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How to File for Divorce in California

Many divorcés will admit that the most challenging part of their divorce was actually starting and filing the paperwork. For some, the petition represented the final straw of their marriage and so it was understandably intimidating. For others, the headache of legalities and documentation turned them away and made them hesitate.

If you want to end your marriage but have not filed for divorce yet, no matter the reason, here's some of the first steps you are going to need to follow:

  1. Collection: Unless you have very strange or unique circumstances regarding your marriage, the divorce forms you need in California are probably all under Form FL-100. You can get these from your county clerk's office. If you aren't sure what forms you need, talk to your lawyer.
  2. Creation: Once you have the appropriate forms in place, you have to fill them out to completion. This is where things can get real tricky, real fast. Have you thought about what sort of custody order you would like? What about property distribution? Which reason are you going to cite for your official reason for wanting to divorce? All of this matters and needs to be stated in your initial petition. Once again, if you have any doubt or questions about how to fill out the petition, it is critical you work with a divorce attorney to avoid making costly mistakes that could delay the entire process.
  3. Filing: When your petition is completed and double-checked, you need to file it with the same county clerk's office as before, assuming you and/or your spouse still live in that county. Expect to pay filing fees before the clerk will notarize your forms and file it with the court's own set of records.
  4. Service: If the court files your petition, you need to serve a duplicate to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Although, you don't actually complete the service. Anyone over 18 other than a party of the divorce can serve the documents, including a court officer, police officer, or a professional process server. This acts as a method to prevent people from claiming they served the papers but never actually did, getting an unjust default judgement; it also prevents people from claiming they never received the service even though they had.

While these are just the first four beginning steps of filing for divorce, you can see that there is already a lot of room for error. You could get the wrong forms, fill them out incorrectly, file with the wrong court, or complete an invalid service. It is often highly recommended that at the start of step one, you actually complete step zero: hiring a divorce lawyer.

If you live in Southern California and are looking to file for a divorce, you can rely on Singleton Smith Law Offices and our Murrieta family law attorneys for all the legal help, guidance, and representation you need. Call (951) 779-1610 to request a completely free initial consultation with our highly-experienced team today.