Divorce is always a distressing prospect. No one goes into a marriage expecting it to end in a divorce, but the U.S. is one of the world’s top four countries for divorce rates. While the national divorce rate has declined in the past decade, the decrease correlates with an overall decline in marriages.
The divorce process is always a difficult experience emotionally, but does it also have to be difficult legally? While it’s no one’s favorite life experience, divorcing doesn’t have to be an agonizing, argumentative undertaking. When divorcing spouses can work their way through fair decisions and compromises, they can save a lot of time and money with an uncontested divorce.
What is an Uncontested Divorce in California?
California’s no-fault divorce law makes it possible for spouses facing divorce to avoid a lengthy, complicated court process. When a couple believes they can simplify the divorce process and can openly communicate and compromise, they can file for an uncontested divorce without the need for litigation, possibly avoiding a court appearance altogether. While this type of streamlined divorce process is more common for divorcing spouses who have no children, even divorcing parents can file for an uncontested divorce if they are able to agree on the division of their marital assets and follow the state’s formula for calculating child support. Once the spouses settle all aspects of the divorce in a mutually acceptable agreement and file the papers in the correct jurisdiction, the judge may simply sign off on the settlement agreement through the mail, saving both spouses from the hearing process. However, this isn’t always guaranteed. If the judge finds any part of the agreement unfair to one spouse, or not in a child’s best interest, he/she may require a hearing. In other circumstances, the judge may require a hearing so he/she can ask questions.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in California?
Because California law requires a 6-month waiting period after filing and serving divorce papers, even an uncontested divorce in which both parties agree to all terms requires over six months from the filing date to the final dissolution. The steps to an uncontested divorce in California are as follows:
- Ensure you meet California’s residency requirements, which state that one or both spouses must have been a California resident for at least six months before filing for a California divorce and a resident of the county in which they are filing for at least 3 months
- File the correct forms in the appropriate jurisdiction. A California family law attorney can expedite this process by ensuring the right forms are diligently filled out and correctly filed, including the extra forms required for parents of underage children
- Legally serve the petition to the respondent in the divorce
- Wait for a response from the spouse served (respondents have up to 30 days to respond with failure to respond resulting in a divorce by default)
- Begin the 6-month waiting period, sometimes called a “cooling off period”
- Draft a written agreement with both parties agreeing to all points of the divorce and diligently addressing the 50/50 division of marital property as well as following the state’s formula for determining child support and shared custody if there are children from the marriage
- Receive a judgment and final dissolution of the marriage by the judge or a summons to appear at a hearing if the judge requests a court appearance to clarify points or make changes to the divorce agreement
While the timeline for a divorce in which both parties agree to all terms doesn’t require litigation and proceeds quickly after the 6-month waiting period, spouses can ensure a prompt divorce process by hiring an experienced attorney who is deeply familiar with California’s divorce law. While it’s possible to divorce without an attorney, paperwork errors and other mistakes or overlooked points could result in longer overall divorce proceedings.