Thursday, September 18, 2014

10 Step Roadmap to Divorce

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This Roadmap is a guide to aid in completing the paperwork for a divorce. By following this step-by-step Roadmap, you should be successful in reaching a judgment in your divorce case. The legal process is complicated. If you are representing yourself, then you are your own attorney. If you need advice about your case, then you will need to ask an attorney.

  1. Getting Started
  2. Service
  3. Declarations of Disclosure
  4. Finding the Right Path to Judgment
  5. Default Judgment without a court hearing
  6. Default Hearing / Judgment with court hearing
  7. Uncontested or Stipulated Judgment
  8. Contested Judgment
  9. Service of Judgment
  10. Things to do after your divorce judgment is finalized

This Roadmap is designed for the person who started the case (called the Petitioner); however, if you would like to respond to the case, refer to How to Serve and File a Response in a Dissolution (Divorce).

Step 1: Getting Started

Start your case by completing, copying, and filing the following forms:

Mandatory Forms

You will need Adobe Reader X (10) or later to download the complete instructions and forms for the How to Start a Dissolution (Step 1) packet. Download the Adobe Reader - external link.

Optional Forms

Tasks to Complete Step 1

  1. Complete all items on each form that apply to your case.
  2. Make 2 copies of each completed form.
  3. Filing Fee Options:
    • Be prepared to pay the filing fee; OR
    • Apply for a Fee Waiver by completing form FW-001 and FW-003 (See Optional Forms section above). If applying for a Fee Waiver, make 1 copy of FW-001 and FW-003 and submit with a self-addressed stamped envelope.
  4. File all original forms and copies with the court in one of the following ways:
    • Mail: Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. Mail to:

      Sacramento Superior Court
      William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse
      3341 Power Inn Road
      Sacramento, CA 95826

    • Drop Box: Located in the main lobby of the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse
    • In Person: File in person on the 1st Floor of the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse. This requires a service ticket number.
  5. The clerk will stamp each form. Keep the originals and return the copies.
  6. Keep 1 set of the copies for your records. Take these copies with you anytime you go to court.

Note: Once you file, it is your responsibility to notify the court of any change to your address or other contact information. Do this by filing a Notice of Change of Address.

Step 2: Service

Once your forms have been filed, follow this step to serve your spouse.

Mandatory Forms

You can download the complete instructions and forms for Step 2: Service Packet and Documents to be Served on Your Spouse Packet.

Tasks to Complete Step 2

  1. Have someone 18 years or older, not you, personally give your spouse (the Respondent) the other set of filed copies along with the packet, Documents to be Served on Your Spouse.
  2. Have your server complete and sign the FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons. File this form with the court within 60 days.

Note: The Respondent has at least 30 days (from the day that they have been served) to file a Response with the court. If he/she does not respond, you can still continue with your divorce.

Step 3: Declarations of Disclosure (Preliminary and Final)

This step MUST be completed even if you have no property or income.

Mandatory Forms

Tasks to Complete Step 3

  1. Complete all applicable items on each form.
  2. Make 2 copies of forms FL-150 and FL-141.
  3. Make only 1 copy of forms FL-140 and FL-142.
  4. Mail 1 copy of each completed form (FL-140, FL-142, FL-150, and FL-141) to your spouse.
  5. File originals and 1 set of copies of forms FL-150 and FL-141 only with the court. (Forms FL-140 and FL-142 should not be filed with the court.)
  6. The clerk will stamp all forms, keep the originals and return 1 set of copies.
  7. Keep copies for your records. Take these copies with you anytime you go to court.

Step 4: Finding the Right Path to Judgment

There are four different ways to reach your divorce judgment. Follow and answer the questions below to find which of the four ways fits your case.

Did Your Spouse File a Response?

If the answer is No (No Response Filed), answer the following question:

Do You Want to Get a Judgment without Going to Court?

  1. If the answer is Yes, go to Default Judgment (Step 5).
  2. If the answer is No, go to Set Default Hearing (Step 6).

If your answer is YES to the question, Did Your Spouse File a Response? (Response Filed), answer the following question:

Do You and Your Spouse Agree on all the Issues?

  1. If the answer is Yes, go to Stipulated Judgment (Step 7).
  2. If the answer is No, go to Set for Contested Trial (Step 8).

STOP STOP STOP

You MUST answer NO to all of these questions to qualify for Step 5:

  1. Are you receiving public assistance in the form of a cash grant under TANF (formerly AFDC) or CalWorks?
  2. Are you seeking an initial child support or spousal support order?
  3. Are you asking for an annulment?

If you answer YES to any of these questions, go to Step 6.

Step 5: Default Judgment without a Court Hearing

Note: A "default" is a term for the failure to do something a person ought to do. In a family law case, it is the failure of the Respondent to answer or respond to the petition. Upon request of the Petitioner that default be entered as to respondent, the clerk may enter the default in accordance with Civil Code of Procedure, CCP §585-587.

Complete this step only if no Response has been filed. Complete, copy and file the following forms:

Mandatory Forms

You can download the complete instructions and forms packet "How to Obtain a Judgment of Dissolution, Legal Separation, or Annulment by Default (Without a Court Hearing)".

If there are children of the marriage, you MUST include both of these forms:

Optional Forms

Note: These are some of the most common attachments, but there are many other optional Judicial Council forms.

Tasks to Complete Step 5

  • Bring a copy of your filed FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons. (This was done in Step 2.)
  • FL-141 Declaration Regarding Service of the Declaration of Disclosure. (If you haven't filed this form yet, it must be completed at this time.)
  • Make 3 copies of all completed forms.
  • Address 1 large manila envelope to yourself with enough postage to return 2 copies of all the forms.
  • Submit originals and 2 sets of copies to the court, along with the addressed and stamped envelopes. The clerk will keep all the originals and copies for review by the judge. The clerk will mail a copy of the FL-165 Request to Enter Default and FL-190 Notice of Entry of Judgment to the Respondent once the default Judgment is entered.
  • Keep 1 set of the copies for your records. Take these copies with you anytime you go to court.
  • Wait for the court to mail you back your filed documents. If the documents are returned unfiled or rejected, then to to Step 6. If the documents are filed and returned, then to to Step 9.

WARNING: You are not divorced until you receive a filed Notice of Entry of Judgment from the court and the "effective date of termination" has passed.

Step 6: Default Judgment with a Court Hearing

Set for Default Hearing - Mandatory Form (only if a Response has NOT been filed):

Complete, copy and file the following form:

You can download the complete instructions and forms packet "How to Request a Default and Schedule a Default Hearing".

  • Bring a copy of your filed FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons. (This was done in Step 2)
  • FL-141 Declaration Regarding Service of the Declaration of Disclosure (if you haven't filed this form yet, it must be completed at this time).
  • Make 3 copies of the completed form.
  • Address 1 envelope to the Respondent. Place 1 stamp on the envelope. Also include 1 self-addressed stamped envelope for you if submitting by mail or drop box.
  • File the original FL-165 Request to Enter Default and the 3 copies along with the addressed stamped envelope with the court. The clerk will mail a copy to the Respondent once default is entered.
  • Keep 1 set of copies for your records. Take these copies with you anytime you go to court.
  • Ask the Clerk for a Default Hearing date when you file your FL-165 Request to Enter Default. If you file by mail or drop box, then ask for a hearing in a cover letter.
  • Go to your hearing on the scheduled date and time.

After the Default Hearing - Mandatory Forms

Complete, copy and file the following forms:

The Judgment needs to be prepared based on the yellow minute order from the court. Because a judgment varies drastically from case to case, we do not offer instructions. You can:

If there are children of the marriage, you MUST include both of these forms:

Optional Forms

Note: These are some of the most common attachments, but there are many other optional Judicial Council forms - external link.

Tasks to Complete Step 6

  • Make 3 copies of all completed forms.
  • Keep 1 set of the copies for your records. Take these copies with you anytime you go to court.
  • Address 1 regular-sized envelope to the Respondent. Place 1 stamp on the envelope.
  • Address 1 large manila envelope to yourself with enough postage to return 2 copies of all the forms.
  • Submit originals and 2 sets of copies to the court along with the 2 addressed and stamped envelopes. The clerk will keep all the originals and copies for review by the judge.
  • Wait for the court to mail you back you filed documents.
  • Go to Step 9.

WARNING: You are not divorced until you receive a filed Notice of Entry of Judgment from the court and the "effective date of termination" has passed.

Step 7: Uncontested or Stipulated Judgment (Response Filed and in full agreement)

Complete, copy and file the following forms:

Mandatory Forms

If there are children of the marriage, you MUST include both of these forms:

Optional Forms

Note: These are some of the most common attachments, but there are many other optional Judicial Council forms - external link.

Tasks to Complete Step 7

  • Make 3 copies of all completed forms.
  • Keep 1 set of the copies for your records. Take these copies with you to court.
  • Address 1 regular-sized envelope to the Respondent. Place 1 stamp on the envelope.
  • Address 1 large manila envelope to yourself with enough postage to return 3 copies of all the forms.
  • Submit originals and 2 sets of copies to the court along with the 2 addressed and stampled envelopes. The clerk will keep the originals and copies for review by the judge.
  • Wait for the court to mail you back the endorsed copies. If the documents are returned unfiled or rejected, then go to Step 8. If the documents are filed and returned, then go to Step 9.

WARNING: You are not divorced until you receive a filed Notice of Entry of Judgment from the court and the "effective date of termination" has passed.

Step 8: Contested Judgment (Response Filed and not in full agreement)

Set for Trial - Complete, copy and file the following Mandatory forms:

You can download the complete instructions and forms packet: Brief Instructions - Instructions for Completing the Memorandum that Family Case is At Issue OR Detailed Instructions - Obtaining a Judgment of Dissolution, Nullity or Legal Separation When You Do Not Agree.

Tasks to complete:

  • Make 3 copies of the completed form.
  • Have someone 18 years or older, not you, mail 1 copy of the form to the Respondent and complete the Proof of Service portion of the form.
  • File original and 2 sets of copies in Department 128 at the court. If filing by mail, address to Department 128.
  • Wait for the court to mail you your Settlement Conference and Trial dates.
  • Once you receive your Settlement Conference and Trial dates from the court, you must complete, serve, and file a Statement of Issues.

Settlement Conference / Trial

  • Attend both the Settlement Conference AND the Trial date, as it is mandatory for both parties to appear. You must make a good faith effort to settle ALL issues in your case at the settlement conference. Be prepared to be at court the entire day.

After the Settlement Conference / Trial

Complete, copy and file the following forms:

If there are children of the marriage, you MUST include both of these forms:

Optional Forms: Use the appropriate forms for the orders the judge made.

Note: These are some of the most common attachments, but there are many other optional Judicial Council forms - external link.

You may also contact the Self-Help Center for preparation of your Judgment through e-Correspondence.

Tasks to Complete Step 8

  • Make 3 copies of all completed forms.
  • Keep 1 set of the copies for your records. Take these copies with you any time you go to court.
  • Address 1 regular-sized envelope to the Respondent. Place 1 stamp on the envelope.
  • Address 1 large manila envelope to yourself with enough postage to return 2 copies of all the forms.
  • Submit originals and 2 sets of copies to the court along with the 2 addressed and stamped envelopes. The clerk will keep all originals and copies for review by the judge.
  • Wait for the court to mail you back the endorsed copies.
  • Go to Step 9.

WARNING: You are not divorced until you receive a filed Notice of Entry of Judgment from the court and the "effective date of termination" has passed.

Step 9: Service of the Judgment

Mandatory Forms

Tasks to Complete Step 9

  • Have someone 18 years or older, not you, mail your ex-spouse (the Respondent) a copy of the judgment and any attachments.
  • Have your server complete and sign the FL-335 Proof of Service by Mail.
  • Make 1 copy of the FL-335 Proof of Service by Mail.
  • File FL-335 Proof of Service by Mail and a copy of this form with the court. Enclose 1 self-addressed stamped envelope to have the filed copy returned to you.

Step 10: Things to Do After Divorce Judgment is Finalized

Once you receive your final divorce judgment, remember to:

  • Change the beneficiaries on your insurance.
  • Update your Will or Trust.
  • Change the titles of any property (ex: cars, house, etc.) awarded in the judgment.
  • Change your name with social security, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), employment, etc.
  • Take the child support order to the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) for help in collecting child support.

NOTE: You may need a certified copy of your divorce judgment to do these things.