Jump to Navigation

Divorce FAQ

California Divorce Information- Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a divorce take in the state of California?

A divorce in California always takes a minimum of six months. This is called a "waiting period." The waiting period is to make sure you and your spouse do not change your mind about going through with the divorce. The courts want to give you time in case you decide to reconcile. You cannot get a divorce in California until the waiting period has expired.

When does the waiting period begin?

The waiting period begins in a California divorce once the divorce papers are filed and served. Thus, even if you are your spouse are separated for years, the waiting period does not start until the divorce action is filed and the papers are properly served upon the other party.

Is there any way to speed up the divorce process?

No. A divorce always takes at least six months to complete. Sometimes the parties agree to all the terms of the divorce before the six months has run. In this case, the parties can prepare and finalize a divorce judgment before the six month waiting period expires, but they will not be divorced until the six months had run. Even if a judgment is prepared before the six month waiting period expires, the terms of the agreement are still binding on both parties. They are just not free to remarry until the six months have run.

Other times, people do not resolve all the custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and division of property issues within the six month time period. In this case, a divorce will take longer than the six month time frame because the parties have a right to litigate the terms of their divorce and resolve the issues before a judicial officer.

What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?

There are several differences between a legal separation and a divorce. There is no waiting period in a legal separation, and you do not have to be a legal resident of the state. All property is divided, child support is ordered, spousal support is ordered, custody and visitation are resolved, and a divorce judgment is entered at the end of the case, except that the parties are not divorced in the end. Additionally, both people must agree to a legal separation or the proceeding will automatically end in divorce.

Is there any way to speed up the divorce process?

In situations where the divorce process lasts more than the six month waiting period, it is possible to "bifurcate the status" of the marriage. This means that the court declares you divorced as soon as the six months are up even though you have not resolved the remaining issues of division of property, child support, spousal support, custody, etc. You then litigate those matters at a later date. A bifurcation is not common, and only needed if the divorce is relatively complicated and one party already has plans to remarry.

How does the divorce process work?

The divorce process begins once the paperwork is filed in court. Nothing happens in the process unless someone moves the case along. The courthouse stores, but does not process, your paperwork for you. They simply stamp the documents and keep the records. This means that no one in the courthouse will tell you what needs to be done or how to do it. Either you have to figure it out on your own or hire a lawyer to help you.

The first step in the divorce process is filing and serving the documents. This starts the waiting period. The next step is to determine whether temporary relief is needed. In other words, if you need some type of financial support, an order to sell your house, an order to determine custody of the children, or an order allowing you to move out of the state, you need to ask the judge to make the order. This is done by filing an "Order to Show Cause." The person filing the Order to Show Cause usually has the burden of proof.

If I do not want a divorce, can I prevent my spouse from getting one?

No. California is a no-fault state. This means that anyone can get a divorce in California at any time, for any reason. If one spouse does not want a divorce but the other one does, the court will grant the divorce over the objection of the other spouse. This is called "irreconcilable differences."

What do I do if I am served with divorce papers?

If you are the one who has been served with divorce paperwork, you need to know that you have 30 days to file a "Response" with the court. This is a document which tells the court that you are interested in the outcome of the proceedings, that you wish to be notified of any court date, and that you will be participating in the divorce process by appearing in court to help the judge make his/her decisions.

What happens if I decide not to file a Response?

If a Response is not filed, the matter is decided by "default." This means that the court decides the outcome of the case based upon only one side's versions of the facts. Thus, when there is property or children involved, it is very important to file a Response.

What happens after I file my Response?

After the initial paperwork is filed with the court, each party then has a right to conduct "discovery." This allows each party to ask the other person questions and may require each party to produce written documentation about his/her income, assets and debts, or about any other information which may be relevant to the case. After the discovery process is complete, the divorce case is ready to be set for trial. Once again, nothing happens unless one or both of the parties cause it to happen. For instance, the Response will not be filed by the court, the Default will not be entered, discovery will not be conducted, and the case will not be set for trial unless the proper paperwork is filed and served.

At the divorce trial, each party will go in how front of a judge and present evidence. After hearing all the evidence in a case, the judge will make a decision and declare each of you divorced.

How much will a divorce cost?

There is no way to accurately predict the cost of a divorce. The reason for this is every case is different. Specifically, the amount you spend on a divorce attorney depends on two factors: how complicated the issues are and how much the parties litigate. The two most expensive issues to litigate in family law are child custody and determination of cash flow in a business, which is part of division of property. If you and your spouse are able to resolve custody and visitation issues before ever filing the divorce action, and if you hire a competent divorce attorney you will probably be able to get through the divorce process with relatively little expense, time and stress.

Is there any way to get divorced without having to go to court?

Yes, if both you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues in your California divorce, meaning child custody, child visitation, child support, spousal support, division of property, division of any pension plans, and division of debts, you can avoid litigation. You can simply have someone write up a divorce judgment, sign it, and be done. This is usually the best outcome.

I am not receiving child support. Do I still have to let my spouse see the children?

Yes. Child support and child visitation are not related. If your husband is not paying you child support, you need to obtain a court order requiring him to do so. If you have a court order and he is not honoring it, there are ways to make him pay. In California, child custody is determined by what is in the best interest of the children. Custody is based upon a number of factors, including which parent is more likely to allow the other parent to have frequent and continuing contact with the children. If you do not allow your husband to see the children because he is not paying you child support, you risk losing custody.

If my spouse had an affair, can I get custodyof the children?

That depends. California is a no-fault state. This means that a person's morality cannot be considered in determining the outcome of a case. If your spouse had an affair during the marriage, this is not a basis to deny your spouse visitation, nor is it, in and of itself, a reason to obtain custody of the children. However, if the affair interferes with your spouse's ability to care for your children, then it is a different matter. For instance, if your spouse is not home, comes home late at night, or is otherwise neglecting the children as a result of his/her extramarital affair, the court could find that you are best able to care for the children and award you custody.

If there is a mistake in the divorce judgment, can it be corrected?

Not necessarily. Normally, the terms of a California divorce are final and cannot be changed. However, sometimes you can obtain a modification of a divorce judgment. There are some aspects of a divorce judgment which can always me modified; these include child custody, visitation, child support and spousal support issues. Correcting a mistake made in a judgment is much more difficult.

Family Attorneys serving the Temecula, Murrieta, and Hemet areas of Riverside County, California, including Menifee, Wildomar, Winchester, Canyon Lake, and Lake Elsinore. Our practice is limited to family law, including issues involving divorce, paternity, legal separation, annulment, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, attorney fees, post-judgment modifications, division of property, and domestic violence.


41690 Enterprise Circle. North, Suite. 100, Temecula, California 92590  
Phone: (951) 587-0505 or (951) 816-9543
Fax: (951) 296-3827    Email Us