Mandatory Six Month Waiting Period
The California Legislature mandates a 6 month waiting period for your divorce, with the clock ticking from the time the Respondent is served, or filed a Response. This is the MINIMUM amount of time you can get a divorce, NOT a maximum. If you have not reached a settlement at the end of 6 months, nothing happens. In fact, most divorces take longer (much longer!) than 6 months to finalize.
There is a misconception that the waiting period begins from the date the Petition is filed. Actually, the waiting period starts from : 1) the day the Petition is SERVED on the Respondent; or 2) the day the Respondent files a Response. This is law, found in California Family Code 2339.
If you and your ex have reached a complete agreement, and submitted all documents to the Court, you must still wait the 6 months for your divorce to be finalized.
Your Divorce Ends with a Stipulated Judgment, or Judgment by Trial
Six Months is a MINIMUM period to obtain a Judgment of Divorce. In a best case scenario, you two have reached an agreement, and hired a document preparation attorney to prepare your papers. You have signed your papers, and submitted to the Court. Then you wait.
Unfortunately, most divorces last longer. There are many reasons your divorce may be taking a long time, but in my experience the biggest reason is that you two are still fighting. You may be fighting for years to come, because of the emotional nature of the divorce which have nothing to do with the legal issues. This is not a good reason to drag out your divorce. If you two can agree to divorce mediation, you do not have to be dragged through the court system for years due to emotional roadblocks that have nothing to do with law.
Divorce Mediation: Resolution of Legal Issues
After you have reached an agreement in divorce mediation, the mediator can then prepare divorce papers to finalize your divorce. At our firm, the papers happen in 5 steps (If you two have reached a complete agreement, you bypass the first two steps of Mediation and Reaching and Agreement, but must still comply with Exchanging Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures).
PRIOR to Document Preparation
Mediation; Exchanging Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures
You are required to exchange financial disclosures before entering a settlement agreement. The Court wants to protect against an unfair settlement and wants all parties to put everything on the table. You must disclose ALL assets and debts, including all community and separate. In mediation, I help assist parties with Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures.
Reaching an Agreement
Divorce mediation, if successful, yields a complete agreement on all legal issues between the parties. This does not mean that both of you are happy. In fact, you may feel sad, empty and angry for a while. That’s why people say, “A good compromise is when both parties are dissatisfied.”
At our office, we prepare a Memorandum of Understanding (aka Deal Memo) to commemorate the agreement. Under CCP 664.6, the deal memo is arguably enforceable.
Divorce Document Preparation
First Step: Filing Petition
Our office prepares the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage packet, along with the $435 filing fee, and files it. You will receive a conformed copy one our attorney service brings it back. After the Petition has been filed, you have a case number,and your case can be accessed online here.
Second Step: Filing Response
Next, our office prepares the Response. Please note our office processes Uncontested Dissolutions, not Default Dissolutions. For a good explanation of the difference between default and uncontested divorce, please click here.
In general, only one party has a say by appearing in a Default Divorce. It’s true that the other side can still sign the Judgment,but the signature must be notarized. However, if no agreement is reached, the party who did not file a Response may be negatively affected. In an uncontested divorce, both parties have a say by both filing their papers, and both paying the $435 (or “pay to play”).
Steps 1 and 2 are what we call “non-dispositive”. I like to view them as “procedural”, for the purpose of starting the process. You do not need to reach any agreement before these are filed, which means sometimes you can file Steps 1 and 2 PRIOR to reaching a full agreement.
We also prepare the Proof of Service of Summons.
Third Step: Financial Disclsoures
Final Step: Stipulated Judgment; Signing Session
Finally, our office will prepare the Stipulated Judgment and we will review together in a Signing Session where you two will sign divorce papers to finalize your case.