The term ‘divorce’ is somewhat outdated. The more modern term is ‘dissolution’ as the court ‘dissolves’ your marital status so that you are no longer married to your partner. California is a ‘no fault’ state which means that you do not need ‘grounds’ in order to dissolve your marriage. Instead, just stating ‘irreconcilable differences’ suffices. In other words, you can get divorced for any reason whatsoever and your partner has no basis to object. Also, because California is a ‘no fault’ state, neither spouse will be ‘punished’ for having caused the breakdown of the marriage by either taking a disproportionate amount of assets or debts nor by having less time with the children … unless the behavior has been so egregious so as to harm the children.
In order to qualify to file for a divorce in California, either you or your spouse have to have been residents of California for at least six (6) months prior to filing your Petition for Dissolution AND three (3) months in the County before filing. Some states have a shorter residency requirement and some have a longer residency requirement. If you are here in California and your spouse has moved to another state, then you would be well advised to find out the residency requirement for that state. It is always better to have your case filed in your ‘back yard’ rather than in another state or even in another county. This cuts down on travel time to and from court; it cuts down on your attorney’s travel costs to and from court; it ensures that your assigned judge or commissioner is more familiar with your child’s schools, counselors, therapists, etc. It also ensures that your local judge is familiar with your geographical/residential area and with any special challenges you might have as a result.
If you and your spouse live in different states or counties and you BOTH satisfy the jurisdictional requirements for your state or county it often becomes a race to the courthouse.
To be assured that your case stays in your court, you should be ‘first to file and first to serve.’ This means that as soon as you know you have jurisdiction (6 months in the state and 3 months in the county) you should file your case AND get your case personally served on your spouse. If you delay and your spouse files and serves you first, then your case is going to be in the court local to where your spouse lives and not where you live. Even if you are not absolutely sure that you want this divorce to go forward, filing and serving first can serve as a precautionary measure to assure your case stays where you want it. You can always put your divorce case on hold if you and your spouse desire to attempt reconciliation.
The soonest you can actually be ‘divorced’ is six (6) months from the date you cause your Petition to be personally served on your spouse. This six month waiting period is called the ‘cooling off period’ and is meant to allow the parties to rethink their decision to dissolve the marriage. Assuming you go forward with your divorce, you will not automatically be divorced at that six month date. Your case must have progressed to a certain stage and depending on the facts of your case, you may have to resolve ALL disputes and be prepared to enter judgment on ALL issues before your marital status may be dissolved.
If you need an experienced attorney to assist you with your divorce call the CATHERINE A. VINCENT, Attorney at Law today for a FREE phone consultation.