In the beginning, you weren’t thinking about the end. Beyond the blur of wedding bells, rings, and gifts, the future was bright; full of hope and possibility. Sure, the details weren’t filled in, yet, but the important parts were: the picture of both of you, together, taking on the world.
Now you’re sitting here staring at the ruins of your relationship, wondering what went wrong, and what you’re even supposed to do to prepare for divorce.
The good news is, that—while dealing with divorce might feel impossible in the moment—the future is still bright. Beyond this dark tunnel, the rest of your life waits, and the Maples Family Law team is here to help you get there.
Start Your Divorce: First Steps
Divorce is stressful, there’s no doubt, but it is manageable. And before you allow yourself to get too overwhelmed, take a step back to relax, breathe deep, and keep reading for five simple steps you can take to start your divorce in California.
1. Talk to an Attorney
In California, there are many different types of divorce. From uncontested to mediation, all the way up to collaborative, and a contested divorce trial, an experienced family attorney will be able to help you decide which one will work best for you.
2. Get Organized
Regardless what type of divorce you decide to try, all of them are going to need the same personal information from you. So, while you’re deciding which attorney to hire, or whether or not legal separation is the preferable alternative, simplify your divorce, by gathering the needed documents right now.
Some of the items you will need include:
- Your marriage date and certificate;
- Date of separation (if applicable);
- All financial documents (such as bank records, credit cards, personal loans, and taxes);
- Business shares or interest;
- Property records, including mortgage agreements;
- Retirement account information;
- A copy of your prenuptial agreement (if applicable); as well as,
- The names and birthdays of any children you share.
As part of your split, the court will be dividing all marital property between the two of you. Hence, if there’s anything that belongs to you as separate property, you should also make sure you have the necessary proof to support your claims.
Keep in mind that—in addition to being illegal—it’s also extremely difficult to hide assets during divorce. Courts don’t look kindly on this, so it’s best not to try.
3. File a Petition
A divorce doesn’t officially kick off until you file a petition. This document essentially notifies the court of your intent to break your marriage contract, and requests they submit a final ruling.
You or your attorney will need to pick up the divorce petition form at your local courthouse. To fill it out, you will need a lot of the information you gathered in the previous step. Once complete, your or your attorney can return it (and all supporting documents) to your clerk.
While some people abhor the idea of being the first one to ask for divorce, there are actually some benefits to being the first one to file.
4. Notify Your Spouse
Once you’ve filed your petition, the next step is to notify your spouse that you’ve initiated a divorce. While you might be tempted to just send a simple text, California law requires proper service. This involves having an outside party hand-deliver divorce papers.
After receiving papers, your spouse will have thirty days to respond to your petition, giving you a short respite. However, even if they respond sooner, you still won’t be able to get a quick divorce.
5. Prepare to Wait
You and your spouse might be certain about your split, but California courts need a little more convincing.
Humans beings are emotional, rash creatures, and we aren’t always at our best in the heat of an argument. Because of that, all divorcing couples must endure a mandatory, six-month waiting period, before the court will hear their case.
Try not to think of this as a punishment, but as a way to be absolutely sure that divorce is right for you. You can also utilize the time to engage in any discovery needed for your hearing, and to help the rest of your family prepare for the upcoming changes.
Of course, knowing the technical steps of how to start your divorce is one thing, but dealing with emotions is an entirely different matter. Especially when it comes to parents and young children.
At Maples Family Law, we understand the concerns parents face—how you worry about custody, child support, and the negative impact a hypothetical divorce might have on your child. You carry the heavy burden of trying not to project your emotions onto your child, all the while it feels like a bomb just went off inside your chest.
It’s no wonder you’re stressed.
However, when it comes to your kids, it’s probably not as bad as you might think. Here are a few things for worried parents to keep in mind, when starting a divorce.
Your Child’s Interests Are Guiding the Decisions
The state of California is worried about your family, too, and easing the impact of divorce on your child is one of their top priorities.
When making decisions that affect minors, your judge will put the best interest of your child above all other considerations.
The Right Team Matters
There is no “I” in “Team,” and when it comes to divorce, it can be hard to see the playing field without the right perspective. This is why hiring the right child custody attorney is so important.
A trusted lawyer can help you and your spouse:
- Avoid common custody pitfalls;
- Mediate custody matters outside of court;
- Reach a dynamic parenting plan that meets your family’s unique needs; and,
- Develop an effective co-parenting strategy, that will help your child adjust your family’s new normal as smoothly as possible.
Help is Available
Children are amazingly resilient. Most of the time they bounce back from these emotional heartbreaks much better than even the adults do.
That being said, it doesn’t hurt to give them an outlet to work through emotions, or let them talk to a therapist. Extra help is always available, and you don’t have to do this alone.
Divorce Attorneys in California
For more questions about how to start your divorce, call the team at Maples Family Law at (209) 989-4425, or get in touch online. While divorce might be an end, it’s also a beginning—the start of the rest of your life—and it’s one we want to help you reach.