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Getting a Divorce in California? Here’s Your Checklist

Judge gavel deciding on marriage divorce

Judge gavel deciding on marriage divorceWe know that February is usually called the Month of Love. But if you’re like thousands of couples across California, it’s also the month that you realize your marriage simply isn’t going to work. Maybe one person messed up, or perhaps you simply realized you don’t love your spouse anymore. Whatever the reason, we can help make the process of divorce easier.

In California, getting a divorce is not as easy as signing a piece of paper. There are a few steps you must take and criteria that must be met before the separation can be finalized. The good news is, California is a “no-fault divorce” state, meaning you don’t have to prove your spouse did anything wrong in order to get a divorce. Here’s what you need to know and do before you get a divorce in Redlands:

1. Decide What Kind of Separation You Want

In general, there are three ways you can end your marriage: legal separation, divorce and annulment. Each one has its strengths, weaknesses and requirements. Let’s look at each:

  • A legal separation is similar to a divorce. In fact, the process is exactly the same. However, couples who are legally separated are still legally married. As such, they cannot remarry. However, they also retain many of the benefits of being married, such as sharing healthcare and remaining within the rules of certain religions.
  • A divorce is a complete and final end to a marriage. Property, child custody and other matters are divided between the divorcing party, either based on agreements made out of court or orders set by a judge. At the end of the divorce, each spouse is legally single.
  • An annulment is the rarest way to end a marriage. To get an annulment, you must prove the marriage was illegal or invalid to begin with, such as someone underage getting married without parental consent, being married under duress or when you weren’t mentally capable of understanding what was happening. An annulment makes it as if the marriage never happened, legally speaking.

2. Prepare These Documents

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to file the paperwork. At this point, it may be a good idea to get an attorney involved, if you haven’t already. That way, you can make sure these documents are filled out and filed correctly. There are a variety of legal forms to consider, dealing with everything from child custody to asset division.

Keeping track with all these forms and making sure they are filled out correctly can be a challenge. It’s a good idea to schedule at a consultation with an attorney to determine what forms you do and don’t need. An attorney can also help you arrange a hearing for child custody, file for restraining orders as needed and get the process started for spousal support.

3. Additional Information to Bring to Your Attorney

While the forms mentioned above are a good start, they may not provide a complete picture of your assets, debts, payments, etc. Your attorney may request additional information to make sure you are getting what is rightfully yours during the divorce. Be prepared to provide as many of these documents as you can:

Advance health care directives
Bank statements
Benefits statement
Bills (utility, credit cards, etc.)
Certificates of deposit
Details of gifts received during marriage
Details of personal property
Details of pre-marriage property
Details of safety deposit boxes and its contents
Durable power of attorney
Financial statement
Insurance policies (home, health, auto, etc.)
Loan documents
Monthly budget
Pension statements
Personal property appraisal
Power of attorney
Pre- or postnuptial agreements
Proof of current income
Proof of employment
Proof of your spouse’s current income
Property tax statements
Real property appraisal
Retirement account statements
Stock options
Stock portfolio
Tax returns for the past 3-5 years (local, state, federal)
Wills and trusts


Your attorney may also ask for other documents as well. Essentially, any document you can provide to prove how much each partner contributed to the marriage can be vital to getting a fair divorce.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Even if you and your ex were barely on speaking terms by the end of the divorce process, you may still be traumatized from the whole experience — as could your kids. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling and support groups to help you get through this time.

If you are seeking a divorce in California, you will likely get the best outcome if you have an experienced family law attorney on your side. Contact the lawyers at Milligan Beswick Levine Knox today for a free consultation.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.