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How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce in Santa Barbara, California?

Jul 13, 2022 | Divorce/Marital Dissolution

Marriage is a binding legal contract between two people. In Santa Barbara, California, that contract can be particularly complex and time-consuming to undo. Every state has its own laws pertaining to marriage and divorce, and California’s laws require a particularly lengthy process to navigate before the dissolution of a marriage. There is no path to completing a divorce in under six months.

Hiring an experienced Santa Barbara family law attorney won’t make your divorce process go any faster than six months, but it can make the process much less stressful. Know going into divorce proceedings what kind of timeline you can expect and what factors contribute to expediency or additional delays.

Residency Requirements to Get Divorced in California

Filing for divorce in California first requires meeting residency requirements for both the state and the county in which you or your spouse resides. California does not permit individuals or couples to cherry-pick the state as a divorce location of preference.

One spouse must have lived in California for a minimum of six months before filing for divorce. One party to the divorce must also have lived in the same county they are filing in for at least three months.

If one of the spouses is legally able to file for divorce in another state and initiates a divorce there prior to the legal start of a divorce filing in California, the jurisdiction of the divorce is ceded to the other state.

Reasons to File for Divorce

While California’s residency requirements and some of its other statutes can complicate and elongate Santa Barbara divorce proceedings, forcing the couple to justify their divorce won’t cause delays. Unlike in some states, there are no parameters for establishing a reason for divorce in California. A no-fault divorce means neither spouse needs to prove wrongdoing or impropriety by the other for the divorce to go through, even if the other spouse is not in favor of the divorce proceeding.

Initiating a California Divorce

If you’ve made up your mind to file for divorce and meet the residency requirements to do so, it’s time to hire a Santa Barbara divorce attorney with the experience and knowledge to manage your case. You want to pick an attorney you are comfortable working with from the very beginning because paperwork mistakes can add to the duration of the proceedings, and the process already has a built-in six-month waiting period.

The necessary forms you and your family law attorney will start with to initiate the divorce are Form FL-100, Petition for Dissolution, and Form FL-110, Summons. The forms must be completed and submitted to the court that has jurisdiction over where you are filing.

Once the divorce papers are filed, next comes serving your spouse with the official papers. In California, the petitioner initiating the divorce is permitted to serve the papers. However, there are some situations where this may not be advisable, such as if the spouse being served may react violently.

Any adult who is at least 18 years old can legally serve papers for a California divorce. Regardless of who does it, the person serving the papers must file Form FL-115, Proof of Service Summons.

The spouse who is served with the divorce papers is required to respond within 30 days. Failure to respond may result in the court issuing a default judgment in the case, but even that won’t immediately end the marriage. After the other spouse has responded or an Appearance, Stipulation, and Waivers form has been filed, the court files the divorce. The entire process is still only beginning.

Mandatory Six-Month Waiting Period in California

Once the divorce is officially filed in the proper court, the mandatory six-month waiting period kicks in. The waiting period is intended to give the couple a chance to resolve conflicts over the division of property, plan custody arrangements, or reconcile and call off the divorce.

This six-month period is non-negotiable. Even if both spouses are entirely in favor of an amicable divorce and there are no contentious divisions over asset splitting or child custody, a divorce can’t be finished until after the six months end. Additionally, if one spouse refuses to take part and a summary judgment is issued in favor of the other spouse, the marriage is not legally over until the waiting period expires.

What to Do During the Waiting Period

During those six months, you and your spouse can work on the terms of the divorce with your respective legal counsels. The court will provide a judgment that sets the terms of the divorce.

There are three points during the divorce proceedings when the court may issue its judgment:

  • In the beginning, if the spouse served with divorce papers fails to reply. This is a default judgment.
  • At the end of the six-month waiting period, if it’s an agreeable divorce where all matters are settled through negotiation or mediation in a manner that satisfies the court. The marriage will then terminate at the end of the waiting period.
  • If the case proceeds to trial to determine the split of assets and matters of child custody, visitation, and support, then the judgment comes at the end of the trial.

The more assets involved or the presence of children in a divorce are likely causes for the divorce to extend beyond the waiting period. A high net worth divorce where the marital property must be divided down the middle can create numerous additional complications for the couple and the court to sort out.

Children can make an otherwise amicable divorce into a divisive one if either parent feels they haven’t received a fair chance at custody. The court is tasked with putting the well-being of the child above all else in California, and the court won’t rush a case to the child’s detriment.

Get the Representation You Deserve

Divorces in California are long, and it’s natural to become frustrated or stressed during the process. The experienced team at Drury Pullen Law are Santa Barbara divorce and family law attorneys you can count on to be aggressive and empathetic in taking your case. Contact us to speak with a family law attorney today.

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