What Is Mutual Divorce in California?
In California, the term “mutual divorce” is commonly referred to as “uncontested divorce” or “collaborative divorce”. Essentially, both spouses have agreed to end their marriage and have decided on the major decisions that accompany divorce. Because these decisions have already been made, there is usually no need for court appearances or a trial. This route to divorce is substantially cheaper than a “contested divorce,” where both sides are not able to come to decisions amicably.
This type of divorce also allows both parties to represent themselves without the involvement of lawyers, though many still choose to hire an attorney for guidance. An attorney’s extra support and legal knowledge will help ensure the process proceeds smoothly.
Although both parties have decided the best decision is to part ways, there are specific requirements that must be met before the process can be completed.
Requirements for Mutual Divorce in California
- One or both parties must previously have lived in California for at least six months and must have lived at least three months in the county in which the divorce is being filed.
- Both spouses must agree on all settlement decisions such as child and spousal support, division of property, child custody and parental rights, etc.
- Both parties must be available to sign all paperwork necessary.
Creating a Settlement Agreement
California commonly refers to this as “marital settlement agreements” or “MSA,” wherein the agreement is a written contract that is legally binding. Couples will usually sit down and discuss all factors within to reach common ground related to divorce. Although not recommended, some couples will write up their own agreement. This is most common with couples who do not share children or valuable assets.
If the couple does choose to seek guidance from a legal professional, both parties will need their own representation as one attorney cannot represent both. Hiring an attorney can be a wise decision because they will be able to take the lead and ensure the document holds up in court.
Both Parties Must Be Present
Both parties must be present when the document is being discussed and signed. Couples who choose not to seek help from an attorney can either decide to sign it together in private or seek assistance of mediation.
A trained, neutral mediator will help reach an agreement via three-way meetings and communication. This ensures both parties are remaining civil and decision-making is amicable. If each spouse is seeking guidance from an attorney, they are also allowed to be present during these meetings.
Submit to the Court for Approval
Once both parties have come to an agreement, they must then sign off on the document. It will then need to be submitted to the court where a judge will review its contents and approve it. Once approved, the agreement is considered court orders by which both parties must abide. The divorce will not be finalized until six months after the respondent (spouse) received the petition.
If you are considering a divorce, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney. The Family Law San Diego team can help you understand your rights and guide you through the process. We can be your resource for information and support during this difficult time. Give us a call today at (619) 577-4900 to learn about your options.