The idea of filing for divorce can be fraught with emotion and uncertainty. You may have many questions about what your future will look like and how the divorce process actually works. Since most people rarely have to attend legal proceedings, the courts themselves can be intimidating.
Initiating divorce proceedings
The spouse who initiates the proceedings is called the petitioner. The petitioner is responsible for acquiring and completing all necessary forms and filing them with the court. This means taking the forms to the court and giving them to the court clerk. There is a filing fee but, if you can’t afford it, you can apply to have the fee waived.
Once filed, a copy of the papers must be given to the other spouse, who is known as the respondent. This is called service of process and must be done by someone who is at least 18 years old and is not involved in the divorce case.
The respondent then decides whether to file a response with the court. If they do not, the judge can decide the divorce without hearing from the respondent. If they do file a response, they do so in the same manner the petitioner filed the original paperwork. A copy of their response must served on the petitioner, just like the respondent was originally served.
The parties to the divorce then exchange financial documents, laying out their respective assets and debts. The purpose of this disclosure is help them come up with a way to fairly divide what they own and what they owe.
Length an complexity of the process depends
From here, the length and difficulty of the process depends greatly on whether the parties are able to come to an agreement on the various issues that must be resolved. Division of property and financial assets, child support and alimony are some of the common things which must be addressed. If the parties cannot decide one or more issues, the court will decide how they are to be handled.
Once all terms of the divorce have been settled, either by the parties or the court, those terms become part of the divorce judgement. The court then approves and signs the judgement. By law in California, the marriage cannot be legally ended until six months after copies of the petitioner’s original paperwork have been served on the respondent.