Alternative Divorce Services in Sacramento
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File for divorce without a lawyer in California
It is possible to file for divorce without a lawyer, and many people choose to do so, especially in uncontested divorce cases. This is known as a “pro se” or “in pro per” divorce. Our Legal Document Assistants can help you prepare the corresponding paperwork, file for divorce, and serve your spouse.
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Frequently asked questions
Divorce is the legal termination of a marriage, dissolving the union between two individuals. This process, overseen by a court, addresses the distribution of marital assets and debts, child custody and visitation arrangements, and establishing support for spouses and children. It marks the end of the legal duties created during the marriage, allowing both parties the freedom to remarry. Divorces can be contested or uncontested based on the degree of agreement between the individuals involved. In the United States, each state has its divorce laws. In California, for example, state-specific family law provisions guide the divorce process to ensure fair resolutions for all parties while prioritizing the well-being of any children involved.
In California, a “no-fault” divorce state, either spouse can initiate divorce proceedings without needing to prove the other spouse’s fault in the deterioration of the marriage. The most common reasons for divorce are irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. Irreconcilable differences indicate a relationship breakdown that is beyond repair. The court only needs to establish that the couple cannot reconcile their differences, without needing specific examples of misconduct. Incurable insanity, a less common reason for divorce, requires substantial evidence of mental disorder preventing rational decision-making. Expert medical testimony and additional supporting evidence are often necessary. Note that the grounds for divorce do not typically impact property division or child custody.
California follows community property principles when dividing assets in a divorce. This means that any property acquired during the marriage is considered jointly owned by both spouses and must be divided fairly upon divorce. Property acquired before marriage, after separation, or through inheritance is considered separate property and is not subject to division. The court seeks to achieve an equal division of assets, although this does not necessarily entail dividing each asset in half.
Spousal support, or alimony, is a legal requirement established during divorce proceedings for one spouse to assist the other financially. The primary objective of spousal support is to maintain the financial balance that existed during the marriage, ensuring the lower-earning spouse can maintain a reasonable standard of living. Factors considered when determining spousal support include each spouse’s earning capacity, marriage length, health, and living standard requirements. Spousal support can be temporary or permanent, and the court has discretion in deciding whether to award support.
Child support refers to the financial responsibility of one or both parents to provide for their minor children after a divorce. The primary goal of a responsible child support attorney is to ensure children continue to receive financial aid as if their parents had remained together. A statutory formula considers factors such as parental income, time spent with the child, and the child’s needs to determine child support amounts. Additional factors like childcare expenses, healthcare costs, and educational expenses may be considered. Child support obligations typically last until the child turns 18, or 19 if still attending high school full-time, but may extend beyond in certain circumstances.
Child custody pertains to the legal rights of parents regarding their minor children, encompassing decisions about care, education, health, and welfare. During a divorce, the court determines the custody arrangement that best serves the child’s interests. Sacramento child custody lawyers recognize two main types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody involves the right to decide about the child’s upbringing, while physical custody concerns the child’s living arrangements. Both legal and physical custody can be granted to one parent or shared between both parents. Various factors are considered when determining child custody, including the child’s age, preference, health, safety, and welfare, the parents’ ability to cooperate, and the stability of the child’s living environment.
Establish Residency Requirements – One spouse must have been a California resident for at least six months and a county resident where the divorce is to be filed for at least three months before filing.
Determine Grounds for Divorce – The only legally recognized grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity.
Obtain Necessary Forms – Acquire required court forms from the local county courthouse, including the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Summons.
Complete the Forms – Fill out the forms accurately, providing information about the marriage, assets, debts, and any children involved.
File the Forms – Submit the completed forms to the county courthouse and pay the applicable filing fee. The court clerk will stamp the documents and assign a case number.
Serve the Forms – Hire a licensed process server and deliver copies of the filed forms to the respondent spouse following prescribed serving methods, such as personal service or substituted service.
Financial Disclosures – Both parties must complete financial disclosure forms detailing all income, expenses, assets, and debts.
Await Response – The respondent spouse has 30 days from the service date to file a response.
Negotiate or Litigate – If the spouses can agree on all divorce-related matters, they can draft a marital settlement agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to court for a judge to make the final determination.
The cost of filing for divorce in California primarily depends on the filing fee imposed by the respective county. The standard price for filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is approximately $500, but fees may vary slightly between counties. Consult the local county courthouse for the most current fee schedule. In cases of financial hardship, an individual may qualify for a fee waiver by completing the Request to Waive Court Fees and submitting it with the divorce petition.
Most attorneys require an upfront retainer, an advance payment from which the lawyer deducts their hourly fees as they work on the case. Divorce attorneys in Sacramento have an average retainer fee of $2,000. They typically charge hourly rates ranging from $200 to $500, with more experienced lawyers commanding higher fees.
Our Legal Document Assistants are an affordable alternative to prepare, file, and serve legal documents. However, we cannot give legal advice or represent anyone in court. Our fee to prepare the corresponding paperwork for a divorce ranges from $600 to $1,500.