Divorce in California, A-Z

When I first started practicing family/divorce law in California, I wanted someone to walk me through the process, start to finish, so I could understand it as a whole.  What is troublesome, unfortunately, is that all divorces differ in many ways, so looking at the process in general can be tricky.  But let’s try…

In California, the first step in getting a divorce is to file a Petition.  It’s fairly easy, and it doesn’t matter at all which spouse files the Petition (or files first).  There’s no advantage or benefit to filing the Petition over the Response (though there may be some advantages/disadvantages to filing sooner or later, but see an attorney on this…like me!).  To file a Petition in California you have to have lived in California for six months prior to the filing and in the county where you have filed for three months prior to the filing.

Once the Petition is filed (and the UCCJEA if you have children), you may need to file for an immediate court order regarding support, child custody and visitation, property or debt division, or some other urgent manner.  To do this, you file a Request for Order.  For any issues regarding support, you much file an Income and Expense Declaration, showing your – you got it – income and expenses so the court can calculate the appropriate support.

To complete your divorce, not only do you have to agree on child and spousal support, child custody and visitation, asset and debt division and any other issues you may have, but you have to complete your disclosures and obtain a Judgment.  The disclosures are forms that require you to list your income, expenses, assets and debts: the Income and Expense Declaration and the Schedule of Assets and Debts (yes, the form names are pretty self-explanatory!), as well as a form showing you delivered these to your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.  These are required in California, so you must be prepared to share all of your income, expenses, assets and debts with your spouse to get divorce.

You’re now in the home stretch: to obtain a Judgment, once you have everything resolved, you have to file a number of documents with the court.  It can be confusing, and most courts have packets at the clerk’s office to help you complete it.  Need more detailed help? Click here to make an online appointment.

4 reasons why waiting to hire a divorce attorney is a mistake you don’t want to make

Even if you haven’t filed paperwork with the court or even if you haven’t decided 100% that you want to get divorced, you should consult with an attorney.  When you consult with an attorney, there should be no obligation to hire them, and you should be able to come in and get the advice you need and your questions answered.  At least, when you visit my office, that’s what happens.  I even have my clients fill out a form that specifically asks them what questions they most want answered in the consultation.

Here are some of the reasons why consulting with an attorney before you file is a good idea:

  1. If you’ve not decided to divorce yet, you can then at least make an informed decision about what the process is like, the time it takes, the cost, and what you’re entitled to.  Relying on what your cousin Susie or your neighbor John got in his/her divorce will NOT help you.
  2. If you have decided to divorce, then you can make sure that you have all the information – documents, financial information, deeds, insurance documents, etc. – gathered together that you will need.  It only takes a flash of anger from your ex to make this information disappear once you’ve filed and served papers.
  3. You may make a mistake and not even know it.  On countless occasions I have had to unravel mistakes made by unrepresented clients or clients who have gone to a document preparer or a paralegal to file their paperwork.  It costs much more and takes a great deal of time to undo a mistake than it does to do it right the first time.
  4. Mistakes can happen in paperwork, and they can happen in court.  A trained and experienced lawyer is going to know how to act in court and in front of the judge, and if you do so improperly, then you can dig yourself into a hole that’s nearly impossible to get out of.  Your whole life is on the line: your children, your home, your income, your assets, and your future.  Isn’t that worth getting proper advice?

A divorce attorney consultation is a few hundred dollars that will serve you in the long run, and help you to avoid these costly mistakes.

How to get through your divorce with money, your sanity, and hope for the future: Law, strategy, and everything you need to know but no one tells you

This is the working title of the book I am putting together primarily for divorcing parties in California, but there will be general application for those outside of California.  I am targeting a release at the end of the month and want to be able to help the widest audience.

The topic will include: what to do and think about when you’re thinking of divorce, the initial process, the overall process, emotions involved, hiring a lawyer, the things they don’t tell you that you need to know, finances, child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, property division, debt, negotiation strategies, settlement conferences, trial, specific issues that come up frequently (substance abuse, moving away, for example), completing your case, post-divorce considerations, and where/how to get help.   Each topic will include the “hard” law and strategy as well as the emotional and logistical, common sense aspects and the things no one tells you but you need to know.

Sound worthwhile?

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, and this blog is one way of getting the information out there.  But now, I don’t see that there is another publication that combines everything: law, strategy, emotions and all the little things you don’t expect.  Many publications have some of these, but none have all of them together.  I think it’s time to give access to the divorce process to everyone who needs it, and not just those wealthy enough to spend tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys.

What do you think?  Is there a topic you would like me to include?