San Diego Divorce Lawyer

Finding a San Diego divorce lawyer can be challenging. Most people are concerned with legal fees and court costs when searching for an attorney. Below are a few things you should consider before hiring a San Diego divorce lawyer. This page also contains a list of frequently asked questions regarding San Diego divorce. Read on to learn more.

California Divorce Overview

Divorce matters are heard at the following courthouses throughout San Diego County:

  • The Central Courthouse, 220 West Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101
  • The Family Law Court Building, 1100 Union St, San Diego, CA 92101
  • The Madge Bradley Building, 1409 Fourth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
  • The North County Regional Center, 325 South Melrose Dr., Vista, CA 92081
  • The East County Regional Center, 250 East Main Street, El Cajon, CA 92020
  • The South County Regional Center, 500 3rd Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91910

Your case will be heard in the area you reside. For example, if you live in El Cajon, Lakeside, or Alpine, your divorce case will be heard in the East County Regional Center. If you reside within Chula Vista city limits, your divorce case will be heard in the South County Regional Center.

Your divorce options may include one of the following:

  • Legal Separation. Filing for legal separation allows a couple to live apart. The court will provide guidance on the separation of community assets and debts, child custody and visitation, and the payment of child and/or spousal support. Couples should consider filing for legal separation if they want to stay married while they attempt to resolve marital issues in lieu of filing for divorce.
  • Annulment. This option is best for a person who believes her marriage is invalid. For example, if someone was already married and wed another person, then there could be grounds to obtain an annulment in California.
  • Divorce. Filing for a divorce is best for people who seek to no longer be married. Filing for a “dissolution of marriage” will officially terminate the marriage. Your divorce matter may be contested or uncontested. A contested divorce occur when spouses are unable to resolve their divorce issues such as the division of community property, child custody and support, or spousal support. An uncontested divorce means all issues pertaining to the divorce have been settled and don’t require the judge’s ruling.
  • Summary Dissolution. Filing for summary dissolution are for couples who were married for less than five years and have no children or significant assets/debts together.

To file for divorce or legal separation in San Diego, either spouse must have resided in California for the last six months before filing the divorce petition and lived in the county in which they would like to file for the last 3 months. California law requires a mandatory waiting period of 6 months before a divorce can be finalized.

Research San Diego Divorce Lawyers

A key thing you should consider before hiring a divorce lawyer is her experience. Seek information about the lawyer’s expertise and the key areas of law she handles. Find out if you are working with an entry level attorney or veteran. A newly licensed lawyer can very well handle some divorce cases. However, be mindful that if you have issues regarding the division of assets or child custody, you may want to work with a more seasoned divorce attorney.

Get a general idea of the typical client the lawyer retains. For example, attorneys only representing “women’s rights” or “father’s rights” may not be the best fit for you. Inquire into the financial background of some of your lawyer’s clients. This may give you insight into the lawyer’s fees. Some lawyers only work with high net worth clients. Knowing the potential attorney fees you may be required to pay and whether you can afford to do so should be discussed upfront. In addition, find out up front how much of the “work” the attorney will be doing herself. Don’t pay high attorney fees when the attorney’s paralegal is doing most of the work.

San Diego Divorce Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Start My San Diego Divorce?

You must meet California residency requirements before you start a San Diego divorce. California law requires you or your spouse to be a resident of California for at least six months before your divorce petition is filed. In addition, you or your spouse must have lived in the county in which the petition is filed for at least six months before the filing. You can file for legal separation if you do not meet the residency requirements and later amend your petition once it is satisfied.

Upon meeting the residency requirements, you will have to complete forms FL 100, FL 110, and D 049 to start the divorce process in San Diego. You will have to complete form FL 105 if you have children. Additional forms may be completed depending on your specific case facts. The forms must be filed with the court to start a case.

You will have to serve the respondent with FL 100, FL 110, and any other filed forms. In addition, you will have to provide the respondent with a blank FL 120. The respondent will have a limited amount of time to file a response with the court. A default judgment may be obtained if the respondent fails to file a response in time. A San Diego divorce attorney can assist you with completing these documents.

How Much Does it Cost to File for Divorce in San Diego?

The petitioner must pay a $435 filing fee to file FL 100 with the court. The respondent must also pay the filing fee upon filing a response with the court. This means the parties will pay a combined total of $870 to file their respectve divorce petition/response with the court. You may want to consider requesting a filing fee waiver if you cannot afford to pay this amount.

How to Avoid Going Into Debt During a California Divorce

Can I Obtain a Filing Fee Waiver?

You may be eligible for a divorce filing fee waiver if you meet specific income criteria. For example, if you receive food stamps, Medi-Cal, or CalWorks, you may be eligible for a fee waiver. Your gross monthly income may also determine your fee waiver eligibility.

San Diego Gross

How Much are San Diego Divorce Attorney Fees?

The amount of San Diego divorce attorney fees you pay will depend on your type of divorce. Most San Diego attorneys charge a flat fee for uncontested divorce matters. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 -$5,000. The price will depend on the type of assets that need to be divided, child custody and support orders that need to be drafted, and if any real property or retirement accounts need to be divided.

Contested San Diego divorce costs can range between $9,000 to $20,000. The contested divorce costs you pay will depend on the attorney’s hourly rate and the amount of work he/she will have to complete for your case. Use our Divorce Attorney Fee Calulcator to estimate your legal fees.

What is the Difference Between Hourly vs Flat Fee Attorney Costs?

San Diego divorce attorney hourly fees usually start at $335 per hour. The hourly fee is the amount of money an attorney bills you per hour to work on your case. For example, the attorney may bill $335 per hour to draft your marital settlement agreement or discovery requests. San Diego divorce attorneys tend to charge a hire hourly fee for divorce trials. Ask your attorney to provide you with a detailed list of potential fees if you have a contested divorce.

A flat fee divorce means you will not pay any additional costs above the flat fee. The attorney will earn the same amount of money regardless if it take her 5 or 10 hours to complete your divorce. This is why divorce lawyers are somewhat selective on the types of uncontested divorce matters they take as a flat fee.

How Much Does a California Divorce Cost?

Does it Matter Who Files for Divorce First?

No. The court will treat both parties the same no matter who files for divorce first. Some spouses believe they will have the upper hand in a divorce if they are the first to file. This just isn’t true in California. Judges are required to treat each spouse equally and not favor one party or the other.

Does the Respondent Have to Respond to the Divorce?

The respondent should complete and file FL 120 after being served with the divorce summons and petition. The respondent does not have to respond to the divorce, however, the spouse may not receive the judgment he/she desires. If the parties are amicable, the respondent can choose not respond to the divorce petition and enter into a stipulated settlement agreement wiht the petitioner.

How Can I Obtain Temporary Spousal Support, Child Custody, or Child Support Orders?

You must submit a Request for Order to the court to obtain a spousal support, child custody, or child support order. Complete forms FL 300 and FL 150 and file them with the court. Additional forms may need to be filed with the court depending on your specific case facts. Consult with a San Diego divorce attorney for assistance on how to complete these forms to obtain an order.

What are Financial Disclosures?

You and your spouse must provide each other with written information about your finances (such as what you own and what you owe). To do this, you must complete the following forms which are referred to as “disclosure.”

  • Income & Expense Declaration (FL-150)
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts  (FL-142) *Uncontested Divorce Only
  • Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140)
  • Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure and Income
    and Expense Declaration (FL-141)
  • Petitioner’s Community & Quasi Community Property Declaration (FL 160) – *Default Only

Note, you may not be required to complete all of the forms listed above. For example, you will need to complete form FL 160 in a default case when requesting for the court to divide community property assets or debts. Contact an attorney to find out which financial disclosures are applicable to your case.

Do I Have to Prepare Financial Disclosures?

The petitioner must prepare preliminary financial disclosures. The respondent must also prepare preliminary financial disclosures if he/she files a response. The parties may choose to waive final financial disclosures if they are satisfied with the information presented in the preliminary disclosures.

Preparing financial disclosures includes exchanging tax returns as well. The petitioner must serve the respondent with her financial disclosures within 60 days of serving the respondent with the court summons and petition. The respondent must serve the petitioenr with his financial disclosures within 60 days of serving the petitioner with his response. The parties can stipulate in writing to extend this deadline.

How Can I Get a Fast San Diego Divorce?

The San Diego divorce process takes at least six months to complete. California law requires there be a six month waiting period from the time the respondent is served with the divorce summons and petition to the final divorce judgment is enteted. A divorce judgment cannot be obtained from the court before this time period concludes. Be weary of San Diego divorce attorneys that tell you a divorce can be finalized before this date. Note, both parties can file the all required forms with the court before this date. The court however, will enter the final divorce judgment after the six month period ends.

Will My Divorce Go to Trial?

Your divorce will go to trial if there are unsettled issues. As mentioned above, a contested divorce will head to trial if the parties are unable to agree on the amount of child support, child custody, spousal support, or the division of community property assets or debts. We recommend divorce parties settle as many issues as possible outside of court. The more issues that require the court to resolve, the more expensive your divorce will be and it will take longer to resolve.

Depending on your divorce issue, you should consider a price cost analysis before proceeding to trial. For example, if it will cost just as more in attorney fees to settle a monetary issue in dispute, you may want to negotiate a settlement outside of court.

Divorce trials are expensive because in additiona to paying divorce attorney fees, you may also have to pay expert fees, witness fees, and the opposing counsel’s attorney fees if you lose at trial. Going to trial is risky for both parties. This is why it is important to obtain a detailed list of expenses you may be required to pay if your case is or is not successful when going to trial.

What is a Marital Settlement Agreement?

A marital settlement agreement is a settlement contract between the parties that is incorporated into the divorce judgment. In the agreement, the parties stipulate to resolved divorce issues such as the division of community property assets and debts, the division of retirement accounts, child support and custody arrangements, and if spousal support will be awarded. Do not draft a marital settlement agreement by yourself or rely on DIY forms. Hire an experienced San Diego divorce lawyer to draft the agreement for you.

How Do I Prepare the Final Divorce Judgment?

The San Diego final divorce judgment consists of preparing many forms such as FL 180, FL 190, and FL 170. Work with an attorney to complete these forms to avoid making an error. You may have to request a post-judgment modification if an error is made on any of your final judgment forms. As discussed above, the marital settlement agreement will incorproated into your divorce judgment.

At San Diego Esquire, we believe that people should not have to spend money on excessive attorney fees to obtain a divorce. We provide unbundled legal services to San Diego County residents to make working with a divorce lawyer more affordable.  Before you hire any San Diego divorce lawyer, ask if there are any alternatives for solving your legal problem such as attending mediation.

If you cannot afford to hire a San Diego divorce lawyer, there are several resources you can use as an alternative. The Family Law Facilitator’s Office is available at no cost to unrepresented parents who have questions about family law issues. A facilitator can help you prepare court forms and provide general legal information. The facilitator does not represent either party and may help both parties in the case. Attend a Family Law Workshop to obtain information on the documents you need to complete to file for divorce, obtain a court order, and finish your divorce case. Work with a San Diego divorce lawyer to complete your final judgment forms. The lawyer can review the forms you prepared to make sure it includes all the relevant information you need to avoid requiring a post-judgment modification.

SD Esquire Flat Fee Divorce Service

SD Esquire provides flat fee uncontested divorce services. We will prepare the legal documents you need to file for and complete your divorce.  This includes preparing and filling your divorce petition, completing your financial disclsoures, and drafting your marital settlement agreement (MSA). Our uncontested flat fee divorce service starts at $1500 for standard divorce (you are responsible for paying court filling fees).  The fee also includes service of process fees. You can make installment payments as your case progresses. It costs $500 to start your matter. Sign up today to get started.

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