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The Basics Of The Divorce Process In Contra Costa County
The divorce process in Contra Costa can be initiated on a no-fault principle. But you need to make a decision on the type of divorce you want to pursue. This will depend on the circumstances of your case, but the options are as follows:
- Summary dissolution
The first of these options is generally the more amicable one. You can file jointly for summary dissolution and come to an agreement about things like child custody and division of assets. If you and your spouse are combative, this is unlikely to work. You must also meet certain prerequisites to be eligible for summary dissolution. These include having been married for less than 5 years and not having given birth to any children as a result of this marriage. Find the full list of criteria here.
If summary dissolution is not on the cards, a standard divorce is your only option. This is where both parties’ cases are presented to a judge, who will make the final decision on the terms of the divorce. Hopefully, an amicable divorce is possible, but it can become contested and get complicated. There is also the possibility of an uncontested divorce, wherein one side is passive.
To be able to submit papers for a divorce in Contra Costa County, you must also meet the residence criteria. You will need to fit the following requirements:
- At least one party must have lived in Contra Costa County for 3+ months
- At least one party must have lived in the State of California for 6+ months
If you can tick both of those boxes, you are ready to initiate the divorce process.
How To File For Divorce In Contra Costa County?
The filing fee for divorce in Contra Costa County varies somewhat from one case to the next. The average initial filing fee is $435, but the actual cost will depend on a number of factors. These revolve around the additional court services that are required for the divorce process.
The different methods of filing for divorce in Contra Costa County
Filing for divorce is all about preparing the relevant documents. These need to be done properly and accurately, so many find it helpful to hire an attorney to prepare the paperwork. If any of the papers are not completed correctly, it can result in a more complicated divorce.
You can send your initial paperwork to the county clerk. This can be done by mail or via DropBox or in person. This is done at the Family Law Center. To get your case in order, you will need the following papers:
- Initiation Papers – these include the Declaration of Disclosure and the Divorce Petition.
- Proof of Delivery – you will need Summons for your spouse and also Proof of Service Summons.
- Property and Financial Papers – for the division of marital property, you need a Property Declaration, an Income and Expense Declaration, a Schedule of Assets and Debts or Property Declaration and a Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure.
- Custody and Support for Minor Children – children are often central to a divorce, so you need a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act and a Child Custody Visitation Application.
How to file for divorce online in Contra Costa County?
Contra Costa Superior Court offers an Electronic Filing (eFiling) option for divorce papers. This has previously only been available for complex civil cases but now all case types can do it. eFiling has widespread popularity elsewhere in the United States, so the Contra Costa Court decided to incorporate it, though it was one of the last to do so.
You can eFile divorce papers via a court-approved Electronic Filing Service Provider. This can make the whole process simpler for many.
How To File For Divorce By Yourself In Contra Costa County?
Hiring an attorney to file divorce papers can make the process easier to handle. Their expertise can help navigate all the complexities and allow you to file with confidence that everything is done correctly. But it also adds a substantial expense to the process and, in less complex cases, it is not absolutely necessary.
Filing for divorce by yourself is best left to divorces that are relatively basic. There are alternatives to hiring attorneys, such as working with a People’s Choice. These services are usually accessible online and the fees are much lower than those an attorney would charge. If you want to truly go it alone, the process is as follows.
Before you begin, it is helpful to discuss things with your spouse. If things are amicable and mutual, you may be able to work together and the summary dissolution option may be available. If not, the process starts with the initial paperwork, which amounts to the following:
- An FL-100 Petition
- The FL-110 Summons
- An FL-105 UCCJEA (if the couple has any children under 18)
Once the forms are completed, they must be sent to the court via mail, dropbox (in the Spinetta Family Law Center) or in-person delivery.
Next, you must serve your spouse. This is done with the FL-115 Proof of Service Summons. The server presents the filed copies of the initial paperwork to the recipient spouse. The papers cannot be served directly – it must be done through another person who is over 18.
Then comes the Declarations of Disclosure, which requires the following forms:
- FL-140 Declaration of Disclosure
- FL-142 Schedule of Assets and Debts
- FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration (x2)
- FL-141 Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (x2)
For the documents requiring two copies, only one must be sent to the spouse. The other is for your own records. The filing process is the same as for the initial documents. Once all of the above is completed, you will have successfully filed for divorce. From here, it’s all about determining how the divorce will be judged. Both spouses must agree on this before it can proceed.
Getting Divorced Without Going To Court In Contra Costa County
If a divorce is contested, it will have to go to court for the case to be presented. This is a good mechanism for when an agreement cannot be reached, as the judge will make the decisions about the divorce. If you are able to reach an amicable agreement between yourselves, an uncontested divorce may be an option.
This shortens the legal process, reduces the cost and gives you a more predictable outcome. The other option for avoiding court is to have a summary dissolution (described earlier in this article). This option is not available to everyone, however.
To file for an uncontested divorce, you still need to complete the paperwork:
- Obtain and complete the family law forms
- File the documents and pay the filing fee
- Ask a friend or family member over 18 to serve the papers to your spouse
- File the Proof of Service and have your spouse complete the additional forms
- Exchange financial forms with your spouse as part of disclosure
- Give the final forms to the clerk and a judge will sign the Judgment
- The dissolution of marriage will be final at least 6 months after completion of the first process of service
The only way to avoid going to court is for you and your spouse to be able to work together on coming to an agreement about everything. An attorney may be useful to help you both discuss terms and complete the paperwork. If anything becomes contested, there may be services that provide mediation to help you reach an agreement. Otherwise, the only option may be to go to court.
Where To File For Divorce In Contra Costa County?
When you file for divorce in Contra Costa County, the filer must get the forms to the Contra Costa Superior Court. This can be done by mail, dropbox or in-person delivery. Alternatively, the papers can be filed online.
The filing address is as follows:
Contra Costa Superior Court
Spinetta Family Law Center
751 Pine Street
Martinez, CA 4553
You will find the dropbox in the main lobby of the Spinetta Family Law Center. An in-person filing takes place on the first floor of the center.
If you want to file online, you must do so via a court-approved Electronic Filing Service Provider. This may be a convenient option for many. Whatever method you choose, you will have to pay the filing fee.
How Much Does It Cost To File For Divorce In Contra Costa County?
As previously stated, the average cost of filing for divorce in Contra Costa County is $435. This is a mandatory expense that all must pay to file for divorce. It may be possible to have the fee waived if you cannot afford it. To do this, you would have to submit a Fee Waiver form.
A contested divorce is usually the most expensive process available. It may not be avoidable, but in addition to the filing fee, costs include:
- Court fees
- Attorney fees
In this case, a contested divorce in Contra Costa County is likely to cost between $12,000 and $30,000 for each spouse.
In any case, the filing cost is required, and there will also be costs associated with making copies of paperwork and mailing it. The best way to keep costs down is to reach an agreement with your spouse outside the court. This way, there will not be a lengthy court process with attorneys advocating on each party’s behalf. It can be much quicker and less expensive.
Who Pays For A Divorce In Contra Costa County?
The costs of a divorce are generally split straight down the middle. The initial filing fee of $435 is paid by the spouse who files for the divorce. The spouse that responds to the divorce petition will also have to pay a $435 filing fee. The objective is to make everything equal – this is the entire basis of the principle of marriage.
The terms of a divorce will dictate the division of assets. Unless you agree otherwise, the split is determined by the judge. The goal is to make it as fair as possible to both parties. Where children are involved, this may also involve maintenance payments from one spouse to go towards the welfare of minor children. If debt was incurred during the marriage, this is a shared debt. As such, the debt is also usually divided equally, though this will be decided by the judge as well.
It is wise to get your finances in order before entering divorce proceedings. All the initial fees need to be paid, and both parties will need enough money to cover attorney costs if they apply. You may wish to seek financial advice and look for options for financial assistance before moving forward.
The Cheapest Way To Get A Divorce In Contra Costa County
The cheapest kind of divorce in Contra Costa County is an uncontested one. The filing fees are mandatory for everyone filing for divorce, unless they qualify for a waiver. After that, the additional fees you might incur depend on the circumstances of the divorce.
If both parties come to an agreement amicably, the costs will be kept to a minimum. You won’t need to pay:
- Attorney fees
- Extensive court costs
- Additional filing fees
When a divorce is contested, the length of the process will increase. What’s more, there will be more things to pay for and the costs can mount up very high. If you are looking for a divorce process that doesn’t cost a lot of money, uncontested is the way to go. Unfortunately, this will not always be possible.
The Fastest Way To File For Divorce In Contra Costa County
The fastest way to file for divorce in Contra Costa County is to make sure all the paperwork is correct and accurate. This will ensure there are no delays in having the paperwork stamped and served. You may be able to expedite this and ensure everything is in order by hiring an attorney or a People’s Choice to assist with preparing the papers.
In terms of actually filing, the fastest method is probably to do it online. When you do it by mail, you will have to wait for:
- The time it takes for the documents to be delivered
- The queue of paperwork waiting to be stamped
If there are any discrepancies in the paperwork, this could lead to further delays. It could even complicate proceedings if the error is discovered further down the line.
You could also file in person if you are able to make the journey to the Spinetta Family Law Centre. This can be a fast way to get the papers processed, but there are no guarantees. The same goes for using the dropbox.
No matter what method you choose to file, you will have to wait for the response from your spouse. Once the divorce has gone through, there is also the matter of the 6-month waiting period.
The 6 Month Waiting Period For Divorce In Contra Costa County
In the State of California, there is a 6-month waiting period for divorce. This determines the earliest date of the legal termination of marriage. Essentially, the earliest date a divorce can be finalized is 6 months and 1 day after the date of service. Neither party can remarry until the waiting period is over. This period can be used to halt the divorce process and reconcile if you so choose.
There are no exceptions to this 6-month cooling off period. The best approach is to expedite the serving of divorce papers so that the 6-month clock gets started as early as possible. Keep in mind that, for contested divorces, the entire process often takes longer than 6 months. If the divorce ends up in litigation, that waiting period will be the least of your concerns.
The best advice is to be prepared for that 6-month period. If the divorce is amicable, it will be a case of being patient and waiting for that time to pass. For a contested divorce, that time is likely to pass quite quickly with scheduling conflicts and various issues that need resolving.
Frequently Asked Questions
You need to file all the appropriate paperwork with the Contra Costa County Superior Court. This can be done by requesting the papers, filling them out accurately then filing them by mail, in person or via the dropbox. You can do this online too.
Divorce papers must be filed at the Spinetta Family Law Center. If you do it online, it must be done via a court-approved Electronic Filing Service Provider.
The filing fee is $435 for the person filing. The person being served will also have to pay $435 to respond. Other costs can be incurred relating to attorney fees, court costs and more.