What are the Final Procedures for a Divorce or Legal Separation in San Diego in 2014: Summary: Part Two

FAMILY RESOLUTION CONFERENCE FOR A LEGAL SEPARATION OR DIVORCE IN SAN DIEGO SUPERIOR COURT

Whether your case is a divorce or legal separation, the Court {when the petition is filed} will set a hearing date. This is the Family Resolution Conference and is part of the fast track instituted by the San Diego Superior Court to keep track of the case status. A common complaint of spouses is that the divorce is taking too long. The Family Resolution Conference gives the Judge an update and then the future proceedings can be determined. If the parties think that they can settle the case and do not need to litigate, the Court often continues the first FRC to allow for settlement and even a second FRC. If the parties cannot settle, then the Judge will set a Mandatory Settlement Conference however there must be proof of the service of the preliminary declarations of disclosure and both sides must agree no further discovery is outstanding. It is not uncommon to continue an FRC for 90 days or more. Many times, if the preliminary declaration of disclosure proof of service has not been filed, the Judge will order it filed before the next FRC hearing date.

MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT AND JUDGMENT PLEADINGS

The overwhelming majority of divorce and legal separation cases end with a marriage settlement agreement and not a mandatory settlement conference and/or trial as listed below. A marriage settlement agreement is a full and complete agreement on all of the issues including division of asset, division of debt, child custody, child visitation, spousal support and any termination date for spousal support, child support, attorney fees and any other issues. The MSA may need to be notarized. The San Diego Superior Court has a judgment checklist on their court website with the requirements and these need to be carefully followed or the judgment may be rejected. The process can be complicated.

MANDATORY SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE

If the case is not settling by agreement, the Judge may set the Mandatory Settlement Conference. This is a complex procedure with mandatory judicial council forms and mandatory pleadings. The San Diego Superior Court Website for information on the Mandatory Settlement Conference and a link to the home page is below. Always make sure to check and verify all information since laws, local rules and practices change constantly. There is a page for Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ] for the MSC as well as a template shell brief form. The spouses must also file their final declarations of disclosure with the MSC brief. The MSC brief will list all issues and your positions on all of the issues. This must be completely comprehensive and should also be in accord with the law. The website also has useful information as well as family law forms and is an excellent resource. When you go to the link below, you can go to the family law tab and find the information on the MSC.

http://www.sdcourt.ca.gov/

TRIAL

A very small percentage of cases go to trial. Trials are very time consuming and getting a trial date can be a lengthy wait. Trials are the last hearing in the family law court and a Trial Brief will need to be filed with all of the evidence and legal positions. If a MSC brief is filed, then the MSC brief can be converted into a trial brief with modifications to any issues agreed upon at the MSC or after the MSC. Both parties, normally, will testify and then the Judge will make the ruling. At this time, if the spouses are not divorced and the petition was for divorce and not legal separation, then the Judge will also take “status” which means that the parties are legally single and can remarry. The requirements for the status include:

  • the Petitioner was a resident of San Diego County for at least 3 months before the Petition for divorce was filed
  • the Petitioner was a residence of the State of California for at least 6 months before the divorce Petition was filed
  • all of the information contained in the Petition was true and correct
  • that irreconcilable differences have arisen between you and your spouse
  • that no help from the court, counseling or assistance from any one else will repair your marriage
  • that the Petitioner is asking for a divorce

It is also possible for the Respondent to take status instead of the Petitioner if the Respondent meets these requirements as well.

HOW CAN A LOCAL LAW FIRM HELP?

The Law Firm of Doppelt & Forney, APLC can help with both the initial procedures and final procedures for family law cases. The Law Office can prepare all necessary pleadings and the attorney will appear at all court hearings and represent you in negotiations and settlement. If your case is in San Diego Superior Court now, and you need help, please feel free to set your complimentary consultation to discuss your individual case.

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