Three main ways to end a marriage or registered domestic partnership in California are divorce, legal separation, and annulment. It is not necessary for both spouses or domestic partners to agree to end the marriage.
Either spouse or partner can decide to end the marriage, and the other spouse/partner, even if he or she does not want to get a divorce, cannot stop the process by refusing to participate in the case. If a spouse or domestic partner does not participate in the divorce case, the other spouse/partner will still be able to get a “default” judgment, and the divorce will go through.
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Filing a Divorce Petition
The first step of a divorce case is to file a petition for divorce with the court. A copy of this petition must then be served on your spouse or domestic partner. Once your spouse or domestic partner has been served, he or she has 30 days to respond to the petition for divorce and file a response with the court.
If your spouse or partner does not file a response within 30 days of being served, he or she will be in default. In this case, you may be able to get a “default” judgment and a finalized divorce.
Contested Vs. Uncontested Divorce
If your spouse or partner has responded to the petition and he or she is not consenting to the divorce, you will need to move forward with a contested California divorce.
Suppose your spouse or partner has responded to the petition for divorce, and he or she agrees with everything in the petition. In that case, you may be able to get an uncontested divorce, which means terminating the marriage without going to trial. If you qualify for an uncontested divorce in California, your spouse or partner must sign a document called the “waiver of citation” before you can file it with the court. A waiver of citation is a paper that your spouse or partner must sign to confirm that he or she does not oppose your divorce and agrees to the divorce terms. Once you file the waiver of citation with the court, a judge will sign a judgment of divorce that finalizes your divorce case.
Child Support, Custody, and Visitation
You can work with your spouse or partner and establish child custody, visitation, and child support terms yourselves, or a judge can make these decisions for you during your divorce trial.
Some factors will determine who gets custody of the children, including the wishes of the child’s parent, whether either parent is unfit to have custody, and which parent is more likely to provide proper care for the children.
If you cannot agree on who should get primary custody of your children, the court may order that “joint legal custody” be granted. This means that both parents will be involved in important decisions affecting the children, including where they go to school, medical treatment, and religious upbringing.
Spousal Support in California
If you do not have a prenuptial agreement or a post-marital agreement that says otherwise, you are entitled to receive spousal support after obtaining a formal divorce.
You need to be able to prove that you are not capable of working or earning enough income to take care of yourself financially; then, the court will order your spouse or partner to pay temporary spousal support for some time while you get back on your feet.
If you do not qualify for temporary spousal support, then the court will grant you post-marital support.
Division of Property in California Divorce
All income earned during the marriage or domestic partnership is considered community property, which is owned equally by both spouses. All debts and liabilities are also considered community debt and will be divided between the parties in most cases.
Unless you’ve agreed upon a settlement or already have an asset division agreement drafted and reviewed by your lawyer, the court will often distribute assets and debts in a “50-50” split. This means that if your spouse or partner earned more than you did during the marriage, then he or she will keep most of their assets, and you will keep most of yours if it comes down to a property division by “50-50”.
If you and your spouse or partner cannot agree on how to divide the property and debt, then the court will often order each party to prepare a separate settlement agreement and present them to the judge at trial.
The Role of a Divorce Lawyer in Your Divorce Case
It is best to hire an experienced California family law attorney to guide you through the divorce process and represent you in court. A good divorce attorney will explain your legal options, help you understand what needs to be done, and lay out what’s going on at each step of the process from beginning to end.
If you and your spouse or partner agree upon the divorce terms, hiring an attorney will help you finalize all necessary paperwork faster and avoid issues with heated disagreements over who gets what.
Similarly, if there’s a chance that one of you will not be willing to work with the other or negotiate an agreement, then you should hire an attorney to help guide and protect you throughout the process.
Talk to Skilled Divorce Attorneys at Alkam Law Offices Today
If you are considering filing for divorce in California or have already filed your petition, contact Alkam Law today. We are available to answer any of your questions at +1 (714) 491-2556.
We will sit down with you and review all aspects of your case to determine the best possible outcome under the circumstances.
We will handle any necessary paperwork and make sure that you know all of your rights and options as we move through the process.
Our expert team of California divorce lawyers will fight to ensure that you are treated fairly and will not leave any stone unturned to ensure you achieve the best settlement possible.
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