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DIVORCE IN 3 STEPS
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN INITIAL DOCUMENTS?
The first paper to file with the court is a Petition, which is a kind of “wish list” along with some factual information. The Petition tells the court what kind of case it is (i.e., divorce, legal separation, or nullity), says what the important facts are about the relationship (dates, children, or property), and tells the court what you are hoping to get at the end (support, property division, or orders about custody). There are other forms to file as well, describing property, details about the children’s histories, or specific requests you might have, depending on the particular facts of the case. This is also the time to file a request for temporary orders for issues like support or custody; those kinds of orders last until the case goes to judgment.
WHAT ARE DISCLOSURES?
Sixty days after the first papers are filed, the law requires that you disclose all of the financial facts to the other party in writing. The process of doing that is called Disclosure, and it involves some very specific forms: you must complete and send to the other party an Income and Expense Declaration and a Community Property Declaration, along with a Declaration of Disclosure, which is a kind of cover sheet for the other two forms. Finally, you must file a Declaration of Service of Declaration of Disclosure with the court. If you proceed by default, without any agreement, only the Petitioner must complete Disclosure, but if both parties have filed paperwork in the case, or you have a written Marital Settlement Agreement to submit with the judgment, both parties are required to file Declarations that they have completed Disclosure. If one party files papers and later decides not to cooperate with Disclosure, the other party may ask the court to proceed without it; otherwise the court cannot process a judgment.
WHAT IS JUDGMENT?
Few cases require a formal trial; most are resolved by default or by agreement, with or without a default. When the parties agree on all issues, they submit a proposed judgment with their agreement attached. If there are no issues and the other party does not respond, the Petitioner may proceed alone and obtain a judgment. The proposed judgment and accompanying papers can be submitted with a Declaration for Default, or the Petitioner can request a hearing, and present the judgment at the hearing. The Judgment is a final decision, but if there are continuing orders for support or custody, those may be modified when the underlying circumstances change. The Judgment will also say the date that the parties are made single, which is important for taxes, or could be important if a remarriage is imminent.