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After so many years of living separated do you automatically become divorced?

Bellflower, CA |

My ex husband walked out on our marriage 11 years ago this November. I never filed for divorce since I was not the one that wanted the marriage to end. He showed me divorce papers a couple of months later but they were not complete and we never went to court.

In the beginning, our children(two boys now 16 and 18) were with me. I suffered a nervous breakdown and so I left my children with my sisters, which only lasted a couple of weeks, since I had never been without my children.

When I returned after this personal struggle was resolved, they were with me once again. I asked for no money for spousal support or child support, hoping my husband would return. I ended up on the street and was forced to give him the kids. There is so much that has happened,needless to say I resent him today. I got back on my feet and by then my kids wanted to stay with their father, which I respected.

Do I need to file for divorce?

Attorney Answers 3


Although the concept of a "common law" divorce is intriguing, it does not exist. The only way to obtain a divorce is to obtain a Judgment of Divorce from a Court that has jurisdiction over the parties. To instigate the process, you must file a Petition in the appropriate court.

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To answer your initial question; No, the passage of time does not guarantee that your divorce was completed. Many people believe this, and go on to remarry, but this will come back to haunt you when you go to collect Social Security because the 1st spouse still shows up as the spouse. It is important to clean up the situation now, rather than later. The problem of your marital status does not just disappear or go away, even though the spouse has.

There is a lot of paperwork to fill out in order to complete your divorce, and the Court does none of it. You and your spouse must do all the paperwork.
However, you indicate that your spouse showed you paperwork.
On the off chance that a divorce case did get filed, try checking with the Court in your area. Maybe, a divorce was filed and completed, does not sound like it, but you should check.
Also, if it was filed that long ago, the Court may or may not have dismissed the case, because neither one of you did anything, but again, check!!
If nothing was ever filed, and/or if it was filed but dismissed, you need to file a Summons and Petition for Dissolution.
If it was filed, and just sitting there, you need to file a Response.
The Court's now have self help centers, the Norwalk Court has a self help center, believe it is on the 6th floor, and Downtown L.A. has a huge self-help center on the 4th floor.

Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, as each situation is fact specific, and it is not possible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and court pleadings filed in the case. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship

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NO. If he has not filed, you should file for dissolution of marriage in the county where you reside as long as you have been there for 3 months and been in CA for 6 months. You should terminate the marriage and obtain a divorce decree even if you have been separated for 11 years, there may be issues of child support, while a claim for spousal support may be weak due to the time lapse, you should also check your credit report to make sure he didnt open any credit cards with your name after the date of separation, because you do not want responsibility for his debt after that date.

Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Each situation is fact specific and therefore any legal evaluation may vary. Please note it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the relevant facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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