The Divorce Process


Although our practice is dedicated solely to immigration law, we have the distinct pleasure of inviting guest writer and attorney Zach Wallin, to explain the complicated and tedious divorce process to our clients. Enjoy!

The Divorce Process

By Zach Wallin

The divorce process can be extremely complicated and intimidating.   If you have assets and/or children from the marriage it is advisable to have an attorney help guide you through this process and protect your rights.   My hope with this blog post is to help you understand some of the basics of divorce law and the timeline of the divorce process.

Understanding the Divorce Process

It is important to understand that California is a “No Fault” state when it comes to divorce proceedings.  What this means is that you do not need to prove that your spouse did something wrong in order to get a divorce.  Either party can file for divorce and simply state that the marriage encountered “irreconcilable differences” which could not be resolved.

When one party to the marriage decides to end the marriage, he/she can do so either by divorce, legal separation, or by annulment.   For the purposes of this post, we will discuss only the divorce option.   For further information on annulment or legal separation, click here.

Residency Requirements For Divorce

To get a divorce in California either you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least 6 months, AND have lived in the county where you plan to file your divorce for at least 3 months.

How Long Will My Divorce Take?

The minimum amount of time your divorce will take is six months from the date you serve the initial petition for divorce on your spouse.    This is the minimum amount of time required to complete your divorce.   Many divorces take longer than six months, especially if there are complicated issues of property division and/or child custody to be dealt with.

How Do I Start the Divorce Process?

The divorce process begins when one party decides they want the divorce, fills out the proper paperwork (called the divorce petition), files this paperwork with the court, and then serves this paperwork on his/her spouse.   The person who fills out and files the divorce petition is called the Petitioner.   The person who has the petition served on him/her is called the Respondent.

How Do I Respond If I am Served with a Divorce Petition?

Once the Respondent is served with the divorce petition, he/she must decide how to respond to it.   The Respondent has 30 days from the date the petition was served on him/her to file a response.  It is important to remember that your spouse DOES NOT need your permission to get divorced.    If you do not file a response within 30 days of being served with the petition, the Petitioner can go to court and get a default judgment against you.

If you are in agreement with everything the Petitioner has stated in his/her petition for divorce you can choose not to respond to the petition.   If you do not respond, however, you will get a default judgment against you and the judge will most likely give the Petitioner whatever he/she requested in the petition for divorce.

If you disagree with anything stated in the divorce petition, you must fill out your responsive paperwork and file it within 30 days of being served with the petition.  You must then serve your response on your spouse.

Financial Disclosures and Temporary Orders

After the petition and response have been filed the parties will exchange financial information.  Each party will disclose to the other party their current income and expenses and their current assets and debts.

Once the petition and response have been filed, either party may request that the court make temporary orders with regards to:  child custody/visitation, child and spousal support, property division, and requests for help with attorney fees/costs.   These temporary orders will help define how the parties will interact with each other until the divorce can be finalized.   The temporary orders will allow one party to begin receiving support and will give each party certain rights to visit or have custody of their children.

Discovery, Settlement, and/or Trial

After financial disclosures have been exchanged and temporary orders are in place the case is ready for formal discovery to begin or for the parties to resolve the case by entering into a settlement agreement.  Formal discovery may include interrogatories, requests for production of documents, or subpoenas for bank or business records, or depositions.   Discovery may also include a vocational evaluation, a child custody investigation, or the analysis of a forensic accountant.  If, after formal discovery, there are still issues which cannot be resolved the parties will go to trial on the unresolved issues.

As you can see, the divorce process can get very complicated, very fast.    Most people find they need the help of an experienced attorney to resolve their divorce.  In a future blog post I will discuss how you may be able to resolve your divorce through either mediation or by engaging in a collaborative divorce.   Please call me if you need any help with your divorce proceedings!

Zach Wallin is a family lawyer who services Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties.  Zach is a graduate of Chapman University School of Law.   He focuses his practice on divorce litigation, custody battles, spousal and child support, property division, and prenuptial agreements.  Contact his firm by visiting The Wallin Family Law Group or reach him directly at 949.294.9475.