Can I Stop a Divorce If the Paperwork Has Already Been Filed?

Timeline for California Divorce

Divorce in California takes at least six months to become final. The purpose of the six-month waiting period is to refrain from dissolving the marriage before both parties have had the opportunity to change their minds and reconcile. Service of the divorce paperwork officially starts the six-month period.

In the very simplest cases – where both parties agree and there aren’t any minor children – it will still take a full six months to complete the process. Finalizing most divorces takes much longer than that. Filing the divorce petition and serving it to the other spouse are the first steps of a long and somewhat complex process for getting a California divorce. Once the paperwork is complete and the judge signs it, the divorce is final. If the couple reconciles after the divorce is final, they can remarry.

Benefit of a No-Fault State

California is a no-fault state. To get a divorce, there doesn’t have to be a specific reason beyond irreconcilable differences. Because there isn’t a rationale requirement, there’s no need to prove anyone is at fault for causing the marriage’s dissolution. Granting an uncontested divorce is possible if the petitioner files for divorce and the respondent doesn’t respond to the petition.

Paperwork to File

California requires a great deal of paperwork for divorces. Even if the respondent fails to file his or her paperwork, the petitioner needs to submit certain documents, including:

  • Income disclosure
  • Asset disclosure
  • Debt disclosure
  • Judgment form
  • Notice of entry of judgment

The divorce petitioner may be able to stop the divorce depending on where it is in the process. To request a default judgment, the petitioner must file additional paperwork. If you and your spouse reconcile, the easiest way to stop the process is to do nothing. If the paperwork is incomplete, the court will eventually dismiss the petition.

Requesting a Formal Dismissal

To officially stop the divorce without waiting for the court, you will need to file a request for dismissal. The petitioner, or his or her family law attorney, must initiate this process. He or she can file a request at any point, even after the passage of the six-month period. Provided the court has not yet entered a judgment dissolving the marriage, it’s not too late to put a stop to the process.

Stopping the Proceedings

Once you’ve decided to stop the divorce proceedings by filing a request for dismissal, take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • Complete the forms. Since each jurisdiction is unique, you need to find the form required by the court handling your case. If it’s not available online, go to the courthouse and tell the clerk what you need.
  • File the forms. Bring the completed documents, with several copies, back to the courthouse to file them with the clerk. Be sure to bring the required number of copies or the clerk may not accept the filing. The clerk stamps all copies and returns two of them to you. One stamped copy is for your records, and the other stamped copy is for serving your spouse.
  • Serve your spouse. Check with the clerk to find out the correct procedure in your jurisdiction. Some courts mail a copy to the other spouse, and others require the petitioner to arrange for service. Since it is not necessary for the recipient to respond to the service, many jurisdictions permit mailing a copy using certified mail. The court clerk will tell you whether you need to file proof of service with the court.

California’s complex family court system can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with the process. Most people choose to use the services of a San Diego divorce attorney to navigate the system.