California Divorce Information – FAQ
Q: How long does a divorce take in the state of California?
A: A divorce in California always takes a minimum of six months. This is called a “waiting period.” It exists to make sure you and your spouse don’t change your mind about going through with the divorce. The courts want to give you time in case you decide to reconcile. You cannot get a divorce in California until the waiting period has expired.
Q:Is there any way to speed up the divorce process?
A: No. A divorce always takes at least six months to complete. Sometimes the parties agree to all the terms of the divorce before the six months has run. In this case, the parties can prepare and finalize a divorce judgment before the six month waiting period expires, but they will not be divorced until the six months had run. Even if a judgment is prepared before the six month waiting period expires, the terms of the agreement are still binding on both parties. They are just not free to remarry until the six months have run.
Other times, people do not resolve all the custody, visitation, child support, and division of property issues within the six month time period. In this case, a divorce will take longer than the six month time frame because the parties have a right to litigate the terms of their divorce and resolve the issues before a judicial officer.
Q:What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?
A: There are several differences between legal separation and a divorce. There is no waiting period in a legal separation, and you do not have to be a legal resident of the state. All property is divided, child support is ordered, spousal support is ordered, custody and visitation are resolved, and a divorce judgment is entered at the end of the case, except that the parties are not divorced in the end. Additionally, both people must agree to a legal separation or the proceeding will automatically end in divorce.
Q: How does the divorce process work?
A:The divorce process begins once the paperwork is filed in court. Nothing happens in the process unless someone moves the case along. The courthouse stores, but does not process, your paperwork for you. They simply stamp the documents and keep the records. This means that no one in the courthouse will tell you what needs to be done or how to do it. Either you have to figure it out on your own or hire a lawyer to help you.
The first step in the divorce process is filing and serving documents. The next step is to determine whether temporary relief is needed. In other words, if you need some type of financial support, an order to sell your house, an order to determine custody of the children, or an order allowing you to move out of the state, you need to ask the judge to make an order. This is done by filing an “Order to Show Cause.” The person filing the Order to Show Cause usually has burden proof.
Q: If I do not want a divorce, can I prevent my spouse from getting one?
A: No. California is a no-fault state. This means that anyone can get a divorce in California at any time, for any reason. If one spouse does not want a divorce but the other one does, the court will grant the divorce over the objection of the other spouse. This is called irreconcilable differences.”
Q: What do I do if I am served with divorce papers?
A: If you are the one who has been served with divorce paperwork, you need to know that you have 30 days to file a “Response” with the court. This is a document which tells the court that you are interested in the outcome of the proceedings, that you wish to be notified of any court date, and that you will be participating in the divorce process by appearing in court to help the judge make his/her decisions.
Q: How much will a divorce cost?
A: There is no way to accurately predict the cost of a divorce. The reason for every case is different. Specifically, the amount you spend on a divorce attorney depends on two factors: how complicated the issues are and how much the parties litigate. The two most expensive issues to litigate in family law are child custody and determination of cash flow in a business, which is part of division of property. If you and your spouse are able to resolve custody and visitation issues before ever filing the divorce action, you will probably be able to get through the divorce process with relatively little expense, time and stress.
Q: Is there any way to get divorced without having to go to court?
A: Yes, if both you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues in your California divorce, meaning child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, division of any pension plans, and division of debts, you can avoid litigation. You can simply have someone write up a divorce judgment, sign it, and be done. This is usually the fastest, easiest, and best outcome.
Q: If my spouse had an affair, can I get custody of the children?
A: That depends. California is a no-fault state. This means that a person’s morality cannot be considered in determining the outcome of a case. If your spouse had an affair during the marriage, this is not a basis to deny your spouse visitation, nor is it, in and of itself, a reason to obtain custody of the children. However, if the affair interferes with your spouse’s ability to care for your children, then it is a different matter.