Responding to Divorce Summons in California
If you have been served with divorce papers, it is vital that you know your rights, respond promptly, and understand both the deadlines and limitations that go into effect against you as soon as you are served.
Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders
When you are served with divorce paperwork, it is highly important that you understand the temporary restraining orders that immediately go into effect. Yes, there are restraining orders that are put in place during all divorce filings, and as soon as you are served, you are bound by them. While they might not be the type of restraining orders you are thinking of, they are orders that are legally binding and order you to refrain from taking certain actions.
On the second page of the Summons, which should have been served to you, you will see a section called Standard Family Law Restraining Orders. It is important to first read these and understand your rights and how they apply to you. The form reads that “Starting immediately, you and your spouse or domestic partner are restrained from:
- Removing the minor children of the parties from the state or applying for a new or replacement passport for those minor children without the prior written consent of the other party or an order of the Court;
- Cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile, and disability, held for the benefit of the parties and their minor children;
- Transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing, or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, whether community, quasi-community, or separate, without the written consent of the other party or an order of the Court, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life; and,
- Creating a nonprobate transfer or modifying a nonpobate transfer in a manner that affects the disposition of property subject to the transfer without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court. Before revocation of a nonprobate transfer can take effect or a right of survivorship to property can be eliminated, a notice of the change must be filed and served on the other party.
You must notify each other of any proposed extraordinary expenditures at least five business days prior to incurring these extraordinary expenditures and account to the court for all extraordinary expenditures made after these restraining orders are effective. However, you may use community property, quasi-community property, or your own separate property to pay an attorney to help you or to pay court costs.”
Timeline to Respond Timely
In addition to the temporary restraining orders that go into effect, when you are properly served, a timeline is started. If you do not respond to the divorce petition timely, your rights can be negatively affected without your ability to participate.
After you are served with the divorce papers, you have 30 calendar days from the date of service to timely serve and file a Response and Request for Dissolution of Marriage. If you do not file this to let the Court know that your divorce case is a contested divorce, a default can be filed against you. This will allow the person who filed the ability to move the case forward without your participation.
What do I do if I do not want a Divorce?
Unfortunately, there is not a lot to be done. While the Court respects the sanctity of marriage and will always promote efforts to reconcile, the legal and Court process will not wait for one spouse in their efforts to reconcile the marriage if the other is trying to move the case forward. Any spouse can claim what’s called Irreconcilable Difference as grounds to terminate the marriage. What this means is that the marriage has gotten to a point where it cannot be salvaged. Even if you disagree, only one spouse needs to claim this as proper grounds to move the divorce forward.
As emotional as this process is, it is important to separate emotion from reason and treat divorce as a business decision. It is important that you do everything that you need to ensure that you have responded timely to the case and have done everything that you need to legally protect yourself.
Read More: Don’t Want a Divorce?
After You Have Responded to the Divorce
After you have responded to the divorce petition, another deadline starts. Pursuant to California Family Code Section 2104(f), you have 60 days from the filing of your response to the petition to file a Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure. These are a compilation of various forms and statements which need to be served to your spouse. In short, this is intended to provide your spouse with a snapshot of your income, monthly expenses, and all of the debts and assets which belong to the community. Consult with an attorney to better understand your rights and the proper procedure to properly complete and serve these documents. If you are going through a divorce situation, feel free to give the Family Law Attorney Roseville a call at (916) 655-9824.