Let an Experienced Stockton Divorce Lawyer Help You and Your Family Through This Tough Time
In California (and in other jurisdictions throughout the country), the divorce process can be confusing. The myriad of complicated procedures associated with the divorce process may overwhelm those who are unfamiliar with the court system, particularly given the fact that divorce is emotionally-charged by its very nature. As such, skilled legal representation is not only necessary to secure a positive outcome, but must also be considerate of the ramifications of divorce — emotional, financial, and social.
At McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP, our divorce attorneys are committed to client-centered representation in a variety of practice areas, including family law. We emphasize upfront analysis, careful strategic planning, and diplomacy in our approach to the California divorce process. Over the years, our success in resolving difficult divorces — and doing so in a thoughtful and practical manner — has earned us the loyalty of our clients, whose families we later serve for decades.
If you’re ready to speak to an experienced Stockton divorce lawyer, we encourage you to contact MCJG for comprehensive guidance. During the initial consultation, we will work to identify the unique challenges that you may be facing, and will develop a strategy for moving forward.
For now, let’s explore some of the basic procedures of the divorce process in California. Our attorneys hope that this will bring some clarity.
How to Start a Divorce in California
Whether you or your spouse initiate the divorce process is of little consequence. The divorce process will begin, however, when one spouse files for divorce (which involves a Summons and Petition form). This will notify the other spouse of their divorce demands — the division of property, the child custody arrangement, and alimony, among other expectations — and will give the notified spouse 30 days to respond to the filing.
If the spouse who has been “served” does not timely respond to the filing, then a default judgment may be entered in favor of the spouse who initiated the divorce filing (though a judge will execute a default judgment and will not impose conditions that are fundamentally unconscionable, it is likely to favor the demands of the spouse whose divorce filing did not receive a timely response).
It’s worth noting that both the initial filing and the initial response can be amended later on in the process.
What is the Difference Between a Contested or Uncontested Divorce?
Divorce in California can be either contested or uncontested. Ultimately, if you and your spouse disagree as to specific terms of the divorce (i.e., child custody, alimony, marital property division, etc.), then the divorce is “contested” and you can submit a response to the divorce filing. The case will then proceed to litigation: discovery and court hearings will necessarily follow.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse agree to the terms of the divorce, then a response may not be necessary and the default judgment can be entered to the satisfaction of both parties.
Of course, even if you and your spouse disagree, a response can be filed, but the courts prefer an amicable settlement under most circumstances. California courts encourage divorcing spouses to “change their minds” and come to an agreement through mediation. Thus, a contested divorce can transform into an uncontested divorce after an out-of-court mediation process through which a negotiated settlement is reached.
Both Options Can Still Reach a Divorce Settlement with the Help of a Divorce Attorney
Why choose settlement? Negotiated divorce settlements not only resolve the conflict sooner (thus saving on time, effort, and legal costs), but also enable the parties to reach an agreement on various issues that may be different than what the judge would determine within the bounds of California law. For example, in a contested divorce, a family law judge may split certain assets in accordance with the law, but if the two spouses prefer a different arrangement for splitting property assets, then a negotiated settlement will guarantee that preferred split.
A Divorce Attorney is Needed for Disclosures, Discovery, and Litigation
If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement, then a contested divorce through litigation will follow. The steps include:
- Making comprehensive financial disclosures regarding both separate and marital assets;
- Factual discovery;
- Trial; and
- Post-judgment enforcement of the judicial decree.
It’s worth noting that in many cases, the parties might come to an agreement on certain aspects of the divorce — say, for example, child custody — but may not come to an agreement on other aspects, such as alimony or property division. The disputing spouses can separate these issues and settle some of them out-of-court, while proceeding to trial on the remaining issues.
What is Summary Dissolution for a Divorce?
In California, summary dissolution is a fast and more straightforward process for terminating a marriage, but it is only available in limited circumstances — there are a rather large number of pre-requisites for qualification, including:
- The two spouses must have been married for less than five years;
- There must not be any children born before or during the marriage;
- Do not own real estate property together;
- Do not owe more than $6,000 in debt acquired after the date of marriage;
- Do not have separate property worth more than $45,000 (excepting automobiles and real estate property); and
If you do qualify for summary dissolution, then it may be worth pursuing (assuming that you and your spouse are amenable to the terms of the divorce). Summary dissolution empowers couples by helping them avoid an extensive court-related divorce process requiring hearings and other time-consuming legal procedures.
Contact MCJG for Legal Guidance at Any Stage of Your Divorce
If you need help with initiating or responding to a divorce filing, the attorneys at McKinley, Conger, Jolley & Galarneau, LLP, are here to provide comprehensive and compassionate guidance through every step of the process.
We represent clients involved in a range of family law disputes, from child custody matters to divorce. Our commitment to people-focused advocacy has earned us a sparkling reputation in the community. We are willing and able to use this reputation as strategic leverage when navigating the challenges of the California divorce process.
Ready to speak to an experienced Stockton divorce lawyer at MCJG?
Call our firm at 209-477-8171 to schedule a free and confidential consultation today. Though our office is located in Stockton, we regularly handle cases for clients who are located throughout Central Valley and the state of California.