In California, one party initiates the dissolution proceeding by filing a Petition. The respondent will then be served the Petition (either personally or by mail). The party originally filing the Petition is known as the"Petitioner" and the other party is known as the "Respondent".
Following receipt of the Petition, the Respondent has 30 days (unless granted additional time by the Petitioner's attorney) in which to file his or her responding statement. After the 30-day period the case can be set for a Court hearing.
The first step in preparing for a dissolution of marriage includes preparation of the following pleadings: (1) Summons;(2) Petition;(3) Order to Show Cause (for the purpose of requesting relief at the first hearing); (4) Temporary Restraining Orders;(5) Declarations;(6) Income and Expense Declaration;(7) Response, if appropriate; and,(8) Responsive Declaration to Order to Show Cause, if appropriate. At our first meeting, we generally prepare all necessary paperwork in order to either initiate the divorce or to respond to the Petition filed by the spouse. These pleadings are then generally served upon the other party.
Once the pleadings are served upon the other party, the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage can be granted dissolving the parties' marital status, at the earliest six (6) months from the date of service. The purpose of the six-month waiting period is to encourage reconciliation between the spouses, and if in fact a reconciliation occurs during this period, kindly contact our offices and we will see that all paperwork is stopped.
After the pleadings have been drafted and served, the next step is the Order to Show Cause, the initial hearing. Generally, the following issues are addressed at the initial hearing: (1) Spousal support;(2) Child support;(3) Child custody and visitation;(4) Restraining orders;(5) Use of the residence and motor vehicles;(6) Joinder of any pension plans;(7) Request for attorney's fees and costs; and,(8) Any other miscellaneous relief which may be necessary in order to maintain stability for the benefit of the children and the parties. The first hearing will normally occur within twenty-five (25) days of the date the pleadings are initially filed with the court, absent any continuances.
At this hearing, the attorneys will argue the case and the courts generally will not take testimony at this time.