Filing for divorce is a major decision that can have ramifications for your emotional, financial, and social well-being. If you have decided to file for divorce, preparing in advance will make the difficult process much easier. Every California divorce is unique, but there are many general steps most spouses can take to prepare. While this article is designed to give you some general steps to prepare for your divorce, it can't replace a face-to-face meeting with an experienced California divorce lawyer.
Divorce in California is often confusing as there are specific rules, procedures, forms and legal terms you need to understand. It's very easy to get lost and feel overwhelmed in all the different steps and options in the divorce process.
If you learn how to proceed and what steps to take, then you will significantly reduce the stress level of your divorce that will give you a greater ability to make wise decisions that are in the best interest of your family and children.
While your situation is not the same of everyone else, there are specific steps you can take to guide you through the divorce process successfully.
Before you officially file the documents to begin these proceedings, your divorce attorney will want to be sure you have a few bases covered. Checking off a prepared list can ensure you are as ready as possible for whatever comes your way during the divorce.
As stated, a better option is consult with our Los Angeles divorce and family law lawyers at Furman & Zavatsky to review the details and legal options. Below your will find a general divorce checklist you might find useful to start preparing for your divorce.
Do You Have Your Files Ready?
Divorce involves a lot of emotion and just as much paperwork. You can get ahead of the game by getting your papers in order before you even file.
Mostly, you need to prepare financial paperwork to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Documents to gather include:
- Any prenuptial agreement you may have
- Recent tax returns, W2s, and 1099s
- Pay stubs
- A copy of your family budget
- Records regarding retirement and investment accounts
- Records for all property, including deed for the house, car registration, etc.
In California, the incomes of both spouses are relevant to determining spousal support (alimony) and child support. You should gather copies of your recent tax returns and W-2s or 1099. You also make copies of your spouse's income statements, if you have access to them.
You should also make sure you know the login information for all of your accounts. This includes online bank accounts, retirement accounts, mortgage, car loans, and any other financially related accounts. You should also make copies of real estate deeds, property records, and vehicle titles.
If you do not have a family budget written down, consider gathering documents that show how much your family spends on bills such as the mortgage and utilities.
Do You Meet the Residency Requirements?
Anyone who files for divorce in California must meet the state and county residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have:
- Lived in California for at least six months AND
- Lived in the county where you will file for at least three months
If you do not yet meet these requirements, don't worry. You can still file for a legal separation, then petition for divorce once you meet the residency requirements.
Do You Know What You Want in the Settlement?
If you petition for divorce first in California, you have the first opportunity to ask for specific assets, custody agreements, and other settlement details.
Your spouse will then either respond and make it a contested divorce, or they will fail to respond, allowing you to proceed with a default divorce. In either case, knowing what exactly you want can help.
In the case of a default divorce, courts are primed to grant the petitioner what they ask for, so long as it is reasonable.
If your spouse contests the divorce, starting with outlining exactly what you want gives you strength in the negotiation process. Spelling out your goals also helps guide your Los Angeles divorce attorney in the right direction.
When you think about what you want from the divorce settlement, consider all of the following topics if applicable:
- Child Custody: California courts tend to go for joint physical and legal custody unless there's a reason not to do so. Are the children safe with your spouse? Do both of you have the ability to care for the children? What would the ideal co-parenting situation look like for you?
- Asset Division: Generally, the total value of shared assets will be split 50/50. Are there specific assets you want in the settlement? Who should have the house? Which car do you primarily drive?
- Spousal Support: If you both work and make close to the same salaries, this may not come up. Otherwise, consider what each spouse needs in order to maintain their lifestyle.
Because California is a no-fault divorce state, you do not need to tell the court why you want a divorce. Simply not wanting to be married is enough of a reason.
Would a Dissolution or Separation Be Better?
While divorce is often the answer for unhappy couples who cannot reconcile, there are other options that may better suit the family.
For example, a legal separation can act as a trial run to see if you really want a divorce, while protecting any assets you gain during the separation. A legal separation may also suit couples who are religiously opposed to divorce.
For couples who have been married for fewer than five years, a summary dissolution of marriage may be easier than a full-blown divorce proceeding.
This process is simpler but still grants all the same rights as a divorce. You can still hire a Los Angeles divorce attorney to help you through a legal separation or summary dissolution.
Do You Have the Right Los Angeles Divorce Attorney?
Perhaps the most important step in preparing for a divorce is finding the right Los Angeles divorce attorney.
For more information about getting divorced in California and the steps you should take to prepare based on your unique circumstances, contact our office to set up a face-to-face meeting with one of our attorneys.
Our law firm deals with all types of divorces, including uncontested, high-asset, LGBT divorce, and more.
Furman & Zavatsky are Los Angeles divorce and family law attorneys located at 15821 Ventura Blvd #690 Encino, CA 91436. Contact our office for a free consultation at (818) 528-3471.