Filing divorce papers in California is a complicated process, and you must follow the correct procedures.

According to California state law, once you or your spouse have been served with divorce papers, the next step is determined by whether or not you are involved in a contested divorce.

Whether the divorce papers are served in an uncontested or contested case in the state, this article will discuss the process.

What Happens After Divorce Papers Are Served In An Uncontested Case?

Predictable outcomes are expected in uncontested cases. These steps are usually followed once divorce papers have been served by a divorce family lawyer, including the petition and divorce summons. This can also begs the question, “How long does it take to get a divorce in California?” 

The answer depends on several circumstances.

Response to the Divorce Petition

A Summons and a Petition are the official documents used to begin the divorce process. The receiving spouse (respondent) must file a response to the petition within 72 hours of service. A divorce lawyer should assist the respondent in filling out form FL-120 when responding to a divorce petition.

Respondents can choose to file the response without asking for a divorce or affirmatively request it. Divorce is the most common answer to divorce inquiries. Under California law, there is no requirement that both partners in a divorce must agree. It’s okay if just one of you wants it.

Preliminary Declaration of Financial and Property Disclosures 

Several forms are required to complete the preliminary declaration of disclosure. Each respondent and petitioner will need to complete and deliver a variety of forms that disclose their financial status and real and personal assets.

The petitioner must immediately serve the respondent with the necessary preliminary declaration of disclosure concurrently with the petition to dissolve or within 60 days of filing the petition. The respondent must provide the other party with a preliminary declaration of disclosure concurrently with the response. This subdivision can be extended by a written agreement between the parties or court order. (California Family Code 2104)

Nondisclosure laws in California are pretty stringent. Making false claims to assets or falsifying income and expenditure reports are specific ways to get yourself into trouble.

Settlement Communications

After both spouses have their financial information, it is time to start settlement talks about the terms of your divorce. Both spouses can use mediation or another alternative method to agree on specific issues. What Happens in Los Angeles Divorce mediation?

In uncontested divorce cases, settlement discussions start quickly. The court may exchange a preliminary declaration of the disclosure. The spouses should complete it before substantive settlement discussions begin and, if possible, before any financial settlement agreement is signed. Settlement discussions should be severe if both parties have all the information they need about assets, income, and expenses.

Final Declaration of Disclosures

Both the petitioner and the respondent must serve each other with final declarations, under penalty of perjury, of income and expenses.

Except for a court order for a good reason, any party or attorney in the case shall serve a final disclosure and current income and expense declaration on the other party. It must be executed under penalty of perjury on a prescribed form by the Judicial Council unless the parties mutually waive this final disclosure. (California Family Code 2105).

Final Judgment 

After the divorce terms, including child support, custody, property, and debt division, are agreed upon, the final step in an unsettled case is to get the court’s approval. The marriage is over once the court has entered a final judgment.

What Happens After Divorce Papers Are Served In A Contested Case?

The preliminary and final disclosures are generally the same as in an uncontested case. The following steps are:

Request for Temporary Orders 

Once divorce papers have been served, either spouse may file temporary orders related to custody, visitation, and child support. A spouse can request different types of temporary orders. The higher-earning spouse is usually subject to support and attorney fees orders in divorce proceedings.

Discovery Process

In a contested divorce, both spouses must reply to each other’s requests for discovery in addition to completing the necessary disclosures. After divorce papers are served, the discovery procedure is reasonably typical.

Discovery is a formal request for information made by one spouse to another spouse. The spouse can accomplish this through written submissions for interrogatories using preprinted or custom-made queries, document requests, requests to admit facts, and notices regarding dispositions that involve live testimony.

Attorney Fee Requests

After divorce papers have been served, attorney fee requests are expected. There are two types of attorney fees:

Need-Based Attorney Fee Requests

These focus on the spouse’s need to pay attorney fees and their ability to pay them. You can also request liquid community or separate property funds to pay fees. (California Family Codes 2030, 2031, and 2032)

Sanctions Request

These requests are not based on a “need,” but they cannot place an unreasonable financial burden on the party against whom they are imposed. (California Family Code 271)

Settlement Offers and Responses

Spouses may work out their differences, even in contested divorces. Ideally, settlement talks should take place between spouses. Even if all issues cannot be resolved, both spouses can work out a way to reduce the cost of the divorce for everyone.

Documenting a spouse’s refusal to settle or making unreasonable offers is crucial for Family Code 271 sanctions requests. The spouse with the highest income may also help avoid attorney fees by showing that the spouse caused the costs.

Trial on Unsettled Issues

If both spouses cannot agree, your divorce proceeding will go to trial. They will both use the discovery information and any other evidence to convince the judge in your favor.

Final Judgment

A contested divorce is the same as an uncontested one. The court will issue a final judgment.


If you have been served with divorce papers and are unsure of what to do next, you need the assistance of a divorce attorney who can guide you through the process without leaving any details out of the picture. Consult it now with the Law Offices of Leon F. Bennett. We have your back. Contact us now.