How to Complete a California Divorce
Most couples can complete a California divorce in less than one year. Divorcing couples must decide how to divide community property and who is responsible for debts. There may be issues of spousal support, child custody and visitation, and the division of retirement accounts. The requirements for completing a divorce in California depend on whether the divorce is default, uncontested, or contested. Note: all of the forms listed below can be found at http://www.courts.ca.gov/1035.htm.
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How to Complete a California Default Divorce
A default divorce occurs when one spouse files for divorce and the other spouse fails to respond within 30 days. If there is no written agreement between the parties, the spouse seeking a divorce will need to file some of the following forms to obtain a default judgment:
- Request to Enter Default (FL-165)
- Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation(FL-170)
- Judgment (FL-180)
- Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL-190)
Additional forms must be completed to obtain child custody, child or spousal support, and the division of community assets and debts.
If you are seeking child custody orders, some or all of the following forms must be attached to the Judgment (FL-180):
- Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Order Attachment (FL-341)
- Supervised Visitation Order (FL-341(A))
- Child Abduction Prevention Order Attachment (FL-341(B))
- Children’s Holiday Schedule Attachment (FL-341(C))
- Additional Provisions — Physical Custody Attachment (FL-341(D))
- Joint Legal Custody Attachment (FL-341(E))
If you are seeking child support, some of the following forms must be attached to the Judgment (FL-180):
- Child Support Information and Order Attachment (FL-342)
- Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)
- Financial Statement (Simplified) (FL-155)
- Child Support Case Registry Form (FL-191)
- Notice of Rights and Responsibilities — Health-Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures and Information Sheet on Changing a Child Support Order (FL-192)
- Income Withholding for Support (FL-195)
- Form FL-195 only needs to be filled out if you want the court to garnish your ex’s wages.
If you are seeking spousal support, some of the following forms must be attached to the Judgment (FL-180):
- Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment (FL-157)
- Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (FL-343)
- Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)
- Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (FL-435) (not required if you are seeking child support).
If you need the court to divide community property or debt, some of the following forms must be attached to the Judgment (FL-180):
- Property Order Attachment to Judgment (FL-345)
- Property Declaration (FL-160)
- Pension Benefits — Attachment to Judgment (FL-348)
Once the required forms are complete, you must file the originals with the court and serve a copy on your spouse. The court will mail the Judgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment to both spouses once a judgment has been entered.
How to Complete a California Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce occurs where both parties in the divorce have reached an agreement among all issues. An agreement can be reached when both parties work out the issues among themselves or with the assistance of attorneys. Typically, this happens when the parties are on friendly terms or there are few assets. A settlement can also be reached with the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator who can assist the couple with a non-binding settlement. If both parties agree, the couple can settle the case in arbitration, which is binding, but cheaper than a trial. Whatever way the settlement is reached, it must be fair and consistent with California family law, or the court may reject it.
Once the settlement is reached, both parties must sign the agreement and have it notarized. In addition to any applicable forms previously mentioned, the court requires the following forms to be completed: Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers (FL-130), Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (FL-170), Judgment (FL-180), and Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL-190). The settlement agreement needs to be attached to the Judgment (FL-180), and the court will accept that in lieu of many of the above-mentioned forms. A Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (FL-141) or a Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (FL-144) are also required.
Originals of the forms must be filed with the court, and a copy must be served on the non-filing partner, and the court will send both partners a copy of the Judgment once it has been entered.
How to Complete a California Contested Divorce
If the parties cannot come to an agreement, the case will need to go to trial. This is the most expensive option in a divorce. Before trial, both parties will be required to attend a settlement conference. If some issues have already been resolved, for example the spouses have agreed how property will be divided but are fighting over child custody, the couple can ask the court for a separate trial to decide only the contested issues.
Within 45 days of the trial both parties need to exchange declarations of disclosure or a waiver of declaration. The forms required for this declaration are Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140), Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-141) or a Property Declaration (FL-160), Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150). This declaration must include an explanation of how you estimated the value of community property, any debts you or your spouse may be liable for, and a list of your investments after the separation.
At trial, both parties will be given the opportunity to call witnesses, prepare briefs, and present evidence. The judge will decide contested issues and the divorce will be final when the judge signs the judgment.
How to Avoid Going Into Debt During a California Divorce
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