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Divorce papers in California | All you need to know in 2019
Divorce has become quite a frequent occurrence. According to research from 40 to 50% of married couples come to a decision to divorce in the United States. On average, a divorce takes up to 6 months, in particularly difficult situations, dissolution of marriage can last several years. However, more and more couples come to the decision that an uncontested divorce is an excellent way out. Just a couple of months and you are a free person. Yes, an uncontested divorce in California is a quick and convenient way to terminate a marriage, but in some cases, a dissolution can become a whole drama. However, this period can go much easier if you know what steps need to be taken on the way to your goal. So let's take a look at the main points of divorce in California.
Divorce papers in California
Any divorce must begin with filling out the documents. The plaintiff (a spouse who files the lawsuit) must prepare divorce papers in California which include: the Petition for Dissolution (FL-100) and Summons (FL-110). In addition, it may be needed to fill out additional papers, depending on the characteristics of the marriage, for example, do a couple have common minor children or conditions of the court where you are going to file. All the necessary papers can be obtained from the court's clerk or downloaded from The Judicial Branch of California website for free. You can also purchase your divorce papers online on the internet. Also note that since January 2019, some changes have been made to the documents necessary for the court. The changes concern such documents as the Income and Expense Declaration (the form which is needed if there are minor children in the family), a number of forms for changing the name, Electronic service, and so on. You can find the entire list on the California Courts website.
The final court decision is largely dependent on the documents for divorce that you file. If they are made incorrectly, the court will reject them. Therefore, many couples turn to help in order to prepare all the necessary documents. You can hire a lawyer who will develop the papers that are necessary in your particular case. Also quite often spouses use online divorce. This is a website where you can leave all the data regarding your marriage, after which the system will provide ready-made forms that correspond to the characteristics of your termination. You also have the right to download printable divorce papers from the California Courts website and complete them yourself without anyone’s help, but it is only worth it if you are absolutely confident in your abilities. After all, any mistake can lead to serious delays or rejection of your case. Therefore, take this step seriously.
File and serve divorce papers
You need to file for divorce in the county where you or your spouse live. Provided that you meet the requirements of the state for the residence: live in California for at least 6 months prior to filing a lawsuit. You must make 2 copies of your documents: one for you, the other for your spouse. The court will accept your documents and put down stamps on your copies which you will take away, and the original will be taken by the court. Also, it's needed to pay a court fee. On average, it is $ 435, there may be some additional expenses depending on the county where you apply.
When all documents are filed with the court, the plaintiff must provide the spouse with copies stamped by the court. The law does not allow the plaintiff to personally transfer the papers to the defendant’s hands. But this can be done by any other person over the age of 18: relative, acquaintance, or sheriff. You can use the licensed process server, you can also consult with the court's clerk about the ways of serving accepted in the county where you are petitioning.
After the court accepted the case, you have 60 days to transfer copies of the documents to your spouse. This must be done so that the spouse can familiarize with the case and file an answer with the court. This would be like consent to participate in the process or counter-claim if the defendant does not agree with your papers. If you feel that you cannot cope with 60 days period and afraid that your documents will expire, you can go to the Family Court Intake Center and take a new Summons that will give you an additional 60 days.
After the spouse has received the papers for divorce he or she has 30 days to file a response with the court.
What happens if a spouse does not respond to divorce papers in California?
There is no reason to panic. If more than 30 days have passed, and the spouse has not answered, your divorce will be considered “true default”. You need to go back to court and fill out additional papers that relate to this type of termination. Even if the spouse does not respond to your documents, you still have the right to get a divorce.
What if a spouse refuses to sign divorce papers in California?
A question that arises in many couples. In this case, the divorce will be contested. This means that you and your spouse will participate in lengthy court sessions until the judge makes a final decision. And not always this decision will coincide with the desires of any of the partners. If the spouse does not agree with your documents and does not want to sign them, you can use the services of mediators, this is a third party whose goal is to help the couple reach a compromise and sign a settlement agreement. Mediators do not force the spouses to make such a decision that does not satisfy them. If the mediation did not produce results, the spouses must return to the courtroom and take care of finding good lawyers.
After the documents are filed with the court, you and your spouse must prepare a settlement agreement, which will include the resolution of all issues related to the divorce. This agreement will need to be sued together with final uncontested documents for divorce. The more details will be covered in your agreement, the easier it will be for the court to decide. Put all the details of your marriage: the names of all parties, including the children, the date when the marriage was entered into, the date of separation, grounds and so on.
Division of property and debts. Most likely, during the marriage, you have acquired a lot of things, but at a divorce, all common property will need to be divided. The common property includes everything that the couple acquired from the date of marriage: cars, houses, apartments, furniture, and so on. Wedding gifts are also considered common property. Discuss in detail with your partner what and how you want to share, if you have a good enough relationship, then you can discuss it even by phone. Also pay attention to the fact that everything that was acquired by the spouses before marriage or received during the marriage as a gift or inheritance is separate property, and is not subject to the division. Thus, the separate property will remain with the original owner.
If you have common bank accounts, also do not forget to share them, including any investments, retirement savings earned while you were married. Debts, as well as property, should be distributed. Divide who is responsible for the mortgage, who is for credit cards and so on. The process of separation of the entire property may not be so easy, but try to work constructively and fairly.
Child visitation and support.
The distribution of custody is an equally important point of the Settlement Agreement. If you and your spouse are ready to act in the best interests of the child, your divorce will end much faster. Discuss everything in detail and decide which guardianship suits you best. The most common is sole custody, but joint custody is becoming increasingly popular when parents sharing responsibility and habitation with the child in half. You can also divide accommodation with a kid in the proportion of 60/40 or 70/30, depending on what is best suited for your particular situation. It is also worthwhile to prepare a Parenting Plan in detail, indicate how much time child should live with each parent, what holidays and with whom to celebrate, parenting strategies, ways to resolve conflicts between the parent in the child's upbringing, and so on. The issue of separation of custody of minor children is one of the most important for the court, so if the judge finds any inaccuracies in your agreement, he will most likely schedule additional hearings to sort everything out.
Parents are also required to financially support their minor children. However, spouses cannot agree on the amount they want to pay. Financial support is calculated by the court based on guidelines, recommendations, and rules established by state law. The court calculates the minimum amount necessary for the child to grow up. If you think this is not enough, you can ask the judge to increase the amount of financial support for a kid.
Spousal support. Any spouse has the right to receive financial support from his or her ex, regardless of the sex of the spouse. Usually, the spouse whose income is significantly lower receives support. In California, there are no clear rules or instructions on how the amount of alimony should be calculated, so the spouses can by themselves agree on an acceptable sum. However, starting from January 2019, some changes in the law came into force. Now the alimony is not taxed for the payer spouse and the recipient spouse. With this tax law some couples, especially wealthy families, lose their tax advantages What can cause a delay in signing the agreement and reducing the amount of alimony. However, this should not be a stone of anticipation. Try to discard all differences and develop a unified strategy for financial support that would satisfy both of you.
Most of the work has been already done. It remains to file a settlement agreement with a couple of other forms, for example, divorce decree or judgment, financial statement, notice of hearing and some more papers, depending on your county. The court will tell you the date of your hearing. When it will be - in many respects depends on the workload of the court. At the indicated date and time, you and your spouse must appear in the courtroom. It may happen that the judge will grant a divorce at the first hearing. But most partners still have to attend a couple of sessions. After the divorce is granted, you need to pick up the certified copies of the divorce decree and that's it, you are considered officially divorced.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.