What is the Divorce Process in California?

The Process of Divorce Does Not Require the Agreement of Both Spouses

​In California, the process of divorce does not require an agreement on the part of both spouses. A divorce can be initiated by either spouse on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences” or if a spouse has medical proof of incurable insanity. We discuss grounds for divorce elsewhere in the FAQ.

Possibility of Summary Dissolution

​If you have been married for less than 5 years, have no children and meet additional criteria, you may apply for a summary dissolution as we discuss here.

The Divorce Process in California

In general, divorce cases in California follow a standard process.

  • The Divorce Petition – one spouse may file a divorce petition and serve it on to the other spouse, known as the respondent.
  • The Response – The Respondent has 30 days to file a response to the petition. This response contains an agreement or disagreement to the original petition and may include details such as the respondent’s position on issues such as child custody, support, and division of assets.
  • Initial Hearing – Either spouse may request a hearing. This is done by filing a Request for Order. In this hearing, issues rising from the original petition or the response may be addressed if they are included in the Request for Order. The judge may also make a temporary ruling regarding custody, support, parenting time, and, if needed, restraining orders.
  • Discovery – Discovery is a process in any legal proceeding where each side gathers information relevant to the case. Each side is also required to disclose certain information regarding assets, property, etc. As we have discussed, spouses do have fiduciary responsibility to each other. This basically means that spouses have to be open and honest regarding the information that they disclose during the discovery process.
  • Discuss settlement – This is the part of the process where all of the details of the divorce are worked out. This may take place through negotiations through the attorneys, or through alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, collaboration, and parenting coordination. If the details of the divorce can be settled, then a Marital Settlement Agreement or Stipulated Judgment is prepared, signed and filed with the courts.
  • Trial – If the details cannot be resolved, then the case may be brought in front of a judge for trial where the judge will make the final decisions.
  • After either settlement or trial – A Judgement for the Dissolution of Marriage is filed and the court will respond via mail with a Notice of Entry of Judgment.

Factors Such as Pre and Post-Nuptial Agreements

Throughout the process items such a prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements are taken into account and other issues such as paternity may be brought up. The process of divorce can include any number of issues that may be brought to the attention of the court related to finances, history of violence, addiction, mental illness, or any concerns that one spouse may have in relation to the other. Each of these concerns are dealt with through the courts or through negotiation, however, the overall process of the steps that have to be taken to get from the initial petition to the final judgement will generally stay the same.

Every Case is Different. Call the Law Offices of Tracy Duell-Cazes

​Every case is different and there are cases where the spouses are in agreement and will work out all of the details of the divorce through one-on-one discussions or mediation. In these cases, some of these steps may be brief or in rare cases, skipped, but overall the process as outlined is pretty standard.


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