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Divorce 101

Divorce In Santa Rosa and Sonoma County

A divorce or “dissolution of marriage” is initiated by filing a Petition and Summons. There is, currently, a $435.00 court fee due at the time of filing. The spouse who files for divorce first is considered the “Petitioner” and the spouse who responds to the petition is considered the “Respondent.” Again, there is a court filing fee, currently $435.00, due at the time of Response. meet certain low-income requirements. California divorces are considered “no-fault” therefore neither spouse must prove wrongdoing of the other spouse. Likewise, because we are a no-fault divorce state, it takes only one spouse to file, and the other spouse cannot delay, unnecessarily, without the threat of attorney fees.

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

When a spouse files a Response to the Summons and Petition, AND both of you have a written agreement dividing your marital assets, debts, child custody and visitation, and support issues the matter is considered an uncontested divorce.

If you file a Response to the Petition and you are not in agreement with what your spouse is asking for then the matter is considered a contested divorce.

Summary Dissolution

If you had a short marriage with minimal community property and debts and you and your spouse agree, you may qualify for a summary dissolution. A Summary Dissolution is a quick and inexpensive way to terminate your marital status. A Summary Dissolution is different than a regular Dissolution, whereas there is no trial or hearing and you give up your right to ask for one or to appeal the case to a higher court.  You may qualify for a summary judgment if:

  • Have no disagreements about how the division of property will be divided up;
  • No children of the parties born or adopted before or during the marriage and neither party is pregnant;
  • Duration of marriage is not more than 5 years;
  • Do not own much;
  • Do not owe much;
  • Both parties waive their rights to spousal support;
  • Parties must sign an agreement outlining the division of assets and debts;

Call Vandyk Law today at (707) 528-1100, to talk about the best option for you.

Legal Separation

A legal separation allows a couple to remain married but live separately. Some of the benefits to a legal separation are:

  • Couples who wish to remain married due to religious reasons;
  • If you are dependent on your spouse’s health insurance, being legally separated may allow you to remain on it;
  • Advantage of continuing to file tax returns as married instead of single;
  • Legal separation agreement that clearly outlines who is responsible for a portion of the debts and payments, e.g. mortgage payments, utilities, upkeep of the marital home;
  • Protection from debts of your spouse that are acquired after the date of legal separation; those debts are considered your spouse’s separate property and obligation;
  • Continuing to remain married in order to meet the ten-year requirement to qualify for certain social security benefits of your spouse;
  • Possibly most important, a legal separation gives you time to reconsider if divorce is really what you want.

Call our Santa Rosa Divorce Lawyer today at (707) 528-1100 to talk about the best option for you.

Registered Domestic Partnership Dissolution

Even though Domestic Partnerships afford much of the same benefits as married couples such as:

  • Health insurance;
  • Health facility visitation;
  • Dental insurance;
  • Unemployment benefits;
  • Sick leave;
  • State disability benefits claims;
  • Inheritance, etc.

The partnership is not always terminated in the same way. The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 provides for the establishment and termination of domestic partnerships.

Similar to a Summary Dissolution, Family Code Section 299 provides that under certain circumstances a domestic partnership may be terminated by filing a Notice of Termination of a Registered Domestic Partnership with the Secretary of State. See Terminating a California Registered Domestic Partnership for the 13 requirements that must be met for filing with the Secretary of State.

If you do not meet the required 13 requirements, you must proceed with your dissolution in California Superior Court. There are four different Petitions that can be filed with the court:

  1. Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership;
  2. Petition for Dissolution of Domestic Partnership and Marriage;
  3. Petition for Judgment of Nullity of Domestic Partnership;
  4. Petition for Legal Separation of Domestic Partners.

At Vandyk Law, our Santa Rosa Divorce Lawyer will help you navigate the best course of action for you; call today at (707) 528-1100 for a confidential consultation.

Service of the Petition and Summons

Personal Service

Personal service must be attempted first as it is the preferred method. This method requires the service provider actually to hand over the paperwork directly to the Respondent.

Substituted Service

If personal service fails and Petitioner has tried in good faith to serve the Respondent personally, then Substituted Service may be used. Substituted Service means that the papers are served upon someone other than the Respondent at his or her residence. This method may only be used if the Summons, “cannot with reasonable diligence” be personally served (CCP §415.20(b)).

Reasonable diligence is defined as “…ordinarily two or three attempts at personal service at a proper place should fully satisfy the requirement of reasonable diligence and allow substituted service to be made.”…”[Stafford v. Mach (1998) 64 CA4th 1174, 1182-1183, 75 CR2d 809, 814].

Service by Mail

Service by mail is made by serving the Petition and Summons, along with two copies of form FL-117, Notice of Acknowledgment, and Receipt.

Service by Publication

Code of Civil Procedure section 415.50(a)(2) authorizes Service by Publication; (b) The court shall order the summons to be published in a named newspaper, published in this state, that is most likely to give actual notice to the party to be served. If the party to be served resides or is located out of this state, the court may also order the summons to be published in a named newspaper outside this state that is most likely to give actual notice to that party. The order shall direct that a copy of the summons, the complaint, and the order for publication be forthwith mailed to the party if his or her address is ascertained before the expiration of the time prescribed for publication of the summons. Except as otherwise provided by statute, the publication shall be made as provided by Section 6064 of the Government Code unless the court, in its discretion, orders publication for a longer period.

It’s important to note that personal service is the preferred method and the issue of service can be tricky. If service is improperly executed, it can have an adverse effect on your case. We can handle all aspects of your case including service. Call Vandyk Law today for a consultation, (707) 528-1100.

LEO (Law Enforcement Officers) and First Responders

Vandyk Law recognizes that law enforcement officers and first responders have unique challenges when it relates to divorce.  Some of the problems an LEO or first responder might encounter during a divorce proceeding are:

  • Division of your Pension and Retirement;
  • Scheduling office visits around a busy work schedule, etc.

Santa Rosa Family Law Attorney Carolyn Vandyk understands the stress you are under 24/7.  And as such,  we will strive to reduce that stress as much as possible while representing you in your divorce proceeding. Our staff has a unique connection and understanding of the LEO and first responder family, and because of that, we can provide you with the utmost care.

Resources for LEOs

“5 Money Pitfalls of Divorce for Cops”

“Signs of Excessive Stress”

“A Stress Management Prescription for Law Enforcement and Police Officers”

The State Bar of California; “What Should I Know About Divorce and Custody?