Making Sense of Divorce Paperwork: What Documents are Needed?

Divorce, Legal Separation

You’re filing for divorce, or you’ve been filed on.  It’s all so confusing! First things first—what documents do you need to have on hand to get started?

If you want to file for a divorce (in California it’s called a Dissolution of Marriage), the first bit of divorce paperwork you will need is a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, which must be filed and served with a Summons. A summons is a formal legal notice to the other marital partner that a court action has been initiated involving the marriage. If you have minor children from the marriage, another form called Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (FL-105) is necessary.  

What About Custody and Visitation?

In cases involving children, one or both parents will likely want to establish court orders for child support and custody and visitation. This requires additional divorce paperwork to be filed and served.

However, unlike the Petition and Summons, these forms will give the parties a court date to get the process moving. Court fees cost several hundred dollars to file the petition.

A request for a hearing for child support, custody and visitation, spousal support, attorneys fees, and many other issues that might need to be addressed while the court case is pending. You might qualify for a fee-waiver, in whole or in part, which you can discuss with your San Diego Family Law Attorney.

Prepare Your Case

After you file the Petition and Summons, and any additional forms required, you will need to wait 30 days after the other party is personally served to find out if they are going to serve you with a response.

During this time, you should be collecting information and documents to prepare the financial disclosures (see Step 4 on this page) the court requires before it can issue a judgment of dissolution. If everything follows the 30-day timeline, both parties will submit divorce paperwork to the court and prepare and exchange financial disclosures.

After submittal, meaningful discussions can begin to settle issues that arise in every divorce:  dividing assets and debts; settling on spousal support, if appropriate; custody, visitation, and child support; and possibly, attorneys’ fees.

At the end, your goal is to make sure everything is equitably divided and that court orders to protect your interests and perhaps those of your children, are entered in a fair agreement or judgment of the court after trial.  

What Happens if I am Served Divorce Paperwork?

When you are the person being served, you will need to serve a Response to Petition for Dissolution within 30 days.  You can do this by mail and it does not need to be filed in court before you serve it. Be sure to include a Proof of Service by Mail that is signed and completed by someone over age 18 other than yourself. File the forms in court with the necessary fees.  

You should begin the process of preparing your financial disclosures right away, including:

  • bank statements
  • W2 forms and tax returns
  • Credit card statements, loan statements, mortgage statements
  • Titles to cars and boats or real property
  • Any documentary evidence of assets and debts that are part of the marital estate (acquired during the time of marriage and before separation).  

These preliminary disclosures, for both parties, are due within 60 days of the filing of the Petition.  

After exchanging preliminary disclosures, the parties to the marriage and their attorneys, if any are involved, can begin negotiating a settlement. With proper divorce paperwork preparation and good communication, these talks will lead to an agreement and no trial will be necessary.

Having an experienced and skilled San Diego family law attorney at your side is crucial to this process. We’re here to help. Feel free to contact JWB Family Law for more information about how to file divorce paperwork or any other family law issues in San Diego County.

The Importance of the CFLS Designation

A Certified Family Law Specialist, or CFLS, is an attorney who has obtained certification in the standards of California family law and demonstrated optimal legal competence. Attorneys who obtain this certification have specific expertise in all aspects of family law, which includes divorce or the dissolution of marriagechild and spousal support, child custody, and temporary restraining orders, among other areas of emphasis.

Not every attorney practicing family law has obtained this certification. In fact, the designation remains relatively rare—there are fewer than 2,000 CFLS attorneys in California and fewer than 200 in San Diego.

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