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Filing for Divorce in California

Filing for Divorce in CaliforniaEveryone seeking a divorce in San Diego must follow the same procedure implemented by California rules and code sections.  The first step in every dissolution proceeding is filing a Petition for Dissolution.  One of the parties must take the first step in the divorce process and the Petition cannot be filed jointly by the parties even with a complete agreement. The courthouse where the Petition is filed is dependent on the address of the filing party.  Throughout San Diego County there are courthouses Downtown (in three locations), in South Bay, in North County, and in East County.  Jurisdiction for these courthouses is governed by the zip code of the filing party. For assistance on where to file your Petition, you can either visit the Superior Court of California San Diego website or consult with a lawyer with experience in family law.

After the Petition is filed, the filing party (the “Petitioner”) must serve a copy of all required documents on the other spouse (the “Respondent”).  It is important to review all of the service requirements for the Petition before attempting to effect service - proper service of the Petition has various legal ramifications that impact your case.  For example, once the Petition is properly served, the Respondent is bound by the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (“ATROS”) which take effect in all divorce proceedings.  Once service of the Petition is complete, the Respondent will have 30 days to prepare and file his or her Response to the Petition. Absent agreement by the parties or court order, if the Respondent fails to timely file a Response, the Petitioner may obtain a judgment by default.  Although default proceedings are relatively easy to win absent a timely Response, they are also easy to overcome if the responding party contests the default. Responding to a Petition for Dissolution can be complicated and it is strongly advised that you meet with a family law attorney to correctly complete this paperwork.

Once the parties have filed their respective Petition and Response, the Court will require them to complete their Declarations of Disclosure. An Income and Expense Declaration (form Fl-150) and Schedule of Assets and Debts (form FL-142) together are referred to as “Declarations of Disclosure”.  The Income and Expense Declaration and Schedule of Assets and Debts will not necessarily be filed with the Court.  Instead, the parties must file a “Declaration regarding Service of Declarations of Disclosure” which is a statement to the Court that they have exchanged the declaration forms. These documents can be vitally important to the divorce proceeding and getting the advice of an attorney about these documents is invaluable.

Shortly after the Petition is filed, the Court will set a Family Resolution Conference (“FRC”) to “check in” with the parties.  At the FRC the judge will certainly inquire of the parties regarding the status of their Declarations of Disclosure. In addition, the judge will attempt to get the parties on track for resolving their divorce matter.

The procedure for getting a divorce can be complex and it is strongly recommended that parties hire an attorney to either represent them or consult with them about their case. Contact us today if you are considering a divorce from your spouse. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don't settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 for more information about the consultation process.