California Has a 6-Month Waiting Period for Getting Divorced. So…What Now?
California, like many states, has a waiting period for getting divorced. Under Section 2339(a) of the California Family Code, spouses cannot finalize their divorce until six months after, “the date of service of a copy of [the] summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.”
No Exceptions or Alternate Methods for Quicker Resolution
For a variety of reasons, opposing parties may not be successfully served until weeks or months after the court filing. Regardless, California law is strict regarding compliance with the six-month waiting period. There are no exceptions or methods to expedite the date of dissolution for the marriage or domestic partnership. California has its share of celebrity divorce proceedings and no party involved in a dissolution action is exempt from this rule.
California Has a Longer Waiting Period
California’s legally mandated six-month waiting period is longer than other states’ waiting periods in dissolution of marriage and domestic partnership proceedings. The reasoning behind California’s requirement is that the state seeks to ensure that both parties are truly committed to dissolving their marriage or partnership. A longer waiting period is more conducive to spouses having the opportunity to gain perspective and possibly pursue reconciliation.
If you are like most spouses who are ready to get divorced, you want the process to be over as quickly as possible. So, what does California’s six-month waiting period mean for you, and what can (and should) you do while you are waiting for your divorce to become final?
Going Through the Divorce Process in California
As a practical matter, California’s divorce waiting (or “cooling off”) period will not come into play in many complex and high-net-worth divorces. Between scheduling conflicts and the various issues that need to get resolved, six months can go by fairly quickly. Likewise, if your divorce ends up in litigation, the six-month waiting period will be among the least of your concerns.
That said, if you are ready for your marriage to be over, you have every reason to seek a speedy resolution. As a result, whether you are intending to file for divorce or you expect to be served with divorce papers shortly, while you do not want to rush, you may want to work efficiently to get the process started so that the six-month clock begins to run.
Keep in mind, however, that this is one rule to which there are no exceptions. If you work through the divorce process diligently and arrive at final marital settlement agreement before the waiting period is over, you will still need to wait to have the court finalize your divorce.
If You Do Need to Wait…
If you and your spouse are able to resolve the terms of your divorce in less than six months from the date of service or first appearance, you will need to be careful to avoid any mistakes that could jeopardize your rights. You should also plan ahead for the waiting period, and have a strategy in place to prevent new issues from arising while your divorce remains pending. For example, depending upon your personal circumstances, it may be prudent to address issues such as:
- Payment of joint debts and expenses related to community assets;
- Acquisition of new high-value assets using separate or joint income;
- Living arrangements for you and your spouse; and,
- Ownership and control of a privately-owned business.
Also, remember that California’s divorce law includes provisions for temporary orders during the divorce process. There are factors and guidelines that must be considered when crafting temporary awards of spousal support (alimony), child support, and child custody, while spouses have significantly more leeway to agree to short-term arrangements on other matters while their divorce is pending.
Finally, also remember that a divorce can only be finalized by court order. There is no such thing as an “automatic” divorce when the six-month waiting period expires. This also means that you should not do anything that is inconsistent with your responsibilities as a parent, under the terms of your prenuptial agreement, or otherwise (absent contrary legal advice) until the court issues your final divorce decree.
Speak with North County Divorce Attorney Richard M. Renkin
If you would like more information about the steps involved in preparing for a divorce, we encourage you to contact us for an initial case evaluation. Representing residents of North County, attorney Richard M. Renkin has particular experience in protecting the interests of business owners, executives, professionals, investors, and other high-net-worth individuals. To request an appointment at our offices in Encinitas, please call 619-299-7100 or inquire online today.