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Your San Diego Divorce: The Basics

You thought you had a Top Gun romance. But instead of Maverick and Charlie putting it in overdrive, you and your spouse are putting a new sort of "fight" in Fightertown, USA. If your marriage’s mighty wings can’t carry you anymore, this article might help fill you in on what comes next. Here is some basic information to help you navigate San Diego divorce law.

How Does a Divorce Work?

There are three ways to end a marriage or domestic partnership in San Diego: annulment, divorce, or summary dissolution. While this article will focus mainly on divorce, it is important to know which process, if any, may apply to you. An annulment is when a court says your marriage or domestic partnership never happened because it wasn't legal in the first place. Some cases where annulment could be appropriate would be if one of the partners was already married, was too young to consent to marriage, or was tricked or forced into marriage.

A divorce, also known as "dissolution of marriage" or "dissolution of domestic partnership," legally ends your marriage or domestic partnership. Following a divorce, both partners will be legally single, and allowed to re-marry or begin another a domestic partnership. As part of a divorce, a court can also issue orders regarding property division, restraining orders, child custody and visitation orders, child support, or spousal/partner support.

A summary dissolution is similar to a divorce in that it ends your marriage, but you may only need to file paperwork with the court instead of appearing before a judge. Summary dissolution only applies to spouses who have been married less than 5 years, don't have any children together, and don't have any real estate or sizeable assets or debts together.

There is also a fourth process called a legal separation. As opposed to annulment or divorce, a legal separation doesn't end your marriage or domestic partnership; meaning you can't get re-married or enter into a new partnership with someone else. However, it may allow you to ask a court to decide issues like child custody, child support, and restraining orders.

What Are the Reasons for Divorce in San Diego?

California is a "no fault" divorce state. Therefore, you don't have to prove your spouse did anything wrong to get a divorce in San Diego. You're allowed to tell the court that you and your spouse have what are legally called "irreconcilable differences" in order to get a no fault divorce. You should be aware that either spouse can decide to end the marriage, and the other spouse cannot obstruct the process by refusing to participate. You may get a "default judgment" and the divorce will go through, even if your ex does not participate.

How Do I File for Divorce in San Diego?

The San Diego Superior Courts have a Family Law Facilitator's Office that can assist you with divorce proceedings if you can't or prefer not to hire an attorney. The process begins with a Petition filed with the court giving it some basic information about your marriage. The Petition also asks for the orders regarding your shared property and children, if any.

Along with the Petition, San Diego requires you to file a Summons, which provides important information for you and your spouse about the divorce process. The Summons can limit what you may do with your shared property, money, and other assets and debts. It may also prohibit either of you from moving out of state with your children without a court order or prior written consent from your spouse. Additional forms can be found on the California Judicial Branch website.

You can file any divorce paperwork with the court clerk, and if you file for divorce, you have to tell your spouse. This is called "service," meaning your spouse or domestic partner receives copies of all your court papers. Your spouse has to be legally "served" before the court can make any orders or judgments in your divorce. After filing and service, you may have to attend mediation or a trial to settle contested issues if you can't agree with your spouse on all the issues in your divorce. If you can come to an agreement on your own, the court will generally accept your agreement.

Paperwork can be filed at any of three San Diego courthouses.

What Happens After I File For Divorce?

If you file for divorce, all child support, child custody, and property division issues will be settled either by agreement between you and your spouse or by a trial before the divorce can be granted. San Diego also has a mandatory 6-month waiting period required by California law. This means that, even if you get all your paperwork turned in to the court and your divorce is approved, the divorce itself won't be final until at least six months after you file.

Get Legal Help with Your Divorce in San Diego

You may be able to litigate your divorce case without an attorney, but it's a risky road to take. With so much at stake, including child custody and division of assets, you can best protect yourself by reaching out to an experienced family law attorney near you, who can guide you through the divorce process and advocate on your behalf.

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