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There are three kinds of divorces:
An “uncontested divorce” is when you and your spouse are able to agree on all issues (i.e., how to divide your property; spousal support, and, if you have children, child custody and child support). If you can agree on all of these issues, then getting divorced is just a matter of reducing your agreement to writing and filling out a collection of court forms. You then file all your paperwork with the court clerk. A judge reviews your paperwork and, if it is in order, signs a “Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage”, which we sometimes also refer to as a “divorce judgment.” There are no court hearings.
A contested divorce case is much different than an uncontested divorce or a default divorce. In a contested divorce, you and your spouse can not reach an agreement on one or more issues. Perhaps you can’t agree on any issue. In a contested case, you can have multiple hearings, concluding in a trial. At trial, a judge listens to testimony from both parties and then makes decisions about all of the contested issues. We explain the additional steps you need to take to process a contested case in another section of this website. [See, “Contested Case”].
A default divorce is different than an uncontested divorce. There are two types of default divorces.
- A “default with an agreement”is very similar to an uncontested divorce. You and your spouse were able to agree on all issues. You reduced your agreement to writing and filled out a collection of court forms that you will file with the court. However, you are going to take one extra step. You are going to take your spouse’s default for the sole purpose of allowing your spouse to avoid paying a “first paper” filing fee to the court. Filing fees can be expensive, costing hundreds of dollars. If you and your spouse do not qualify for a fee waiver, you will both have to pay filing fees, unless you process your divorce as a “default with an agreement”. You can process your divorce as a “default with an agreement” case and avoid the filing fee for your spouse by simply filling out one extra simple court form. We explain the extra step you need to take to process a “default with an agreement” case in another section of this website here. There are no court hearings in “default with an agreement” cases.
- A “true default” divorce is when your spouse refuses to participate in the divorce process. You spouse won’t negotiate with you. After you have served your spouse with your divorce Petition and Summons, he or she ignores the paperwork and does not file a Response with the court. If this happens, then 30 days after you served your spouse with your Petition and Summons, you can have the court clerk enter their default. You will then fill out additional court forms in which you tell the court about your assets, debts, and about both parties’ incomes. You then fill out more court forms to make a proposal for how the court should divide assets and debts, decide child custody, and decide about child support and spousal support. The court then reviews your paperwork and issues a default Judgment of Dissolution. There are no court hearings. We explain the additional steps you need to take to process a “true default” case in another section of this website. [See, ‘True Default Case“].
Much of the information in this “Initial Filings” section is geared towards how to process an uncontested divorce. Although we have sections in the website that cover the additional steps needed to process: 1) a “default with an agreement”; divorce; 2) a “true default” divorce; and 3) a “contested’ divorce, you must first read the information in the “Initial Filing“; “Declaration of Disclosure“, “Getting Educated“, “Settlement Discussions“, and “Judgment“; sections of this website because almost all of the information in those sections applies to all types of divorces. For example, you start all types of divorces by filling out and filing the same initial court forms and regardless of which type of divorce you have. For all types of divorces, you will have to fill out the “Declaration of Disclosure” documents. Getting divorced is a step-by-step process and you need to build on the information in the beginning steps to understand what you are doing in later steps. If you have a “true default” divorce or a “contested” divorce, don’t just jump ahead to the “true default case” or to the “contested case” sections of the website.
If you are seeking a “Judgment of Legal Separation“, the court forms and the legal process described below is the same for both a divorce and a legal separation.
What court forms should I file to get started?
There are two forms you need to fill out to get started (three forms if you have minor children). Those forms are the Petition (FL-100); the Summons (FL-110); and, if you have minor children, the UCCJEA (FL-105).