California is a no-fault divorce state, which means that anyone can obtain a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences,” i.e. you do not need a valid reason to get divorced.
How does the divorce process work?
It can be hard enough trying to deal with the breakup of your marriage; however, it is more overwhelming trying to understand the legal issues that will come up along the way.
The filing of a divorce petition by one spouse (“Petitioner”) begins the divorce process.
Once filed, the petition must be served on the other spouse (“Respondent”) who has 30 days to file a response from the date of service.
What if respondent fails to file a response?
The proceeding will still go ahead and the court will enter a default judgment against the respondent. The divorce becomes final after six months and one day after the respondent is served with the initial dvorce petition.
What if the respondent files a response?
Parties exchange information relating to property and income and see if they can settle their disputes between themselves. If the two parties are unable to settle these disputes they will be ordered by the court to attend a mandatory settlement conference.
If there are unresolved disputes while the divorce process is going on, either party can file an order to show cause with the court. For instance, a spouse who is in financial need may file an order to show cause in order to request an immediate determination of spousal support that will exist until a permanent arrangement is reached.
A hearing will be set and both parties will be required to attend the hearing to explain their position to the judge who will then make the orders.
What happens at the mandatory settlement conference?
The parties will try and resolve as many issues as possible. If the parties are not able to resolve all the issues at this time, the case will be set for a trial.
If the parties are able to resolve all the issues, a marital settlement agreement is signed by both parties and filed with the court. The agreement will address issues such as custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of community property. This agreement is incorporated into the judgment which is then signed by the judge and made an order of the court.
Manjit Batth has a practice in Visalia (near Fresno) specializing in family law, personal injury, estate planning, and business contracts. She can be reached at (559) 732-4848.