DIVORCE PAPERS
 
Officially known as “divorce filings,” divorce papers are a series of legal documents required to obtain a divorce in California. While the divorce papers that must be filed at the courthouse vary depending on (a) whether a couple is pursuing an uncontested divorce or a default divorce, and (b) whether or not a couple has children, most divorce paperwork is common to all scenarios. Divorce papers in California are structured based on the notion that one party must petition for divorce and the other must respond. In other words, one party must act as the Petitioner, and the other party must act as the Respondent.

At DivorceGuru, we structure all of our cases as uncontested cases as opposed to “default” cases. An uncontested case involves two parties who are actively involved in the process. When parties both agree on all of the elements of their settlement (as is the case with all DivorceGuru clients), we feel that an uncontested case is the appropriate approach. As the name implies, a “default” divorce is appropriate when one party doesn't participate in the divorce process.

Structuring divorce papers to reflect an uncontested case sends a clear message to the judge that the parties are in agreement. Accordingly, an uncontested case may be less prone to what is often referred to as a “set aside” under California law. A “set aside” is a term used to describe the situation in which one party challenges the validity of a divorce decree.

Here is a summary of the key documents that make up a set of divorce papers for an uncontested case:

Petition (FL-100): In the Petition, the Petitioner includes basic information about the case (parties' names, address of Petitioner, date of marriage, date of separation, the names of any children involved, the ages and sexes of the children, as well as the Petitioner's position on any number of topics, including custody, child support, spousal support, asset division and attorney's fees).

Summons (FL-110): At DivorceGuru we refer to the Summons as “the offensive document.” This is simply because the Summons is loaded with emotionally-challenging language which reflects the fact that a divorce must be structured as a lawsuit. It instructs the Respondent to file a Response within thirty days and also contains a long list of custodial and financial restraining orders.

UCCJEA (FL-105): The UCCJEA form is a form that the Court uses to ensure that it has jurisdiction over the issue of child custody. In addition, the UCCJEA form includes information about where the children have lived for the past five years. The acronym “UCCJEA” stands for Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.

Declaration Regarding Service of Process of Financial Disclosures (FL-141): By inserting the date upon which they delivered financial disclosures to each other in the FL-141, the parties certify to the Court that they completed and exchanged the Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) and the Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142).

Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (FL-144): A contested or litigated case can take many years to settle. Accordingly, the standard financial disclosure process demands that divorcing couples complete and exchange the Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) and the Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142) not once, but twice. Sadly, it is not unusual to see a divorcing couples' net worth as reported on the Schedule of Assets and debts decline over the course of a divorce (i.e., between the dates that the two sets of disclosures are completed). This is often due to attorneys' fees. In uncontested cases, it is customary for each spouse to waive his or her right to receive a second set of financial disclosure documents by signing a FL-144. This is largely due to the fact that uncontested cases move much more quickly, and a second set of financial disclosures simply isn't necessary.

Appearance, Stipulation and Waivers (FL-130): This form contains a list of standard representations that apply to most divorces. Examples include the statement that the Respondent is making an appearance (i.e., the Respondent in an uncontested case may not choose to file a Response), either a judge or commissioner may decide the case, the case is uncontested, etc.

Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution (FL-170): This particular document is a bit daunting at first glance. It is several pages long and appears to require a great deal of information about a divorcing couples' settlement. That being said, if the couple had someone draft a Marital Separation Agreement for them (this is one of the many things we do for our clients at DivorceGuru), the FL-170 is quite straightforward. It merely points to the Marital Separation Agreement as the document containing the substance of the couples' settlement.

Judgment (FL-180): Like the FL-170, the Judgment form plays a secondary role when a Marital Separation Agreement has been drafted. However, it does establish two important things: (a) it specifies exactly when the couple will be divorced, and (2) if one spouse elected to change her or his last name, the name change is specified in the Judgment.

Proof of Service of Summons (FL-115): The Proof of Service of Summons simply establishes how and when the Respondent was “served” with the initial court filings, whether in person or by mail. The individual who completed service of process must in turn complete and file the Proof of Service of Summons.

Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150): As noted above, each spouse is required to complete and exchange an Income and Expense Declaration. In short, the form asks for a great deal of information about each spouse's income and expenses. Because the form has a box for a filing stamp in the upper right corner, many individuals feel that they must file this document at the courthouse in order to obtain a divorce. This is not the case, and for couples who wish to keep their finances private, filing this document may be a mistake.

Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142): This document is not filed at the courthouse, but like the Income and Expense Declaration, each spouse must complete and exchange the form in order to obtain a divorce. As one might suspect, this document requests information about the assets and debts of each spouse.

Marital Separation Agreement: If a divorcing couple does not submit a Marital Separation Agreement, additional filings (beyond those noted above) are required. A Marital Separation Agreement contains all of the critical terms of a divorce, from custody to child support to spousal support to asset division. A Marital Separation Agreement must be drafted correctly to adequately protect both spouses' rights. A well-drafted Marital Separation Agreements is a key indicator of a good online divorce service.

If you would rather not tackle all of the required divorce papers on your own, and you are concerned about ensuring that your case in handled correctly, please visit our homepage to learn more about how DivorceGuru can help you.