Beginning a Divorce Case

Perhaps the most difficult aspect to starting a divorce is reaching the decision that you can no longer be married.  This is the person that on your wedding day, you pledged to spend the rest of your life with, for better or for worse.  Yet, coming to grips with the fact that life together no longer works or is more detrimental than good, is a heart-wrenching realization that all too many married couples decide.  Whether the decision is mutual or not, it helps to be honest with yourself and with your spouse.  When the time comes to start the divorce proceeding, it should be to formalize the breakup of your marriage, not to determine if it should end.

Divorce Petition (FL-100) and Summons (FL-110)

Once the decision is made, starting the divorce proceeding is simple, it requires filing a Petition for Dissolution and obtaining a Summons to serve upon your spouse.  In California, there is a mandatory form to use for the Petition for Dissolution, it is promulgated by the Judicial Council of California and is labeled form FL-100.  The mandatory Summons form is form FL-110, which includes Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) that become effective when your spouse is served with the Summons and Petition.

All Judicial Council forms can be found online on the California Courts website (click here to open the page).

There is a filing fee for the Petition for Dissolution.  If you have limited financial resources, you may qualify for a fee waiver (for more information on fee waivers click here).

Service of Petition for Dissolution and Time for Answer

After filing your Petition for Dissolution and obtaining a Summons issued by the court clerk, you need to have the Petition and Summons personally served on your spouse.  Service can be done by anyone over 18 years of age and not a party to the case (i.e., you cannot serve).  There are a number of professional process servers that will complete service.  The person completing service should fill out the Proof of Service of Summons form, which should later be filed with the court.

After personal service is effected, your spouse as the responding party has 30 days within which to file an Answer (Response to Dissolution, form FL-120).  If he or she does not respond within that period of time, you can request that their default be entered and request judgment as requested in your Petition.

If your spouse does timely answer within the 30-day period, or at any time before you request default be entered against him or her, then you commence with litigation in your case.

*To learn more about commencing a divorce or answering a Petition for Dissolution, contact Senh Law Associates at 925-408-8546.*