Why Do You Have to Wait 6-Months to Divorce in California?
Carlsbad, CA – You and your spouse have decided that your marriage is over and divorce is the only option. When you pledge to spend the rest of your life with a person only to have your marriage abruptly come to an end, the time can be very traumatic for even the most even-keeled type of person. Therefore, you may want to get the divorce over with quickly, like ripping off a band-aid. The quicker the process, the better for you, your spouse, and any children that may be involved.
You may become dismayed to learn, then, that California requires couples to wait at least six months before the divorce can be finalized.
But, why six months?
The Reason Couples Must Wait to be Divorced
Known as a mandatory waiting period, California law states that you can submit all the required paperwork and have your divorce approved, but the divorce cannot be finalized until the six-month period is up. This ruling originates from Family Code section 2339(a), which states that “Subject to subdivision (b) and to Sections 2340 to 2344, inclusive, no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.”
According to San Diego divorce attorney John Griffith of Griffith, Young, and Lass, the six-month waiting period is also known as the “cooling off” period. He said, “The six-month mandatory period is set in place to give couples a chance to stop the divorce process and reconcile, if they choose to do so.”
Griffith added that the couple doesn’t have to be separated for six months, and in fact, there is no separation requirement for couples filing for divorce in the state of California. Furthermore, the couple could still be living together when they file the divorce proceeding.
When Does the Clock Start Ticking?
In non-legalese, the six-month period will begin the moment the Summons or Petition is served on the other spouse, or the other spouse makes an appearance in court, whichever comes first. Keep in mind that an appearance doesn’t necessarily mean that the other spouse has to physically appear in front of the judge. Rather, appearance refers to the level of participation. For more information regarding this matter, it is important to retain the services of experienced counsel, as divorce proceedings can become complicated quickly.
Filing the Proper Paperwork is Not Enough
This also means that you can’t just file the paperwork and hope to wait out the six months. You need the other party to participate. Now, while the six-month period cannot be shortened, it can be extended, according to the Family Code section 2339(b), as long as there is a good cause.
Family Code section 2339(b) states that “The court may, upon notice and for good cause shown, or on stipulation of the parties, retain jurisdiction over the date of termination of the marital status, or may order that the marital status be terminated at a future specified date. On the date of termination of the marital status, the parties are restored to the status of unmarried persons.”
That means that the Judge can extend the divorce waiting period if the other spouse agrees or both spouses agree that the marriage’s status for termination should be extended. The good cause reasons may vary from case to case.
Terminating the Marriage After 6-Months
Just because California requires a mandatory six-month waiting period on divorce does not mean that the divorce is automatically granted by the time those six months are up. For the divorce to be properly dissolved and for both parties to be returned to unmarried status, the Judge will need to make a proper judgment that is signed by the court.
Keep in mind that the judgment may end the marriage’s status without resolving all the other divorce issues, like child support, debt, and custody issues, under certain circumstances.
Seeking the Advice of an Experienced Divorce Attorney
It is not advisable to navigate the oftentimes complex issues that can arise during a divorce proceeding all by yourself, even if your divorce is amicable in nature. An experienced divorce attorney can help you resolve your divorce after the six-month period while obtaining a fair judgment in your case.
To learn more about California family law as it pertains to divorce, contact the experienced attorneys at Griffith, Young, and Lass.
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