How the Divorce Process Works in San Diego

Embarking on a divorce journey in San Diego can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing. Whether you’ve just made the decision or are considering one, understanding the divorce process is crucial to navigate it successfully. This divorce process overview aims to provide a summary with valuable insights into the divorce process in San Diego. From initial steps to legal aspects and emotional support, the legal team at Fair Cadora will help you dive into the divorce process well-prepared and with a clearer understanding of what to expect.

Understanding the Divorce Process in San Diego 

Before diving into the divorce process, it’s essential to grasp the key aspects of divorce in San Diego. If you find yourself in the midst of a divorce or have received divorce papers, it’s crucial to have a proficient legal team with expertise in divorce and family law in San Diego to protect your rights and ensure fair treatment throughout the process. At Fair Cadora, our commitment lies in helping clients navigate their divorce and return to a fulfilling life. When looking at a divorce in San Diego, California, here’s a glance at what you need to consider: 

  • Residency Requirements: To file for divorce in California, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months and a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three months before initiating the process.
  • No-Fault Divorce: California follows a “no-fault” divorce approach, which means neither party is required to prove the other’s responsibility for the marriage breakdown. The ground for divorce in almost every case is “irreconcilable differences,” indicating that the marriage cannot be salvaged.
  • Filing the Petition: One spouse must submit a petition for dissolution of marriage to the court and serve the other spouse with both the petition and a summons, notifying them of the divorce proceedings.
  • Waiting Period: California mandates a six-month waiting period from the time the petition is served to the finalization of the divorce. 
  • Community Property State: California operates under community property laws, signifying that assets acquired during the marriage are generally considered community property, subject to certain exceptions, and will be divided equally between spouses.
  • Child Custody and Child Support: In cases involving children, the court will determine custody and visitation arrangements based on the best interests of the child. Child support is calculated using a statewide guideline calculation.
  • Spousal Support: Also known as alimony, spousal support may be ordered by the court based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, and the standard of living during the marriage.
  • Attorney’s Fees: California law allows a spouse to make a request that the other spouse contribute to his or her attorney’s fees based on a disparity in financial resources and for certain other limited reasons.  

Divorce Process Options in San Diego, California 

California allows for a variety of divorce options so you can determine what makes the most sense for your unique divorce proceeding. There are six different divorce options for those in San Diego: 

  • Uncontested Divorce: An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses are in agreement on all aspects of the divorce, including property division, child custody, and child support. This type of divorce is typically quicker and less costly compared to a contested divorce.  In this situation, our attorneys often act as scriveners to help the parties put their agreements into the form required by the court to make the process as smooth and easy as possible.
  • Attorney-Assisted Negotiation: In an attorney-assisted negotiation scenario, the parties hire attorneys to assist them in the process. The parties and their lawyers begin the case with a common commitment of cooperatively settling all issues. They go to court only if they cannot reach a reasonable settlement. If the parties do not settle, the lawyers can continue to represent them in court.  The process is very flexible and can be as formal or informal as desired. The process typically involves the exchange of written settlement correspondence or “four-way meetings” with the parties and lawyers, though some negotiation may be directly between the lawyers or parties when appropriate.
  • Contested Divorce / Litigation: A contested, or litigated, divorce arises when the spouses cannot reach a consensus on the divorce terms, leading them to seek resolution in court through a judge’s decision. Such divorces can be more time-consuming and expensive compared to uncontested divorces.  This is also the option that provides the parties with the least control over the outcome.
  • Mediation: Mediation involves a neutral third party, known as a mediator, assisting the spouses in negotiating and reaching a divorce agreement privately. This method is less adversarial and less costly than a contested divorce and allows the parties to maintain control over the final outcome.  Mediation can take place with or without attorneys present.  If attorneys are not present in the mediation room, the parties still have the option of having attorneys consult with them in the background so each party can make informed decisions in mediation and feel confident about the agreement they are entering into through mediation.
  • Collaborative Divorce: Collaborative Practice is a voluntary dispute resolution process in which parties settle without resort to litigation and work collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team of professionals toward a cooperative resolution of all issues.  This approach promotes amicability and may help the parties maintain a positive relationship after the divorce.

In the Collaborative Process:

  • The parties sign a collaborative participation agreement. Both parties commit to respect both parties’ shared goals and the needs of the whole family.
  • The parties freely and voluntarily disclose and exchange all information that is relevant and material to the issues to be decided.
  • The parties make a genuine commitment and pledge not to go to court and to, instead, use good faith efforts in their negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable settlement.
  • Each party must be represented by a Collaborative Practice lawyer who can only represent that party in the Collaborative Process. If the matter ends up in court, each party would need to hire a new lawyer or represent him/herself in court.
  • The parties may engage mental health and financial professionals whose engagement terminates upon the undertaking of any contested court proceeding.
  • The parties may jointly engage other experts as needed.

  • Summary Dissolution: Summary dissolution is a streamlined, uncontested, and cooperative divorce process available to couples who meet specific eligibility criteria, such as being married for less than 5 years, having no children together, and meet certain financial criteria. It is generally faster and more cost-effective, but many couples do not qualify for this option.

Potential Trial and Finalizing the Divorce 

If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation or other means, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, each side will present evidence and arguments to the judge, who will make decisions on unresolved matters. Once the court issues a divorce decree, your marriage will be legally terminated, and you can move forward with your life.  Very few family law cases result in a trial on all issues, as they are costly, time-consuming, and produce uncertain outcomes.

Working With San Diego Divorce Attorneys 

Diving into the divorce process in San Diego can be challenging, but with the right knowledge and legal support, you can navigate your divorce with confidence. By understanding the legal aspects and seeking professional guidance, you can move forward to a brighter future after divorce. Remember, hiring an experienced divorce attorney is crucial to ensuring your rights are protected and securing a favorable outcome during this transformative time.
At Fair Cadora, we have extensive experience handling divorce cases in San Diego. Our goal is to help our clients get the best outcome from their case without breaking the bank. If you’re facing divorce in San Diego, contact one of our legal experts to discuss your options today!