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What are the Main Steps in a Divorce Case?


Many clients often come to us confused about what to expect in a divorce. While divorce laws in California can be complicated and involve extensive paperwork, having an experienced attorney guide you through the process can make it easier to get through.

If you are thinking about dissolving your marriage through divorce, take a look at this simplified list of the main steps you will encounter and how to handle them.

The California divorce process generally involves these basic steps:

  1. Create a divorce petition:
    • Collect a divorce petition from your local county clerk or divorce court. A completed petition will name both spouses, any of their shared children, separate and community property, and your own wishes for child support, child custody, and spousal support agreements. If you have lived in numerous states recently, or if your spouse is active in the military, it may be difficult to know which divorce court to visit. Contact a divorce attorney to get a clear answer.
  2. Serve the divorce petition:
    • Once your petition is complete, provide a copy to your spouse. If your divorce is uncontested and you still act civilly around each other, serving your divorce papers can be as simple as getting them to sign their copy in acknowledgement.
    • If your divorce is contested, or your spouse won’t sign or isn’t easy to locate, you may need to hire a professional to complete the service. Once the service is complete, your marriage will go on a bit of a lockdown, meaning you cannot leave the state with your children, sell property, or borrow against your property until the divorce is finalized.
  3. Respond to the petition:
    • This step is not required but it is highly recommended. After you serve your divorce papers, you or the person you hired to serve the documents should inform your spouse that they should file a response with the same divorce court within 30 days. A response will either say they agree to all the terms of the divorce paperwork, or they don’t. Pretty simple but filing a response can bring the benefit of avoiding extra court dates.
  4. Disclose assets, income, properties, and debt:
    • Disclose all financial information to your spouse. Income, regular expenses, property you own or control, liabilities, and more need to be offered up for research and review. Intentionally hiding assets can slow down your divorce and potentially land you in legal trouble later on, so never try to sweep anything under the proverbial carpet. If you think your spouse may be doing just that, however, tell your attorney right away.
  5. Finalize your divorce:
    • If everything is “good” in your divorce after disclosure, you and your spouse will only have to sign one more bit of paperwork. If it is not and you are snagged on a disagreement, you may need to start considering court hearings and an eventual trial.

Now that you have a basic outline of what the divorce process involves, you can get started with your case.

Contact Arnold Law Group, APC and our Fresno divorce attorneys can help you start off on the right path, providing welcome and friendly legal support until your divorce is finalized. Call us at 559.900.1263 to learn more about our services.

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