Steps to Your Divorce

At the Law Offices of Patricia Van Haren, we understand that divorce can be a frightening prospect, particularly if you don’t know what to expect in the proceedings.  While not all cases are the same, there are many phases to a typical Divorce. Our office will assists all our clients in formulating the plan that meets your needs.  In order to better assist you in what to expect during the process, we wish to provide you with some possible steps in the process.

1.         In order to begin your case, we will first file Summons and Petition.  This is the paperwork which is required to start your divorce or legal separation matter.  Once this document is filed, we will serve it on your spouse and the legal action will begin. In some cases, we will need to get a hearing on calendar immediately for support, child custody or visitation.  When you first retain us, we will discuss whether this must be done at the initial filing or if it can be done later in the case.

2.         30 Days after the service of the Petition – A Response to petition is required. If you have been served with the Petition then our office will assist you in filing the response.  If our office is starting the action, then we will be awaiting the response.

3.         If no response is filed, our office will discuss whether we should request a default prove up hearing with the court. The court will make the orders based on the information that you have provided to our office.

4.         If a response has been filed, we may wish to serve discovery. This is a process which will allow us to gain information about your spouse’s finances or other relevant information which will assist us in making recommendations on how to proceed in your case.

5.         When you first come into our office, we will provide you with some forms which will help us in obtaining the required information to prepare your preliminary disclosures. These documents must be accurate in order for the courts to make a determination on property division and support in your case.  If there are questions about how to complete the packet, our staff will sit down with you and assist you in the completion.  After we have the required information we will file and serve your preliminary disclosures.

6.         30 days after the discovery has been served, responses to discovery are due. If the response is received, we will review the responses to insure that they are complete. We may determine whether additional discovery is required or if we will require court assistance to get the information that we need for your case.

7.         Temporary Orders: After your initial consultation, we will discuss whether we need to file a hearing to get temporary custody or support orders for you.  If you and the attorney find that temporary orders are appropriate, then we will file a Request for Order [RFO] to select a hearing date.

8.         Temporary Custody Orders: Prion to the custody orders you will need to attend a PACT class or an online parenting class. You and the other parent will also be required to attend the court’s mediation appointment. If you are able to reach an agreement on custody and visitation or at least some agreements, we will file the agreement with the court and that will become an order. If there are no agreements made then the court will make an order at the hearing.

9.         Support: We may also file an RFO to seek Temporary Orders in regards to child support or spousal support. A spousal support order during the proceedings is used to allow the non-working spouse [or the lower earner] to maintain the marital lifestyle while the divorce action is pending. Generally the support order will be higher during the process than the final order once the case reaches judgment.  Child support orders are based on the respective incomes of the parties and the time that each parent spends with the child.

10.       Attorney Fees:  In some instances one party may be ordered to pay the attorney fees of the other party.  Sometimes the fees are based on the income of the parties other times the fees are based on the conduct of the parties during the litigation process.

11.       Property Division: California is a community property state.  What that means to you is that all property and debts which are incurred during the marriage are presumed to be community property. There may be exceptions to this such as property obtained through an inheritance or an increase in value of property which is owned by a spouse prior to the date of marriage.  After the financial disclosures have been completed, your attorney can come up with a proposed distribution of property and division of debts.  That will be submitted to the opposing party [and to the court where necessary] so that an equitable distribution of the martial estate can be achieved.


12.       Judgment: The final step in all divorces [both contested and uncontested] is to have a Judgment of Dissolution entered.  This can be achieved at many of the stages after the disclosures have been filed. In some instances a couple may wish to have a mediation which allows us to come up with an agreement. In other cases after the first hearing, the parties may come to an agreement on the issues.  If there are no agreements, then the case will go to trial and at the end of the trial, the Court will make a final determination as to the dissolution of the marriage.

Each family is unique and the issues presented in each individual matter will assist our office in coming up with a case plan that is appropriate for you.  When you meet with our attorney, we will discuss the approach which is best for your case.  This list is not intended to be a comprehensive case plan, but a guideline as to what you may expect for your case.  Once you have become our client, we will meet with you and formulate a plan which will protect your interests in your own dissolution matter.

WAITING PERIOD:  The earliest possible date which you can be divorced is six months and one day from the date the respondent [either you or your spouse] has been served with the summons and petition for dissolution. Legal separation has no waiting period. You are NOT divorced or legally separated until the court enters a Judgment in your case, even in cases where there has been a trial.


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