Steps after Filing a California Divorce Petition.
The real work begins after both parties have served and filed their initial documents, the Petition, Summons, & Response (Step 1) Step 2 involves deciding whether you should file a Request for Order. This is what you need to know:
It doesn’t matter if you and your spouse have made agreements about financial support, child custody or visitation.
Are you willing to talk to each other about your wishes and come up with an agreement if you don’t have any agreements?
Do you think you are unable to reach an agreement? Do you require financial support immediately or custody/visitation orders placed right away?
If you and your spouse can agree on all or most things…
You don’t need an RFO if you and your spouse have already discussed or reached an amicable agreement on your financial needs and those of your children (Step 2). Both of you can put your agreements in writing.
It is important to indicate whether one of you will receive support, how much support (child or spousal), and the basis of this amount. It is also important to describe your custody and visitation arrangements.
This will help ensure everyone is on the same page. If you need it for enforcement, you will have it.
You and your spouse may need assistance in reaching one or more agreements.
A mediator can be a helpful resource if you need some assistance or are nearing an agreement on these issues. The mediator is a neutral third-party that has no stake in the outcome, financially or emotionally. They can help you to see each other’s perspective and/or find common ground. They may even be able to suggest the best course of action for the children, or show you a side that you might not have thought of.
If you and your spouse are not able to communicate or agree on many things,
If you are not able to reach any agreement and have not reached any agreements, you might seriously consider filing an RFO to request assistance from the Court. Although most support orders can be retroactively ordered, it is not possible to order them backwards. It can take up to a month for the hearing to be completed. If you need to garnish wages to enforce support orders, it may take another few weeks to receive your first check.
If you don’t get time with your children, you may need custody or visitation orders. You cannot have a court order defining visitation and custody so that a police or legal representative can assist you in exercising your parental rights.
Many couples can’t agree on custody/visitation agreements. This could be because they have a misplaced belief or calculation that an increase of custodial times will result in more support or that both parents want their children to be with them 24 hours a day (which is impossible even if you were together). This is especially true if one parent has custody of the children for a larger percentage of the time and refuses to give the other full access.
How to file an RFO
You can file an RFO if you have valid reasons to be concerned. This will allow you to determine the reasons and ensure your children’s safety. You don’t want to find yourself in a position where you withhold your children from one parent without good reason. This could backfire if your spouse can show the court that they are just being vindictive.
You must ensure that your RFO is in the best interests of your children and not based on emotions or feelings towards your spouse.
Step 3 involves exchanging and preparing your Disclosures. Your Disclosures include the Declaration of Disclosure, Income and Expense Declarations, Schedule of Assets and Debits and Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure.
Although it may seem like the most difficult step you’ll have to do, properly preparing your disclosures is essential and required by law. You should take the time necessary to properly prepare your documents. You will need to exchange preliminary disclosures depending on the case. Final disclosures can be waived if the parties agree not to require the other party to make final disclosures and provide updated information.
Preparing and serving preliminary disclosures is essential. These forms should be filled out completely. If your spouse can prove that you knowingly or intentionally lied on them, you could face serious consequences.
After both parties have received their disclosures, they should be able communicate with each other about the final division of assets and debts and have realistic discussions about the amount of support that is required or possible. The Court will not grant you an exemption from having to pay support if your three cars are yours and you have to keep them all.