Thursday, December 16, 2010

How the Divorce Process Works

Step 1: Choose The Proper Court
You will begin by answering a series of questions to make sure that the State of California has "jurisdiction" over the parties and issues in your case, that the case is filed in the proper county.

Step 2: File The Initial Document Package With The Court
After your initial papers have been prepared and signed, they will be filed with the court clerk.

Step 3: Serve The Initial Documents
After the documents have been filed with the court, they must be properly served on your spouse.  There are two ways to meet these "due process" requirements. Either your spouse can choose to accept service by signing an Acknowledgement of Serviceor he/she must be formally served with the documents.

Step 4: Entry Of Default (If No Response Is Filed)
If your spouse has either signed a Acknowledgment of Receipt or has been formally served with the Summons and Petition and has failed to respond within 30 days, he/she is "in default" and his/her default may, on your application, be entered by the court clerk. Once the default has been entered, the Respondent will be foreclosed from responding or appearing in the case unless he/she is able to successfully move to have the default vacated.

Step 5: Financial Disclosure
It is the policy of the State of California to insure a proper division of community property and to further insure that child and spousal support awards will be fair and equitable. To this end, California Family Code Section § 2100 et seq. mandates the exchange of prescribed "preliminary" and "final" declarations of disclosure, along with current income and expense declarations, in all marriage dissolution, legal separation and nullity actions. We'll prepare the financial disclosures for you based on the information you provide to us in our simple workbooks.

Step 6: Prepare And Notarize A Marital Settlement Agreement
If we have served the Respondent with the Summons and Petition and he/she has defaulted (failed to file a Response) and your case is not going to settle by way of an agreement, you will skip this step and move to Step 8. However, if you and your spouse are going to settle the case by way of agreement, we will prepare an agreement which resolves all of the issues in your case. Generally these issues include:

o Child Custody
o Child Support
o Child Visitation
o Spousal Support
o Division Of Community Property
o Division Of Community Property Debts

Step 7: Prepare Order To Withhold Income For Child Support (Wage Garnishment)
Whenever a support order is made or modified, the court must include in the order an Order/Notice To Withhold Income For Child Support that directs the paying spouse's employer to pay to the party receiving support that portion of the paying spouse's earnings due or to become due as will be sufficient to pay (a) the support amount ordered by the court, and (b) an amount ordered to be paid toward liquidation of any arrearage.

Step 8: Prepare And File The "Judgment Package"
The end result and the final goal of the action for dissolution or marriage, legal separation, or nullity is to obtain a Judgment from the court. The Divorce Judgment dissolves the marriage and is a court order which resolves the issues between the parties such as child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, property division, debt division, and the payment of attorney fees and costs. Whether you obtain that judgment with the agreement of the other party or after the other party's default or after hearing of the matter at trial, a proposed "Judgment package" of documents must be prepared for submission to the court.

Step 9: Serve The Judgment
Where there are orders in the Judgment enforceable by contempt (such as child & spousal support orders or restraining orders) it is important that a conformed copy of the Judgment be personally served on your spouse and that you obtain a proof of service of the Judgment. Failure to properly serve notice of any order enforceable by contempt on the other party may make it impossible for you to bring a contempt action later to enforce it.

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