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8 Steps to Divorce in California

California Divorce Process From Start to Finish

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Deciding to divorce your spouse is an emotional experience — no matter the situation. And often, it can be confusing for those who aren’t familiar with the process. Our team at Sullivan Law & Associates is here to walk you through each of the following steps and can continue to help you after your divorce is finalized.

1. Filing for Divorce

Deciding to file for divorce takes a lot of contemplating — as it has life-altering repercussions. If you’re sure that your marriage is over, you should meet with an attorney and start the process to divorce. This means gathering important papers, changing your personal passwords, taking inventory of household items, and talking to your children.

From there, your attorney will help you (the petitioner) file a Summons (FL-110) that lets your spouse know you plan to file. It will advise against certain actions such as removing minors from the state. A Petition (FL-100) will be sent as a formal notice of divorce.

2. Serving the Divorce Papers

This process simply means giving the other party copies of the documents. In many cases, an outside party serves the spouse to ensure they receive the papers lawfully. They can also be sent via mail.

Responding to the Divorce Papers

Responding to a divorce is a way for your spouse to let the judge know their side of the story within 30 days of being served.

3. Temporary Orders

California courts take at least six months and a day to finalize a divorce — so temporary orders will be made to cover certain situations during the proceedings. This may include child visitation, child custody, and the use of marital property.

4. Financial Disclosures

The financial disclosure process will consist of four forms: FL-140, FL-141, FL-142 (or FL-160), and FL-150 to list out all assets, debts, income, and expenses. It can be a tedious process, as this disclosure includes:

  • Paycheck stubs
  • Income tax returns
  • Mortgage statements
  • Slips to vehicles and property deeds
  • Bank account, life insurance retirement, and credit card statements

Your attorney will ensure these are filed properly.

5. Discovery

The discovery phase of a divorce is where information is obtained from your spouse. Your spouse will be required to give an oral testimony during their deposition, and integrations and submissions for admissions will also be made. Discovery is 100% your choice — but the process can help gather information to help your case. If your spouse fails to respond to the request for discovery, they may face sanctions.

Read More: He Said-She Said: How Hearsay Affects Your Case

6. Settlement

A settlement often happens in an uncontested divorce, where both parties agree to the terms of their divorce and decide to settle before going to trial. You’ll have to explain your agreement on every issue, including:

7. Trial

If an agreement can’t be reached between spouses, your divorce will go to trial. From here, the judge will make rulings on the above matters and form court orders that you and your spouse must follow. Witnesses may also testify at this trial, and opening and closing arguments can be given on both sides.

8. Post-Judgment Issues

Though the judge will form orders based on the findings in your divorce case, this doesn’t mean that your situation is finite. Either you or your spouse could always petition the court for changes to your child custody agreement or spousal support.


For those issues, our team at Sullivan Law & Associates remains here to help. Simply reach out to us to explain the issue, and we’ll get right to work.

Newport Beach Divorce Attorneys

Whether you’re deciding on whether or not to file or you’re ready to serve divorce papers, our team at } is here to help you every step of the way.

Contact our team at (949) 590-8100 or online to book a consultation, and visit our Resources Page for more information on all family matter topics.

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