California Divorce Process Step By Step

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Sep 25, 2022

A marriage can come to an end for many possible reasons. For example, some couples seek divorce after their relationships have gradually deteriorated over time, while others seek divorce in response to infidelity and other acute damaging events. Whatever your reasons may be for ending your marriage, it’s vital to understand the state’s laws regarding divorce, know what to expect in your family court proceedings, and acknowledge the need for experienced legal counsel as you address its unique variables.

Unfortunately, many pervasive misconceptions about divorce persist, and many divorcing spouses are unprepared for the issues they must address in dissolution. When it comes to the divorce process itself, it is straightforward on paper but very complex in practice, and any divorce can present unexpected opportunities and challenges that the average person may not know how to handle on their own.

California Divorce Process Step By Step

California Divorce Laws

California is a no-fault divorce state, so citing a cause or fault is not necessary when filing for divorce. The only requirements are that the marriage must have broken down to the point of no return, and neither spouse is willing to make any further attempts to fix the marriage. It’s possible for one spouse to file a divorce petition with their local family court, or divorcing spouses may file a joint petition if they qualify for summary dissolution or have an uncontested divorce. Whatever your case may entail, an experienced attorney can help you better understand the state’s divorce laws in clearer detail.

Divorce may seem like an easily understood process, but the reality is that it will be different for everyone. You may need to resolve more than you initially expected as you begin your divorce proceedings. Ending your marriage in California requires addressing several important issues, including:

  • Child custody. If you have children with your spouse, the final say over custody will come from a family court judge. Judges consider all the factors in the situation to decide on the custody arrangements that would be best for the children’s needs and interests.
  • Child support. Both parents are legally required to contribute to supporting their children financially. When one parent assumes greater physical responsibility for their child than the other, the noncustodial parent is likely to owe them child support payments on a regular basis.
  • Property division. Ending a marriage requires dividing the couple’s property. California is a community property state, so everything that qualifies as a marital asset or debt is subject to a 50/50 division in divorce. Each spouse is allowed to keep separate property, but they must provide clear proof of separate property ownership rights to shield their property from division.

These are just a few examples of the issues you must address in your upcoming divorce proceedings. If you experienced domestic violence of any kind, or if your spouse has a serious substance abuse disorder, mental health condition, or a criminal record, these factors can influence your divorce case dramatically. No matter what your case entails, you are most likely to reach the best possible results with an experienced attorney advising you.

A good attorney can also help you understand your options for resolving your divorce. You may not need to brace for a difficult courtroom battle as long as you both are willing to try alternative dispute resolution. Many divorcing couples are choosing mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution to save time and money in the divorce. Unfortunately, you cannot resolve child custody-related matters this way, but it can serve as a springboard to streamlining your divorce proceedings substantially.

FAQs About California Divorce Process

How Does Divorce Begin in California?

Divorce informally begins once one or both spouses decide to end their marriage. The process formally and legally begins once a divorce petition is filed. It does not matter who files the petition, nor is it necessary to cite a specific fault or cause. California is a no-fault divorce state, so you must simply show that the marriage has broken down beyond repair, and neither spouse is willing to try further attempts at reconciliation.

How Long Does a Divorce Take From Start to Finish in California?

The time required to complete dissolution varies from case to case. Some couples are able to resolve their divorces relatively quickly, while others endure months of protracted family court litigation before they reach results. The absolute soonest anyone can complete their divorce in the state is six months due to the state’s mandatory six-month waiting period for divorce. Even if both parties resolve all their divorce-related issues sooner, they must complete the six-month waiting period before their divorce can be filed.

Why Is There a Six-Month Waiting Period for Divorce in California?

Some people may find the six-month waiting period for divorce burdensome and overly restrictive, especially when they are anxious to resolve their divorce and begin the next stage of their life. The logic behind the state’s six-month waiting period is to ensure that both spouses are truly committed to dissolving their marriage. It’s possible for the couple to rescind a divorce petition if they decide to reconcile during the waiting period.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney to Divorce in California?

Nothing officially requires you to hire legal counsel for your upcoming divorce, but a good attorney is invaluable when considering the potential long-term implications your case might have. Though you may not need to hire an attorney, they can make every aspect of your divorce easier and help you reach better results than you could have obtained by yourself.

The attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski have years of experience guiding clients through difficult divorces. We know the challenges you’re likely to face in your dissolution process, and you probably have lots of pressing legal questions about what you can expect from the family court proceedings ahead of you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney you can trust and get the answers you need as you begin this difficult process.

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