In California, once you or your spouse has been served with divorce papers, what happens next depends on whether you will be going through a contested or uncontested divorce. In this article, we provide a brief overview of what you can expect during both types of divorces in San Diego County.
Before we get there, though, remember what we discussed in January: the automatic restraining orders that apply in all California divorces. These apply to both spouses, so regardless of whether you or your spouse filed the papers, you need to make sure you understand the things you are not allowed to do doing your divorce.
What Happens in an Uncontested Divorce
Generally speaking, all uncontested divorces follow the same general path. The steps involved after divorce papers have been served are as follows:
- Response to the Divorce Petition – The papers filed and served to initiate a divorce include a Summons and a Petition. Once served, the receiving spouse (called the “Respondent”) must file a Response to the Petition. This is done using California form FL-120, which you should be sure to fill out with the help of your attorney.
- Preliminary Financial and Property Disclosures – Next, you and your spouse will both separately need to complete and serve a number of forms disclosing your financial condition and your real and personal property. You will need to serve your spouse with copies of your tax returns for the last two years as well.
- Settlement Discussions – Once you and your spouse have each other’s financial information, the next step is to enter into settlement discussions regarding the terms of your divorce. Since this is an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse will use mediation or other alternative means if you are unable to come to terms on any specific issues on your own.
- Final Disclosures – Before finalizing your divorce, unless you both agree otherwise, you and your spouse will need to serve one another with final declarations of your income and expenses, signed under penalty of perjury.
- Final Judgment – Once you and your spouse have settled on the terms of your divorce, the final step in an uncontested case is to obtain the court’s approval. Once the court enters a final judgment, your marriage will be over.
What Happens in a Contested Divorce
As you might expect, a contested divorce can be much more complicated. While the exact details will vary depending on a number of different factors, here is what you can generally expect during a contested divorce in San Diego County:
- Response, Preliminary Declarations and Final Disclosures – These steps are generally the same as in an uncontested divorce.
- Temporary Orders – In a contested divorce, one or both spouses can file requests for temporary orders relating to custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and other issues.
- Discovery – In addition to submitting the mandatory disclosures, in a contested divorce both spouses must respond to one another’s requests for discovery. “Discovery” refers to the process of collecting information in a lawsuit, and can be done through requests for written statements (interrogatories), requests for documents, requests for admissions, and depositions involving live testimony.
- Settlement Negotiations – Even in contested divorces, spouses can often work through many of their differences without turning to the court for a resolution.
- Trial – However, if you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, then your divorce will proceed to trial. At trial, you and your spouse will use the information you uncovered during discovery as well as other evidence in order to try to convince the judge to rule in your favor.
- Final Judgment – Like an uncontested divorce, a contested divorce ends with a final judgment from the court.
Note that all of the above assumes that the Respondent files a Response to their spouse’s Petition. If you filed for divorce and your spouse did not file a Response (or if you failed to respond to your spouse’s Petition), you should speak with a qualified attorney to understand your legal rights.
Contact San Diego Divorce Attorney Richard M. Renkin
If you are going through a divorce in San Diego County, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and make sure you don’t overlook any issues that could impact your life for years to come. A Certified Family Law Specialist, Richard M. Renkin has been representing spouses in San Diego County divorces since 1991. To speak with Law Office of Renkin & Associates about your divorce in confidence, please call 619-299-7100 or contact the Law Office of Renkin & Associates online today.