how to petition to for divorce

How To Petition For The Dissolution Of Marriage

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Divorce is a process. In reality, it may have begun long ago, with cracks forming in the foundation of your relationship. From a legal perspective, however, it doesn’t kick off until you file the original petition for the dissolution of marriage in the appropriate county.

Establish Residency

Before you can file for divorce in California, you have to figure out where to file. One party, whether it’s you or your spouse, must have lived in the state for at least the previous six months.

On a county level, one of you must also have lived in a particular county for at least three months. If you and your soon-to-be ex still live in the same place, this won’t likely be an issue. But if for example, you move out of a shared marital home and relocate to San Diego County from Orange County, you have to settle in for the minimum time before you can file.

Divorce Forms

Once you figure out where to file, the next step is what to file. In California, this takes the shape of Form FL-100, also known as the Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage.

As the name implies, this document requires all of the pertinent details about you and your spouse. This includes contact information, a list of shared assets and debts, and the length of the marriage.

If you have kids, when you fill out the form, you also lay out preferences for child custody, visitation, and child support.

You need to make the court aware of the children’s current living situation. You can also request spousal support and submit any other requests at this time.

  • FL-100 – This is the form to begin the divorce or legal separation process. As the filing party, you will list all the pertinent information related to your marriage, including children, dates and property.
  • FL-110 – This form is the Summons, which lets your spouse know that you’ve filed.

  • FL-115 – The Proof of Service of Summons, this lets you tell the court that you have notified your spouse.

  • FL-120 – This forms the basis for your soon-to-be ex’s response.

Once you fill out all of the appropriate forms, the next step involves submitting them to the appropriate court in the appropriate county. And make sure to make copies, because you’ll need them for what comes next.

Serving Your Spouse

In California, it’s your responsibility as the filing party to serve copies of the petition, summons, and other applicable forms to your spouse. This must include form FL-120, which forms the basis for your soon-to-be ex’s response.

You can’t personally hand these papers over, nor can your children.

However, any other adult over 18-years-old can. Many people use a process server for ease and logistics and arrange a hand delivery. It’s possible, however, for your spouse to waive her rights in this regard and receive the forms via mail.

Final Agreement

Once your spouse responds to the petition, if you don’t have any pressing issues to contest, the final phase is to construct the final agreement. This is where you break down all of the details and lay out the specifics of your divorce.

If you have kids, you map out child custody, visitation, and child support via a parenting plan and support orders. This also states how you plan to divide any shared property and joint debt. If spousal support comes into play, you must make that decision before submitting the divorce documents to the court to become official.

Related Reading: What’s In A Divorce Decree?
Related Reading: Divorce Discovery Tools

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