Here is a summary overview of the divorce process in California.
There are certain things that have to be done in every single divorce case, no matter how amicable or how contentious you and your spouse are:
- File the divorce Petition. The divorce Petition is filed in the county where one of you has lived for at least the last 3 months.
- “Serve” a copy of the Petition on the other spouse (which is not nearly as dramatic as they make it seem on television).
- Do disclosure documents. In every divorce, each spouse is required to prepare a full disclosure of his or her assets, debts, income and expenses.
Now comes the hard part: Resolving the issues in your case. The four main buckets of a divorce case to be resolved are:
- Identifying and dividing the community property
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Parenting (usually called custody and visitation)
But HOW do you resolve these four buckets? Here are the four main ways of tackling the issues of your case:
- Do it yourself.
This means that you and your spouse hash it out between the two of you,
with no outside helpers, such as an attorney or counselor.
- Mediation. This is where the two of you meet with a neutral mediator who aims to help you find mutually agreeable solutions to the four buckets of your case.
- Collaborative Divorce. This is a process that offers the full support of an interdisciplinary team. The team includes an attorney, a mental health professional and a financial specialist. The full team helps you and your spouse address the four buckets in your case, from all the important angles — legally, emotionally and financially. Spouses work together in a respectful way, keeping in mind the importance of protecting their children and other involved people from conflict.
- Litigation. If you cannot find a way to make agreements between the two of you, issues can be submitted to the court for decision. Very formal processes and procedures need to be followed before anything can be submitted to the court.
You have to evaluate which process option would be the most efficient and effective based on who you and your spouse are.
It doesn’t matter if you’re zillionaire or hundredaire — it matters how you and your spouse act and how you will show up in the divorce. Choose wisely because the process you choose will have an effect on your current and future mental, financial and legal well-being.