The decision to obtain a divorce is never an easy one. In addition to dealing with myriad emotions and addressing the practical consequences of a decision to separate, divorcing spouses in California must also navigate through a seemingly foreign process governed by complex laws and procedures.
California is a "no-fault" state, meaning that a spouse wishing to obtain a divorce need only show that "irreconcilable differences" have arisen between the spouses to such an extent that the marriage cannot be saved. Unlike several other states, California does not require that the spouses obtain a "legal separation" prior to filing for divorce.
In order to begin the divorce process, the person filing for the divorce, known as the "Petitioner", files a specific set of documents with the court. These papers are "served" on the other spouse, or "Respondent." From the time that the Respondent is served, it takes a minimum of six months and one day for a divorce to be finalized. In the meantime, both spouses must exchange information regarding their assets, debts, income and expenses. They may also come to an agreement regarding the division of any community property, allocation of community debts, determine custody and support for any minor children born of the marriage as well as agree on payment of spousal support. If the spouses cannot agree, either one may ask for a trial on any contested issues.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Divorce in California