Exploring Divorce Timelines in California: How Long Does the Process Take

After you’ve taken the steps to file for divorce, you are likely eager to get the process finalized so you can move on with your life. However, depending on the circumstances of your case, the divorce process in California can be a long, complicated process. Understanding the divorce process in California can help you navigate this challenging time more efficiently.

This article will discuss divorce in California. We will give you an overview of the divorce process to provide you with a general idea of how long it takes for a divorce to be finalized in California.

California: A ‘No Fault’ Divorce State

California is a no-fault divorce state. That means that either spouse can file for divorce without having to prove fault on the other spouse.

There are two types of grounds for divorce in California.

  1. Irreconcilable differences mean the couple cannot resolve their differences to save their marriage.
  2. Legal incapacity to make decisions can be used if one spouse has been determined “legally incapacitated” to make decisions by a doctor. This could be caused by illness, traumatic injury, or a psychological issue.

Mandatory Waiting Period

There is a mandatory waiting period of six months for a divorce in California. This waiting period gives the couple time to reconsider their decision to divorce. This waiting period applies even if you’ve been legally separated for over six months.

After the six-month waiting period has passed, the divorce will be finalized. It’s important to note that this is the minimum amount of time a divorce can take in California. Many divorces can take longer to finalize.

The Divorce Process in California

The divorce process in California is outlined in the Family Code, Division 6, Part 3, Chapter 4, which provides legal guidelines for it. Let’s examine the steps involved in the divorce process in California.

Step #1 – Filing the Petition

The petitioner is the spouse who files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court. When this has been completed, the divorce proceedings begin. The petition details the grounds and specifics of the divorce.

Submitting paperwork that is completed properly is vital for a valid submission. Enlisting the services of a qualified divorce attorney can help streamline the process and ensure all forms are filed accurately and in a timely manner.

Step #2 – Service the Divorce Papers

Serving the divorce papers to your spouse (the respondent) is a legal requirement in California. Ensuring compliance with the serving requirements is vital to the divorce process. Your divorce attorney can assist you in serving divorce papers properly and timely.

Step #3 – Response

When you receive a divorce petition, quick action is essential. After being served, the respondent must file a response within 30 days. If they fail to respond, the court may proceed with a default judgment, potentially expediting the process.

Step #4 – Preliminary Disclosures

Both parties must exchange preliminary financial disclosures. These documents detail assets, debts, income, and expenses, ensuring transparency and fairness during the property division and determination of support. Filing to disclose financial information can significantly influence the outcome of the divorce.

Step #5 – Temporary Orders

Either spouse may request temporary orders to address immediate concerns such as child custody, child support, and the use of marital assets. These orders will remain in effect until the final judgment is issued.

Step #6 – Discovery

If your case is more complex, the discovery process allows both parties to obtain additional information from each other. This can involve depositions, subpoenas, and interrogatories.

Step #7 – Negotiation and Settlement

Many times, a couple can settle their divorce outside of court. Mediation can be a valuable tool for reaching an agreement that satisfies both parties and significantly reduces the time and cost involved in the divorce.

Step #8 – Trial

If the parties cannot agree, the case will proceed to trial. A judge will hear evidence and decide on unresolved issues. Trials can be time-consuming and add several months to the process.

Step #9 – Final Judgment

When all issues are resolved, the final judgment is prepared. The judge will review and sign the judgment, officially dissolving the marriage.

Realistic Timeframe to Finalize a California Divorce

The six-month waiting period is the minimum time it can take to finalize a divorce in California. It’s realistic to expect a California divorce to take eight to eighteen months to complete.

Uncontested divorces, where both parties agree on all terms, can be finalized closer to the six-month mark. Contested divorces, on the other hand, may extend beyond a year.

While online divorces are often touted as faster and more convenient, they can lack the personalized guidance and legal oversight that traditional methods offer. This could lead to oversights in complex legal matters or agreements that aren’t properly vetted, potentially prolonging or complicating the divorce process in the long run.

Turn to Azemika & Azemika If You’re Facing Divorce in California

Understanding the timeline and steps involved in a California divorce can help set realistic expectations and reduce some of the stress you may feel during the divorce process. While each case is unique, being informed and prepared can make a significant difference in navigating this challenging life transition.

At Azemika & Azemika, we understand that divorce is a difficult and emotional time. Our team is dedicated to minimizing the stress and uncertainty of divorce. With over three decades of experience in family law, we provide personalized, compassionate, and expert legal representation throughout the divorce process.

Our firm was selected as Best of Bakersfield for Divorce/Family Law attorney by The Bakersfield Californian for two years in a row. Contact us today to work with our award-winning team.

Read more