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How Should I Reply to a California Divorce Petition?

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | Oct 04, 2019

In California, the divorce process starts by filing a Summons and a Petition for Dissolution,  Form FL-100, along with relevant attachments. The petition has a list of facts about the marriage and any requests to be decided by the court later.

For example, if the divorce involves children, a “Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act,” Form FL-105/GC-120, has to be filed. At this stage of the divorce process, a custody and visitation application is optional.

The Summons (Form FL-110) is an order to appear in court, but in a divorce case, it requires a response within thirty days. It provides you with important information about your rights, the divorce process, and options to respond.

Reply to California Divorce Petition

A divorce summons will also include a list restraining orders limiting what both spouses can do with their money and assets – such as from taking certain actions – like disposing property, obtaining passports for minor children without consent, and changing beneficiaries on policies.

In California, either spouse can file a divorce petition regardless of the other's wishes. If you've been served with a divorce petition, you may be inclined to bury your head in the sand or to grieve your loss, but the fact is that you have work to do.

You need to file an appropriate response that relays the facts of your marriage and that delineates the relief you seek from the court. If you've been served with a divorce petition, it's time to consult with an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney.

To give readers some useful information about how they should reply when they receive a divorce petition, our California divorce lawyers are providing an overview below.

Timely Response to Divorce Petition

You have 30 days from the day that you're served with the divorce petition to respond. If your spouse's filing comes as a surprise to you, this does not allow you much time. Mark the deadline on your calendar, seek a knowledgeable divorce lawyer with whom you are comfortable working, and get to work.

If you fail to file your response within the allowed time, your spouse can request that the court move forward without it, which means that the judgment can be based solely on the information provided by your spouse.

You can choose to do nothing. However, the Judge will grant a default judgment which will likely uphold the contents of the divorce petition as filed by your spouse. This means all the request made by your spouse relating to property ownership and child custody may be granted.

Read the Divorce Petition Carefully

The first step in preparing your response is to carefully read your spouse's divorce petition to ascertain his or her position. The petition will outline the facts of your marriage, including:

  • Identifying both of you
  • Identifying your minor children
  • The date you were married
  • The date you separated (if applicable)
  • Identifying community property and separate property
  • Identifying the relief your spouse seeks from the court

A good way to approach the divorce petition is to go through it carefully and mark those statements that you agree with, those statements that you disagree with, and those statements that you believe are incomplete. This will provide you and your attorney with a good place to start regarding your response.

Your California Divorce Response Documents

California courts use the same basic judicial forms, and your response form will look much like the original petition filed by your spouse.  You will also need to complete the following form to property respond to the Petition for divorce:

Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership – Form FL-120
Proof of Personal Service – Form FL-330, or
Proof of Service by Mail – Form FL-335

If children are involved, there are other forms that need to be attached to your Response. These forms will need to be completed in order to comply with the statutory disclosure requirements:

Declaration of Disclosure – Form FL-140
Income and Expense Declaration – Form FL-150
Schedule of Assets and Debts – Form FL-142

You will go through and fill in each paragraph. If you agree with a statement made by your spouse, write the same response. If you disagree or don't think his or her statement is complete, write your own statement that delineates the facts as you know them.

Provide as much information as you believe is necessary to adequately make your point. Take special care regarding the relief you are requesting of the court. This is your opportunity to share facts about your marriage and to make your position clear.

The child custody and visitation application (Form FL-311) allows you to make specific request for child visitation, including frequency of visitation, transportation methods, permission to travel, and holidays.

Your Property in a California Divorce

One of the most important components of your response is identifying what is community property (owned by both of you) and what is separate property (owned by one or the other of you).

In the State of California, generally, anything that you acquire – whether asset or debt – is community property. If your finances are complicated, however, or if yours is a high-asset divorce, determining what is community property and what is separate property can become very complicated very quickly.

Filing Your Response

Once your response adequate reflects your position on the matter, it's time to file it, but first, you must arrange to have it served to your spouse. Your attorney will take care of these final steps by mailing your response document to your spouse at the address given in the heading of his or her petition (retaining a proof of service form and copies of both).

Finally, you'll file the original response document and the proof of service with the court – there is a filing fee – and will have your copies file stamped.

It may seem like a lot, but it's important to give your response a significant amount of consideration and to make sure that it adequately reflects your position on the important decisions that need to be addressed in your divorce. You are laying the groundwork for the divorce process, and accuracy, compliance, and timeliness matter.

Los Angeles Divorce Attorney

If you have been served with a divorce petition, you will need to consult with an experienced Los Angeles divorce lawyer to review your legal options. Being served with divorce papers – even if you're expecting them – can be extremely upsetting. If you've been so served, however, there's work to be done.

Our dedicated divorce lawyers serve clients throughout Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles area and the San Fernando Valley. We have the experience, skill, and commitment to help ensure that your response accurately reflects your position. We're here to help, so contact or call us at 818-528-3471 to schedule a free consultation.

Furman & Zavatsky
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436

About the Author

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.

Furman & Zavatsky
17200 Ventura Blvd., #105
Encino, CA 91316
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