Filing for a divorce is referred to as a “dissolution of marriage” action. California is “no-fault” which means that if you are asking for the divorce you don’t need to prove that it was the other spouse’s fault to get your request for divorce granted, hence no fault. Most divorces are based on “irreconcilable differences.”
There is a waiting period in California to have a divorce granted. The soonest a divorce can be granted is six (6) months and one (1) day from the date that the opposing party is served with the petition and summons. This is not granted automatically. The parties must either have filed a motion to bifurcate or filed a judgment in order to have the divorce granted by that date.
If you have submitted a stipulated judgment to the Court and receive the approved judgment back prior to the expiration of the waiting period, then the date the divorce is granted on the judgment will be six (6) months and one (1) day from service the petition and summons. If you file a judgment after the waiting period, then the date of divorce is whatever date the judgment is entered by the Court.
When seeking a divorce, you will need to file a petition for dissolution, summons, and accompanying forms which vary depending on the county you file in. You need to be a resident of the state for six (6) months and a resident of the county you file in for three (3) months prior to filing the petition. Once it is filed, then the petition and summons are served on the other party. The filing party is called the Petitioner.
The purpose of the petition is to put the other party and the Court on notice that you are seeking a divorce. There are no orders, per se, made upon filing the petition other than the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders which are attached to the summons.
If you are served with a petition and summons, then you need to file a response. It is basically identical to the petition, but it serves to place the other party and the Court on notice that you are responding. The filing party is called the Respondent.
Failure to respond after thirty (30) days of being served with the petition can result in the Respondent’s “default” being taken, i.e. the Petitioner can ask that the Court enter a divorce without them. It is advisable to move as quickly as possible to prevent your default from being taken. If your default has been taken, you can ask that it be set aside and the Court will grant it if you file your request within the statutory time frame. However, it’s easier to just respond timely. There is not necessarily any advantage to being the Petitioner or the Respondent.
Disputes regarding custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, or attorneys fees can usually be handled by filing a Request For Order (RFO). Disputes regarding the division of property usually are not addressed until the time of trial. Upon filing the RFO you will receive a hearing date and absent coming to an agreement or stipulation with the other party, the Court will make orders after a hearing. As a result, you will have temporary orders on the issues you filed for in your RFO pending a full trial.