How to File For Divorce Part One: The Divorce Petition

How to file for divorce

This page describes how to file for divorce. The divorce petition is a two page document that asks for a sketch of your marriage. You will fill in blanks that ask for the date of marriage, date of separation, names and ages of minor children, and simple property and debt responses.

The form is not hard to fill out. However, should the other party not respond to the Petition and accompanying Summons, then whatever is requested in the Petition is the most that can be asked for in the Judgment. That’s why it’s wise to contact me. I’m a Riverside divorce lawyer who also practices in the San Bernardino, Victorville, and Rancho courts.

For instance, if you ask for the motorcycle to be your separate property but do not ask for the car that you paid for before the marriage, the court does not have the authority to grant you the car. It's best to have an attorney involved in your divorce Petition from the beginning. If you are doing it yourself, make sure you carefully think through the ramifications of each request. Give yourself some time to think about each question. That's the first step in how to file for divorce in California

After the Petition is filed with the court, you or your Riverside divorce lawyer must “serve” it There are two ways to serve papers. One way is for someone over the age of 18 who is not a party to the action (ie. not you or anyone named in the Petition or TRO), to physically hand the papers to the Respondent. If the Respondent does not take the papers, they can be thrown at his or her feet.

A friend or family member can serve the papers. If you want a professional, you can hire a Registered Process Server. If there has been domestic violence, the Sheriff's office can serve the papers. After a person serves papers, he or she must fill out a Proof of Service and it must be filed with the court.

A second way to serve the papers through mail and acknowledgment. This requires that the Respondent sign and return an acknowledgment that he or she recieved the paperwork. This can usually be done when there is agreement that the case should proceed.

Once a divorce Petition has been filed, there are automatic Orders which go into place. They specify:
• Neither the Petitioner or Respondent can remove any minor child of the parties from California without the other party's prior written consent or a court order;
• You cannot dispose of property without the other party's prior written consent or court order except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life; and
• You cannot alter existing insurance coverage for the other party or for the minor children.

You can use community property for reasonable attorneys fees, but you will have to account for the monies spent.

A person who receives a divorce Petition and Summons has thirty days to file a Response. And that's the beginning of the end, or, how to file for divorce in California. Consult a Riverside divorce lawyer for more information.



Ask Julian Anything

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Return to Divorce from How to File For Divorce