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DIVORCE IN 3 STEPS

STEP ONE:

INITIAL DOCUMENTS

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN INITIAL DOCUMENTS?

The first paper filed with the court is the Petition, a kind of “wish list” of objectives 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, include details about 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.

STEP TWO:

DISCLOSURES

WHAT ARE DISCLOSURES?

Sixty days after the first papers are filed, the law requires you disclose all financial information to the other party in writing.  This process is called Disclosure, and involves some very specific forms including 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, a Declaration of Service of Declaration of Disclosure is filed with the court. If proceeding by default, without any agreement, only the Petitioner must complete Disclosure, but if both parties file paperwork in the case, an Marital Settlement Agreement is written to submit with judgment, both parties are required to file Declarations.  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.

STEP THREE:

JUDGMENT

WHAT IS JUDGMENT?

Few cases require a formal trial; most are resolved by default or agreement. When parties agree on all issues, they submit a proposed judgment with the agreement attached. If no issues arise 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 requests a hearing, and present the judgment at the hearing. The Judgment is a final decision, but if continuing orders for support or custody exist, they may be modified when the underlying circumstances change.  The Judgment also states the date the parties are of single status, which is important for taxes, or if a remarriage is imminent.

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