In California divorces are form driven. You can get most of the forms at http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm?filter=DI, but you may also need forms from your local Courthouse.
However, even though it seems you can just file a few forms to get divorced, it’s not that easy.
For starters if you filed and served your divorce on your ex today, it would still be 6 months before you could be officially divorced. This is called the “cooling off” period and gives you time for reconciliation with your spouse. California Family Code Section 2339(a) states: “Subject to subdivision (b) and to Sections 2340 to 2344,inclusive, no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.”
It seems, anyone with a computer, and a $435 filing fee for the Court can file the Summons and Petition to get a divorce started. Of course, when there are children involved, there are more forms.
The tough part is finishing a divorce case by getting a Judgment of Dissolution. In fact, finalizing a divorce is so difficult that we have had other lawyers hire us to make sure their Judgment is not rejected, (this can delay your divorce by months, and the courts have long lists of reasons to reject your divorce, which happens every day for something as simple as not putting a stamp on an envelope).
Of course, if you retain the best family law attorneys in Los Angeles, we do this for you. At Devitt & Saltzburg we thoroughly interview you to make sure we cover all the issues in advance and avoid any surprises later.
Divorces come down to settlements or Judge trials. (There are no juries in family law). Since the partners at our law firm have over 50 years of combined experience in this area, we know most of the other family law attorneys in Los Angeles County; therefore, we may be able to settle your case without ever going to Court. However, if your ex will not be reasonable, we will be happy to fight for your custody or financial rights all the way to trial and even further. (Family law cases can be appealed).
We are very attentive to our clients, and we actually take and return 99% of calls the same day. Emails are usually answered in minutes and one of the partners even sends and receives text messages from many clients.
FINISHING YOUR DIVORCE
Assuming you have filed your Summons and Petition, in order to finalize your divorce, several things must happen. The first is that you must serve your ex or get a court order to serve them via publication in a newspaper or substituted service. See CCP415.10-415.95
You cannot serve the summons and petition on your ex yourself, but they can accept service from a friend or family member if this is an “amicable” divorce. (An amicable divorce is where the parties agree on all issues).
Again, you have to have another form properly filled out to do this unless your ex files a Response.
If this sounds complicated, things are just getting started. If you want things handled professionally where you do not have to worry about all the procedural details, call us now at 800-794-2001.
However, if you still think you can finish your divorce yourself, you may try to get your spouse to sign a Marital Settlement Agreement. This is the contract that states all the terms of your divorce such as who is going to pay what debt, when you will have custody of your children and all other details. This can become part of the Judgment. If you have never drafted one or you are not familiar with legal terms, you will need help with this part.
If either of you have a pension, you may need a QDRO. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) is used to split one or both of your pensions that you may have acquired because of your employment during marriage. These are just some of the issues you may have in finalizing your divorce. For a complete list, you may need a California family law attorney with over 26 years experience, like James Devitt. http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/Member/Detail/137097
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET A DIVORCE?
Currently the filing fee each party must pay the Court is $435 though it seems to go up each year. If you have no money and make a request, the court may waive your filing fee or even all your court fees (but you may be sitting in the court house all day while they decide if you meet their guidelines). http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-feewaiver.htm
Then anybody but you must serve your ex unless they will accept it by mail or another way. You can hire a process server likes Wades Attorney Service in North Hollywood or you can hire most local law enforcement agencies to serve the Divorce. This fee is around $50 or more.
Then, if you cannot do it yourself and you don’t want to risk using a paralegal, you need a great attorney that will not only take care of all the details but will make sure you get a good result on your divorce. We charge $350 an hour. Some firms charge as much as $1,000 an hour for their partners. For our firm to handle a divorce from start to finish the attorney fees can be as little as $3500 (10 hours) for an uncontested divorce, to well over $100,000 in cases involving custody or large property disputes. Our firm has litigated over $50 million in assets that were ultimately divided between spouses, and that was just one case! We are fully insured so that our clients can sleep at night (the average divorce in California often involves a $1,000,000+ house as well as a custody battle).
What is the real cost of divorce? You may lose half your assets or more. You may lose custody of your children. You may have to pay support to your ex for life. We can help your resolve these issues without as much stress as you might expect. We also work with retired Judges and mediators to settle some cases if the parties agree and help is needed to resolve roadblocks.