What You Need to Know About DIY Divorce in California
Divorce is often a very stressful and emotionally draining process. In the midst of high stress and anxiety, both spouses face endless paperwork, limited financial resources, and bewildering legal vocabulary. If you’re not looking to break the bank, here’s how to DIY divorce in California.
Those going through a divorce can either receive legal representation from a skilled divorce attorney or represent themselves. The legal term for case in which someone represents themselves is “in propria persona”. Although Pride Legal advises spouses to consult a divorce attorney before taking serious legal actions, those facing divorce may choose “in propria persona” if their case is simple and resolute, or to circumvent costly attorney fees. Individuals who choose to represent themselves must be willing to patiently study the legal system in order to successfully handle DIY divorce in an organized manner.
Spouses who choose to represent themselves must:
- Obtain, develop, and deliver disclosure package forms to their spouse.
- Perform all arrangements in writing and file them with the California court.
- Complete all required paperwork and ensure all documents comply with California divorce codes.
- Present relevant evidence in court and introduce any points the judge should consider
- Finalize your divorce by collecting a judgment from the court
Find Grounds for Divorce
Unlike most states, California is a ‘no-fault’ state, meaning that a spouse does not need a reason for why they want a divorce. A person can choose divorce for any reason if they please. California is also a ‘split state’ which means that normally the court would split all assets and debits 50/50 between both spouses, but with DIY divorce there is some room to change things if both spouses agree.
However, to be eligible for divorce in California one must meet the residency requirements. The following are California’s residency requirements for divorce:
- You and your spouse must have resided in California for at least 6 months, AND
- Lived in the county you wish to file the divorce in for at least 3 months.
File for Divorce
The first step in a divorce is to purchase a dissolution package from your county’s court clerk. California’s dissolution package fees cost $395 and take about 12 months to fully process.
The spouse who files for divorce must pay the fee and fill out a petition and summons for divorce. This petition from divorce must be delivered to your spouse by any adult except for you. The petition must then be signed and returned within 30 days. The purpose of this petition is to inform the court of the issues looking to be resolved in the court of law. These issues may include child custody, financial entanglements, etc..
If your spouse disputes any items listed, the court requires that you hold a hearing in front of a judge. Prior mutual agreements between you and your spouse ease the process and may not require a court hearing. If you are eligible for a summary dissolution, your separation process may be shorter and easier. Click here to see if you are eligible for a summary dissolution.
During the Process
In California, filing a divorce petition will automatically set restraining orders on both spouses. After filing a divorce petition, you and your spouse will not be permitted to leave California with your children under the age of 18 without written permission and documentation. Furthermore, neither you nor your spouse may make changes to your insurance policy. Lastly, any abnormal monetary spending will require approval and must be considered in front of the judge.
In California, one’s property is either considered community property and separate property. Typically, any assets or liabilities acquired after marriage is considered community property and will generally be divided equally among the spouses. On the other hand, if you and your spouse signed certain prenuptial agreements, an equal division is not necessary.
Child custody issues must be decided by the spouses as well. These issues include visitation rights, child support, and child custody. Spouses may agree upon joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole physical custody. Each child custody option has its own set of requirements and guidelines. Custody arrangements can be altered after divorce if necessary.