Divorce can be difficult, but an uncontested divorce doesn’t have to be.
San Diego County has a step-by-step process, requiring specific forms to be filed and timelines to be met.
This article details the steps you must complete to file for and finalize an uncontested divorce in San Diego.
Prepare and File the Petition
First, San Diego County has strict residency requirements which are as follows:
- Did you reside in the state of California for a minimum of 6 months prior to filing your petition?
- Did you reside in San Diego County for a minimum of 3 months before you filed the petition?
If you can answer “Yes” to both questions, you are eligible to file for divorce in San Diego. Now, it’s time to complete the necessary forms.
In San Diego County (and any County in California), you must file certain forms with your local courthouse. These two primary forms are the Petition (FL-100) and Summons (FL – 110).
On the Petition, you’ll need to provide details on the following:
- Key dates, including the date of marriage and date of separation
- Minor children
- Grounds for divorce
- Child custody and visitation (parenting time)
- Assets and debts with your statement on what is community property vs separate property
- Spousal support and child support
Once San Diego County records the filed petition, it is time to notify your soon-to-be ex-spouse that you have filed for divorce. The process for notifying your spouse includes filing the Summons.
From here, the official notification takes place. Once they have been served, your spouse will 30-Days in which to respond to the Petition.
Reminder: Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROs) will be automatically triggered because of this filing process. The ATROs will restrict either spouse from making any impulsive or non-agreed upon financial decisions for the time being.
These orders are for the protection of both parties and can prevent a lot of heartache and confusion over the course of your settlement. More importantly, these orders can protect minor children from being removed from the State.
Speaking of children, for divorce settlements involving minor kids in San Diego County, don’t forget to complete & file the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (FL-105). This gives the court visibility into any active visitation or child support orders.
Serve Your Spouse
You will utilize a process server to formally serve your spouse in San Diego County. The process server can be any adult (18+ years of age), and cannot be associated with your case in any way.
This individual must physically hand your spouse a copy of the filed papers for your spouse to be considered formally served.
What if you don’t know where your spouse is located?
There may be times when your spouse is out of the country, or you are unable to reach them. In these cases, San Diego allows special exceptions for service-by-mail or service-by-publication.
The Respondent’s 30-day timer starts at the time they were served. They will have 30-days in which to file a formal Response to your initial Petition. If there is no reply within 30 days, the case can proceed in their absence.
In cases where there is a Request for Order, and a court date has been previously assigned, you’ll be required to serve papers within 16 days of your scheduled date of appearance.
Your process server will be responsible for providing your spouse with the following documents:
- Copies of all forms filed with the local courthouse
- FL-120 – Marriage/Domestic Partnership
- Other blank response forms
Once service has successfully occurred, this information needs to be relayed to the court.
A Proof of Service of Summons (FL-115) will summarize where, when, and how the server handled this request.
Don’t forget to ALWAYS keep copies for your own records!
Exchange Financial Disclosures
One of your biggest assignments leading up to your final Marital Settlement Agreement is to complete your financial disclosures.
At its core, your job is to provide information on:
- What you own and what you owe (assets and debts)
- What you make and what you spend (income and expenses)
These are just a few of the questions that you’ll need to answer as part of the financial disclosure process. Organization is key at this stage of the game.
San Diego County mandates that from the time of your Petition, you have a deadline of 60-days in which to exchange financials. The Respondent is also granted 60-days from the time they filed their Response to exchange their info with you.
Many of these documents may be readily accessible to you. Other documents may require that you contact your CPA, bank, or another 3rd party for copies of records. You can expect to provide financials such as:
- Tax Returns and W-2s
- Business tax returns
- Pay stubs
- Account statements (bank accounts, retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc.)
- Loan statements
There are 3 forms that will accompany your financial documents as part of the disclosure process:
- Declaration of Disclosure (form FL-140)
- Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150)
- Schedule of Assets and Debts (form FL-142, or Property Declaration FL-160)
These forms will be easier to complete once you have access to the financial documents. You will list income, assets, debts, and anything else that you have discovered during your due diligence.
Always be sure to keep original documents safe and make copies of items that you intend to send to the San Diego courthouse. Anyone 18 years or older can send the financial package to your spouse once it is complete.
Sign a Marital Settlement Agreement and Judgment Forms
Marital Settlement Agreements in San Diego County can take on all shapes and sizes. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Although, the most efficient settlements occur when both parties are clear on their priorities and are amicable in working towards a final resolution to their Uncontested divorce.
What are the primary categories to be addressed as part of a Marital Settlement Agreement?
- Child Custody and Visitation
- Child Support
- Property Division (Assets & Debts)
- Spousal Support
Children are of the highest priority in divorce regardless of whether it is contested or uncontested. The court is always looking to do what is in the best interests of the child. A preferable arrangement would include regular contact with both parents, although exceptions may be considered for dangerous or harmful situations.
Child support calculations can be negotiated. The support order is originally based on a guideline amount of base support calculated with family law software. This is simply an initial recommendation, but it is a good barometer as to what the court considers “fair”.
San Diego County follows California Community Property laws for dividing marital assets and debts. It is likely that some assets are automatically deemed community property, whereas other assets may be separate property prior to marriage. The classification of these assets will dictate how they are ultimately divided.
TIP: Some items can be difficult to divide such as Stock Options, Pension Plans, and other financial instruments. You should consult with a local family lawyer for technical questions surrounding the division of complex assets.
Lastly, spousal support may be awarded to one party in the event of a long-term marriage or a substantial income disparity between the two spouses. Spousal support is intended to level the playing field so that both spouses can have a similar standard of living after the divorce settlement.
The final version of your comprehensive agreement will be put into writing and constitutes your Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). There are templates that you can download through San Diego County to help you get started. You can also choose to hire a lawyer to help you draft, edit, and finalize the written agreement.
You are encouraged to read the final agreement thoroughly, ensuring that all items have been properly addressed.
It is a long, arduous, and burdensome process to have a Marital Settlement Agreement revised once it has been completed and once the marriage has been terminated. It is better to spend time now making changes and asking questions, otherwise, it may be too late down the road.
Once the final version is mutually agreed upon, you are free to sign the settlement in the presence of a notary.
You can file it with the courthouse in San Diego and wait for their approval, or you can hire a Private Judge to process the dissolution quickly.
Those are the basics of filing for an uncontested divorce in California from A to Z. The process isn’t exactly straightforward. Fortunately, you can consult with an attorney or use an online divorce service to help you navigate the procedural aspects.
If you and your spouse are able to reach agreements on all issues, an uncontested divorce can save you time, money, and a whole lot of headaches. Plus, you won’t ever need to appear in court or rely on a judge to make decisions.