Divorce proceedings

divorce proceeding divorce proceeding Divorce proceedings flow 440x1024 1 129x300The divorce proceeding is not simple in California, but we will explain it step by step based on the questions our clients are asking most frequently.

Divorce proceeding starts with opening your case with  the right court and filing the first set of your documents.

The first step of the divorce proceeding is to open your case by filing a set of the documents with the court; a summons and a petition. If you have any minor children with the spouse you are divorcing, you should also file a declaration under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act . You will also need to file some local forms depending on the county where you live.

You can file for divorce in any county where either you or your spouse  lived  for at least three months, you must have lived in  California at least for 6 months.

In order to locate  your courthouse please use the link we found for you and enter your zip code or city.

There is a fee that you need to pay to the clerk of the court for filing the first set of documents for your divorce proceeding. The amount of the filing fee depends on the county you live in. The filing fee in Orange County, Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County is $435.

More discussion on the first step of a divorce proceeding can be found  in the article “ How to start a divorce” in the blog section.

The second step of divorce proceeding is the service of process. After filing with the court, you will receive a case number and all of your forms will have samples. You will need to prepare responsive blank forms, then you are ready for the service. Any adult (18 or older) who is not a party of your case can do the service of process. You can use a professional server, the local sheriff’s office, a friend, or a relative for this task. After the papers have been served, you must notify the court of the action you have taken. In other words, after you have served your spouse, you need to file the proof of service with the court.

Third step, the person that was served (the respondent) must file a  response. The process steps for the respondent are similar to that of the petitioner.  As you will see in the explanation divorce process step be step, after the petitioner takes action and notifies the court, the respondent needs to do very similar steps with very similar forms.

The respondent needs to respond to the petitioner’s request with the forms he or she was served and serve the spouse with his completed response. When the respondent files a response, if he says that he disagrees with all or some of the issues, the divorce proceeding will most likely become a contested divorce .

Divorce process step by step is different for contested and uncontested divorce.

At this point we want to emphasize your attention to understanding that there are some variations in the divorce process:

If the couple chooses to do an uncontested divorce, then we can help you step by step with the document preparation in an inexpensive way. In our law firm, we use a different, more cost efficient approach for an uncontested divorce proceeding. The respondent will not need to spend money filing a response. We finalize the divorce with a default judgment strategy.

If an uncontested divorce is not possible then the divorce is contested and will follow a more complex set of steps. After the respondent completes the served response form(s), somebody who is not a party of this case and who is at least 18 years old needs to serve the petitioner on the respondent’s behalf. The server’s response needs to serve an un-filed copy of the document. He can do it personally or by mail.

The respondent needs to file the proof of service with the court.

Divorce process might have additional steps if necessary under your specific circumstances.

The forth step is a temporary order.  Because the divorce proceeding takes at least six months and one day from the service of process; you or your spouse might need temporary spousal support, child support, or payment for an attorney’s fee. For this reason, you may want to file a temporary order.

After filing a temporary order with the court, you will know the date and time for your hearing. You need to serve your spouse with the copy of the form you have filed-out and the responsive request for your order. Similar to the steps mentioned above, in the steps of a divorce proceeding, you must file the proof of service with the court.

The other side has an opportunity to respond to the temporary request by filing a responsive request order telling his/her side of the story.


Fifth step of divorce proceeding; applies when you have minor children and are requesting temporary child custody and visitation. The court will require both parents to participate in Child Custody Recommending Counseling. This is mandatory mediation that takes place when there is a dispute about custody and visitation. When you file for custody and/or visitations, in most cases, you should expect to attend CCRC. Usually there is a mental health professional, such as Marriage or Family Therapist or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker handling the conference. The purpose of this meeting is to mediate and come to an agreement between the spouses regarding their children’s custody and visitation.


The sixth step is Financial Disclosures. This step applies to any divorce proceeding, whether it is contested or uncontested because it is one of the mandatory requirements of a divorce , regardless spouses with kids or without, with agreement or without agreement.You and your spouse will need to prepare some mandatory forms and other documents that include providing information regarding all of the separate and community property debts, income, expenses and assets. There are preliminary and final declaration of disclosures.

The California divorce proceeding requires you to serve your spouse with a preliminary declaration within 60 days of the petition if you are the petitioner or 60 days of the response or within 60 days of the response if you are the respondent.

The spouses will serve the final declaration of disclosure at least 45 days before the first assigned trial date or do a waiver of final disclosure.

The seventh step of the divorce proceeding is discovery.

Discovery could be interrogatories, request for admission, request to produce documents or oral deposition. All those are different forms of asking the party for the information.

Interrogatory asks the party for information in writing. Request for production is a request to bring the documents. Request for admissions is a request to admit or deny certain information

The way to ask a non-party member for the information is subpoenas. The information could be in documents or testimony.


The eighth step of the divorce proceeding is a settlement. You can settle an issue in which you and your spouse have a disagreement or conflict with the entire case. The earliest you can start the settlement of your financial issues is after you exchange the preliminary declaration of disclosure with your spouse. Settlement can save you a lot of time and money. You can start child custody and visitation settlement any time. It would be beneficial for your children to settle child custody without judge involvement since you know your children’s best interest better than any outside person other than the children themselves.

The result of your successful settlement would be a stipulated judgment which you will attach to your judgment.

In case you are not able to settle, the case goes to trial.

The ninth step of the divorce process step by step is Trial. The trial can be set up by parties or judge. Divorce trials are almost always bench trials, decided by a judge, not a jury trial.

First a judge will confirm that everybody is ready for trial. After that the opening statement will follow. The petitioner and respondent will be presenting the summary of the facts of the case and the road map of the case.

Husband and wife will be testifying as a lay witness. A lay witness (as opposed to an expert witness) is someone who testifies based upon personal knowledge and experience. If the information is relevant, it is used in trial.

In addition to the spouse’s testimony, other lay witnesses and expert witnesses may testify as well.

Expert witnesses’ may testify based on their special knowledge and experience in a certain field.

At the end of the witness’s testimony, closing statements are made for each side summarizing the facts and evidence in the line favorable for each party.

If the trial does not finish in one day, the judge will choose day when he or she has availability.

The divorce process step by step is written in a simplified way to give you a very general idea of what to expect in your divorce proceeding.