Ordinarily, the hands-on process of filing for divorce in California is simple.
It’s accomplished by preparing and filing a Petition and Summons and if you have children, a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). And all of the court forms are on the California court’s website for everyone’s use.
Where it gets more complicated in ordinary cases is knowing which boxes to check about child custody, visitation, separate property, community property, etc. because each check mark in the boxes has significant meaning in the divorce process itself. And inadvertently failing to check, or checking the wrong box carries meaning, which in some cases may only be undone by amending the Petition and reserving it.
If a Petition is prepared incorrectly, such that it doesn’t reflect the legal positions or requests you want or wanted to make, and the Petition and Summons have been served, the Petition may only be amended by an agreement with your spouse or the court’s permission.
And in more difficult cases, like those with spouses living in different counties or spouses who probably won’t respond to legal documents (default), preparing and filing divorce documents becomes even more complex.
So as you can imagine, I recommend everyone, including those who want to be self represented or “In Pro Per”, hire an attorney to help file for divorce or respond to a Petitioner for Divorce.
More people are representing themselves in divorce because they think lawyers’ fees are too high. Others believe their cases are simple and they can figure out how to file and finalize their divorces without help.
If you choose to represent yourself in a divorce, legal separation or the dissolution of a domestic partnership in California, I offer coaching and consulting programs. If you would like ongoing high level guidance during self representation, my coaching program is a very affordable option. If you’d like advice on an as-needed basis, I consult on an as-needed basis without requiring a long term contract or retainer.
Over the course of a two year period I provided consulting services to a client who was negotiating a divorce agreement with her spouse and his lawyer. She consulted me on several occasions to calculate a buy-out price for her interest in the family home, spousal support after a long-term marriage, child support add-ons and other miscellaneous issues. She also consulted with me to review and recommend changes to the legally binding agreement her husband’s attorney had drafted. As a result of our consulting my client was able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement with her husband who didn’t want the divorce and was low balling her.