Divorce issues are difficult to navigate through, but our family law firm is committed to bringing your legal matter to a speedy and effective resolution with a minimum of emotional stress. Each step in the process is addressed with the approach that litigation will be necessary, in the event that settlement is not achieved. While all reasonable attempts should be made to avoid trial and bring the case to resolution, going to trial should only be feared by the opposition.
The following information will provide you with some of the basics of divorce and the divorce process.
What Is a Divorce or Dissolution Action?
A divorce, or dissolution of marriage, terminates the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage between partners. Through the divorce process, spouses formally divide all marital assets and liabilities and make determinations concerning child custody and support. In certain situations, provisions for maintenance, or alimony, will also be ordered.
The steps for obtaining a divorce involve an intricate array of steps which are guided by statute and case law.
How to Obtain a Divorce in California
Generally, a spouse begins the divorce process by filing a petition for a divorce. The petition will set out specific details, such as:
- Names of the parties
- Where they live
- Names of any children
- Basic details about separate and community property
- Child custody and support demands
- Alimony requests
- Any other relevant information the filing spouse believes should be included
The filing spouse is called the petitioner, and the spouse who receives the petition is the respondent. The petitioner serves the respondent the divorce petition, along with a summons.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
After the divorce petition is served, the respondent will have a chance to respond.
In a non-contested divorce, the spouses agree to everything in the divorce petition, including the divisions of assets, custodial and support issues, and maintenance (alimony) requirements.
When spouses disagree on major issues, the divorce is considered contested, and hearings and possibly a trial in front of a judge is necessary to make a final determination.
General Divorce Considerations
Several issues must be addressed during the divorce process.
- First, divorcing spouses must determine how to split up their assets. California is a community property state. Community property states divide all marital property equally, without regard to fault, financial need, or either spouse’s ability to earn an income.
- If the divorcing couple has children, the court must also make custody and support determinations. Custody may be awarded to one parent, or it may be held jointly.
- When minor children are involved, courts will also order support payments. This decision is driven by the use of mandatory statewide child support formulas. The two most critical factors involved in determining child support are timeshare of the children between the parents and the income of the parents. While support formulas are used by the courts, it takes an experienced counsel and litigator to drive the inputs to these formulas.
- Finally, one spouse may also seek maintenance, or alimony. There are two types of alimony: pendente lite support ordered during the pendency of the divorce and post-judgment support, which is ordered following completion of the divorce. The court will weigh a variety factors including the marital standard of living, the length of the marriage, the incomes and ages of each spouse, and the assets available to each party after the divorce is final.
Whether or not a formal hearing occurs, once you obtain your court-ordered divorce decree specifying the details concerning property division, child custody, and maintenance issues, the divorce becomes final and enforceable.