California Divorce Procedure

Overview Of Procedure For Starting A Dissolution Action

To file for divorce, or “dissolution” in California, you must be a resident of the state for at least six months, and a resident of the county in which you seek to file for three months. After the initial filing, California law requires that the parties wait six months before a final judgment of dissolution can be entered by the court.

California is a “no-fault” state and the divorce pleadings must generally state that “irreconcilable differences” have led to the breakdown of the marriage. It is not enough merely to plead the grounds for divorce. Should your matter proceed to trial, California requires that its courts make a factual finding of “irreconcilable differences” prior to granting a divorce. This is because the state has a strong public policy in favor of marriage and dissolution is permitted if the parties are truly unable to work out their differences and remain in an intact union. We work with our clients to ensure that adequate proof of irreconcilable differences is presented to the court should a dissolution action proceed to trial.

To commence an action for dissolution, a party must file the Petition for Dissolution, together with other requisite documents. The initial documents are then served on the other party, who is given time to respond.

We will work with you to ensure that your rights, concerns, and specific needs are protected during the dissolution action and we strive to achieve an equitable outcome for your proceeding, be it through negotiation or litigation.

After the initial paperwork is filed, the manner in which a dissolution proceeds depends on how the party upon whom the dissolution papers are served (the “respondent”) responds to the petition for dissolution. An action for dissolution may be default, uncontested, or contested.

In a default proceeding, the respondent fails to respond within the time frame permitted by California statutes. The Court clerk will enter the respondent’s default and the dissolution proceeding continues without that party.

In an uncontested proceeding, the parties agree to all issues incident to the dissolution of the marital estate. If the parties are in agreement about property and debt division, as well as any child custody and support matters, the parties may enter into a written agreement, or marital settlement agreement. This is an enforceable contract and must be filed with the Court.

In a contested proceeding, a response to the dissolution petition is filed, the parties are unable to resolve the issues, and a trial is held at which the Court decides all of the issues necessary to affect dissolution. If it appears from the respondent’s answer that the dissolution proceeding is contested, the Court will set the matter for a hearing.

At the Schoenberg Family Law Group, P.C., we offer seasoned experience in handling all types of dissolution proceedings. We will work with you to ensure that your rights, concerns, and specific needs are protected during the dissolution action and we strive to achieve an equitable outcome for your proceeding, be it through negotiation or litigation. To speak with a divorce lawyer in San Francisco about dissolution in California, please call (415) 834-1120.