What do we do with the Divorce Petition?
Do We Need to Agree Before Filing the Divorce Petition?
It isn’t necessary to reach an agreement before the Petition is filed. Many people file the Petition before even starting mediation because California has a mandatory 6 month waiting period to finalize a divorce–which leaves plenty of time to negotiate an agreement. Because the Petition contains just basic information, which can be amended later, in mediation the Petition’s purpose is to simply open your file with the Court and to get the waiting period started.
Does it Make a Difference Who Files the Divorce Petition?
It doesn’t make much difference who files the Petition. Legally, the difference between the Petitioner (the person who files the Petition) and the Respondent (the person who receives the Petition) is very subtle. For example, in the event of a trial, the Petitioner gets to choose whether or not to be the first to testify in court. As a practical matter, over 98% of all divorce cases settle before a trial. As you can see, in most cases, legally it won’t matter who files the Petition.
It may make a difference to you emotionally who files the Petition, however, because the Petitioner is the person who is legally asking the Court for the divorce. For many Couples , this is an emotionally meaningful decision.
How Does the Petition Get to the Other Person?
Once the Petition package has been filed with the Court, it must be served on the Respondent (the person receiving the petition). This service of process can be done by mail. When the Respondent receives the Petition in the mail, he or she simply signs a receipt that says he or she received the papers. This receipt is called a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt and it simply states that the Respondent received the papers—not that he or she agrees with the papers or the divorce in general.
If the Respondent won’t sign the Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt, he or she needs to be served with the papers. Typically, an Attorney Service is hired to serve the papers. This costs between $50 and $200, depending on how difficult it is to find the Respondent to deliver the papers.
Obviously, signing the Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt is easier, faster and cheaper than having the Respondent served. It’s also more private and less embarrassing.
What Does The Other Person Do After Receiving the Divorce Petition?
Once the Petition papers have been served, the Respondent has 30 days to file a Response. The Response is basically the same as the Petition, only it’s filed by the Respondent. The Court’s filing fee for the Response in Los Angeles County is $320.00. Your check should be made payable to the “Clerk of the Superior Court”.
In mediation, some Respondents decide not to bother with a Response if it looks as though an agreement will be reached soon. The Court’s “Response” filing fee is then paid when the agreement is filed, since no Response has been filed. At Peace Talks, we encourage Respondents to file a Response, and prepare it along with the Petition for one flat fee.
What is the Filing Fee for a Divorce?
The Court’s filing fee for the Petition in Los Angeles County is $320.00. Your check should be made payable to the “Clerk of the Superior Court”. The filing fee is different in different counties, and it changes from time to time, so double check the fee on your local court’s web site before filing your Petition.