A Checklist for Divorce in California

Divorce is a complex process in California, with numerous critical details to be arranged. The impact of decisions you make and the steps you take during the process will impact your life for years to come.

With 300+ years of collective experience guiding clients through the divorce process in California, the team at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC has seen a few techniques that prove to be very helpful. One of those is to create a checklist of tasks you need to complete to protect your interests during the process. You can start with basic major steps and fill in additional details as you move forward.

1. Find the Right Divorce Attorney

We may be a bit biased in setting this as your first priority, but if you think about it, you can see the logic. A dedicated family law attorney will have guided many people down the difficult path you are taking and they can provide advice at each step along the way. When you have questions, your attorney can provide answers. Your legal advisor can also keep you mindful of aspects you never considered. In fact, if you are too overwhelmed to create or work through a divorce checklist on your own, a good divorce attorney can help you get started.

2. Make a List of What You Own and Where to Find It

One of the most complex and stressful parts of a divorce is dividing up property and debts. In California, marital assets and debts are split evenly, so the parts of the process that are most critical are first locating all assets and debts and second determining whether they should be allocated to one spouse completely, to both spouses completely, or partially shared and partially to one spouse. Your attorney can help you with this process.

Preparing a list early in the process can prevent problems if your spouse tries to hide assets later.

3. Develop Plans and Goals for Custody

If you have children, this task should be on your checklist twice. In the beginning, you need a workable plan for parenting while the divorce is in progress. The goal is to avoid disrupting the children’s lives as much as possible. For that reason, arrangements may not always be convenient for the parents.

You will also need to develop a parenting plan for the years to come. To create a plan that works best for the children and is manageable for both parents, it will take considerable time and effort.

4. Change passwords

Your spouse may know your passwords or be able to guess them. Even if you don’t anticipate vindictive behavior, it is a good idea to create new passwords for all your accounts to ensure that you will be able to access them in the future.

5. Open Accounts in Your Own Name

After the divorce, you will be operating with accounts in your name only, so you might as well get started opening those accounts now. Once you have separated, you are not supposed to be responsible for debts incurred by your spouse, but if you are both still using a joint account, creditors can still try to get you to pay the debts of your ex. After the divorce is final, make sure debts are refinanced in the name of one spouse only.

6. Learn the Rules

Even if you plan to create your own arrangements for property division, custody, and other matters, it is still helpful to understand your rights under California law and how a court would decide on matters if you had to have a judge decide the issues. Your attorney can provide this information, which is another good reason to hire a lawyer sooner rather than later.

7. Develop a Financial Plan

Divorces cost money and they drive up the cost of living since you will need to support your household with one income instead of two. To protect your interests and your sanity, it is a good idea to develop a plan to cover living expenses in the short and long term. The process of evaluating expenses and income is also very helpful if you plan to seek or expect to pay spousal support.

8. Gather Legal Documents

Even for the most basic situations, a California divorce will require you to submit considerable amounts of information. Get together key documents such as tax returns, mortgage statements, estate planning documents, and, of course, your marriage license.

9. Take Care of Yourself

This is another item that needs to be listed more than once on your checklist. Divorce is a painful loss, similar to the death of a loved one. You need to allow yourself the opportunity to process your grief and anger. Working with a therapist can often be helpful and can help you avoid the temptation to dump too much negative emotion on your family and friends.

Get the Right Guidance Throughout the Divorce Process

To overcome the challenges of the divorce process, you need the right guidance and support. The Certified Family Law Specialists and associates at Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, are ready to steer you through from start to finish. Get started with a confidential consultation today.


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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.