Either spouse can decide to end their marriage. It is not necessary for the other spouse to agree. The spouse who does not want to get a divorce cannot stop the process by refusing to participate in the case. Non-participation will just lead to a “default” in which the petitioner obtains the divorce judgment without the involvement of the other spouse.
In California a Petition for Dissolution (divorce) Form FL-100 may be filed to dissolve the marital status and be restored to the status of a single person. In a divorce case you can ask the judge for orders regarding child custody, visitation/parenting time, child support, spousal support/alimony, division of assets and debts, restraining orders, and attorney’s fees. With a Petition for Legal Separation the marital status is not dissolved after entry of the judgment and the parties remain married but obtain final court orders regarding all of the other issues such as property division, child custody, and support.
Declarations of Disclosure
Under California law, the parties must exchange documents disclosing the assets and debts of the marriage, the separate assets and debts of the parties, and income and expenses of each party. California law recognizes the importance of “full and accurate disclosure of all assets and liabilities” at the early stages of a divorce or legal separation case to ensure fair and sufficient child and spousal support awards, and to achieve a proper division of community and quasi-community assets and liabilities. There is a “continuing duty” on the part of each spouse to immediately, fully, and accurately update and augment their disclosures. To implement this policy, the California Family Code mandates that each spouse serve a “preliminary” and “final” declaration of disclosure on the other spouse. A judgment may not be entered without the exchange of the disclosures. For more information about the Declarations of Disclosure see form FL-140 Declaration of Disclosure.
Request for Temporary Orders
Either party to a divorce case may file a request to establish temporary orders while the divorce or legal separation case is pending. In Los Angeles County a party may request a hearing to establish temporary orders for issues such as child custody, child support, and spousal support by filing and serving the FL-300 Request for Order and other court forms as required. Depending on the specific issues and requests, other court forms must be completed, filed, and served. For general instructions and information regarding the process of establishing temporary orders see form FL-300-INFO Information Sheet for Request for Order.
Divorce Case Resolution
There are three ways to resolve a divorce or legal separation case. If your spouse does not respond to the case after being properly served then you may file a request to enter default and default judgment with the court and the judge will grant the divorce without the involvement of your spouse. If your spouse files a response to the case but you are able to reach agreement on all of the issues you or your spouse will prepare a stipulated judgment for the judge’s signature. If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement regarding the issues then the judge will make orders at a trial and you or your spouse must prepare a contested judgment for the judge’s signature.
For detailed information on the California procedure for obtaining a divorce or legal separation judgment see the FL-107-INFO Legal Steps for a Divorce or Legal Separation.
You are not divorced until a judge signs the judgment of dissolution and the judgment is entered by the court. You will not be divorced until at least 6 months and one day after service of the Petition for Dissolution on the Respondent. Depending on the legal issues and court backlog, many divorces take much longer to be completed.
Here’s more information on Divorce and Legal Separation.