Fresno, CA asked in Divorce for California

Q: In CA when turning in Petition-Dissolution of Marriage/Partnership (FL-100) what other papers need to be filed with it?

Do I have to turn in a Property Declaration Form (FL-160) or will we be able to discuss that in mediation? I haven't turned in any papers to the court yet so I do not have the initial court date to start the process. I know the papers have to be seen by a judge in order to have a court date set, but what papers need to be turned in first in order to get the court to set a date? I know I need to serve the respondent after I receive the court date. I'm just confused on everything that needs to be submitted with the court at first.

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2 Lawyer Answers
Chris M. Bradford
Chris M. Bradford
  • Santa Monica, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The short answer as to what papers to file is: It depends. It depends on whether you have children or not. Here is a link for a starting point at the Self-Help Center in Los Angeles County. Other counties have similar Self-Help Centers.

To answer your specific question: Form FL-160 is optional whether it is attached to your form FL-100.

In mediation you discuss only child custody and visitation, nothing else. Property division is not discussed there.

To get your first court date, you first have to file a "Petition" and related papers. Then next, to get your first court date for temporary orders, such as temporary child custody, temporary visitation, temporary child support, temporary spousal support, temporary attorneys fees, and other things, you file a "Request For Order" and related papers. It is not possible to cover every possible contingency in a short answer like this.

I recommend you get help from a family law attorney or to go the Self-Help Center. Attorneys can give legal advice. You need legal advice in the beginning to go in the right direction.

All 58 counties in California have some type of Self-Help Center. The people at the Self-Help Center help you fill out family law forms for free. They can’t do everything in family law, but they will help you with all the basics. The downside is that they don’t have a lot of time to spend with you, and often there is a line to get in to see them. The upside is that it is free. So if you have more time than money, go to the Self-Help Center for divorce, custody, visitation, paternity and domestic violence paperwork. But if you want a more thorough in-depth help, it is recommended that you see a family law attorney. Many family law attorneys have a free first interview. Some charge only $50. Some $75 or $100. It only takes a phone call to their office to find out the fee for the first interview. There is no obligation to hire an attorney to do anything after the first interview. That’s up to you.

When you ask a question online, like here, the answers you get are only going to be basic information, a starting point. Attorneys are trained to talk to you to find out all the important details of your story. Getting all the details is very important because it will make a big difference in the legal information given to you. It is strongly recommended that even if you get a response here on Justia, that you also talk to an attorney. Many have free first interviews. Even if you have to pay, it is worth it because you talking to a professional who is going to focus on you.

Also there is no requirement that you talk to an attorney in your area. Any attorney licensed in California can help you no matter where you live as long as the issue is in California. The interview would be done by phone, Zoom, Skype, Facetime or some other type online method. Even if the attorney is in your area, many attorneys are only talking to people this way due to the Covid pandemic, so you couldn’t have an interview in their office anyway. Give one of us a call. We are here to help.

Tobie Brina Waxman
Tobie Brina Waxman
  • Culver City, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: If you plan on representing yourself and not using an attorney, you can review the court's on-line self help library. Otherwise, to get it done right the first time, I recommend you hire a family law/divorce attorney to handle the matter for you.

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