What Is the Waiting Period for Divorce in California?
Under California Law, couples seeking a divorce must wait six months. You might already know this stipulation, but still have many questions surrounding the waiting period. Below we provide more information about the waiting period as it relates to the dissolution of marriage in California and answers to some questions you might have if divorce is in your future.
When Does California’s Six-Month Waiting Period Begin?
The divorce waiting period begins from the date you serve the divorce summons and petition on your spouse, the date you receive the divorce summons and petition, or the day either one of you makes an appearance, whichever happens first. An appearance is a response to the petition, but it does not necessarily mean one of you must sit before a judge. In this case, appearance refers to a person’s participation in the divorce.
The Divorce Process in California
The California divorce process has several steps, which makes your six-month waiting period go quickly. Below is a broad overview of the steps in the divorce process, so you have an idea about what is to come:
Begin the Dissolution Process
You or your spouse must file a petition with the court to begin the divorce process. The person who files for divorce is the petitioner and the other spouse is the respondent. Your six-month waiting period begins once you or your spouse, whoever is the respondent, receives the petition. After you wait six months, you are eligible to request that the court change your marital status to single
The Response to the Petition
When the respondent receives the petition for divorce, he or she must respond to the facts in the petition within 30 days. At this point, the court might schedule a hearing, especially if you do not have children and your divorce is amicable.
Dividing Property in Accordance with California Law
You and your spouse must agree to property division or go to court to let the judge divide assets and debt. The law requires all property and obligations to be shared evenly among couples, but you and your spouse can come to a different agreement. In fact, things aren’t typically split exactly in half. Typically, you and your spouse should compromise with assets and debts of equal value.
Dividing debt also occurs during this stage of the divorce process. Although your divorce will split your debt, it does not absolve both parties. If one of you defaults on a loan or some other the debt obligation, you are not only breaking a court violation, but the other spouse may still have some responsibility for the debt.
Settlement Without Going to Court
If you and your soon-to-be-ex can reach an agreement, you can complete the dissolution of your marriage without going to court, also known as a simple divorce. You still need to file the necessary paperwork with the court for approval. Even if you reach an agreement before the waiting period ends, you still must wait six months before a judge grants your divorce.
Discovery and Disclosure
One of the final steps you must complete before you settle out of court or appear in front of a judge for dissolution is discovery and disclosure. Discovery includes both sides asking questions of the other side and receiving responses. Additionally, both sides must disclose all assets, debts, and issues that need to be resolved for your divorce to proceed. Disclosure is accompanied by a mandatory document called the “Preliminary and Final Declarations of Disclosure.”
The longer it takes you and your spouse to go through the above process, the more likely it will take you longer than six months to dissolve your marriage.
Can You Alter the Length of the Six-Month Waiting Period?
A judge will not grant you a divorce before the six-month waiting period under any circumstances. However, California judges have the power to extend the waiting period beyond six months, if you show good cause. In fact, it’s highly unlikely you will resolve your divorce within six months unless you have a simple divorce.
For many couples, marriage dissolution takes a year or longer. Some divorces can take multiple years before they are dissolved. Some factors that can extend the length of your divorce include:
Child Custody Issues
If you have children and you and your spouse have a custody dispute, it can take much longer to dissolve your marriage. The court will require custody mediation, which must take place before your first divorce hearing. Child custody mediation occurs in front of a licensed therapist who serves as a mediator.
Dissolving your marriage in California requires both you and your spouse to complete a Marital Settlement Agreement. This document lays out the terms of your divorce and includes the child custody plant, child support, and the division of community property within your marriage. Some couples complete this task without any disputes and can get a divorce after the six-month waiting period.
For other couples, reaching an agreement about property division is impossible. In these cases, couples need to ask the court to set a trial date for the judge to rule on these issues. California is a community property state, which means upon the dissolution of marriage, the couple must split their property and debt equally. Couples can choose to split their property unevenly, but both must agree on the plan for the division.
If Divorce Is in Your Future, Get the Legal Help You Need
If you are headed for divorce, you don’t want it to drag out any longer than necessary. Yet, under California law you must wait six months. This minimum amount of time can be extended for several reasons. Help your divorce go more smoothly and part ways as soon as possible by consulting with an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you through the process, saving you time. Contact Pedrick Law Office today online or at 818-325-3934 to discuss your divorce and develop the best strategy going forward.