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Court Officials Say Many Californians Try To Handle Divorces Without An Attorney And Fail

California court officials say 80% of Californians filing for divorce try to do so on their own without an attorney and often not very successfully. 30% of these petitions have not been finalized because of the complex paperwork and court procedures involved. Officials and legal experts say that they are concerned that many couples are not aware that their divorces have not been finalized.

At a legal services center in Van Nuys, California, officials say that every month they see approximately 20 people who did not file their divorce papers correctly. There have even been situations where a couple has filed for divorce, remarried, and later found out that their divorce never became finalized.

In the state of California, in order for a couple to get divorced, one spouse must file the divorce papers at their Superior Court and serve them to the other spouse. A divorce cannot become final until at least six months after the papers have been served.

The general steps for filing a divorce in California:
1. The petition to dissolve the marriage is filed by one spouse and served to the other spouse (known as the Respondent).
2. The Respondent has 30 days to reply.
3. One of the parties may file an Order to Show Cause hearing where the judge may make temporary child custody or support terms. The judge may even issue a restraining order against one of the spouses.

4. The discovery process: Both parties exchange documents and information, including the disclosure of income, expenses, and assets. Written questions and depositions may also be given at this time.
5. Both parties discuss the settlement terms. If an agreement is reached, a Marital Settlement Agreement will be filed and signed by the spouses and their lawyers. If an agreement can’t be reached, the case goes to trial.
6. After signing the agreement or once the trial has ended, one of the divorce lawyers will prepare and file a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

If a couple were married for less than five years, have no children, and fulfill the following requirements, they can file a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of Marriage rather than go through the regular divorce process:

· Both parties have waived the right to receive spousal support.
· They do not own or have an interest in any real estate.
· They acquired less than $32,000 worth of marital property.
· Neither own property worth more than $32,000.
· Since their marriage, they have not acquired or owe more than $4,000 in debts.

Because of the complexity involved in many divorces, you may want to speak to a divorce attorney and have them represent you. A divorce attorney can file the necessary paperwork correctly and make sure that your interests are represented.

Sagaria Law, P.C. represents clients who wish to file for divorce, child custody, spousal support, legal separation, and other family law-related issues. We represent clients from Santa Clara County, Monterey County, Alameda County, and the surrounding areas. Contact Sagaria Law, P.C. today to schedule your free, no obligation consultation to speak with one of our lawyers.

Many Californians handle their own divorces – not always well, Mercurynews.com/AP, January 1, 2007
Related Web Resources:

California Divorce Guide

California Divorce Laws, Divorcesupport.com

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