California’s 6-month divorce process

If you and your spouse are deciding to get divorced and are California residents, the process to complete the divorce will take a minimum of 6 months from the date the person filing for divorce officially serves their spouse with the initial paperwork.

California divorce law contains a mandatory waiting period of 6 months before a divorce can be finalized. The “6 month rule”, as it is also known, is a “cooling-off” period to allow the parties involved to stop the divorce process if they decide to reconcile and remain married.

Can it go any faster?

Technically, no. The 6-month waiting period determines the earliest date at which a marriage is legally terminated which is technically 6 months plus one day. And while you can determine all aspects of your divorce prior to the 6-month waiting period, a judge will not sign your final divorce judgment changing your status from married to single prior to this timeframe.

With that said, at Green Giraffe Legal, many of our clients complete their divorce in three months, file their divorce Judgment, then simply wait for the courts to finalize their paperwork, changing their status from married to divorced. For some, the peace of mind of having all the legalities figured out and being able to move forward to the next chapter of life is more important than the change of marital status.

In general, the timeline for divorce in California includes the following steps:

Step 1:  One spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage at the court and the other spouse is served. This begins the 6-month waiting period (plus one day). The other spouse then has 30 days to respond.

Step 2:  Both spouses are required to share all of their financial information.

Step 3:  Decide how you’ll divide property and debts, and whether anyone will pay spousal support. Determine how you will care for and support your children if there are any. What will your custody schedule be and how will child support be handled? 

All of this can be done informally, in mediation, or with the assistance of attorneys. If the parties are unable to determine on their own then they may need to seek attorney guidance to file a motion with the court to have a judge make a determination.  

Step 4:  Finalize the divorce by having an attorney draft your final Marital Settlement Agreement and then submitting your final paperwork to the court.

Your options

The above divorce steps are very rudimentary as the path of any case depends on the complexities involved. While a couple can divorce in 6 months, the average California divorce takes approximately 15 months. For parties that are unable to agree on the various divorce issues, often attorney and/or court involvement is necessary, adding time and a variety of strategic legal steps. At Green Giraffe Legal Services we offer clients different divorce options to help streamline the process, including flat fee divorce and mediation.

For parties that are in agreement on all issues, a flat fee divorce is a great option. A paralegal will guide you through the process to make sure all your paperwork is done correctly, then an attorney will draft your final Marital Settlement Agreement. For those that need a bit more help, Green Giraffe offers mediation.

About Mediation

What are the benefits of divorce mediation? Perhaps, and most importantly, mediation puts you in control of your divorce. A paralegal will assist you with your paperwork and in identifying issues that need to be mediated. Through one to several meetings the mediator helps you and your spouse to find common ground. Together they negotiate the terms of a marital agreement that works for both of you as well as your family.

Our approach uses less attorney time to keep costs at a minimum. We incorporate the services of one of our paralegals who prepares all the associated documents in the case and help the parties identify the issues to be discussed with the attorney. A summary of the case and case issues is forwarded to the attorney prior to a mediation session to assure that the mediation time is fruitful.

Whether you are looking to litigate your case in court with an attorney or try an alternative divorce solution, the key to navigating the divorce process is education. Not all divorce attorneys, mediation services, or flat fee divorce services are created equally. Do your homework, understand the process, and make an informed decision about what divorce option is going to be best for you and your spouse.