Roadmap to a Simplified Divorce in California

In the United States, it’s very common for people to get married and divorced. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50.” However, not all marriages last. The APA says, “about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce,” and the divorce rate for second and subsequent marriages is higher than it is for first marriages – that’s a lot of divorces.

Many people who have been through a divorce would argue that it should be easier. But, when you consider what goes into the division of assets, it’s understandable why it takes as long as it does. Arguably, if divorce were more streamlined, unhappy spouses would be doing it sooner than later, and more dissatisfied spouses would be filing the divorce papers instead of deciding to stay in deeply unsatisfying marriage indefinitely.

Is There a Simpler Way to Divorce?

In California, there are two ways for a couple to divorce: 1) through a traditional divorce, and 2) through a “summary dissolution.” So, yes, there is an easier way to divorce; however, not every couple qualifies for a summary dissolution. What are the benefits of a summary dissolution? One, it does not involve as much paperwork and second, the couple is not required to appear in court before a judge.

Requirements for filing a summary dissolution in California:

  • You have been married less than five years.
  • You and your spouse do not have any children together.
  • Neither you, nor your spouse own a home.
  • Neither of you own any real estate whatsoever.
  • The total value of the community property owned by you and your spouse does not exceed $25,000; this figure does not include automobiles.
  • Together, you and your spouse do not owe more than $4,000 in debt. Again, this does not include any auto loans.
  • You and your spouse both waive any right to spousal support.

In order to qualify for a summary dissolution, you and your spouse must reach a written agreement about dividing your marital assets and debts. Additionally, you and your spouse must be on the same page about all aspects of the summary dissolution. In other words, it must be a collaborative divorce.

Can I Cancel the Summary Dissolution?

Divorce is not always predictable. Even when a couple has little assets and no children, spouses can change their mind about a summary dissolution or disagreements can later arise. For example, a couple may file a summary dissolution, but one day the lower-earning spouse realizes that under a standard divorce, he or she would be entitled to one or two years of spousal support. In effect, the lower-earning spouse has a change of heart and desires to convert their summary dissolution to a traditional divorce.

Whether you are considering a summary dissolution or a traditional divorce, there are steps that you can take to make the process easier. Continue reading as we offer advice on how to get your divorce started on the right foot.

Tips for Having an Easier Divorce

Every divorce is unique and no two are identical, so some are definitely more complicated than others. Regardless of whether you are headed for a summary dissolution or a complex, high-net worth divorce, there are steps you can take hear and now that will make the process less painful:

  • Consult with a divorce attorney before telling your spouse you want a divorce. This puts you in a proactive situation, instead of being on the “defense.”
  • Run both of your credit reports so you know exactly what is owed and to whom.
  • Gather all of your financial documents (you and your spouse), such as recent taxes, bank statements, auto loans, mortgage papers, investments, retirement plans, etc. and have them ready to show your divorce lawyer.
  • If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets, have a CPA take a look the last two years of taxes for any clues.
  • Know your rights under California’s divorce laws. Consult with an attorney about property and debt division, taxes, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
  • Be realistic about a post-divorce budget. Take into consideration debt, child or spousal support (where applicable), housing, and paying all other relevant expenses. If you’re going to need to increase your income, start creating “a plan” today.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the practical measures you need to take to streamline the divorce process, let’s take a look at the behaviors that help improve one’s chances of having the least stressful divorce. Since divorce has a way of making perfectly rational people do irrational things, it’s important for divorcing spouses to mind their behavior during the divorce process.

History has proven time and again that a misstep on behalf of a spouse can permanently alter the outcome of their divorce and not for the better. For example, posting pictures of one’s new partner all over social media before the divorce is final can wreak havoc on a child custody battle, or transferring cash in a hidden bank account to one’s brother can lose a judge’s trust and result in undesirable consequences imposed by the court.

Proper behavior during a divorce:

  • Don’t hide assets from your spouse or the court.
  • Don’t post anything on social media that you don’t want your soon-to-be ex, their divorce attorney, or the judge to see.
  • Consult your lawyer before you begin dating for advice on etiquette during a divorce.
  • Be careful of what you say to your spouse in a text, email, social media post, or direct message on a social media site. Make sure your communications are polite and respectful.
  • Don’t belittle your spouse to your children. This is counterproductive and can hinder, not help your divorce.
  • Be 100% open and honest with your divorce attorney about your finances, and any discretions that may affect the divorce outcome.
  • Even though California is a no-fault divorce state, your attorney still doesn’t want any surprises so be sure to tell him or her everything they need to know.
  • If you expect your spouse to sling mud; for example, you had an affair, you were diagnosed with a mental illness, or you abused drugs in the past, make sure your attorney knows all about it. This way, your lawyer is fully prepared.

We hope the above information helps clear up some questions that you might have. If you are looking for a Los Angeles divorce lawyer, don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation!