Divorce can be a life-changing experience, and the outcome of any divorce is likely to influence the spouses’ lives in various ways, sometimes permanently. If you are having trouble in your marriage and have concerns about whether you and your spouse can overcome them, it is natural to wonder whether divorce may be in your future. However, it is vital to take the decision to end a marriage seriously and understand the legal process.
If you are unsure whether you should file for divorce or do not see any hope of reconciliation with your spouse, it’s best to consult a divorce attorney as soon as possible. An experienced California divorce attorney can provide individualized legal counsel to help you make more informed decisions. Ultimately, if your marriage is beyond any hope of reconciliation, it is likely best for you to prepare for a divorce. Our team routinely provides legal representation to individuals facing difficult divorce cases in California and hears many common questions about the initial stages of divorce. The following common questions and our answers may help you make a clearer sense of your situation if you are unsure whether you need to prepare to divorce.
Do I Really Need an Attorney?
Hiring the right attorney can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your divorce case. Your legal team can help you gather the documentation you will need for your financial disclosure statement, assist you in developing a strong case for custody if you have children, and ultimately streamline your divorce proceedings in many ways. In addition, working with an experienced divorce lawyer means you will have readily available answers to your most pressing legal questions when you need guidance the most.
While it’s technically possible to represent yourself in a divorce, there are significant risks. For example, even if you and your spouse are on relatively agreeable terms, you could face many conflicts and controversies you will not know how to address on your own. Therefore, hiring legal counsel makes the process much easier and increases your chances of reaching a fair and reasonable outcome as quickly as possible.
What Grounds Do I Need to File for Divorce?
California law does not require a spouse to cite a specific reason for divorce. Instead, most divorces in California use “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for divorce. This simply means the marriage has broken down, and neither spouse is willing to try to repair it. In other words, you do not need to prove fault of any kind or give a specific reason for filing for divorce. However, if you have a specific reason or your spouse’s actions have harmed you and/or your children, you could face more complex legal proceedings than just a divorce case.
In the event that your spouse has engaged in criminal activity, committed domestic violence, or if you have discovered a serious mental health condition or substance abuse disorder, it’s technically possible to file for divorce with cause and complete the dissolution process through litigation. The judge overseeing the case will have the final say on the terms of the couple’s divorce order. They may recommend criminal penalties against the defendant in response to severe illegal conduct, and the other spouse may need to testify in related proceedings.
How Should I Resolve My Divorce?
It’s natural to assume that your divorce will unfold through a series of messy and emotionally charged courtroom sessions, but you have many options for resolving your divorce. Even if you and your spouse cannot seem to agree on anything, if both of you recognize the value of alternative dispute resolution, you could potentially resolve your case in a fraction of the time litigation would require.
Alternative dispute resolution can effectively serve as private settlement negotiations for a divorce. Instead of having a judge rule on the final terms of your divorce order, you and your spouse can privately negotiate terms that align with your respective personal preferences more closely. While you cannot resolve child custody-related issues privately, taking full advantage of alternative dispute resolution can not only save you time and money but also allow you to resolve your divorce in the least stressful way possible.
How Long Will It Take to Finalize My Divorce?
If you plan on divorcing your spouse, it’s understandable to wonder how long the process will take. At the bare minimum, California law requires six months to complete a divorce. Therefore, the absolute soonest your divorce can be finalized is six months from the date the original divorce petition was filed. However, when a divorcing couple has an uncontested divorce or can quickly negotiate divorce terms through alternative dispute resolution, it’s possible to complete divorce proceedings before the six-month waiting period expires. At this point, the divorce is finalized unless either party objects to the terms.
When a divorce goes to litigation, it can take much longer to resolve. For example, high net worth divorce cases, divorces involving domestic violence, and divorces in which child custody is hotly contested are most likely to end in litigation. However, it is still possible to streamline more complex divorce cases by resolving as much as possible privately before moving to court to settle the rest.
What Benefits Does Legal Representation Offer?
Working with an experienced attorney means you can make more informed decisions from the outset of your case. You’ll be prepared to address your divorce’s unique issues and meet any challenges posed as your case unfolds. If any unforeseen issues arise, or if you are unsure how to address certain aspects of your divorce, your legal team will be readily available to assist you and provide guidance when you need it most.
Ultimately, working with an experienced attorney can make the initial stages of divorce much easier to understand and help you resolve your divorce much more quickly than you might expect. Attorney Paula D. Kleinman can provide the individualized legal counsel you need when you are unsure whether you should divorce or how to begin the process. Contact us today to schedule your consultation with our team.