Divorce Self-help: California Divorce Court Process

The process for obtaining a divorce is driven by the court system and varies significantly based on the unique situation of the couples filing.  Contrary to popular belief, a divorce can be filed and finalized without the help of an attorney in California, however, isn't necessarily advised.  Below you will find an infographic detailing an overview of the court process for divorce in California.  More information can be obtained at www.courts.ca.gov or through your county's court website.

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planning for the best possible divorce outcome

Preparation is key when planning for the best case of a worst case situation.  By following the guidance below, you and/or your spouse can walk away certain you made the best attempt possible at achieving a fair and equitable settlement.

STEP 1: Develop a clear understanding of the implications of divorce before taking first steps.

This includes ensuring you have exhausted all avenues for reconciliation.  Many couples do not appropriately address this step and when they do, it is often focused heavily on discussions about the emotional and relationship impact.  This concept becomes extremely important when it comes to financial implications.  A transition from one combined life into two can have significant impact on lifestyle choices that couples may want to reconsider after understanding the big picture. 

STEP 2: If the answer is divorce, take the time to thoroughly define your needs and wants.

Before beginning the process of negotiating with your spouse, it is important to define your personal "must haves" and "nice to haves".  This will become the starting point to be used to devise a settlement agreement.

STEP 3: Establish realistic expectations for working through the agreement with your spouse or partner.

Understand that additional income isn't going to appear out of thin air that didn't exist prior to a divorce and marital debt doesn't just disappear.  Emotions will be high and it is sometimes difficult to separate those from logic and rational decision-making.  Working with legal and financial professionals prior and during the divorce process can help immensely to level the playing field and communicate fact-based information required to make sound decisions.

STEP 4: Identify the appropriate professional resources for your "team".

Maybe you and your spouse are able to reach full agreement and the confidence to complete the court process on your own.  If so, more power to you!  If you're like the majority, you're going to want to identify select resources including an attorney and a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® to assist you to ensure you're reaching the best possible financial settlement and complying with all legalities so it is enforceable.  There are ways to do this without it costing a fortune and there are definitely hybrid scenarios to follow.

STEP 5: Leverage your "team" to develop a divorce plan you and/or your spouse or partner can follow.

As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst®, I can provide assistance before, during and after divorce to ensure you understand your current financial picture, the implications divorce will have and your post-divorce financial outlook so you can devise a plan for the important things like where you will live and who pays for what and so you can confidently move on with your life after divorce.