Being served with divorce papers can be an overwhelming and confusing experience. It is often an emotionally turbulent time, and you may be unsure what steps to take next to preserve your legal rights and provide a timely response to these documents.

The following provides basic information on the standard divorce forms and procedures in California. For specific details and help understanding and filling out this paperwork, contact an experienced Los Angeles family law attorney.

Requirements to Serve a Summons and Petition for Dissolution in California 

To file a Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in California, you or your spouse must be a resident of the State of California and a resident of the county in which you or they intend to file.  

There are a standard set of forms California uses for the divorce process; these include:

  • A Summons (FL-110)
  • A Petition (FL-100)
  • If there are minor children of the marriage, a declaration related to your children’s residences over the past five years, called the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, or UCCJEA (FL-105).

What is a Summons?

The Summons (FL-110) is a notice to your spouse that you have filed for divorce, and they have thirty calendar days to respond. It also contains a set of Standard Family Law Restraining Orders, commonly referred to as the “ATROs,” and provides information regarding rights and options.  FL-110 is a mandatory form as part of filing for divorce.

Commonly, a process server will serve you your divorce papers. Once you have been served, this person will produce a declaration of service, which serves as proof you have been officially notified of the divorce filing and starts the thirty-day response window.  

Standard family law restraining orders are part of the Summons.  These are legally enforceable orders that restrain you and your spouse or partner from doing certain things during the divorce proceedings.

These include:

  • Taking your minor children out of the state or applying for a passport for them
  • Altering any insurance policies
  • Taking specific financial actions

For example, you will be restrained from making any large purchases, taking out debts, closing accounts, wasting resources, or disposing of, in any way, community property other than with the written consent of your spouse.  However, you can use community property to pay for attorney’s fees or court costs for the divorce itself, even without written permission from your spouse.

It is important to note that you may do these things with the explicit written consent of your spouse or with a court order. Keep in mind that these orders are also for your protection. If you or your spouse violates one of these orders, there will be consequences. Consult with an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney to ensure you are following all orders. 

What is a Petition?

Petition (FL-100) is a formal request for divorce.  A Petition lists any factual information that is required before a judge can grant a divorce. 

This includes:

  • Residency information
  • The date of marriage and separation
  • Your position on the five categories of divorce issues 

These five categories are:

  • Child custody, visitation, and support
  • Spousal support
  • Property division
  • Debt allocation
  • Attorney fees

What is the UCCJEA?

The Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, commonly known as the UCCJEA (FL-105), is a mandatory California divorce form when there are children of the marriage.  It establishes the court’s ability to enter custody and visitation orders regarding the children. 

Any children of the marriage must be residents of California for the court to make child custody orders. The UCCJEA also states whether or not there are other custody and visitation orders about the children from another legal matter, like guardianship or juvenile proceeding.

What to Do if You are Served Divorce Papers

First, read and ensure you understand the documents which you were served. This is especially true of the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders. All respondents are subject to these orders upon service.

Ignorance is no excuse or defense to violating the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders. Be aware also that you or on notice to respond or decline to respond to the divorce Petition. You have thirty days in which to respond to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.

If you do not respond, the Petitioner can move forward and request a default divorce from the court.  

What is a Response?

A Response to the Petition for Dissolution is an opportunity to state your side of the facts surrounding your marriage to the court.  It is also an assertion of your legal rights as a spouse.  Therefore, it is crucial to enter a Response whether you agree with the divorce or not.

A Response, form FL-120, is a formal listing of factual information just as in the Petition. You may either agree or disagree with the facts stated in the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  

The Response provides the same information as the Petition, including: 

  • Residency information
  • Date of marriage and separation
  • Your position on the five categories of divorce issues

Any differences of fact or opinion must be provided in the Response for the court to make informed decisions about your case.  State what you want from the divorce and clearly inform the court of any disagreements.

If there are minor children of the marriage, you will also need to complete a Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Enforcement Act.  This tells the judge where your children have lived for the past five years.  It also informs the judge of any other cases that may impact their ability to issue custody or visitation orders. 

Remember that you have thirty calendar days after service of the divorce papers to file your Response with the court and serve the Response upon the Petitioner. Therefore, it is imperative to prepare your Response as soon as possible to avoid missing the deadline. 

An Experienced Attorney Can Help

If you were served with divorce papers in Los Angeles County and have questions about your next steps, contact the experienced family law attorneys at Fernandez & Karney. Our skilled attorneys can help you provide an appropriate and timely Response. 

Fernandez & Karney represents individuals in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Call our office or contact us through our online form today to schedule a complimentary consultation.