Los Angeles Divorce Steps and Process

Filing for divorce in the Los Angeles area can be a lengthy and complex process. It is difficult to know where to begin and what steps are involved to successfully separate from your spouse. The Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler has years of experience helping clients navigate the complicated legal process of divorce in Los Angeles and is here to help you, too. 

Initial Filing-For Dissolution or Legal Separation

Either spouse can file for divorce in Los Angeles by filing the standard divorce forms, which include a petition for divorce, summons, and proof of service of summons. If children are involved, additional paperwork may be required. The responding spouse has 30 days from the date served with the paperwork to file a response with the court. If no response is filed, the judge can make a default judgment and give the petitioning spouse everything requested in the initial filing.  Often times, individuals wonder if it is important to be the person to File for Divorce. Should I file for Divorce or Legal Separation, or how do I fill out a Response?

Important considerations when filing for Divorce in Los Angeles include:

  • Which Courthouse to File your Divorce or Legal Separation Matter
  • What information regarding Assets and Debts should I include in the Petition?
  • Should I file for Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation?
  • How does filing for Nullity of Marriage work?
  • Which boxes should I check regarding Child Visitation, Child Custody and Child Support?
  • How do I request the Court order Spousal Support or deny such a request?
  • What is our Date of Separation?
  • Where do I list our Financial Information and Family Home?

While the above list is not a complete list of questions to ask or consider, an initial consultation with seasoned Los Angeles Divorce and Legal Separation Counsel can make a significant difference in the choices you make when filing the initial paperwork.

The Discovery Process-Gathering Information Regarding Child Support, Spousal Support, Child Custody and Assets/Debts.

Following the response, the divorce then moves to the discovery process. The rules and regulations regarding discovery in a Los Angeles divorce can be found in the California Discovery Act of 1986. Discovery includes the declarations of disclosure from each party that details the assets and debts for each person. Each person in a Dissolution of Marriage or Legal Separation matter must file and Fl 150 Income and Expense declaration and, Fl 142 Schedule of Assets and Debts.  However, if there is disagreement or accusations of hiding assets, discovery can also include interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admission, and depositions. Depending on the number of disputed issues and complexity of the case, discovery in a divorce can take months, if not years, to complete.

Common methods to obtain documents and information not produced during the Discovery phase of a Divorce or Legal Separation are:

  • Subpoena’s to Banks and Financial institutions
  • Joinder of Businesses into the Divorce or Legal Separation matter
  • Joinder of Individuals holding assets for Family and Friends
  • Special Interrogatories tailored the specific case
  • Judicial guidance with disputed Discovery matters and the use of a Discovery Referee
  • Forensic accountant analysis of Cash Flow and Lifestyle to identify transaction and information to gather
  • Asset searches with Licensed Investigators 

Trial Setting and Mandatory Settlement Conferences

If an agreement is not reached following discovery, the court will set a date for trial. Prior to trial, the judge may require a mandatory settlement conference to try and resolve any outstanding issues. Sometimes, a settlement officer is appointed by the court to speak with both sides, and other times both parties come together at court to speak with the judge. The judge may provide input on issues during these settlement conferences to help resolve any final issues in order to avoid a full trial.  One Party will Request to Set a Family Law Trial on form Fam 014.  The Divorce Court will schedule a Trial Readiness Conference pursuant to 5.14 of the Los Angeles Family Law Local Rules.

At a Trial Readiness Conference the Court will ask the parties:

  • Issues in the Divorce or Dissolution to be resolved including Custody, Support, Division of Assets and Debts and Attorneys Fees/Costs
  • Discovery to be completed in order for a Case to be ready for Trial
  • Efforts to Settle the matter prior to Trial
  • Estimated Length of Trial

Depending on the answer to the above questions, the Court will set the matter for a further Status Conference or Mandatory Settlement Conference.  At the same time the Court will require the parties to serve there financial information and witness information on each other. 

Trial, Preparation, and Local Rules of Court

If all other attempts to reconcile divorce issues fail, the matter will go to trial. The Los Angeles court system has a set of local rules that govern how a divorce trial will take place. For a trial, this includes rules about issuing continuances, pretrial filings, and trial procedure. A divorce trial is similar to other types of trials with the submission of evidence and witness testimony. After both sides have presented their case, any unresolved issues will be decided by the court.  The Court will make rulings after trial, or by issuing a Statement of Decision.

Post-Trial or Settlement Decisions

Once all issues are resolved, the divorce is finalized in a marital settlement agreement. This outlines all matters of assets, debts, alimony, child support, child custody, restraining orders, and any other issues that arose during the divorce. Once agreed to by the court, these matters are considered permanent. The only way to change the stipulations of divorce following trial or settlement is to either appeal the court’s decision or submit a motion to amend the terms of the divorce with the court.

Call Our Office Today

At the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler, we understand how overwhelming the process of obtaining a divorce can be.  If you are considering a divorce in the Los Angeles area, call 310-246-3900 or contact our office today.