If you have determined that your marriage is irretrievably broken, it may be time to file for divorce or legal separation. The first step is to complete a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. The Petition requires statistical information about your marriage and solicits your requested relief with respect to property orders, child custody, child support, spousal support, and attorney’s fees and costs. You must also complete a Summons and a Declaration Under UCCJEA if children are involved. These forms are available from the California Courts website.
Once the forms have been completed, they must be filed with the Superior Court. A filing fee is also required. After the forms have been filed, the court will return them to you for service upon your spouse. To accomplish service, a third party over the age of 18 must hand-deliver the documents to your spouse. Alternatively, the documents may be mailed to your spouse, who will be asked to sign and return a Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt.
After service has been completed, you must file a Proof of Service of Summons with the court. Your spouse has 30 days from the date of service to file and serve a Response and Request for Dissolution of Marriage. A spouse who fails to respond to the Petition within 30 days may have a Default entered against them upon the Petitioner’s request. Entry of Default allows the court to enter Judgment in your case without the input of the other spouse.
Service of the Petition and Summons also begins the clock on the 6 month minimum waiting period for dissolution of marriage in California. There are several other steps which must be completed, however, before the court will dissolve the marriage. You will not be automatically divorced after 6 months.
A California family law attorney can help guide you through the dissolution process.
by Douglas A. Hatherley, CFLS