The First Step in Divorce: Filing a Petition for Dissolution

Before you can begin the divorce process, which includes negotiating property division, child custody, and, in many cases, spousal support, you must first file a petition for dissolution.

What is a Petition for Dissolution?

A petition for dissolution is the first step in any divorce proceeding in Stockton or elsewhere in California. When your divorce lawyer files the petition, the court will assign you a case number and stamp it on the document. Once this happens, you officially have an open divorce case.

Remember, though: filing a petition for dissolution is not the same thing as a summary dissolution (that’s an expedited form of divorce that not everyone qualifies for).

What’s Included in a Petition for Dissolution?

The petition for dissolution needs to include quite a bit of information. Your contact information, the court’s name and mailing address, and details about the legal relationship you’re dissolving are all required.

The petition also includes other important information, including:

  • Your date of marriage or the registration date of your partnership
  • Whether you have children, and if you do, how old they are
  • Your custody plan (whether you intend to share legal and physical custody, and which parent will get visitation)
  • Child support and spousal support information
  • Information about your separate and community property
  • Whether you have other requests, such as changing your or your spouse’s last name or whether one person should be responsible for the other’s legal fees

Simply writing something on the petition for dissolution doesn’t mean the judge is automatically going to grant your request. Some things, such as child custody, are contentious issues that may require more thought than checking a box on a pre-made form.

Does it Matter Who Files the Petition for Dissolution?

On a personal level between you and your spouse, the one who actually files for divorce may look like “the bad guy.” While that’s not true, it can feel like it — and that causes many people to wait to file for divorce, even when they know the marriage is over.

Legally speaking, there may be an advantage to being the one who files the petition for dissolution in a California court.

If you file first, you’re the petitioner. If your spouse files first, he or she is the respondent.

Venue for Your Divorce Case

In some divorce cases, jurisdiction is important (such as when one party to the divorce lives in Stockton and one lives in Modesto). If you file for divorce in San Joaquin County, chances are good that this county will have jurisdiction over your case.

Serving the Petition and the Divorce Summons

After filing the petition and some of the other documents necessary to complete a divorce in the state of California, your attorney will most likely hire a registered process server to deliver the documents to your spouse.

This delivery is commonly referred to as serving.

For the most part, it’s not a good idea to serve your spouse (or to ask family or friends to do it) these documents yourself. This helps protect you and ensures that the papers are served exactly in the way the law requires.

Do You Need to Talk to a Family Law Attorney in Stockton?

For most people, it makes sense to work with a skilled team of family law attorneys in Stockton, CA. In addition to providing you with case-specific legal advice (no two cases are the same, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for divorce), your lawyer will go to court and fight hard for your rights as a spouse and as a parent if necessary.

Your attorney will also be there when you have questions, fill out and file all the appropriate paperwork, and get you the best possible outcome during this difficult time.

If you need to talk to a family law attorney in Stockton, call us at 209-910-9865 for a free divorce case review. We’ll evaluate your situation and provide you with the legal advice you need right now — and we’ll help you start moving forward with your life.