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The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan

Four Steps to a California Divorce

Every divorce is different, but couples seeking a California divorce must go through the same process:

  1. Initial Filings
  2. Financial Disclosure
  3. Negotiation and Hearings
  4. Resolution and Judgment

Initial Filings

To initiate the California divorce process, a spouse must fill out two court forms: 

  • Petition
  • Summons

Once the forms are filed with the court, the spouse who filed them becomes the “Petitioner.”

The Petition and Summons are served to the other spouse. This spouse becomes the “Respondent.” Once served, the Respondent has 30 days to file an optional third form called “Response.”  The Response is very similar to the Petition. 

As soon as the Respondent is served, the six-month divorce waiting period begins. The six-month date is the earliest date that the court can award the divorce.

Financial Disclosures

Once the paperwork is filed, each spouse must disclose all assets, debts, and property rights, and make a list of income and expenses. Each spouse will state their opinion on whether the assets and debts are community or separate property. This information will be used to negotiate a settlement.

In California, a divorce will not be issued without a financial disclosure. There are financial penalties for failing to disclose assets.

Negotiations and Hearings

In the third stage, the spouses try to reach an agreement about the division of property, child support, spousal support, and child custody. Initially, the spouses and their San Francisco divorce attorneys negotiate with each other to try to reach an agreement. Either attorney may request more information through the discovery process.

If an agreement can’t be reached, the court will become involved. Information requested through the discovery process can be presented to the court. 

Resolution and Judgment

Once the parties agree on the terms of the divorce (or the court determines the terms), the agreement is outlined in the Marital Settlement Agreement. Marital Settlement Agreement is the submitted to the court for approval. A judge will review the Marital Settlement Agreement and sign it, then the divorce becomes final.

When couples agree, the process can be simple. But, when there is a disagreement about property division, child custody, or support, a California divorce can become complicated and time consuming. Knowing your rights can help you get a fair deal. Before you begin negotiations, request a free copy of What Every Woman in California Should Know About Divorce.

To schedule an appointment with the women-only San Francisco divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan, call 415-341-1144.