Once you decide that you and your spouse can no longer make it work, you may be wondering what your first steps are. Your first steps will depend on how you will end your marriage. There are three options for ending a marriage or domestic partnership. You will file for one of these options depending on your case facts and the status of your marriage as it stands.

  • Annulment; Annulments are only available in rare cases where the marriage was invalid in the first place. Marriages are usually deemed invalid if they are bigamous, incestuous; involve a minor, someone mentally not capable of consenting to a marriage or someone physically incapable of consummating the marriage.
  • Summary Dissolution; Summary dissolutions are relatively streamlined divorces for short-term marriages, i.e. less than five years, with no children, no significant assets or debts and no real estate owned.
  • Dissolution of Marriage; Dissolution of marriage is the most common route to a divorce

Most marriages will have to go through the dissolution of marriage process, because of the strict requirements for the annulment and summary dissolution options.

The first step in a divorce is to file a petition for dissolution of marriage. You may want to retain an attorney prior to filing this however you can do so alone by filing forms with the court and paying a filing fee. With the petition, you will also have to file a summons along with a property declaration if you need more space to declare your assets and debts. If you have children under 18, you will also have to file forms regarding custody.

Next, you have to serve your spouse with these filed documents and provide proof of service to the court. What happens after these first steps will depend on how your spouse responds. If they disagree with any of the terms within the petition and attached forms, they can file a response, which will then start a process of litigation while the issues are worked out in court.

In this case, you may have to appear at one or more hearings and/or have your family law attorney work with your spouse or their attorney to negotiate a compromise. You can also work out written agreements with them on your own and file those with the court. If they are in complete agreement with all the issues, you can submit your agreements in writing along with the final divorce forms to the court. You divorce can then be finalized if at least 90 days have elapsed since you first filed your petition.

Are you in the Los Angeles area and have questions about the divorce process? Certified Family Law Specialist Mark H. Karney has experience handling many complex divorce issues in Los Angeles County. Attorney Mark H. Karney can listen to your story and ensure you take the right steps towards a favorable divorce outcome. Call our Los Angeles office at 310-564-5710; email us at intake@cfli.com or contact us through our online form to schedule your free consultation with one of Los Angeles’s premier family law attorneys.