How to Get Divorced in 3 Easy Steps by Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, Cathleen E. Norton, Esq.


Many people wonder what the process of divorce entails. In family court, a judge will decide issues such as child support, spousal support, custody and visitation.  The court will also divide community property assets and debts. This includes, for example, division of the family home and debts, such as credit card debt. What most people do not understand is that it does not matter whether a particular credit card is in the husband’s name or the wife’s name. For the purposes of dividing community debt as of the date of separation, a Family Law Judge considers all debt acquired during the marriage.

This is why it is particularly important to consult with an experienced Family Law Attorney before filing divorce papers. Many people ask what a Judge might do with regard to custody and visitation. This is completely understandable because most parents would agree that the most important thing to them in life is their children.

Step 1:  The process of divorce begins when one party files a “Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.” The party who files divorce documents must then serve the other spouse with a copy of these documents. Afterwards, your spouse has 30 days to file a “Response” to the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. If that party fails to file the required paperwork within 30 days, the other spouse may request what is called as a “default judgment.” A default judgment means that one of the two parties decided not to participate in the pending litigation. As a consequence, a judge will make orders regarding custody and visitation, support, and division of assets and debts without regard to the respondent’s position. The rationale for this is that we have rules and requirements under the law, and if the respondent fails to file a response, he or she is not entitled to hold up the divorce proceedings. A divorce does not require the consent of both spouses.  If one of the two spouses wants to get a divorce, he or she is entitled to do so provided that certain requirements are met.

Step 2: Assuming that both parties file and serve their initial pleadings, the next step in a divorce is for the parties to file and serve what is known as preliminary declarations of disclosure documents. Once that process is done, either party may file motions with the court for temporary orders regarding custody and visitation, child support, spousal support  and so forth. Discovery is also conducted during this 2nd phase of a divorce proceeding.

Step 3:  In relatively simple divorces, the parties can negotiate a stipulated judgment anytime after they serve each other with preliminary declarations of disclosures. You can hire an attorney on a limited scope basis for any part of the divorce proceedings. Ideally, however, you will have a family law attorney during all phases of your litigation. It is best to have an experienced attorney representing you from the start because mistakes made early in the litigation can be devastating to the case and costly to correct. It is also important to have to attorney representing you during settlement negotiations since your final divorce settlement is forever. Once the judge signs the judgment, the divorce is finalized. The issues cannot be reopened or re-litigated unless extraordinary circumstances exist to warrant that.

The Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton is a top family law firm dedicated to protecting your legal rights.  Our goal is to empower you.  Our job is to protect you.  Cathleen E. Norton, Esq. is an experienced family law attorney who obtained both her B.A. and J.D. credentials from UCLA.  You won’t find a better qualified attorney to represent you!  We have offices in Beverly Hills, Woodland Hills, and Westlake Village and service family law cases in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.  Call us today for a free consultation at (310) 300-4021.  For more information about the Law Offices of Cathleen E. Norton, please visit our website at

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