Contested Divorces in California

Divorce Lawyer Whittier

17 Sep Contested Divorces in California

If you and your spouse are going through the preliminary stages of a divorce, but cannot agree on the way your children are cared for afterwards, or how joint assets are divided up, you may decide to file for a contested divorce. A contested divorce takes longer to settle and usually costs both spouses more, too, but in the long run, it may be the only way that you get someone else, i.e. the family court, to resolve what seems to be an insuperable problem.

Why a contested divorce is different from an ordinary divorce

Divorces don’t have to be contested. It’s easier on everyone, especially your children, if differences can be resolved amicably and each spouse gets on with a new life. However, the very reasons why the divorce happens in the first place can mean that the decision about custody, support and property division can be acrimonious and emotionally charged. It helps to have legal help if you think you are going to have a contested divorce and understand that it may be weeks or months before a resolution is obtained through a court appearance.

Steps involved in a California contested divorce

One or the other of the spouses initiates a contested divorce in just the same initial way as filing for a normal divorce. There is a petition for the dissolution of the divorce filed by the initiating spouse and this is served to the other spouse. The spouse who receives this petition then files a response. Either of the two spouses may then go on to file a request for an order with the Family Court. Discovery will take place at some point, the case will be heard and hopefully at some point there will be a successful resolution.

How discovery is used before a court appearance in a contested divorce

Discovery is not unique to divorce proceedings, as it is a typical stage of the pre-trial process across both the civil and criminal proceedings. It is when both sides bring evidence to a formal meeting. It includes written requests for information, aural interrogatories in which questions are asked and answered under oath and the presentation of any documents that have some bearing on the problems in the divorce.

Oral and written questions are prepared in advance and are designed to ensure each spouse provides answers to the others’ prepared questions.

Uncontested and contested divorces may both involve disclosure, but typically in an uncontested divorce final disclosure is cancelled by mutual agreement between the two spouses. This does not happen when uncontested divorces go eventually to trial, especially when the main bone of contention is over division of assets.

How long does it take to get a contested divorce?

If you and your spouse are reluctantly positioning yourself to contest a divorce and are anxious to have the Family Court decide your fate, don’t expect the divorce to be concluded any time soon. Theoretically, you can ask the court for an ‘emergency hearing.’ If it really is an emergency, you could actually get a hearing within 48 hours. However, much more commonly, it is decided by the court that your ‘emergency’ isn’t really an emergency at all and can wait for more pressing matters to be heard first. You may also ask for a ‘non-emergency’ hearing or, even less rushed, a ‘trial hearing.’

Even a ‘non-emergency’ hearing may take weeks or months to be scheduled. It all depends on the judge’s calendar, or the court’s calendar, or both.

A trial date may also take several weeks or months. Some couples may opt to be heard by a ‘private judge.’ This may seem at the outset to be a much more expensive option, but it may not in the end as a decision that is made sooner rather than later may resolve a lot of financial pressures that have built up and this may result in savings all round.

If you and your spouse cannot agree about important aspects of your former life together and are positioning yourselves towards a contested divorce’, the best advice is to talk to a family law attorney like an Orange County Lawyer at the Law Office of Damian Nolan.


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