Divorce can be extremely difficult and overwhelming. After receiving divorce papers from your spouse, it can be hard to know what to do next. This guide will help walk you through how to respond to divorce papers in California. A divorce attorney can also help you get through the process.

What Documents Are Included in the Divorce Papers?

When you receive a divorce petition, it will include a number of different documents specifying divorce terms requested by your spouse and court dates. Specifically, in California, you will likely receive the following documents from your spouse:

  1. Court Conference Hearing Date: Form FM – 1050 provides information about the date, time, location, and judge for the court conference hearing where the Judge will hear from you and your spouse about the status of your case.
  2. The Petition for Divorce: Form FL – 100 provides information about property and child custody terms requested by your spouse.
  3. The Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act: Form FL 105/GC – 120 provides identification information about any children with your spouse.
  4. Child Custody and Visitation Application: Form FL – 311 provides information about specific child custody and visitation terms requested by your spouse.

How Do I Respond?

Once you have received these documents, you have several options how to proceed.

  1. Do Nothing: You could choose to do nothing. In this case the Judge will grant a default judgment, likely upholding the contents of the divorce petition as filed by your spouse. In other words, all requests made by your spouse relating to property ownership and child custody may be granted.
  2. File a Response: As an alternative, you may choose to dispute the divorce petition and file a response. In your response you can identify which portions of your spouse’s divorce petition you agree with or disagree with, and may add any additional provisions regarding the terms of the divorce you wish to include.

How Do I File a Response?

You have 30 days from the date you were served with the divorce petition to file a response. In order to file your response, there are a number of forms you may need to fill out, including:

(A) Response Form: FL-120

First, you will need to fill out a response form. Here, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Residence: A declaration that you have been a resident of California for at least 6 months and a resident of the county in which the divorce petition is filed for at least 3 months.
  • Statistical Facts: Date of marriage, date of dissolution, and length of marriage.
  • Declaration of Minor Children Facts: Name, age, and birthday of any minor children with spouse.
  • Separate Property Declaration: List of your separate assets and debts, including property you obtained prior to marriage, after dissolution, and through inheritance.
  • Community and Quasi Community Property Declaration: List of property shared with your spouse obtained during marriage.
  • Legally Married: Contend whether or not you believe you were ever legally married to your spouse.
  • Respondent Requests: State grounds for dissolution. Check off either irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity.
  • Additional Relief: Check off boxes regarding requests for child custody, child visitation, attorney’s fees, and spousal support.

(B) The Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act: Form FL 105/GC – 120 for identifying information about any children you have with your spouse.

(C) Child Custody and Visitation Application: Form FL – 311 allows you to make specific requests about child visitation, including specification of visitation frequency, transportation methods, travel permissions, and holidays.

What Do I Do with the Papers?

Once you have completed all the necessary forms, you must file the originals with the County Clerk., provide copies to your spouse, and keep copies for yourself. You will need someone else to serve your spouse with the papers, and it can be anyone 18 years of age or older who is not a party to the case. They can simply mail copies of the papers to your spouse.

Finally, whoever serves your spouse must fill out a proof of service form. This form must also be filed with the County Clerk.

What Are the Next Steps?

You should communicate with your spouse to attempt to agree on as many issues as possible prior to the court conference. Eventually, the court will likely request that you participate in mediation sessions in effort to resolve disputes out of court. Although these sessions are often successful, the Judge can still issue rulings on any unresolved issues.

Contacting an Attorney for Help

Throughout this process, it is extremely helpful to have an experienced California divorce attorney assist you with the forms, mediations, and court appearances to achieve the best outcome possible.