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California Divorce Overview

Couples never consider divorce while getting married, but relationships do not always work out as planned. Deciding to pursue a divorce is often a difficult decision, but it could be in the best interest of your family.

California Divorce Overview

Now that you have decided to start over, you must understand which divorce legal options best fit you. Our Los Angeles divorce lawyers can guide you through the California divorce process.

We have over 25 years of combined experience and have helped countless families through this challenging period. Divorce is rarely easy, especially when children are involved, but the process is less stressful when you have experienced legal representation.

When you decide to end your marriage, you will typically proceed through the legal process of divorce, when you and your spouse have to negotiate the terms of your dissolution of marriage. You must understand that the word “divorce” is essentially a series of negotiations and compromises. 

After completing this often tricky step, the court will review your request to end the marriage and typically enter a final divorce judgment. California Family Code 2300 says, “The effect of a judgment of dissolution of marriage when it becomes final is to restore the parties to the state of unmarried persons.”

In other words, your divorce is final, and you are once again a single person. However, divorce is more complex and challenging than this brief description above. Therefore, let's review a divorce in more detail below.

How Can You Start Your Divorce?

The divorce process starts when one spouse, known as the “petitioner,” files a divorce petition, Form FL-100, at the courthouse.

The non-filing spouse, known as the “respondent,” must be formally served with the court papers. Then, the respondent must decide whether to file a response. If so, they have 30 days from the date of being served by the petitioner.

California Divorce Petition

Next, spouses must exchange financial information, known as a ”preliminary declaration of disclosure,” Form FL-140.

California Family Code 2104 says, “(a) Except by court order for good cause, as provided in Section 2107, or when service of the preliminary declaration of disclosure is not required pursuant to Section 2110, in the time period set forth….”

Notably, getting a divorce can be expensive and time-consuming, but the divorcing couple can save money and time by negotiating a mutual settlement agreement.

In other words, they can work out the divorce terms on paper and have the court approve and file it. It would be best to understand that the Los Angeles family courts are overloaded with cases and will always encourage couples to negotiate a settlement.

You would be wise to retain an experienced divorce lawyer to help you make decisions during this negotiating period.  Perhaps you qualify for a summary dissolution for marriages of less than five years and if you meet other requirements. Divorce records are public, but you hide the details if necessary, which is typical for celebrities. Contact us for more information.

What Are the Divorce Residency Requirements in California?

To get divorced in California, you must first meet the residency requirements. This relates to the physical connection you must have in the state and the county where you are filing for a divorce. For example, to get a divorce in Los Angeles, one spouse must satisfy the residency requirements as follows:

  • Resident of California for at least six months;
  • Resident of Los Angeles County for at least three months;

These residency requirements are defined under California Family Code 2320 which says, “…. (b), a judgment of dissolution of marriage may not be entered unless one of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of this state for six months and of the county in which the proceeding is filed for three months next preceding the filing of the petition.”

What Are the Grounds for a Divorce?

California is a “no-fault” divorce state, meaning spouses do not have to place blame on each other to end their marriage. In other words, the state does not care why you are getting a divorce or if a spouse committed adultery.

Not having to blame each other often helps both spouses come to the divorce table more amicably and be willing to negotiate terms without fighting or court litigation.

Even though no proof of fault is required, divorce has two grounds, including the following: 

  • Irreconcilable differences mean the couple disagrees on such a level that they can no longer sustain their marriage;
  • Incurable insanity divorce can be granted if one spouse suffers from a mental condition that cannot be cured.

Is There a Divorce Waiting Period?

In addition to the residency requirements, there is a divorce waiting period. Simply put, there is no quickie divorce, as you must wait at least six months to finalize your divorce.

This is a mandatory waiting period, and there is no way around it. Once the non-filing spouse (respondent) is served with the divorce petition, Form FL-100, the clock will start.

California Family Code 2339 says, “… no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first. (b) The court may extend the six-month period for good cause shown.”

What Processes Are Available to Help a Divorce?

The decisions you make during your divorce usually are life-changing. This means negotiations with your spouse are crucial. Some standard practices help divorcing couples work out the final terms, such as the following:

  • Divorce mediation involves a neutral third-party mediator to help couples reach the terms of their divorce. They do not have the authority to make final decisions but help you find a solution to specific issues;
  • Collaborative divorce means you are committing to resolving issues outside the court. You are represented by attorneys during the process and pledge not to litigate the matter;
  • Divorce arbitration is a private legal proceeding where a neutral third-party arbitrator hears the arguments and makes the decisions.

These alternatives above are an attempt to avoid expensive litigation in court. They are generally effective when spouses are close to reaching an agreement but need assistance to resolve the issues. Call Furman & Zavatsky for more information.

What Resources Are Available to Help a Divorce?

There are several online resources provided by the State and Los Angeles County that can help you in a California divorce, such as the following:

What is the Divorce Process?

As noted, the first step in the divorce process is to file a divorce petition and then serve the spouse with the petition. If you need help with attorney fees in divorce proceedings, California Family Code 2030 allows you to ask the judge to divide the litigation expenses.

California Divorce Process

If the individual who has been served files a response in the appropriate period, the spouses will exchange discovery documents, which include information about the property, income, and other relevant information. 

The spouses can either resolve the matter through agreements or request the case go before the court, like who gets child custody while the divorce is pending. Usually, cases go to court over child custody, spousal support, child support, and domestic violence issues, such as a restraining order. 

Spouses are encouraged to settle any matters possible during a Marital Settlement Conference. However, a divorce trial date is set if all issues are unresolved. At trial, attorneys present their client's case and any related evidence to ensure the desired outcome. The court will then make a judgment.

If circumstances change and the original divorce order is no longer suitable, a new order can be requested by filing for a post-judgment modification. For example, the court may modify child custody or visitation, child support, or spousal support because of circumstances like job loss; the child needs changes, or a severe illness. Contact our Los Angeles divorce attorneys to examine all the details and discuss potential legal options closely.

What Are the Divorce Court Fees?

In most divorce cases, fees must be paid for filings and motions with the court. To file the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage to initiate a divorce case or file a Response to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is about $435. On top of that, there are fees and costs for all the supporting documents and preceding filings.

If you cannot afford the filing fees, you may qualify to have the court fees and costs waived by the court. Our divorce attorneys can help you request your fee waiver by helping you complete the necessary fee waiver forms.

What About Fee Waivers?

If you are low-income and cannot afford to pay the fees, you can request a “fee waiver.” There are three ways to qualify for a fee waiver:

  • If you are receiving public benefits, including medical, food stamps, general assistance, and SSI;
  • If your household income is less than a certain amount;
  • If the court finds that you do not have enough income to pay for your household's basic needs AND the court fees.

If your fee waiver is denied without a hearing, you have ten days from the clerk's Certificate of Service date to pay your fees, file a new request if the prior request needs to be completed, or ask for a hearing to provide more information. Our attorneys can help you file a new request or request a hearing to give you more information.

Types of Divorces We Handle

Child Custody and Child Support

Getting a divorce with children is often challenging. By law, you and your spouse have the right to share child custody, but disagreements often occur over parenting time, tempers flare, and the situation worsens.

Child Custody in California

Agreeing to custody and a parenting plan can ease stress and positively impact your children. All family law courts make decisions based on the best interest of the child's standard, which should also be the primary factor for both parents.

Our lawyers know this situation is complex and can help you negotiate a custody agreement.

You and your spouse are responsible for your children's financial needs. Child support aims to help your child maintain the same standard of living while you are married.

The spouse usually pays child support with the higher income or who spends the least time with their kids. Courts use standards formula to determine how much child support a parent must pay. The courts consider several factors: income, assets, and timeshare custody.

Spousal Support

Spousal support, called alimony, is not automatically awarded in California divorces. However, you have the right to be financially stable and maintain the standard of living you enjoyed while you were married.

Typically, one spouse will have a higher income while the other contributed more significantly to raising their family. Therefore, spousal support could be awarded to help the lower-earning spouse financially survive after divorce.

When alimony is awarded, the court considers several factors, including income and a spouse's contribution to the family. Working closely with a lawyer to negotiate for alimony would be wise.

Property Division

You are generally entitled to half of all marital property when you get a divorce, but this often becomes challenging to figure out. As a result, disagreements arise, and the divorce gets complicated quickly, especially with pensions and retirement accounts.

California is a community property state meaning everything acquired during the marriage should be divided equally. Therefore, you need an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney to negotiate the property division process.

If you have a complex situation regarding marital property, such as business ownership, we can use experts to determine the value. Otherwise, you may only receive some of what you are entitled to.

Contact Furman & Zavatsky for Help

Getting a divorce often seems overwhelming, but with our Los Angeles divorce lawyers on your side, you can get through the process easier.

We are skilled negotiators and know how to obtain the best possible outcome on your case. As a result, we can identify the assets and property you are entitled to receive and help you with your divorce settlement agreement.

California Divorce Settlement Agreement

We have successfully helped countless clients during divorce and family court proceedings and are dedicated to your family's best interest.

We can confidently guide you through a divorce and advocate before the courts. However, divorce is often a highly complex issue, and the matters that spouses must deal with can lead to tension, financial expense, and wasted time.

There are some critical steps to take when divorce is on the horizon. First, we can help you reach an agreement that works best for you and your spouse. We can ensure all deadlines are met and all procedures followed to obtain the most favorable for you and your family.

We can guide you during all steps of a divorce, from advising you of your rights before filing, assisting you after the case has been filed, and representing you through the finality of a divorce judgment.

If you need more information about filing for divorce in Los Angeles, contact our law firm for a free case evaluation by phone or use the contact form. Furman & Zavatsky are family law and divorce lawyers located in LA County.

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Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

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17200 Ventura Blvd., #105
Encino, CA 91316
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