Can You Stop the Divorce Process in California After the Waiting Period?
By Teo Spengler
California law mandates that the divorce process take at least six months, and this waiting period does not begin until your spouse is officially served with the divorce petition. The waiting period may be inconvenient for those in a hurry to put their marriages behind them, but it gives the parties time for reconsideration. If you change your mind about finalizing the separation before or after the six-months, you can stop the divorce process in several different ways.
Triggering the Waiting Period
California divorces are no-fault divorces. That means that if you wish to terminate your marriage, you need not show that you were a victim of your spouse's violence, infidelity or even bad manners. A claim of irreconcilable differences is sufficient. You initiate a divorce by filing a petition and supporting papers with the Superior Court in your county of residence or your spouse's. When a sheriff or third party serves the court papers on your spouse, it triggers the mandated six-month waiting period.
Some people file for divorce in California expecting their marriage to end exactly 180 days after their divorce papers are served. But this is not the case. The six-month period provides a minimum term before which a divorce cannot be granted but California divorces can and often do take far longer. Serving a petition for divorce is only the first of many steps you must undertake before the court will sign your divorce judgment. You are entitled to a divorce either when all of your paperwork is complete or after six months, whichever comes later.
Failure to complete your divorce paperwork will stop your divorce proceeding. Whether or not your husband responds to your petition, you are required to file certain documents, including income, asset and debt disclosures, a judgment form and notice of entry of judgment. If your spouse doesn't respond at all, you must also file documents asking the court to enter his default. If you fail to file any of these forms, the court will not enter a divorce judgment. Continued inaction will ultimately lead the court to dismiss the petition for divorce whether or not the six-month waiting period has passed.
Request for Dismissal
You don't have to wait for the court to dismiss your petition on its own initiative to stop your divorce proceeding. As the party who brought the petition for divorce, you can file a Request for Dismissal at any point before judgment is entered irrespective of the six-month waiting period. Once the court receives a proof of service establishing that your spouse was served with your dismissal request, it will dismiss the petition of divorce and terminate the divorce proceeding. If your spouse filed a response, he must also sign the dismissal request. Find the forms on the court website or through an online legal form provider.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. World traveler, professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.