Steps Following Filing a Divorce Petitions and Responses in California
Once both parties have filed their initial documents, namely the Petition, Summons, Response (Step 1), then the real work begins. Step 2 will determine if you must file a Request for Order. You will need to consider the following:
Whether you and/or your spouse have made financial support, custody and visitation agreements.
If you don’t have agreements, can you talk about what you want amicably and can you agree to an agreement?
Are you and your spouses unable to agree on anything? Do you need immediate financial assistance or custody/visitation order placements?
If you and/or your spouse agree on the majority or all of these things:
If you and you have had a discussion or are able to amicably discuss your financial needs as well as the needs of any children, then you don’t need to file an RFO (Step 2). It is possible to reduce the agreements to writing. Both you and your spouse should sign it. Even if it’s an informal document it can be later incorporated into a formal or final agreement.
Include whether support will be provided for one or both of you, the type of support (child/spousal), how much support is being received, and what basis this number is. Also, you will need to detail your arrangements regarding custody and visitation.
It is important to have this written now so that everyone is on the exact same page.
If you or your spouse need to make one or more deals…
You can hire a mediator if you’re close to reaching an agreement but need some help. A mediator is an impartial third party who has no financial or emotional stake in the process. They can help each side see the other’s view, and/or help you meet in the middle. They can suggest what is best for the children and show one side of the story that you may not have seen.
If you and/or your spouse disagree on anything, or are unable to communicate…
If you have not reached an agreement and you are unable or unwilling to talk to each other, then you should seriously think about filing an RFO. This will allow you to ask the Court for assistance. While most support orders are retroactively possible, they cannot be extended beyond the date the RFO was filed. It may take at most a month to have the hearing and possibly longer to get your first check. This is especially true if you need to obtain a wage garnishment in order to enforce any support order.
If your children are not being supervised, you might need to immediately place custody and/or visitation order. An order setting out visitation and custody is required in order to be able to call a lawyer or police officer to help you exercise your parenting rights.
Unfortunately, many couples are unable to agree on a custody/visitation arrangement. It could be that one parent believes they are the best parent or the other is trying to convince the other that more custodial time will lead to greater support. Or that the parents would like their children around the clock (which, even if you lived together, wouldn’t be possible). It is important to consider whether you are the parent currently having the children the most and not allowing the other parent full rights.
Filling out an RFO
If you have good reasons to be worried, you can file an RFO to clarify your concerns and ensure your children are safe. But, it’s not a good idea to withhold your children without good cause. If your spouse is able show the court that your spouse is being vindictive, this could lead to your children being taken away.
It is important to ensure that you only act in the best interest of your children when you file an RFO for custody or visitation. You should not be acting on your feelings and emotions towards your spouse.
Step 3 is to prepare and exchange your Disclosures. Your Disclosures will include your Declaration of Disclosure and the Income and expenses Declaration, Schedule of Assets and debts, and Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure.
While it can be time-consuming to prepare your disclosures correctly, it is an essential step and is required by law. It is important to take the necessary time to prepare all documents. Depending on the status of your case, you may be required to exchange preliminary information. If both parties agree that they don’t require the other’s final declarations of disclosure or updated information, the final disclosures may be waived.
You must prepare and serve your preliminary disclosures. Also, be honest with these forms. If your spouse proves that you have intentionally or knowingly lied to these documents, it could lead to serious legal consequences.
Both parties must have received all disclosures. This will allow them to have informed communication about the final division and reasonable discussions about support. You will still have to pay support even if you own three cars and feel that you need them.