How to Get a Divorce in California
If you have made the difficult personal decision to end your marriage or domestic partnership in California California, other difficult choices lie ahead. Those decisions will not be as difficult or as emotional as the decision to divorce, but if the secondary decisions are not made wisely, you can end up paying for problems in your divorce case for a very long time.
You really do need to know how to file for divorce in California. Your goal should be to get an online divorce in California but only if your divorce fits that profile.
The reasons your secondary decisions will be so important and so difficult are:
- California has a very difficult and data-intensive divorce procedure. According to a recent Insider Monkey study, California has the second most difficult divorce procedure in the whole country. Only Vermont is more difficult.
- The California divorce industry is a swamp of fraud and confusion for new divorce consumers. You need to know the players, the most common frauds to avoid and how to make choices, based on the facts of your own situation, to ensure that you will only pay for the divorce services you need. In almost all cases, you will NOT need to pay for full lawyer representation.
The purpose of this article is to lead you through those secondary decisions and to get you onto the right path for the type of divorce that fits the facts of your case. In short, how to file for divorce in California.
Below I will lead you through a logical sequence of considerations that start with the bigger issues and then allow you to drill down to the best specific option in California for your specific case. If the first few questions catch your case, I’ll tell you where to go and why. Read on.
Don’t Go It Alone!!
Back in the day (the ’80s and early ’90s), you could go down to your local Superior Court and buy a divorce forms packet for $1.50. Then you’d go to Barnes and Noble and pick up the most recent Nolo Press “How To Do Your Own Divorce in California” book for $19.95. You would dust off your old Remington typewriter and if you had a lot of spare time and a high tolerance for rejection, you could get your divorce done for just the court filing fee. If you had kids, you could get a divorce on maybe 30 sheets of paper. If there were no kids, 20 sheets of paper. You’d make a bunch of mistakes and the court would kick back your docs to you a few times, but you’d eventually get your divorce. That simply doesn’t happen anymore.
Why? One reason is that the state legislature rolled out the preliminary and final disclosure requirements in the late ’90s. These were an incredibly badly written set of laws that they then tried to improve in the mid-2000s and instead made even worse. So much so that few really understand what the Family Code says about disclosure or when or how many times it has to be done. The result is that the 100+ family courts statewide basically make it up as they go. Every time there’s a new presiding family law judge, the “law” changes. Disclosure, on its own, made California divorce twice as difficult overnight.
Then, the amount and complexity of child support paperwork doubled, mostly because of Federal child support collection laws. Then, the number of mandatory Family Code clauses that had to be included in a Marital Settlement Agreement exploded. This was about the time the Nolo Press book lost most of its value. Now, if you have kids, it takes about 160-180 sheets of paper to get an uncontested California divorce, and about 120 sheets of paper if you have no kids of the marriage.
Then, in its infinite wisdom, the state legislature introduced the Family Law Facilitator into each courthouse. The Facilitator was supposed to save court time and clerk time by allowing divorce consumers to get their papers straight before they submitted them to the court. It hasn’t worked out that way. The Facilitator doesn’t prepare the paperwork for you. They show you how to do it yourself. Budget cuts have brought 3 and 4 hour waits at the Facilitator. Now, with the threat of redundancies and even of getting rid of the Facilitator altogether, court clerks have begun to reject divorce papers for all kinds of invalid reasons so that they can then tell you to go to the Facilitator’s office. There may be nothing wrong with your case, but the clerks will send you to the Facilitator to stand in line for 3 hours just to save the jobs of their pals in the Facilitator’s office.
Court clerks are not your friends. They don’t have to help you, and they generally don’t. They will often harm you.
Don’t go it alone. You need SOME kind of professional help to navigate these treacherous waters and get your divorce. If you don’t believe me and you try it alone, when you screw up, it will cost you much more to correct the problems you’ve created. I can’t make it any clearer.
Don’t go it alone. That would be a false economy. Choose wisely. Do It Yourself is not how to get a divorce in California.
Contested or Uncontested Divorce?
The first big question is whether your case will be contested or uncontested.
Assuming you will be the Petitioner in your divorce case (the spouse who files the divorce initially and takes actions to move the case along through its various stages to finalization), will your spouse agree to whatever requests you will make to the court for legal orders regarding child custody, visitation, parenting, child support, spousal support, division of property and debt and any other issues involved in your case?
If you already know that there will be a fight and that your spouse will contest the case on some issue, don’t waste time considering online divorce. It is NOT an option for you.
Online Divorce mills will take your money and tell you everything will be fine, but when the case becomes contested, they will simply up-sell you to a local lawyer who has subscribed your home zip code in their referral system.
That’s right. They will get paid twice (once by you and once by that lawyer). And your legal costs will be higher because the online divorce mill will not have prepared your case properly as a contested case. Further. they have an active interest in screwing up your case because it means they can simply shrug their shoulders and tell you that you need a lawyer, who will then pay them for the referral.
If your case is going to be contested, you should plan on it being contested, starting right now.
You should retain a local divorce lawyer now to provide you with full traditional legal representation. I realize you may not like that advice, but I assure you that it is good advice. If you suspect that your case will be contested by your spouse for any reason, you can stop reading here. Go to the 1-800-DIVORCE website and complete the contact form to find your local 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer.
If your divorce is uncontested but has certain complex issues, also stop reading here and go to the 1-800-DIVORCE website and click on the map or complete the contact form to find your local 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer. You need a local full representation California divorce lawyer to handle a complex case. Don’t risk a $300 online divorce mill for a complex case. They’ll never tell you they don’t know what they are doing.
They’ll screw your case into the ground and then again, sell it on to the lawyer who subscribed your zip code from them. Yes, that’s right. Just like in a contested case, they will screw up your complex case and get paid twice.
How complex does complex have to be? That depends, of course.
If your case has complex tax issues (not just that you owe tax), trust issues, an interest in an ongoing business that is not being awarded outright to one of you, those are complex cases. If you have a special-needs child of the marriage who may need lifetime child support, that’s another example of a complex case.
This is not an exhaustive list. There is no limit to the number of potential issues that can make your case complex. If you THINK that you have a complex case for any reason, you almost certainly do. Again, don’t risk it without a local lawyer on your team.
In fact, not just a local lawyer but a traditional full representation lawyer with a retainer fee. Anything else will be a false economy and not how to file for divorce in California.
High Dollar Value Case?
If the marital estate is high, again, the risk of an online divorce mill is too great. Money makes people nervous. Lots of money makes unqualified people very nervous and much more likely to make mistakes that will cost you going forward. In big money cases, mistakes always get made unless you have face-time (even Zoom time) with a lawyer providing full traditional representation. Yes, it’s expensive, but you can afford it. Remember? You’ve got a lot of high-value assets.
How high is high? Well, certainly if you have a marital estate over $10M, that’s high. If you have a marital estate over $5M, unless you are confident that you are in complete agreement with your spouse, you should probably retain a full representation divorce lawyer. The marital estate value would include the net fair market value of the real estate, the after-tax value of retirement plans, the cash value of all financial institution accounts and basically all other assets you own.
If your marital estate is less than $5M but still considerable, you have to use your judgment. Unless you and your spouse are in TOTAL agreement, you should lean towards full legal representation by a local divorce lawyer if your marital estate is at or above $2M.
Why 1-800-Divorce to Get a Divorce in California? Why Not Avvo or LegalZoom?
Think about it. Do you want your legal and economic future to be protected by some me-too divorce lawyer- a lawyer who looks and sounds and acts like every other divorce lawyer in California?
If you need a divorce lawyer, you want one that is creative, thoughtful, bold, aggressive, competitive, experienced and consumer-friendly. Why would you hire a lawyer to look after your legal and economic interests if s/he stands in line with every other local California lawyer and doesn’t even look after his or her own economic interests?
Every divorce lawyer in town has a free account at Avvo and LegalZoom. There is only one 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer in each town. The lawyer who has signed up for 1-800-DIVORCE in your area is proving to you that s/he is consumer-friendly and thoughtful in providing you with a phone number you will never forget. S/he is the local outlet of a nationwide brand and that is something that has traditionally been very important to American consumers.
Your local 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer will be well-experienced and cost-effective just because 1-800-DIVORCE brings him or her many more cases over time than the rest of the local lawyer-crowd will get. You want your divorce lawyer to be experienced and well-known in the local family court.
Your 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer will be all of that.
However, the biggest factor will be the creativity and uniqueness of the California lawyer you hire. You will need someone who can think out of the box and then boldly act to resolve issues in your case in your own favor. The lawyer you hire will either have that spark or s/he won’t.
If you find your lawyer standing in line with all other local divorce lawyers at Avvo or LegalZoom or RocketLawyer, how does that demonstrate any creativity? There’s nothing wrong with a lawyer having a free account at Avvo, but if that is all s/he has, that does not prove creativity to you. And it certainly doesn’t prove experience and cost-effectiveness.
Don’t make your case conform to anyone in the lawyer-crowd. Make your divorce lawyer conform to your case.
I Need To Keep My Uncontested Divorce in California As Cheap As Possible!
If you’ve read this far, you have an uncontested California divorce. You should use online divorce in California. You are just one more decision away from being on the correct path to the best possible online divorce solution in California California. Your final decision is a relatively simple choice.
Do you want to pay an industry-low flat fee of $129 with no ups or extras ever and have all of your state and local county divorce docs, including your all-important Marital Settlement Agreement, prepared online by experts who have handled uncontested California divorce since June 1, 1981, or would you prefer to pay a flat fee of perhaps $700-1000 to receive the exact same document preparation as with NetDivorce but also have a local California divorce lawyer who will review your divorce documents, do a legal rights checkup, provide legal advice where needed in your case and also be standing by should your case blow up or some other complex issues arise?
If you have an uncontested California divorce and you just want to get a cheap divorce in California, NetDivorce is the way to go. Senior caseworkers Ed and Peter have 35 and 40 years of experience in California divorce. Their proprietary software and systems are bulletproof. That enables them to concentrate entirely on client support. Go to the NetDivorce website and read their Business Consumer Alliance certified client testimonials. NetDivorce is an intelligent and cheap online divorce in California.
I Want the Best of Both Worlds in My California Uncontested Divorce!
If, on the other hand, you like the idea of wicked-cool online divorce software to empower you in your own case and keep the cost down but you also like the idea of a legal insurance policy that provides a licensed California divorce lawyer on your side should advice be needed, now the best of both of those worlds is available in online divorce in California California. Go to the Online Divorce Lawyer website and enter your 5-digit home zip to find the Online Divorce Lawyer nearest to you.
Finally, California divorce lawyers are fighting back against the unlicensed, unqualified, almost completely fraudulent online divorce mills located out-of-state or in India. They are fighting back with the same wicked-cool software used by NetDivorce, the Bar Association-approved availability of unbundled limited representation document-review services (you only pay for the services needed in your case) and various cost-effective virtual law practice techniques that empower you in your own case, keep the cost down, ensure that you only pay for the services your divorce needs, while maintaining the security of a local lawyer on your team in case problems or issues arise.
Each Online Divorce Lawyer firm is independently owned and operated. So the service offerings and fees will vary slightly. Why would you not want the best of both worlds in your online divorce in California?
I hope this article has been informative and has helped you towards your best hiring choice in a California divorce.
Review Your Options For How to File For Divorce in California California
Full representation by a local lawyer who has demonstrated that s/he is bold, creative and competitive. All divorce is local. Keep yours that way. Your legal and economic rights will be protected best by a local divorce lawyer who has local licensing, local qualifications and local knowledge. Find a divorce lawyer near you at 1-800-DIVORCE.
Why would you risk an unqualified online divorce mill from out of state or in India? They know nothing about your legal and economic rights and care even less. If you hire an unregulated online divorce outfit for $300 and end up paying for their mistakes forever, that’s NOT a cheap divorce.
Your local 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer is experienced, cost-effective and client-savvy enough to become the exclusive 1-800-DIVORCE lawyer in your area.
Oh yeah, and you’ll never forget your lawyer’s phone number.
This is cheap divorce. And there’s nothing wrong with that! NetDivorce (and it’s pre-internet company, California Legal Assistance Centers) has been handling California uncontested divorce since June 1, 1981. NetDivorce has developed its own proprietary California online divorce software and support systems to shield you from the EXTRA stress of the difficult process of how to file for divorce in California California.
There is no way that the average person can simply download blank docs, fill them in, file them at court and get an easy divorce for free. That just doesn’t happen anymore. It’s now way too difficult. And you can’t download magic instructions that tell you what to do. The only written instructions that are available from the state are very general and non-specific. They are guidelines only and will not help you to complete your specific case.
Making matters even worse is that every single court interprets the legal docs differently in some way. The court will reject your self-prepared docs and you will not even understand the reasons for rejection because those reasons will be written in legalese and jargon that only courts and lawyers understand. Court clerks are not there to help you, and they don’t.
Don’t play that game! Don’t go it alone. If you are confused by the divorce process, relax. We are not! Don’t add the stress of the complex paperwork and the confusing procedure of how to file for divorce to any emotional stress of your divorce. Let NetDivorce’s expert software, systems and support shield you from that extra stress. Divorce really is hard enough already.
And don’t pay more than $129 for a complete uncontested California online divorce in California.
The Best of Both Worlds – Online Divorce by a Local Lawyer. Why risk your legal and economic future by hiring an unqualified, unaccountable, out-of-state online divorce mill when local online divorce lawyers are offering all of the benefits of online divorce, plus legal advice, plus a legal rights checkup plus a legal insurance policy, at a competitive price?
Local online divorce lawyers in your town are fighting back against incompetent, often fraudulent, out-of-state online divorce mills that do not know your state’s laws, rules of court or local court policies.
Local online divorce lawyers are fighting back using unbundled services, cost-reducing online divorce software, cloud-computing and other hi-tech, cost-effective, virtual law practice techniques.
Take advantage of these trends in your own divorce hiring decision. Get an affordable divorce while protecting your future legal and economic interests. And have the insurance policy of a local lawyer standing by should your uncontested divorce blow up or become in need of additional legal services, even if that is just a couple of phone calls for some legal advice.
Typically, the Online Divorce Lawyer procedure will mean that your local divorce lawyer will prepare and review all of your documents for a low flat fee and you will file your own case at your local court (It’s easy.) With an Online Divorce Lawyer, you will only pay for the legal services you need.
Online Divorce Lawyer is a smart divorce for your difficult times. Get the best of both worlds with a local online divorce lawyer.