How To Start The Divorce Process




Considerations Prior To Filing for Divorce:

The decision of when to begin your dissolution is determinate by you and the needs of you and your family. There are considerations to be taken into account, prior to filing, so it is important you understand the implications once you file the paperwork to begin the process.

Safety Plan:

You know your spouse better than anyone else. The first step in any divorce is a safety assessment for yourself and your children, if you have any, because you always want to ensure that you and your family are safe and have a safe place to go, if necessary. The divorce process is an emotional journey, full of rollercoasters. If your spouse has a history of anger and violence, it is imperative you create a safety plan immediately.

Finances In Order:

There are several pre-filing financial tips we like to give clients prior to filing if we have the opportunity. Make sure you have access to:

  • Tax Return,

  • Bank Accounts,

  • Pension Accounts,

  • Access to mortgage information,

  • Birth Certificates, Passports, Medical Documents relating to the children, if there are any,

  • Estate Planning Documents, and

  • Run a free credit check on yourself and print it out, for your records

Additionally, it is imperative to know that once the Petition is filed, there are Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (ATROS) that go into effect. Once the other Party is served with the initial filing document, the ATROS will then go into effect for them.

The ATROS include:

  • Not removing the children out of state,

  • Not selling, destroying, or transferring any property,

  • Not transferring money,

  • Not taking out additional debt in the community’s name

  • Not changing life insurance beneficiaries, and

  • Not changing health insurance beneficiaries, etc.

Make sure have your finances, estate planning, insurances, assets, and debts all in order prior to filing.

Starting the Divorce Process:

Once you have accessed your safety, the first action item in the process of divorce is to file a Petition (FL-100) with the Court. The Petition usually contains some simple and relevant information such as names, date of birth, date of marriage, and the date of separation. You will also need to complete a Summons (FL-110) document letting the other party know they need to appear in court on the matter. If you do have children, the Declaration Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (FL-105) needs to be completed, which requires explaining where the children have lived the last five (5) years, and to determine whether the courthouse you’re filing in has the authority to make any decisions relating to the children. Lastly, in San Diego specifically, you need to complete a Certificate of Assignment (SDSC D-049), to show you’re filing in the correct courthouse. If you’re in a different county other than San Diego, check with your local courthouse to see if there are any additional local forms that need to accompany the Petition, Summons, and UCCJEA.

There is a filing fee of $435 when filing the Petition. If the court fee would pose a financial burden to you, you can ask the court for a fee waiver (FW-001 & FW-003).

After filing the forms listed above with the court, the court will return to you the stamped copies (AKA conformed copies) back. The conformed copies will have your case number on it, and that case number will remain with you during the pendency of your divorce. In San Diego, you’ll also receive a Notice of Case Assignment and Notice of Hearing, because automatic hearings will be scheduled, to ensure you are moving along your case properly.

Serving The Documents

Once you receive all of the paperwork back from the court, you will need to serve your spouse the paperwork. If you filed for a fee waiver, you do not need to send your spouse the fee waiver documents. The other documents, along with a blank Response (FL-120) and blank UCCJEA (FL-105), if there are children involved.

If a fee waiver was granted, ask the court clerk for a certified copy. You can then take the certified copy to your local Sheriff’s Office and they’ll serve the documents for you. Otherwise, you will need to hire a process server or ask a friend or family member to serve the documents for you.

Once your spouse has been served, a Proof of Service of Summons (FL-115) will need to be completed, then signed by the person who served the documents, and filed with the court. If the Sheriff’s Office served the documents, they’ll fill out their own Proof of Service and have it filed with the court, on your behalf.

What Happens After You Serve Your Spouse:

After you serve your spouse, they have thirty (30) days to respond to the Petition. Once they file their response, they’ll have to go through the same service process and have you served as well.

Additionally, your next step would be to complete your Financial Disclosures, known as the Preliminary Declarations of Disclosures (PDODs). You have sixty (60) days from the date of filing your petition, to have completed your PDODs.


Should You Hire An Attorney?

It depends.


Hope we didn't catch you off guard with that answer!


We, at Wells-Gibson Family Law, are here to help. We have extensive experience and knowledge surrounding divorces and can help you every step of the way. If your case is likely to be complex, complicated, or messy, you should certainly hire an attorney. If your case is likely to be an amicable case, one that’s uncontested or likely to proceed through default, utilize our Divorce It Yourself Program, here, and finalize your divorce without needing to hire an attorney.


If you would like to discuss, further, any issues you may be experiencing, or just to see if you should utilize the DIY Program or utilize an attorney, we're happy to discuss that with you!

Book your consultation with us today!