Marriage has its ups and downs. The ups have been great and the downs have been tough. Having one, or two, or even many bad times does not mean that divorce or legal separation is the right course of action. You’ve invested a lot of emotions, time, and energy into your marriage. So why give it up so soon? And, remember you once wanted to spend the rest of your life with your spouse. So taking lots of time to carefully think about the option of divorce or legal separation is worth all of the time it takes. Also, family counseling could do wonders.
But, if after careful consideration, you believe that divorce or legal separation is the only option then your first step is to contact a family law lawyer. In California, the divorce or legal separation process takes at least six months. So, when you are selecting your lawyer know that you will be working with him or her for at least the next six months.
Divorce or legal separation starts with telling the Court that you no longer want to be married or that you want to be legally separated. This is call a Petition. The Petition has to be filed with the Court and there is a filing fee that the Court wants you to pay. Then, using the Summons that you got from the Court your spouse has to be personally served. Next, standard financial disclosures have to be shared with one another, telling the Court that you have done so. Then, a process of settlement occurs. If you and your ex-spouse agree on the settlement terms then you can get what is called an uncontested divorce. Else, you have to let the Court know what you cannot settle and then let the Court decide in a process called a trial. Once you settled or have your trial then the Court will rule that you are divorced or legally separated (called a Judgment) and you move on with your life and your share of the assets and debts.
There are also many other steps between your decision to seek a divorce or legal separation and your Judgment. They are not as straight forward as one would think they should be. And, surprises should be expected that will cause you to have to go to Court to get temporary orders, such as child custody and visitation, spousal support, domestic violence protective orders, control of assets, etc.
As such, it is critical that you get a lawyer that not only has a good grasp of Family Law but that is empathetic, caring, a good listener and communicator, and patient. You deserve such a lawyer, so do not settle.