In San Diego, once parties decide to file for divorce, it is not uncommon for them to be in a rush to just "get it over with". However, rushing through the divorce process is easier said than done.
One of the most important factors in determining the length of the divorce process is whether the parties and their attorneys decide to take the litigation path, the mediation path, or a combination of both.
The Litigation Path
If the parties and their attorneys determine that they are unable to work cooperatively with the other side and that court intervention is necessary, they must follow the litigation process outlined below. A highly litigated divorce typically proceeds as follows:
If a Petition has not already been filed, one party must file a Petition and Summons and formally serve these documents on the other side. This process is commonly referred to by San Diego family attorneys as "filing for divorce". The party who filed the Petition is known as the "Petitioner" and the other party is known as the "Respondent".
The Respondent must then file a "Response" to the Petition within 30 days of service. Both parties will then begin completing their Preliminary Declarations of Disclosure which includes a Schedule of Assets and Debts and an Income and Expense Declaration. Within these documents, the parties will explain their income and their monthly expenses in addition to identifying all community property assets and obligations.
Next, the parties can file various motions requesting relief such as temporary child or spousal support, temporary child custody and visitation orders and attorney fees. The timeline for all motions to be heard ranges from an average of 30 days to a year depending on the number of motions, complexity of issues and requests for continuances. If custody and visitation is a disputed issue in the case, the parties must attend Family Court Services mediation or another private mediation.
The parties may conduct discovery to find out more information regarding disputed issues. If spousal support is disputed, the parties may investigate issues such as income and assets. If any disputes arise during the discovery process, the parties may file Motions to Compel with the Court to enforce their rights. Should the parties have complex assets or income which is difficult to ascertain, one or both parties may elect to hire experts to weigh in on these issues.
Mandatory Settlement Conference
In San Diego, before the case proceeds to trial, the parties must attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference. This is a meeting between all parties, attorneys, and an independent experienced local family law attorney. If the parties do not reach an agreement, the case may proceed to trial. At trial, both parties present their side of the story with regard to disputed issues. The judge will make a ruling and determine the outcome of all disputed issues.
It is evident from the above timeline that a litigated divorce takes a significant amount of time, money and effort. Even with the assistance of counsel, many divorcing spouses who litigate a large amount of issues call their divorce a "full time job". In our next blog post, the divorce attorneys at the firm will post about "The Mediation Path". Stay tuned!
Contact The Law Offices of Nancy J. Bickford, APC at (858) 793-8884 if you are considering consulting with a divorce lawyer. Ms. Bickford is the only lawyer in San Diego County representing clients, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Whether you are curious about property division in divorce, or have questions regarding premarital agreements, don't settle for less when determining your rights.