What Are the Legal Stages of Divorce in California?

What Are the Legal Stages of Divorce in California

When you and your spouse are splitting up, there are a few ways you can go about it. Some people qualify for annulment or choose legal separation, but most people use divorce as a means to dissolve their marriages.

Related: Annulment of marriage in California

Divorce is a legal process. You don’t need grounds to split up from your spouse, and you don’t need to prove that he or she did anything wrong – you just have to let the courts know that you’re unable to continue living within the confines of your marriage.

So what are the legal stages of divorce in California, and how long does it take to get through them? Here’s what you need to know.

What Are the Legal Stages of Divorce in California?

Divorce, like any other legal process, has certain phases and steps you and your Stockton divorce attorney must take. Here’s a rough outline of the legal stages of divorce:

  • The divorce petition
  • Temporary orders, if necessary
  • Service of process
  • The divorce petition response
  • Negotiations
  • Trial, if necessary
  • Order of dissolution

Legal Stage of Divorce #1: The Divorce Petition

Every divorce starts with a petition that goes to the court. It’s a legal document asking the court to grant an order of dissolution – the document that officially ends your marriage.

Your lawyer will create a petition that states the grounds for your divorce, such as irreconcilable differences.

Legal Stage of Divorce #2: Temporary Orders

Judges don’t always have to issue temporary orders during divorce, but sometimes they’re necessary for things like child support or financial support. Temporary custody orders can come into play here, too. Once a couple splits up, they’re put in place to last until permanent orders take over.

Related: What is temporary alimony in California?

Legal Stage of Divorce #3: Service of Process

After petitioning the court for a divorce, the party who filed is responsible for showing the court that a copy of the petition went to the other party. Your attorney will handle all of this for you – it’s not something you have to worry about, but it is one of the legal stages of divorce.

Related: Who can serve papers in a California divorce?

Legal Stage of Divorce #4: The Divorce Petition Response

Legal Stages of Divorce

Once your spouse gets a copy of the divorce petition, he or she will file a response to it. If he or she disagrees on things like property division, child support, child custody or anything else, they’ll be in the response.

Legal Stage of Divorce #5: Negotiations

You and your spouse can negotiate based on what’s in his or her response. Your attorney will most likely encourage you to come to your own agreements about all the important issues in your divorce. If you can’t agree, the judge in your case will have to make decisions for you – and while that’s fine if it’s necessary, you’ll save time and money if you don’t have to go to trial (that’s the next legal stage in divorce).

One thing’s for sure, though: Couples who reach their own agreements without the court having to intervene are generally more satisfied with the outcome. Each party can walk away feeling more like he or she won rather than lost. Unless you and your spouse absolutely cannot agree, it’s in your best interest to try to negotiate.

Related: 13 divorce negotiation tips you can use today

Legal Stage of Divorce #6: Trial

Issues that you and your spouse can’t resolve between yourselves will go to trial. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney will present evidence to the judge in your case, and the judge will make a decision for you. Judges can make all kinds of determinations, including child custody and property division – but again, it’s better if you and your spouse can reach agreements on important issues rather than go to trial.

Remember, too, that there’s no way to predict how a judge will rule… even if you think you have all the evidence you need to get what you want.

Last Legal Stage of DivorceLegal Stage of Divorce #7: Order of Dissolution

After the judge has signed off on the agreements you’ve made (or the judge has made decisions on all the issues that he or she needs to settle for you), the court will give you an order of dissolution. The order of dissolution – your divorce decree – will spell out how you’re dividing property and debts, where your kids will live, how much child support will change hands, and every other issue that you and your spouse have settled.

Need Help Understanding the Legal Stages of Divorce?

If you’re divorcing your spouse, even if he or she has already filed for dissolution, we may be able to help you.

Call us at 209-546-6870 to schedule a consultation with a divorce attorney in Stockton. We’ll answer all your questions and begin developing the strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.