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What is a Dissolution of Marriage and How do I Begin?

Posted by attorney Cathleen Norton

A "dissolution of marriage" action is just a fancy name for a divorce case.

In California, a married person can request a divorce by filing a "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage" along with a form called a Summons. The Summons is issued by the Court, and then both the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and the Summons is personally served on the other party. In divorce cases, the person filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is called the Petitioner. The other party to the divorce is called the Respondent.

The divorce is a little more complicated if the married persons have children. In divorce cases with children, the Petitioner must also file a form called a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Since almost no one can remember the name of this form, family law attorneys and judges call it "UCCJEA" for short.

Once the Summons, Petition, and UCCJEA forms are served on the other party, the Respondent has 30 days in order to file a form called a Response. If the Respondent does not file a Response within 30 days, then the Petitioner can file a form called Request to Enter Default. This will allow the Petitioner to get what is called a "default judgment" against the other party. If you have been served with divorce papers and don't know what to do, it's probably a good idea to consult with an experienced family law attorney especially if child custody and visitation, child support, and alimony are issues in your case.

Let's assume that Respondent does file a Response to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. What's the next step in a divorce?

The next step in a divorce action is for both parties to complete certain financial disclosure documents, often called PDD's for short.

The third step in a simple divorce case is to negotiate settlement. If the parties can agree on child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support (alimony), and division of community property assets and debts, then an experienced family law attorney will draft what is called a Stipulated Judgment. Once both parties sign the Stipulated Judgment and related forms, your divorce attorney will submit all the paperwork to the Court. In such cases, the parties will never have to appear before a Judge, and your attorney will provide you with a Notice of Entry of Judgment when the divorce is final. Hurray! You survived the divorce and the whole process was relatively painless and inexpensive!

If, however, the parties do not agree to the terms of the divorce, then one of parties will file paperwork in Court asking for child custody and visitation orders, child support orders, alimony, etc. In such complex divorce cases, both parties would be well advised to seek assistance from an experienced family law attorney. Child custody can be complicated. Child support is based, in part, on how much child custody each parent has with the child so it is directly related to child custody and visitation. Spousal support can also be a very tricky issue.

If you are wondering how much you will pay in child support or alimony, contact the Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton for a free consultation. If you are wondering how much child support and alimony you are legally entitled to, then call us so we can explain how it all works.

If, after getting temporary child custody and support orders, the parties are still unable to negotiate a settlement, then the Court will set the case for a trial. There are only 2 ways to end a divorce case—either by settlement or by trial. The choice is yours—but you should not make such a decision without consulting with an experienced family law attorney.

If you would like help in your divorce case, please contact the Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton at (310) 300-4021. You may also want to look at some commonly asked questions and answers about divorce, which can be found at our NortonFamilyLaw website.

The Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton is a top family law firm dedicated to protecting your legal rights. Our goal is to empower you. Our job is to protect you. Cathleen E. Norton, Esq. is an experienced family law attorney who obtained both her B.A. and J.D. credentials from UCLA. You won't find a better qualified attorney to represent you! We have offices in Beverly Hills, San Fernando Valley, and Westlake Village and service family law cases in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. Call us today for a free consultation at (310) 300-4021. For more information about the Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton, please visit our website.

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