Filing Your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage & the Next Steps
Starting Your Dissolution Case
To open a dissolution of marriage action in family court, the “Petitioner” (the spouse initiating the case) must file a Summons (Family Law) (form FL-110), Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (form FL-100) and any local form(s) required by your jurisdiction. For example, in Orange County family court the Petitioner must also file a Family Law Notice Re Related Case (form L-1120). Additionally, if there are minor children, the Petitioner must file a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (form FL-105).
Once the above documents are filed with the family court, the Petitioner must complete service of process. There are options for completing this required procedural step, as follows:
- Personal Service: Through this service method, the spouse or “Respondent” receives the documents personally, through a process server, a California sheriff, or a non-party who is at least 18 years of age. This means the Petitioner cannot be the individual to personally serve their spouse. If personal service is the method of service used, a Proof of Service of Summons must be completed and filed with the court (form FL-115).
- Substituted Service: Through this service method, the Respondent can be served through service on a third party. More specifically, if personal service is attempted at the Respondent’s business or workplace and the Respondent is not available to receive the service packet, the server may leave the documents with “a person at least 18 years of age who was apparently in charge at the office or usual place of business” of Respondent. Such person must be informed of “the general nature of the papers”.
If personal service is attempted at the Respondent’s home and the Respondent is not available to receive the service packet, the server may leave the documents with “a competent member of the household (at least 18 years of age)”. Such person must be informed of “the general nature of the papers”.
The server must try to serve the Respondent at least a few times (3 or more attempts is best) before leaving the service packet with the third party. Different days of a particular week and/or different times of the day must be attempted. “Due diligence” in attempting to serve the actual party spouse must be shown.
Under both the business and home options, the server must also thereafter mail an additional copy of the service packet to the Respondent at the location where the server left the initial copy.
Substituted service is deemed complete 10 calendar days after the mailing.
If substituted service is the method of service used, a Proof of Service of Summons must be completed and filed with the court (form FL-115). A written declaration of due diligence, regarding attempts to serve the Respondent himself or herself, is also required.
- Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt: Through this service method, the Respondent receives the documents through the mail. Included in the service packet is a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (form FL-117). Service is deemed complete on the date the acknowledgment of receipt form is signed. The recipient spouse must cooperate and return the signed form to the Petitioner or his/her attorney, so the form can be filed with the court. If the recipient spouse does not cooperate with this process, another service method will need to be used.
Once You Complete Service of Process
Following service (as described above) on the Respondent, the Respondent has 30 calendar days to file his or her Response (form FL-120). With the Response form, the Respondent must also file any required local form(s), and a UCCJEA (form FL-105) if there are minor children. The service packet provided to the Respondent must include a blank copy of the responsive forms.
If the Respondent does not file his or her Response with the family court within 30 calendar days from service, the Petitioner can move forward with a default divorce. There are specific steps that must be taken to properly complete a default divorce. Contact us today so we can explain the default process to you and answer your questions.
How Long Does It Take to Get Divorced?
You cannot finalize your divorce for at least 6 months from the date your spouse is served (or from the date your spouse files their Response if they file it prior to being served – and yes, that sometimes happens).
Your divorce case is final once a judge signs your final Judgment. You are returned to the status of “single” on the date the court indicates your marital partnership ends. (The date is written or stamped on the first page of the final Judgment.)
If a divorce case is dealt with amicably and cooperatively, it is plausible to have all the procedural steps completed and your Judgment submitted to the court for review within the 6-month waiting period.
If your divorce case is contested or has a need for litigation (either in a request for temporary orders or through a court trial), the divorce process can far exceed the 6-month waiting period, years even in many cases.
The divorce process, whether you are the spouse initiating the case or responding to documents you were served with, can be overwhelming and stressful. Our attorneys are experienced in dealing with both amicable and contested divorce matters. We strive to alleviate some of that stress and concern for our clients.
Contact us today for a free, confidential phone consultation to discuss the process in further detail.