Navigating Divorce Timelines in California: What You Need to Know

The decision to divorce marks the start of a life-altering journey. In California, understanding the legal procedures and expected timelines is essential for a smoother transition. This article delves deep into the intricacies of divorce timelines in the Golden State, shedding light on the stages, potential duration, and key considerations.

Decoding the Divorce Process in California:

Divorce is a multi-stage process. Each stage has its purpose and contributes to the overall timeline.

  1. Filing the Petition: The journey begins with filing the divorce petition. This is the formal request to the court, outlining the intent to dissolve the marriage.
  2. Serving the Summons: Once the petition is filed, the other spouse is served with divorce papers. This officially initiates the legal process.
  3. Response from the Other Spouse: The served spouse has a specific period to respond to the petition. The Response (FL-120) shall be filed within 30 days after the Summons and Petition are served on another spouse.
  4. Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure: The petitioner is required to provide a preliminary declaration of disclosure either concurrently with the filing of the Petition or within 60 days thereafter. Similarly, the respondent is obligated to furnish their preliminary declaration of disclosure either at the time of submitting their response to the Petition or within a 60-day window subsequent to the filing of said response.

Temporary Orders and Discovery: 

During this phase, temporary orders might be issued for child custody, support, and property division. Additionally, both parties engage in discovery (if necessary)—exchanging financial and personal information.

Negotiation and Settlement: 

The majority of divorces settle outside of court. Negotiations can happen directly between spouses, through mediation, or with the assistance of attorneys. This phase is pivotal in determining the final settlement terms.

Settlement conference:

During a settlement conference, a presiding judge or designated attorney facilitates discussions between the involved parties, offering insights into the merits and potential pitfalls of the case, with the goal of fostering a settlement agreement. However, they do not render any judgments or issue any orders pertaining to the case. Settlement conferences can be categorized as either obligatory, as mandated by the court, or optional, based on mutual consent of the parties. Typically, obligatory settlement conferences are scheduled proximate to the trial date.

Trial (if Necessary): 

If settlement negotiations fail, the case proceeds to trial. A judge reviews evidence and arguments from both parties before making a final decision.

Duration of the Process: 

The length of time it takes to finalize a divorce in California can differ widely since every case possesses its distinct characteristics, and the timeline often hinges on the parties’ readiness and inclination to discuss and resolve the matter amicably. Nonetheless, when divorces are contested or involve intricate matters, the duration can extend to a year or even longer.

Factors Influencing Timelines: 

Several factors can impact the duration of a divorce, including:

  • Complexity of Issues: Property division, child custody, and alimony can complicate proceedings.
  • Contested vs. Uncontested: Contested divorces typically take longer due to legal disputes.
  • Court Caseload: Courts with heavy caseloads might experience delays.

Staying on Track:

  • Legal Representation: Engaging a family law attorney experienced in California divorce law can streamline the process.
  • Open Communication: Efficient communication with your attorney and the other party can prevent unnecessary delays.
  • Stay Organized: Keep track of required documents and deadlines.

Looking Beyond the Divorce Decree: 

After the court issues the final divorce decree, the transition to a new chapter begins. Addressing emotional, financial, and logistical aspects is crucial for a smoother post-divorce journey.

Resources and Support: 

Navigating divorce can be challenging, but resources like California Courts – Divorce or Separation can provide invaluable guidance.


Understanding divorce timelines empowers individuals to make informed decisions. While each divorce is unique, a clear grasp of the stages and potential duration can help pave the path toward a new beginning.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a licensed family law attorney regarding your specific situation. 

Are you facing a separation, divorce, child custody or child support battle in the California? Contact attorney Maya Gaziev

Maya Gaziev

Founder, Lead Attorney

Maya Gaziev, Esq., is the founder and principal attorney at SD Law Center. A distinguished trial family lawyer, Maya’s unwavering commitment to justice and her clients is at the heart of her practice.

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