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Get the Most Competent and Trusted Legal Representation for Contested & Uncontested Divorces in San Diego

In San Diego, divorce is known as dissolution of marriage. If you are filing for divorce here, it’s best that you should know California’s divorce requirements, the filing procedures, and the applicable state laws. The marriage dissolution process isn’t easy but with a basic understanding of California divorce law and the right guidance from a trusted legal team, you can make informed decisions.

At Moshtael Family Law, our family law attorneys in San Diego will work with you, taking the time to answer questions, clear your doubts and explain to you the legal process involved in your divorce. We will assess the unique facts and circumstances of your case and provide strategic advice on all the legal options available to you.

Our San Diego divorce attorneys will aim to steer you towards making decisions that prioritize your family and children’s interests, while protecting your legal rights. Our accomplished team is committed and driven to help San Diego residents struggling with challenging, divorce-related legal issues, cope with their fears, uncertainties, financial stresses, and personal challenges during this difficult phase of their lives.

How Our San Diego Family Law Attorneys Can Help You

Moshtael Family Law offers exhaustive legal services in San Diego covering diverse family law requirements, including:

  • Divorce
  • Annulment
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Alimony/spousal support
  • Domestic violence/restraining orders
  • Property division
  • Modifications of court orders
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Visitation
  • Paternity
  • And more….

Grounds for Divorce in San Diego

In the past, it was possible to get a divorce in the US by proving one spouse’s specific “fault” such as digression from their marriage by committing adultery or being cruel to them. But after the passage of California Family Law Act of 1969, California became the first state in the country to permit divorce without the need to prove any ‘fault’ (also called a no-fault divorce.) It didn’t take long for the rest of the states to follow suit and adopt no-fault divorces, and now it is the most common divorce type in the US. In effect, this 1969 statute revolutionized American family law.

In San Diego, most dissolutions of marriage are based on an irremediable breakdown of the marriage resulting in irreconcilable differences, thus requiring no assigning of fault and no evidence. Moreover, an exception is made in cases where one spouse is legally incapable of making decisions. The court will determine this based on testimony by a qualified psychiatrist or medical expert.

Residency Requirements for a San Diego Divorce

The pre-requisite for getting a divorce in San Diego is that either of the spouses must have lived in California at least for the past six months. If they have filed the petition in San Diego, the additional requirement is that they should have lived in San Diego County for the past three months minimum.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce in San Diego

Contested and uncontested divorces are the two primary types of divorces in San Diego. An uncontested divorce is one in which the couple agrees on child custody, alimony, child support, property division, and other critical divorce-related issues. It becomes a contested divorce if they disagree on even one of these crucial matters.

How to File for a Contested Divorce in San Diego?

There are specific steps to follow when you are starting the contested divorce process in San Diego.

Filing the Divorce Petition

One spouse referred to as the “petitioner” files the petition and summons. In cases where the divorcing couple has minor children, the paperwork they file initially must include the declaration regarding the children. The attachment could have details about parenting time/visitation requests and child custody. If you are the petitioner, you must take all the completed forms and two copies to court in San Diego County.

Serving the Divorce Papers

The next step involves “serving” your spouse with copies of the divorce papers and the petition you filed. You will also need to include the declaration about kids and blank forms for your spouse’s response. After this, you are required to file a form called “proof of service,” with the court.

Responding to the Divorce Petition

Once the respondent is served with the divorce petition and related paperwork, they have 30 days to file their response (and add the other necessary forms). They have to serve these papers on their spouse (the petitioner) and file the proof with the court.

Exchanging Financial Disclosures

In San Diego, divorcing couples are required to exchange forms containing detailed information related to their income, assets, debts, and expenses. You can also include these financial disclosures when you serve the petition/response on your spouse. You have 60 days to serve them if you haven't done so.

San Diego's Filing Fees for Divorce

The family courts in San Diego will typically charge you a filing fee (as of 2022, it was $435) when you file your divorce petition or response.

How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in San Diego

In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on the issues such as child custody, child support, the division of their property, alimony etc., which contributed to the dissolution of their marriage. This helps them avoid going through the court system and having a judge pass ruling on those crucial matters for them. As mentioned, the process is more straightforward than a contested divorce.

Drawing up a marital settlement agreement (MSA) before filing for divorce, can help you avoid some of the steps mentioned above. The added benefit is that you speed up the divorce timeline and save a substantial amount on divorce-related legal costs. You can file for an uncontested divorce in San Diego in different ways:

  • If both spouses sign the divorce petition in front of a notary and submit it with the MSA attached you can get a "default divorce with written agreement"
  • The respondent doesn’t file a divorce petition response but signs a form with the couple’s acknowledgement of agreement.
  • If you and your spouse concur to waive the requirement or if the judge waives it, you may not need to serve the necessary financial disclosures before the divorce is final.
  • If you have negligible assets, no minor children and meet all other stringent "summary dissolution" in San Diego requirements, you and your spouse can file a joint petition. You will also need to attach your MSA along with a declaration that you both have exchanged the requisite financial information.

In all other uncontested cases, you'll only need to follow the steps mentioned above and include the MSA in the paperwork before proceed to finalize your divorce.

In certain cases, couples have differences when they initiate the divorce process, but ultimately manage to iron those out during the divorce’s legal process and reach a settlement.

Legal Separation in San Diego

In the legal separation (judicial separation) process, a married couple separate from each other while remaining legally married, which means neither, can remarry. The couple is granted legal separation through a court order. There are certain parallels between legal separation and divorce. For instance, issues including child custody, alimony, child support, and division of assets are dealt with in a similar manner in both situations.

If you and your spouse decide to separate legally in San Diego, you would have to create a separation agreement, outlining each of your rights and responsibilities. Legal separations benefit couples that wish to maintain social security, medical benefits, and other similar shared rights.

The other aspect is that legal separations are quicker compared to divorces. Ultimately, if you as a couple decide to move forth with divorce proceedings, the separation agreement becomes a template the court would use for the divorce settlement agreement.

Ending a Domestic Partnership in San Diego

Same-sex marriage is legal in San Diego, but couples here can register as domestic partners and end their partnerships legally. In certain limited circumstances, a couple seeking to end their partnership must file a Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership with San Diego’s Secretary of State. Stemming from this, in most cases, registered domestic partners in this situation must go through the divorce process that applies to married couples.

Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce in San Diego

How long does it take for a divorce to be final in San Diego?

The waiting period for divorce finalization is six months. It means that even in an uncontested case, the divorce judgment will be effective only after six months after the petitioner served the respondent or the latter made an “appearance” whichever date came first. In cases where the judge signs the divorce judgment within the six-month waiting period, the document will mention the divorce finalization date.

Note that your divorce could stretch beyond six months if you and your spouse do not reach a settlement agreement before or right after filing the prerequisite paperwork. This timeframe could extend even further if you, as a couple, never reach full agreement and the case goes to trial. Court proceedings can be lengthy and involved, and there is no fixed timeframe to get a judgment in a divorce case.

Does the state require separation before divorce?

No. San Diego couples are not required to live apart and separate before they obtain a dissolution of marriage. If you are considering separation, it’s best to deliberate on whether moving out of the family home while divorce proceedings are in progress is the best course. Although it isn’t a requirement, couples in San Diego deciding to file for divorce can choose to get a legal separation instead of dissolution of marriage.

Can we agree to an out-of-court settlement in our San Diego divorce?

Yes, at any point of the dissolution of marriage process (from before filing the divorce papers up to just before trial), you and your spouse may mutually agree on the best way to handle any issues. In San Diego, couples are usually not required to go to court to get their final divorce after signing the complete divorce settlement agreement. A judge will thoroughly review your divorce settlement agreement and approve it (unless some problem exists), making it part of the dissolution judgment.

How is community property divided in San Diego?

Because San Diego is part of a community property state, any property that a couple acquires after marriage almost always gets equally divided between them if they get divorced.

How is child custody decided in San Diego?

In San Diego divorce cases, it is required that all decisions related to the physical and legal custody of children be based on what would be in their best interests. Whenever judges make custody decisions (or rule to approve the couple’s agreement on the issue), they have to consider various factors, including the children’s custody preferences in this matter if they are mature enough to express themselves intelligently.

How is child support calculated in San Diego?

There’s a uniform stipulation for calculating child support in all states, including California. Pertaining to this, in San Diego, the parents’ incomes aren’t the only guideline, and the complicated formula considers the time each of the parents spends with their child. Whether the parents mutually agree on the support amount or a judge makes this decision for them, the state guidelines and rules will still apply.

How does spousal support work in San Diego?

A judge will consider a lengthy list of specific situations/circumstances in the case before ordering one spouse to pay spousal support (alimony) after a divorce in San Diego. Judges have greater latitude during the divorce proceedings when deciding on temporary spousal support, based mainly on whether one spouse requires the support, and the other has the means to pay it.

How do I pay for my San Diego divorce if I’m a stay-at-home parent or have limited income?

At Moshtael Family Law, we represent clients in San Diego across the spectrum for divorce and family law matters. This also includes representation for clients with a lower income than their spouse (often because of their efforts to support their ex’s education or career.)

In cases where one spouse is economically disadvantaged, a San Diego judge can order the higher-earning spouse to pay advances to the financially disadvantaged spouse’s lawyer fees.

The judge is also empowered to order that the other party pay all or some of the lower-earning spouse’s lawyer fees.

When a lower-earning spouse in a divorce case retains our services, it is customary for us to file for an RFO (Request for Order) hearing. It enables us to pursue interim (pendente lite) orders regarding legal fee advances, child custody/visitation, spousal support, child support, temporary possession of the family residence, etc.

Get the Most Dedicated and Results-Driven Family Law Attorneys in San Diego on Your Side

At Moshtael Family Law, our San Diego divorce attorneys are dedicated to providing compassionate and strategic advocacy to help move your case forward quickly and to your best satisfaction. Our focused divorce attorneys have a deep understanding of California family law and we will leave no stone unturned to help you achieve the results you need.

Even in challenging and complicated divorce cases, our 180+ years of combined experience allows us to offer nuanced and practical legal advice and most desirable solutions. We provide personal attention to each client and tailor the legal strategy to meet their unique needs.

Moshtael Family Law recognizes the importance of respect for the law during the divorce process, especially from the opposing party. We demand honesty from your ex-spouse regarding their actions and disclosures, leaving no details to chance throughout your case. We are on your side from start to finish, and our divorce lawyers take pride in the results they manage to deliver for our clients in case after case.

To schedule your free and confidential consultation with us, call Moshtael Family Law in San Diego at 619-639-9898 or contact us online.

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