Solving Complex Family Law Issues with Creative Strategies

What is an Amicable Divorce & How Does it Work in California?

Remember when Gwyneth Paltrow announced the “conscious uncoupling” of her marriage with Chris Martin only to be met with much derisive backlash by the media? Since that time, many other couples have discovered the emotional and financial advantages of an amicable divorce. While all divorces are distressful and emotional, an amicable divorce is the best-case scenario of divorces, indicating a willingness to avoid contentious litigation, arguments, and common pitfalls, including compounding the stress on the family with bitterness, anger, and hurt feelings. Few couples enter marriage anticipating a future divorce, but when couples can agree to part ways amicably, everyone benefits.

Advantages of an Amicable Divorce in California

California is a community property state, meaning all marital assets are subject to a fair and equitable division between spouses in a divorce, typically a 50/50 split or something close to that ideal. California family courts also consider both parents equally important to children’s lives and a continued close parental relationship with both parents to be in the child’s best interests. For this reason, most divorcing couples spend many hours in mediation and often in contentious litigation in court, arguing over the following points addressed in a divorce settlement agreement:

  • The division of marital assets
  • The division of marital debts
  • Retention of the family home
  • Child support amounts
  • Child custody arrangements
  • Spousal support

A couple who agrees to part amicably can enjoy a much faster, smoother, and less costly uncontested divorce. An amicable divorce also greatly improves the chances of continuing a civil relationship, one that’s open to communication and compromise after the divorce—an enormous benefit, especially to divorcing spouses with children. In the best cases of amicable divorce, spouses remain friendly and supportive of each other as family, even as they pursue separate futures and new relationships.

How Does an Uncontested Divorce Work in California?

To have an uncontested divorce in California, one spouse must still file the divorce papers as the petitioner and legally serve the papers to the other spouse as the respondent. Once the petition is filed in the correct jurisdiction, both spouses and their attorneys have a six-month mandatory waiting period. During this time, the couple can negotiate all points of the divorce settlement, including the equitable division of their assets, property, and debts, child custody, child support, and any appropriate spousal support. They can do this together with their attorneys or with a professional mediator as well as their attorneys. Professional mediation offers many advantages, even to a couple who agree to part amicably with an uncontested divorce. Mediators have many helpful suggestions to address common problem points with asset division and parenting schedules.

Do I Have to Go to Court for an Amicable Divorce in California?

In most cases of uncontested divorces in which both parties agree to fair terms for asset and debt division, shared parenting, and child support, the settlement agreement is simply signed by the judge in the jurisdiction for the final decree. Only if the judge finds something in the settlement agreement unfair for one party or has questions for either party will he/she set a date for a hearing.

Even in an uncontested divorce, it’s highly beneficial for both parties to retain their own attorneys to protect their interests and to ensure that all paperwork is diligently completed and properly filed in the correct jurisdiction. Experienced divorce attorneys can also ensure the division of property and other agreements are fair and equitable to maximize the chances that a judge will simply sign off on the agreement with the final divorce judgment

An amicable divorce is the least painful divorce process possible in California family court.