In order to file for divorce in California, a spouse must file a petition and then serve the other spouse with the petition. After being served with the petition, the spouse has thirty days to file a response. If a response is not filed within thirty days, the spouse who filed the petition must submit a judgment to the court and request court orders regarding custody, visitation, division of property, etc. If a response is filed, discovery ensues where the spouses exchange information relevant to the divorce proceedings in preparation for settlement negotiations or subsequently a trial. California Family Code § 2020 – 2026.
Whether the petitioner submits a judgment, the case is settled or the case proceeds to trial, a divorce in California is not finalized until at least six months and one day after process was served on the respondent. This period is known as the “waiting period.”
The underlying reasoning behind a “waiting period”, which has been imposed in many states, is for a couple to be certain about their decision to divorce prior to it being finalized. During the “waiting period”, the spouses may not enter into other marriages, allowing the potential for reconciliation. Additionally, the “waiting period” provides time to investigate into important issues regarding parenting of children following the divorce (childcare, schools, visitation, etc.) as well as time to gather the requisite financial documents in preparation for a divorce settlement or a trial (tax returns, credit card statements, etc.). This may require issuing subpoenas, or conducting interviews and inspections. If the case fails to settle and proceeds to trial, a divorce may not be finalized until well after the waiting period.
A prime example of the effect of this law is the Kobe Bryant divorce saga. Bryant’s wife Vanessa filed for divorce in December reportedly citing Kobe’s infidelity as the reason for the divorce. Although the couple reached a property settlement agreement that would give Vanessa all three of the couple’s estates, in accordance with California law, the documents finalizing the divorce may not be signed until the first week of August, six months after Kobe was served with process. Apparently, during the six months, the Bryants have made progress towards reconciliation and it is not known whether the divorce will be finalized.
The California Statute that specifies the obligatory “waiting period” before a divorce is finalized is Section 2339 of the California Family Code. The Code states that: “no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.” California Family Code § 2339.
If you are contemplating a divorce, or currently engaged in a divorce proceeding, a qualified San Diego divorce attorney can help you obtain a resolution in a timely manner. Roy M. Doppelt will represent you with compassion and skill through this trying time. Mr. Doppelt has over 20 years of experience handling divorces in California. Doppelt & Forney, APC proudly serves clients in San Diego, La Jolla, Escondido, and throughout Southern California. For a free confidential consultation about divorce, custody, spousal support or other family law issues, contact us online, or call us at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
Related Blog Posts:
What Do I Need to Know About Post Judgment Modifications for My California Divorce?, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 27, 2012
How Can I Get Spousal Support in My Pending Divorce In San Diego Superior Court?, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 26, 2012
How Is Child Support Determined in San Diego: 2012, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Blog, May 30, 2012
Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Baltimore, US (Kobe Bryant) via Wikimedia Commons