California Divorce Timeline
While California has a six-month waiting period for divorces, your case will not necessarily be resolved within six months. The California divorce timeline for simple cases can often be finished in less than six months, while complicated cases could take several years to complete.
The point of the six-month waiting period is that it’s the earliest point at which the court can restore your status as a single person. You cannot remarry or file taxes separately until the court has granted your request to have your status restored as a single person. Nothing automatically happens in six months.
Initiating a Dissolution
To start the Dissolution process, either you or your spouse needs to file a Petition with the court. The individual who files the Petition is known as the “Petitioner,” and the person who is served the Petition (either in person or by mail) is the “Respondent.” The date the Respondent receives the Petition (also called “Date of Service”) is significant because it marks the beginning of the six-month waiting period the court requires. Once the six-month period is over, you are then eligible to request your marital status be terminated and a judgment entered.
The point of the six-month waiting period is that it’s the earliest point at which the court can restore your status as a single person. Nothing automatically happens in six months.
Responding to a Petition
Once the Respondent receives the Petition, he or she has 30 days to file a Response to the facts outlined in the Petition. (In some cases, the Petitioner’s attorney will allow for more than 30 days.) Once a Response is filed by the Respondent, a hearing may be scheduled for the case.
If support and custody disputes are a concern, then an Order to Show Cause (OSC) is also filed. As a result, a hearing will be heard sooner than normal so that custody, support, or restraining orders can be made. As with all documents that are filed during Dissolution, you will receive a copy of the filed OSC.
In situations where custody is an issue, the court requires Custody Mediation take place. The Custody Mediation needs to be completed before the first hearing occurs.
Learn more about child custody mediation.
Once you have been notified of the Custody Mediation and the Hearing date, you generally must confirm with the court by calling to tell the clerk you will attend. If you do not attend the Custody Mediation, the court may order fines, sanctions, or orders against you.
“California law requires community property and obligations be shared equally.”
At some point, both the Petitioner and Respondent need to complete a Marital Settlement Agreement, which equally divides community property and outlines child custody and support issues. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement regarding these issues, you will need to request that the court set a trial so the judge can decide these issues. Regardless of feelings, California law requires community property and obligations be shared equally. If you and your spouse both agree that items be split unequally, then that is allowed, but both parties must agree.
Learn more about community property and separate property.
Dividing property and dividing debt does not need to be completed in the traditional sense of “splitting.” For instance, you would not necessarily need to share the proceeds from the sale of your home 50/50. Instead, one party could take the proceeds from the sale while the other Party could receive the assets held in an investment account of equal value. Similarly with debt, if one party takes a debt that belongs to both, then that debt is deducted from the assets received by the other Party.
Learn more about dividing property and debt.
Community debt remains a responsibility of both parties; be aware that if one Party assumes a debt and defaults, the other Party may still have some responsibility. Once the Marital Settlement Agreement is signed by both Parties, the document is filed with the court and made part of the final judgment. After a judge signs a judgment, the documents become a court order.
“In some cases, it is possible to reach a Settlement Agreement before six months have elapsed. However, you will still need to wait the entire six month period before your divorce will be granted.”
Settling Out of Court
If you and your spouse are able to reach an amicable, out-of-court settlement, it’s possible to complete your Dissolution without a court appearance. Your attorney will prepare a Settlement Agreement and additional paperwork that will be filed with the court for the court’s approval. In some cases, it is possible to reach a Settlement Agreement well before six months have elapsed. However, you will still need to wait the entire six month period before your divorce will be granted.
Learn more about Marital Settlement Agreements.
Discovery and Disclosure of Assets and Obligations
To complete discovery, both sides must provide certain documentation and answer questions asked by the other side. The purpose of this discovery is for you to learn about all the assets, debits and issues that must be divided and resolved to complete your divorce. The law also requires each party complete mandatory disclosures known as “Preliminary and Final Declarations of Disclosure.” These must be completed prior to time of settlement or trial.
Learn more about discovery procedures.
Learn more about declarations of disclosure.
All Things Considered
While six months is the absolute minimum amount of time required to complete California dissolution, it could take longer depending on circumstances. Doing whatever you can to cooperate with the attorneys and the court to complete the necessary steps quickly will help you get divorced faster.
Schedule a consultation with the team at Dishon & Block today to discuss your options in divorce. They’ll work with you to find the fastest and most amicable resolution to your family law concerns.
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California Divorce Guide