Have you been served with a petition and summons for dissolution (divorce)? If so, this means that your spouse is asking for a divorce. In California, it doesn't matter if one of the spouses wants to stay married, all that matters is that one of the spouses wants a divorce.
As long as one of you is seeking a divorce, the court will end it, even if the other spouse says they don't agree, or that they will fight it.
How long does it take to obtain a divorce in California? A married couple can end their marriage 6 months after they have filed papers at the courthouse and the copies of the divorce papers have been served upon the respondent.
After the Papers Have Been Served
If you were "served" with a summons and a petition, then you are the "respondent" in the divorce case. The Petition Form FL-100 tells you what your spouse is asking for, and the Summons (Family Law) provides you with standard restraining orders, all of which limit what you can do with: property, assets, money, and debts.
The Summons will also prohibit you or your spouse from moving out of state with the children, and from applying for a replacement passport for any of your children without the court's approval.
Once you have been served, you can:
- Do nothing – this means that whatever your spouse is asking for in their Petition, the court will probably grant it. This is called a "true default" because you are giving up the right to be involved in your divorce case.
- You do nothing because you and your spouse have a written and notarized agreement where you have both agreed to end your marriage, and you both agree about property division, spousal support, child custody and visitation. This is known as a "default with agreement."
- You file a response with the court, however, you have also reached an agreement with your spouse regarding a divorce settlement and child custody matters. This is called an "uncontested case."
- You file a response with the court stating that you disagree with what your spouse is asking of you. This is called a "contested case."
If you decide to file a response, you have just 30 days from the date that you were served the Summons and Petition to respond.