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Self Help Divorce Tips – Getting Your Divorce Started

Resources From Proven Divorce Lawyers in Orange County, CA

The following information is not meant to be legal advice. It offers alternatives, tips and resources for those with no means to hire an Attorney.

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS

  • In order to obtain a divorce in California, you must have resided in California for at least 6 months, and also lived in the county where you plan to file for divorce for 3 months.
    • If you don’t meet these requirements, you may be able to file for legal separation, and later amend your petition to file for divorce.

GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

  • California is a “No-Fault” state. You don’t need any special grounds to file for divorce, and your spouse does not have to agree to get a divorce. In the form you filed with the court (the Petition for Dissolution) you can just check the box “Irreconcilable Differences”.


FILING FOR DIVORCE
All forms can be found at www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm under Family Law – Dissolution)

  • Go to www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm and read the form, “FL-107-INFO”. This is a form that sets forth in more detail, the legal steps for a divorce or legal separation. Below, we have provided more general information so you can quickly get an idea of the steps involved.
    • Also go to http://courts.ca.gov/1229.htm and read this webpage. It is the court’s information which has the steps for filing your case. It has links to the forms referenced below, and video instructions as well.
  • The process starts with one party, known as Petitioner, filing certain forms with the court:
  • A Petition for Dissolution (Form FL – 100)
  • A Summons (FL-110). This gives notice to your spouse that you have filed for divorce.
    • Exception, you may qualify for “Summary Dissolution” which is a more simple process, and which requires that you fill out different forms. To determine if you qualify and what forms to fill out, see FL-810 “Summary Dissolution Information”.
      • Generally, to qualify you must not have any children by your marriage, have not been married more than 5 years, don’t own any land or buildings, “community property” is worth no more than $40,000 (not including cars), your “separate property” is not worth more than $40,000, total “community debt” is $6,000 or less, you don’t want spousal support, and you agree with your spouse as to how property is to be divided. See FL-810 for more details.
      • Note, there are “Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders” ("ATKOS") that go into effect when the Petition is served. They are printed on page Two of the Summons. Read them, so you know your rights and don’t violate them.
        • ATROS preclude certain actions, such as removing minor children from the state, cancelling insurance or removing the other party from insurance, transferring and changing title to property, etc
  • A Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, FL -105 (if you have minor children from the relationship you are dissolving)
  • Note Regarding Real Property:
    • If there is any real property in your case, seriously consider seeking assistance to file a Lis Pendens in the office of the county recorder where the real property is located. This puts the world on constructive notice that any subsequently acquired interests to the property will be subject to the ultimate judgment in your Dissolution action. This is to protect your interest in the property, and is especially important where you are not on title.
  • Make at least two copies of your forms and go to the courthouse to file them with the court clerk. The clerk will stamp all your papers, keep the original, and give you back your stamped (“conformed”) copy. At the time of publication of this article (2014), the court filing fee is $435.
    • If you cannot afford the filing fee go to: www.occourts.org/self-help/resources/shfeewaiver.html )

SERVE THE FORMS

  • Gather the following forms:
    • The stamped copies of the forms you filed with the court clerk.
    • FL-120
    • FL-117 (ONLY if service was effectuated by mail and your spouse filled it out and returned it.)
  • Serve your spouse with the above papers by having another person over age 18 give the gathered forms to your spouse in person, or by substituted service. This person (not you) can also serve your spouse by mail, but your spouse will have to fill out FL-117 and return it to the person who served them. If your spouse fails or refuses to return FL-117 they will still need to be served in person or by substituted service. However, you may then be entitled to recover from your spouse the costs associated with personal service.
  • The person who is served also known as the Respondent must fill out and sign forms FL-115 (and FL-117 if served by mail) and return these documents to you.
  • File the completed and signed form FL -115 (and FL-117 if service by mail) with the courthouse clerk. (No charge to file this paperwork.)
  • For more information on the procedure for serving your spouse with court forms, see form FL-330-Info (Information Sheet for Proof of Personal Service), and http://courts.ca.gov/1229.htm

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURES

  • Prepare the following:
    • FL -140 “Declaration of Disclosure”.
    • FL-150 “Income and Expense Declaration”, and Debts, and supporting documentation including your last 3 pay stubs.
    • FL-142 “Schedule of Assets” or FL-160 “Property Declaration” and supporting documentation.
    • Obtain your last two years of tax returns.
    • Declaration (Written Statement) that contains an accurate and complete update to your spouse about financial opportunities which have occurred after you were separated.
  • Serve:
    • Serve your spouse a COPY of all the financial disclosure forms and information. You can serve them along with the original petition if you want to save service fees.
    • Financial disclosures must be served within 60 days of the date you filed your Petition for Dissolution with the court clerk.
  • Fill out and file FL-141 (“Declaration Regarding Service”) ONLY with the court clerk. (No fee for this filing.)
    • DO NOT FILE with the court (you only serve them on your spouse) financial disclosure forms:
      • FL-140
      • FL-142
      • FL-160
      • FL-150

What happens next depends on whether your spouse responds to service within 30 days by filing and serving FL-120 with the court, and whether you are able to resolve issues amicably. Everything starts to get a bit more complicated at this point.

For more information you can refer to:

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