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California Divorce Petition for "Dummies"

When a spouse is surprised with service of a Petition for Dissolution, he or she likely feels upset and confused. Even if a spouse suspects or knows a divorce Petition has been filed, reviewing the Petition packet may still shock and distress the recipient. The purpose of this blog is to de-mystify the complicated court forms and provide some guidance to the meaning behind all of the checked boxes and legalese. The divorce Petition can tell you a lot about your spouse’s legal positions and can help you identify contested issues, if any. However, it is important to take the requests made in the divorce Petition “with a grain of salt”. Often when a party completes the required court forms, he or she is advised to take one-sided and unreasonable positions. Before getting concerned about the requests your spouse has made on the divorce Petition, make sure you understand which requests your spouse intends to pursue.

Did your spouse retain an attorney?

A Petition for Dissolution can tell you if your spouse has formally retained an attorney to represent him/her in the divorce case. In the top left-hand corner of the Petition if your spouse has listed his/her name, address and other contact information, he/she does not have formal representation. If an attorney’s name and contact information is listed on the Petition, that attorney has been retained in the divorce matter.

Where will my divorce case be heard?

The Petition will also tell you where your case has been filed. In San Diego there are a number of family law courthouses where your case may be assigned. Typically, the courthouse where a divorce case is assigned is determined by the zip code of one or both parties. Information regarding where your case will be heard is listed at the top of the first page of the Petition.

Is there a disagreement regarding date of separation?

It is important to note the date of separation listed on the Petition. If contested, the date of separation may have a significant impact on issues such as spousal support and property division. Pursuant to the California family code and subsequent case law, separation occurs when at least one spouse has the subjective belief that the marriage is over and that spouse’s actions objectively viewed are in alignment with that belief.

What is my spouse requesting?

The Petition contains sections on the issues of property division, child custody and visitation, child support,spousal support and attorney fees. Review which boxes are checked in these sections in order to determine what your spouse is requesting with regard to each issue.

If you have been served with a Petition for Dissolution it is imperative to consult with an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible because, beginning on the date of service, the clock will start ticking on important deadlines. If you would like to learn more about the California divorce process, child support, spousal support, child custody and visitation or property division, schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney at Cage & Miles, LLP. Our skilled attorneys can provide you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions and protect your rights.