Ending a marriage is typically difficult, both emotionally and legally. Making life-changing decisions while struggling with the emotional toll of divorce can be overwhelming. It is not uncommon for an individual confronted with divorce to have no idea how to actually start the process. It is natural to have lots of questions, starting with “how do I file for divorce?”
At the Law Offices of Michelanne Hrubic, we want to arm our clients and prospective clients with as much information as possible about the early stages of divorce so they can approach this situation with clarity and confidence. We know the divorce process itself can be confusing. Most people simply don’t know how to file for divorce because it’s not an everyday event.
When you have decided to file for divorce, you must visit the County Clerk’s Office in the county in which you reside to request the necessary paperwork. The County Clerk’s Office should provide you with all of the materials you need to present to a Riverside divorce attorney and begin the formal divorce process. An experienced divorce attorney is a great asset if you need assistance completing the paperwork required for your divorce petition.
Once you receive the necessary paperwork from the County Clerk’s Office, you must complete and return it with all necessary supplemental information. The first formal step in filing for divorce is submitting the completed divorce petition paperwork to the local courthouse. The initial divorce proposal typically includes stipulations for the divorce, and the respondent may or may not agree to these stipulations. It is very rare for a respondent to immediately sign off on divorce papers without contesting some of all of their contents.
California upholds a mandatory six-month waiting period for divorce. This window is the fastest possible time required to complete a divorce, but most divorce cases will take longer. Even couples who mediate their divorces successfully typically must wait several months or even more than a year before they obtain their divorce decrees.
Some states require that a divorcing couple live separately for a certain amount of time before they may file for divorce. California has no such requirement; there is no legal statute requiring you to separate from your spouse before filing for divorce. However, California does uphold a six-month waiting period for divorce.
It is perfectly possible to file for divorce without an attorney. However, doing so puts you at significant legal risk as your case unfolds, especially if your spouse hires an attorney of their own. It is generally best to hire an attorney before obtaining your divorce papers from the County Clerk’s Office. Your attorney can assist you in completing your paperwork and gathering the supplemental documentation you will need to provide along with it. While you might believe that you could save money on legal fees by representing your divorce on your own, the reality is that your investment in legal representation will work in your favor in the long run.
Once you and your attorney have successfully filed your divorce petition with the local courthouse, the court will formally serve the divorce petition to your spouse, confirming their receipt of the materials. They now have the opportunity to respond. In the event you and your spouse agree to terms immediately, they may sign off on an uncontested divorce. However, this is very rare, and it is more likely that the respondent will want to either negotiate the divorce through private mediation or go to trial.
Some people mistakenly believe that being the first to file a divorce petition somehow translates to an advantage in the subsequent legal proceedings, but this is not the case. It does not matter who files for divorce first.
If you are the first one to file for divorce, after filing the paperwork with the court, the next step is to simply wait for your spouse’s formal response. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine the best approach at this point. In most cases, alternative dispute resolution through mediation offers the best results.
Divorce can be difficult, stressful, and expensive without the right legal counsel on your side. If you are ready to file for divorce in California, contact the Law Offices of Michelanne Hrubic today and schedule a consultation with our team. We can explain the filing process and help you prepare for the legal proceedings ahead.
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