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Divorce in California can be a complicated process. You should have a basic understanding of the law and process before jumping in. Below, we provide some basic information on the process and procedure involved in getting a divorce in San Diego. Of course, every case is unique, and you will want to consult with a qualified San Diego divorce attorney in your area for answers to questions that are specific to your situation.
Service of the Petition for Dissolution
The filer of the petition is known as the Petitioner. The opposing spouse is referred to as the Respondent. When the Petitioner files, the Respondent must be served with the petition before the divorce process can begin. Once the Respondent is served, the opposing spouse has 30 days from the date of service to file a response. If the Respondent fails to respond, the Petitioner may choose to request that a default judgment be entered against the Respondent.
This method can be helpful when the opposing spouse refuses to participate and, as a result, wishes to make the divorce process more difficult.
Once the Petition is properly served, the Divorce proceedings begin and your case either moves toward settlement or trial.
Six-Month Waiting Period
In California, parties cannot officially divorce until six months have passed from the date of service of the Petition for Dissolution. This does not mean that the case cannot settle within the six-month waiting period. It only means that the marital status will not terminate until that time.
Often, divorce cases may settle relatively quickly, and a judgment of dissolution will be entered by the court prior to the six-month time period lapsing. In cases such as this, all provisions of the settlement go into effect upon the judgment being entered, and the judgment will note a date in the future when marital status is actually terminated.
If you are considering filing for divorce or have been served with a Petition for Divorce in North County or the San Diego area, call Griffith, Young & Lass for a consultation. Ask about our flexible office hours and payment plan options. Contact us online or by dialing 858-951-1526.
Uncontested Divorce in San Diego County, California
Also called “default” cases, uncontested divorce occurs when one spouse does not respond to the other’s petition for separation or divorce for 30 days. An uncontested case may also result if a response is filed, but then an agreement is made between the two parties. This type of divorce is ideal for those who hold no bitter feelings or resentment toward each other and want to work quickly toward a resolution.
In what’s called a “true default,” the party who is served and doesn’t respond gives up his or her input in the duration of the case. The served spouse needs to not respond for at least 30 days unless he or she is actively serving in the military.
After the required 30 days have passed, the party initiating the divorce needs to fill out various forms, make two copies, and then turn in all these forms into the court clerk. Finally, a judge will review the documents. If the forms are correct, the judge will sign them, and no court appearance is required from either party. However, if there are any issues with the forms, a correction and/or appearance in court may be necessary. Lastly, both parties will be mailed a Judgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment. This final document will be stamped with a date of filing and should be retained for each party’s records.
John Griffith, a family law attorney with Griffith, Young, and Lass, advises: “Even if you think your uncontested divorce will be straightforward, be sure to carefully read every document you’re served. If there is anything you don’t fully agree with or understand, it may be best to seek legal advice from a professional.”
Contested Divorce in San Diego County, California
In more complex cases, especially those involving children, assets, debts, or property, a contested divorce is another way to proceed. For spouses who do not agree on the terms of their separation, this may be a better option.
“A contested divorce is often more time-consuming and much more costly; if you’re willing to mediate and reach an agreement outside of court, you might want to reconsider the uncontested divorce,” notes Mr. Griffith. “However, if the process is simply too complicated, contesting the divorce may be necessary. Whichever way you choose to go, it’s best to consult with a legal professional to help you handle your case.”
For a divorce to be considered contested in California, both parties must file their own responses with the court. They each need to base their disputes on the details of the divorce. If each party agrees on most issues, they can also ask for a bifurcation, wherein a separate trial will deal only with the disagreements. A bifurcation can speed up a divorce, as it focuses on resolution.
If you need the support of a skilled legal professional, call Griffith, Young & Lass at 858-951-1526 today!
Control of Assets After Filing for Divorce
Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders
Once the Petition for Divorce has been filed and served, there are automatic restraining orders that go into place immediately. Divorce lawyers call these “ATROS.” These orders enjoin either party from moving assets, including cash, stocks, retirement accounts, etc.; they also enjoin either spouse from canceling or changing any health insurance plans, auto insurance plans, and life insurance plans without the express consent of the other spouse or an order from the court.
It is very important that you understand the ATROS and abide by them. Violation of the ATROS could result in sanctions and attorney’s fee orders against you.
Fiduciary Duties During Divorce
Each spouse in a Divorce proceeding owes the same fiduciary duty to the other spouse as he or she would owe to a business partner. The marital assets must be regarded as business assets and managed and cared for as such. If the parties own a house together, the house must continue to be maintained by the party living in the house. If the parties own a business together, the business must continue to be run with as much responsibility and due care as it was during the marriage. In short, damage to a marital asset due to the neglect of one spouse amounts to a breach of that spouse’s fiduciary duty to the community and to the other spouse.
Breach of fiduciary duty is taken very seriously by California divorce courts. In egregious cases, the court may award an entire asset to the non-offending spouse in a case of breach of fiduciary duty.
If you are not sure what you can and cannot do once a divorce has been filed, call now for a consultation with an expert divorce attorney at GYL.
Financial Disclosure Requirements in Divorce Cases
Full Disclosure Requirement
California has very strict requirements when it comes to financial disclosures between parties in a divorce case. Within 45 days of filing a petition for divorce, each party is required to disclose 100% of all assets and debts, as of the date of disclosure, and to serve the other party with a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, along with the financial disclosure documents themselves.
Financial Disclosure Documents
The two most common financial disclosure forms used as part of the divorce process in California are the Schedule of Assets and Debts (SAD), and the Income and Expense Declaration (IED). The Schedule of Assets and Debts is a full list of all assets and all debts, including the date of acquisition, the fair market value, and any money owed on an asset. The Income and Expense Declaration is a snapshot of each party’s monthly income and monthly expenses. This document will include information related to earnings, expenses, educational background as well as asset holdings such as a bank account balance.
Full financial disclosure is perhaps the most important aspect of the preparation of a divorce case. Both parties should have everything on the table when negotiating the terms of settlement. If one party discovers that the opposing party has willfully failed to disclose assets or income, this can have devastating consequences on the non-disclosing party, including sanctions, attorney’s fees and the setting aside of a judgment of dissolution.
There is a famous case in California of a woman who failed to disclose a winning lottery ticket of over a million dollars. She held onto the ticket until the divorce was final and then cashed it in. When her ex-husband discovered that this lottery ticket was purchased during the marriage and thus considered community property, he filed a motion with the court. The court awarded the ex-husband 100% of the lottery winnings as a sanction against the wife!
If you have questions about California’s strict laws regarding financial disclosures in divorce cases, call now to speak with an experienced divorce attorney on our team. GYL can be reached at 858-951-1526 or via our online contact form.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Marriages
In general, long-term marriages often create more complex divorces, as there are more assets, debts, shared properties, insurance issues, and various other finances to consider. Additionally, in California family courts, long-terms marriages (marriages lasting more than 10 years), and short-term marriages (marriages lasting less than 10 years) are treated differently when it comes to the duration of court-ordered spousal support. Specifically, in short-term marriages, the court determines the amount of spousal support that will be paid for a specific period of time (typically half the duration of the marriage); whereas in marriages of long duration, the court retains indefinite jurisdiction over the divorce, giving it the ability to reevaluate and modify an existing order when it sees fit to do so.
Divorce Involving Minor Children
Divorces involving minor children must be treated with care and with the presence of mind that children know what is going on and often blame themselves for the separation of their parents. It is very important to insulate children of divorce from the emotional turmoil of the court process as much as possible. Litigation regarding the custody of minor children is hands-down one of the toughest aspects of a family law attorney’s job, and often the most painful part of the divorce process for the parents.
If we could give one piece of advice to our clients going through a divorce with children, it would be to work together as parents to make the process as easy on the children as possible, despite any personal issues you may have with one another.
We can help. Call 858-951-1526.
High Asset vs. Low Asset Divorce
Low asset divorces are generally much simpler to resolve considering that not much is at stake from a financial perspective—of course, this is all subjective. Often, it is better to cut your losses than to pay an attorney more than the fight is worth.
On the other hand, the higher the value of the marital estate, the more there is at stake. Considering the respective claims of the parties, sometimes it makes sense to spend more money and effort fighting for a particular interest. That is not to say that high asset cases don’t ever settle—just that at times it makes sense from a legal and financial perspective that a particular claim should not be conceded for the sake of settlement.
You always want to balance the amount you will pay to fight for a claim against the potential outcomes–win, lose or draw. A good divorce attorney will be able to give you realistic expectations and advise against throwing good money at a losing battle.
A divorce involving one or both spouses serving on active duty presents many unique challenges and requires a creative, problem-solving approach—especially in cases involving the custody of minor children.
Divorcing military families require co-parenting plans that must consider abnormal work schedules, frequent moves, and deployments. There are also special rules for military divorces regarding health insurance benefits, division of retirement benefits, and procedures for case progress when one party to the action is deployed.
We represent military families (both servicemembers and spouses) at an increasingly high rate considering the concentrated military presence in San Diego County.
We offer a discounted hourly rate and flat-fee services to military members
With the recent evolvement of civil rights and protection of the right to marry for all California residents, gay divorces have come on to the scene in the past decade. As the federal government continues to afford equal access to martial rights and benefits, gay divorces in California are becoming more and more similar to traditional divorces with respect to property and financial support rights.
As this area of law develops, the California legislature will have to deal with more complex parental rights issues related to gay divorce because our statutory schema related to resolving parental relationships is largely catered to the traditional marital relationship.
Contact GYL for a Consultation in San Diego County
The complexity of a divorce case depends not only on the particular issues that need to be addressed in the divorce, but also on the willingness of the parties and attorneys involved to be reasonable and open to compromise.
If your marriage has come to an end and you would like to formally dissolve it through divorce, our team can help. Led by two certified family law specialists, we provide skilled expertise in all matters concerning divorce.
Call us at 858-951-1526 or contact our San Diego County office online to schedule an appointment.