Family law attorney
Serving Fresno Since 1979
California has a six month waiting period, which means that the earliest marital status can terminate is six months and one day from the date service of the Summons by the Petitioner on the Respondent.
A dissolution of marriage, or divorce, is opened by the filing of a Summons and Petition. The person filing the action is the Petitioner, the other party is the responding party and is the Respondent. The Petitioner and Respondent will remain characterized in this manner throughout the proceedings regardless of the party bringing an issue to the attention of the Court requesting an order.
In the event there are children of the marriage a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act form (UCCJEA) must also be filed with the Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This form identifies the children and where and with whom the children have resided for the last five year period, as well as any other actions which have been filed with regard to issues relating to the children, whether there are family law or criminal restraining orders in effect, and whether there are any other persons claiming to have custodial rights.
At the time of the filing of the dissolution of marriage action, a Notice of Calendar Setting is issued by the Court scheduling the case for a Status Conference. A Status Conference is an administrative hearing by the Court in which the parties, or their attorney if a party is represented, informs the Court of the status of the case, i.e., when the action was served on the Respondent, was a Response filed, have Disclosures been served, have proposals been exchanged, or an informal meeting of the parties and counsel occurred. The Court will continue to schedule subsequent Status Conferences until a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage has been filed.
The Respondent has 30 calendar days to file a Response to the Petition, and also a UCCJEA if there are children, and serve same on the Petitioner, or their attorney if represented, and file the document(s) with a proper Proof of Service with the Court. A Response cannot be filed with the Court without a Proof of Service.
Service of documents on the other party cannot be made by a party to the action, therefore, the Petitioner and the Respondent, cannot personally or by mail serve papers on the other. A person over the age of 18 and not a party to the action, or a registered process server must effect the service of documents on the parties. When documents are served a proper Proof of Service (either personal or by mail) must be completed by the serving party and filed with the Court.
In the event a party is in need of orders, for example child custody/visitation orders, child support or spousal support orders, property control of a home or vehicle, attorney fees and costs, or other orders, a Request for Order must be filed with the Court and served on the other party. If an attorney is involved the date for this hearing must be cleared with the opposing counsel. If custody and/or visitation orders are being sought the hearing will be placed on the Readiness calendar. If no custody and/or visitation orders are being sought, then the hearing will be placed on the regular Law and Motion calendar. In the event any financial issues are being requested (child support, spousal support, attorney fees, or payment of debts) an Income and Expense Declaration must be filed with the Court with proper verification of income to include paystubs, most recent W-2, and profit and loss statements, if applicable.
If the matter is scheduled for a Readiness hearing regarding issues of child custody and/or visitation, or modification of child custody and/or visitation, at the time of the Readiness hearing the Court will schedule the parties to attend an orientation, Tier I mediation, and a return to Court date. All issues before the Court are continued to the return to Court date.
It is mandatory to attend mediation with Family Court Services for custody and visitation issues. Orientation is held on Friday afternoons at 1:30 p.m. in the B.F. Sisk Courthouse. Mediation is held within a short period of time following orientation. The return to Court date is typically a few weeks after mediation.
In the event financial issues are before the Court, it is necessary to file an updated Income and Expense Declaration and serve it on the opposing party prior to the return to Court date. An Income and Expense Declaration needs to be updated if it is more than 90 days since the last filing, or information provided is more than 90 days old.
At the time of the return to Court date, Family Court Services will notify the Court if the parties reached an agreement at the time of mediation. If no agreement is reached, Family Court Services will not provide the Court with any information or recommendation, and will inform the Court that no agreement was reached, and generally identify issues of contention. If an agreement, or partial agreement is reached, Family Court Services will provide the Court with a proposed Order Re: Child Custody and Visitation as to the agreement or partial agreement reached. The Court will make orders on the issues before the Court that date. If there is not an agreement on custody/visitation issues, the Court may make an agreement, or refer the parties back to Family Court Services for Tier II mediation. A Tier II Mediation is a fact finding mediation in which the Court may request specific questions be answered, documents or other information be supplied to Family Court Services at the time of mediation, and for the mediator to address specific issues in order to report to the Court.
The Court will prepare a Minute Order following the hearing, and instruct of the parties or their attorney to prepare a formal Order After Hearing. The Order After Hearing is to be approved by the opposing party, unless the Court specifies otherwise, and filed with the Court. After filing, the Order After Hearing is to be served on the opposing party, or their attorney if the party is represented.
In the event a Tier II mediation is ordered, the parties will attend this mediation, which may or may not involve the children being interviewed. Family Court Services will prepare a Tier II Fact Finding Mediation Summary to the Court at the time of the return hearing. The Court may make orders at the time of the hearing, or refer the matter to Family Court Services for Tier III mediation. In the event the parties reach an agreement, or partial agreement, Family Court Services will prepare a proposed Order Re: Child Custody and Visitation and submit it to the Court.
At a Tier III mediation the children are interviewed and a recommendation is prepared by the mediator and submitted to the Court at the time of the return hearing. This recommendation is based on the agreement of the parties, or if no agreement, the best interest of the children. At the time of the return hearing the Court may make orders, or set the matter for a contested hearing.
Once temporary orders are in place regarding custody/visitation, child support, spousal support, and property control, as may be applicable, or if there is no need to obtain temporary orders, the next step is to determine the community and separate assets and obligations in order to know what property exists to discuss property division. In order to determine this information the parties exchange Disclosures. These disclosures are prepared by using a Schedule of Assets and Debts, also an Income and Expense Declaration.
The Court may, at the time of the Status Conference, order a party to complete and serve their disclosure on the other party.
Once Disclosures are served, a determination is then made whether there are any assets which need to be appraised, for instance a home or other real property, or valued, for instance a pension plan or deferred compensation account.
If the parties are able to agree on a full resolution of their case, a Judgment is prepared and filed with the Court. In the event the parties cannot reach an agreement, a Family Centered Case Resolution Conference is scheduled. The Court at the time of the Case Resolution Conference may schedule the matter for a Settlement Conference, and order that the parties meet informally, and prepare Settlement Conference Statements to be filed and served prior to the Settlement Conference. The Court may also set the matter for a Trial.
In the event a case is resolved prior to the expiration of the required waiting period, marital status will normally terminate on the next business day following the expiration of the six month and one day period following service of the Summons. In the event a case is resolved following the expiration of this period, marital status will terminate on the filing of the Judgment.