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California Divorce and Separation Overview

Divorce isn't just the end of your marriage - it’s a life-changing event. Your divorce doesn't just affect you and your spouse; it will have long-term effects on your family and friends. Your divorce will address major issues like child custody and visitation rights, child support, alimony payments, and the division of property and assets. Divorce is a complex process that demands a cool head and emotional support.

Alimony, child custody, and child support are issues that can be difficult to settle. Other complicated issues can arise depending on other factors. For example, if you're entering a high asset divorce, or if there are financial issues involving business ownership, stock options, property, investments, or retirement accounts. No matter your specific situation, you'll have to make many tough decisions about your present and future.

The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor is ready to help you through the legal issues surrounding your divorce. Our experienced San Diego divorce attorneys can help protect your rights and your family's best interests. Our founder, Thomas M. Huguenor, is a board certified family law specialist with nearly 40 years of experience handling divorce cases. We have secured satisfactory results for many Southern California families. You can reach us at (858) 458-9500 to discuss your legal rights.

Considering All Options in San Diego

There are some options you may want to consider before getting a divorce. If you've been married for less than five years, don't have children, don't own a home, and your community property is valued at less than $25,000, you may be able to seek a summary dissolution instead of a divorce. A summary dissolution can keep you out of court and doesn't require the same amount of paperwork. Other options instead of divorce include annulment and legal separation. An annulment can be pursued for people whose marriage could possibly be illegal. Legal separations are appropriate for couples who want to divide assets and property, but not go through divorce proceedings. To discuss which option might be best for you, contact The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor.

If you decide to proceeding with a divorce, you'll need to buy a marriage dissolution form packet at a San Diego County Superior Court. Then, your divorce attorney can prepare your divorce petition.

Understanding the California Divorce Process

While each couple divorcing and each divorce situation is unique, there are common steps that happen during the divorce process:

  • Finances will have to be disclosed: You will have to share financial information like your income, expenses, debts, and assets.
  • Agreements will have to be made: No matter if your divorce will be mediated or taken to court, you'll have to decide how to divide property and assets with your ex-spouse.
  • Hearings might be needed: Your divorce will take time, so any decisions that need to be made before the divorce is finalized--like child custody issues--will require hearings. These hearings will establish temporary agreements about these issues to put in place before the divorce agreement is finalized.
  • You might go to court: If you can't work out your divorce agreement amicably, or mediation isn't for you, the court may need to make divorce decisions for you.
  • Your spouse might not respond to the divorce: Just because you file a divorce doesn't mean that you're automatically divorced. Your spouse has to file a response to your divorce filing. If they don't respond to your divorce filing, a default hearing may be needed to start your divorce proceedings.
  • Your divorce isn't final yet: Your divorce is not official until six months after your spouse was delivered your divorce petition, and the Court has issued a Judgement of Dissolution of Marriage.

Grounds for Divorce

In California, only two legal grounds for divorce are recognized. If you are looking to end your marriage, you must cite either irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity as the reason. Since San Diego is in California, which is no-fault divorce state, neither party is required to prove there was any wrongdoing which resulted in the breakdown of the marriage. The concept of irreconcilable differences refers to any substantial disagreement between the couple that is deemed too great for them to continue in a marital union. Incurable insanity, also known as the permanent legal incapacity to make decisions, means one spouse has been identified by a medical professional as being incapable of making decisions on their own. These cases will require the petitioning spouse to provide testimony from the healthcare expert who asserts the other spouse cannot be cured.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in San Diego

In order for a California court to accept a petition for divorce, there are strict residency requirements that must be met first. Before you can file, either you or your spouse must have lived in this state for at least six months and resided in the county where you’re filing for three months. If neither of you meet the county guidelines, you have the option to file in the county you previously lived in. If you haven’t lived in California for the required length of time, you can wait until you meet the requirements or file for a legal separation and follow up with an amended divorce petition once you’ve reached six months.

Common Ways San Diego Divorces Are Settled

  • "Kitchen table" agreement: this is an expression that refers to you and your spouse sitting down and settling on a divorce agreement together. In a kitchen table agreement, you and your spouse divide property (house, cars, retirement accounts, etc.) and debts. Couples with children can also decide among themselves on how to share child custody. These agreements can also settle child support and spousal support (alimony) arrangements. These agreements will still need the help of an experienced San Diego divorce attorney to properly file divorce agreements with the court. Your attorney can help you avoid any costly filing mistakes.
  • Attorney negotiation and litigation: in these situations, you and your spouse each hire an attorney and these attorneys handle your case. Many of these cases are settled through negotiation. In these situations, attorneys come to an agreement that is beneficial for the couple divorcing. Litigation is a little bit more complex and involved. In these situations, your attorneys take the case to trial and a judge makes all the divorce agreement decisions.
  • Mediation: in these arrangements, you and your spouse mutually select a neutral person (usually an attorney) to help you come to a settlement. The mediator isn't a judge. The mediator doesn't make any legally binding decisions. What the mediator does is provide the opportunity for the couple to discuss their needs outside of a courtroom. The mediator will suggest options for a divorce settlement. If a mediation is successful, the couple will sign a Marital Settlement Agreement that ends their marriage and divides property and assets without going to court.

Divorce Law Areas The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor Handles

San Diego Divorce Lawyers Provide the Help You Need

Divorce isn't fun or easy. You need the experienced legal guidance of a strong San Diego divorce attorney to get you the divorce agreement you need to move on with your life. We've helped many people protect their rights, assets, and future. If you have any questions about the California divorce process, contact The Law Offices of Thomas M. Huguenor. For a free consultation, call (858) 458-9500.

Additional Information

(858) 458-9500


11455 El Camino Real, Suite 390
San Diego, California 92130

Office: (858) 458-9500
Fax: (858) 630-2341

Our Firm Services The Following California Areas:
San Diego, La Jolla, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Pacific Beach, and Mission Beach.

Certified family law specialist by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization.

The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor is a San Diego, California firm practicing exclusively in the area of domestic relations law. We handle a wide range of matters including divorce, child custody, and child support. Whatever your situation we can be of assistance. Feel free to contact us today.

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