California's Six Month Waiting Period / by Cassandra Hearn

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Once you have made the decision to get divorced and have started the process, it is likely that you are eager to have the process over and done with. No one likes to be in the middle of a court case, and especially where the parties have reached an agreement or are ready to get remarried, it is natural to want the case to be over as soon as possible. While you and your spouse may be completely ready to have your divorce finalized immediately, California law may put the brakes on finalizing your settlement.

California family code section 2339(a) provides that “no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.”  This means that you cannot get a divorce any earlier than six months from the date your divorce papers are served on your spouse or from the date your spouse appears, whichever is sooner. An appearance by your spouse does not require that he or she physically shows up in court, but rather that he or she demonstrates participation in the case. This could be by filing a response, for example, or requesting a motion for temporary relief. It is important to note that the six month waiting period does not start running from the date the divorce was filed, so just getting the divorce started by filing your petition is not effective to get the clock running.

While judges have a broad powers and discretion in a divorce case, one power they do not have is to shorten the waiting period. The judge is able to extend the divorce waiting period if one party can show there is “good cause” to do so. The judge is also able to set a date in the future when the waiting period ends or to set a date in the future when the parties’ marital status will be terminated. Finally, parties should note that the expiration of the six month waiting period does not mean that the marriage is automatically ended. A judge needs to sign an order that terminates the marriage before the parties are restored to their single status.

If you have questions about your divorce and the procedures involved, call us today at 619-800-0384. We have extensive experience with divorce and can help you understand your rights and responsibilities.