce attorney. At the Law Office of Stephanie J. Squires, you will be in the hands of an experienced divorce attorney who is familiar with the California divorce process. From filing to dissolution, you will be guided step by step to be sure that your rights and your progress through the process will be handled delicately and thoroughly. Contact our office today to get the help you need in order to successfully navigate the process of your divorce.