A simple case is one where you and your spouse reach an uncomplicated resolution to your divorce case. A divorce such as this is considered “uncontested.” In California, an uncontested divorce could mean one of two things:
- You and your spouse agree on how to handle property, money, and parenting issues. In some cases, this means neither party will need to file a response to court filing.
- Your spouse does not disagree with you on your requests and is not likely to file forms in court saying so. In a situation where the spouse does not file a response, the Petitioner will receive a “default” judgment.
With an uncontested case, you may not need to have the court hear your case. Instead, the case can be handled by mail or by brief contact with the judge or the judge’s clerk.
A case becomes “contested” when you and your spouse disagree on one or more issues, such as property, finances or child custody.
Switching from Contested Divorce to Uncontested Divorce
In California, both contested divorce and uncontested divorce are common. A case becomes “contested” when you and your spouse disagree on one or more issues, such as property, finances or child custody. Your spouse will need to file a Response to your Petition stating what he or she disagrees on. From there, it’s up to one of you to schedule a hearing or trial date so the judge can hear both sides and resolve the disagreement.
A case may start out or later become contested, but it can become uncontested if an agreement is found through mediation, negotiation, or another process. An uncontested divorce case can be handled without court hearings and by referencing this California Divorce Guide. If you have any court dates scheduled, you may be able to cancel those once the case becomes uncontested.
Why Court is Required Even When You Agree
Whether you have an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce, California law requires you follow the same divorce process. The divorce process is required because getting married is a binding legal action and ending a marriage must be handled similarly. Until the court officially ends your marriage or grants a legal separation, you may be responsible for your spouse financially – this may include support and payment of credit cards and other loans. Additionally, you cannot re-marry until you have the official judgment from the court that dissolves your marriage.
The Reason for All Those Forms
The divorce process is complicated and involves many forms, which leaves many feeling overwhelmed and confused. The forms are there to protect your needs along with everyone else’s needs too.
The best way to approach your case is by taking it one step at a time. Don’t feel obligated to complete everything at once. Instead, complete only those necessary at that time. Any time you have trouble with forms contact a California family law attorney or your California county family law facilitator.
Finding the Right Legal Help
The best scenario for getting through a divorce is by hiring the right attorney. But if you cannot afford an attorney or would prefer to handle it on your own, you should consider a consultation with several attorneys so you can hear professional opinions about your case.
Some Californians work hard to complete their divorce cases on their own, with some or no help from lawyers or legal professionals. California law allows you to represent yourself, but you should try and avoid delays and mistakes by learning all there is to know. Read this California Divorce Guide closely before you complete your divorce forms.
If you choose not to have an attorney represent you in court, you will be expected to meet the same standards as a California lawyer would. You must know what the California rules of procedure include, and you must know how to present your case, among other things. Neither the judge nor anyone else in the courtroom can help you present your case.
Paying Family Law Attorneys
Ideally, you do not want a contested divorce. California law requires everyone go through the courts to complete their divorce, but it’s much simpler when everyone gets along and agrees to the terms of the divorce.
You must pay all fees if you decide to hire a lawyer. In California, the court does not provide free lawyers in family law cases. However, every court has a family law facilitator who can assist with issues in health insurance, child support, and spousal support.
While a facilitator does not represent or provide confidential advice, he or she does help to explain procedure, law, and court forms. A facilitator may also help you find other resources, such as nonprofit groups that help parents. Find the family law facilitator in your county to learn more about the services in your California county.