1. Are there requirements to file for divorce in California?

Yes. To file for dissolution (divorce) in California, you must be a resident of the state for at least six months prior to filing your petition for divorce. You must also be a residence of the county in which you are filing for at least three months prior to filing your petition for divorce.

2. How long does it take to obtain a divorce in California?

It depends. The Court will not terminate your marriage for at least six months after the responding party is properly served with the petition or acknowledges receipt of the petition for dissolution. In some cases, it is possible to obtain a judgment on all issues in less than six months, and to have the marriage terminate without returning back to court once the six month requirement has been met. In other cases, it may take longer than six months depending on the complexity of the issues in the case and the level of cooperation between the parties.

3. What if my spouse wants a divorce, but I do not want a divorce? Can I prevent him or her from obtaining a divorce?

Unfortunately, even if you do not want to proceed with a divorce, your spouse is entitled to obtain one with or without your cooperation. Refusing to cooperate or intentionally delaying the proceedings will only increase the stress and costs associated with a divorce action and may even subject you to sanctions.

4. What if I decide after commencing a divorce proceeding that I do not wish to go forward? Can I stop the proceeding?

Yes. If a response has not been filed, you may dismiss the action by filing a request for dismissal. Once a response has been filed, the parties must mutually agree to dismiss the action. If the other party is not agreeable to dismissing the action, they can proceed to a judgment in the matter.

5. What happens if I do not file a response to the request for a divorce or legal separation?

You have thirty days from the date of service to file your response. If you do not file and serve your response in a timely manner, the other party may proceed by a “default” proceeding. If the court enters a default against you, you will be precluded from participating in the proceedings. Only in limited circumstances will the court consider setting aside the default.

6. What is the difference between filing for a legal separation versus a divorce?

The process is generally the same. You may want to consider filing for a legal separation if you do not wish to terminate the marriage for religious reasons or if medical insurance coverage is a consideration. In a legal separation case the court will still have jurisdiction to make orders for custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and to divide property and debts, but the court will not terminate the marriage. Both parties must agree to proceed as a legal separation. If you choose to proceed with a dissolution, the marital status will be terminated at some point during the proceedings or at the time of judgment.

7. How does the Court decide custody matters?

If there is no agreement or order for a “permanent” custody order, the Court will decide custody based upon what is in the “best interest” of the child(ren). In doing so, the court will consider a variety of different factors. If your matter is post-judgment or a “permanent” order has been made, the court will consider whether there has been a material change in circumstance that justifies a change in custody. Even “permanent” custody visitations can be modified, but they are subject to a different standard.

8. Do I have to attend mediation in a custody matter?

In San Diego County, the Court will order you to attend Family Court Services mediation prior to making a custody determination if you have never attended mediation or it has been more than one year since your last mediation. You may opt out of Family Court Services mediation if you reach an agreement in advance of mediation or if you decide to attend private mediation.

9. How does the Court decide how much to award for spousal support?

For temporary spousal support orders, the Court will consider each party’s income or ability to earn, health insurance payments, mandatory retirement payments, and other applicable deductions. The Court may utilize the “Dissomaster” program to make a determination for temporary spousal support.

For permanent spousal support orders, the Court cannot rely solely on the Dissomaster program. The Court must consider the factors set forth in Family Code Section 4320 in making its order.

10. What is the benefit of having an experienced family law specialist represent you in your family law matter?

The more experience an attorney has in family law, the more likely he or she is able to obtain a favorable outcome for his or her client. Experienced family law attorneys have the legal knowledge and courtroom experience to help predict the outcome of your matter, to litigate effectively when necessary and to negotiate agreements when possible.