May 14, 2020 - Divorce by Brian Seastrom
California has a mandatory six-month waiting period before the court can end a marriage. A 1948 court decision explains that the purpose of this waiting period is to “give the parties an opportunity to compose their difficulties and effect a reconciliation.” (Angell v. Angell (1948) 84 Cal.App.2d 339). In other words, California’s six-month waiting period amounts to a “cooling off” period to protect otherwise savable marriages from a “quick” but final divorce without full consideration for the impact.
Arguably, a six month waiting period before one may marry would be of equal or greater benefit than requiring a waiting period before one can leave a marriage. The marital contract is the most significant legal contract people most will enter into during their lifetime. As a society, we see more people rushing into marriages, as opposed to out of them. The state of the law, nonetheless, is that California requires a six-month cooling-off period only upon exiting the marriage.
How Are the Six Months Calculated?
The clock on this six-month waiting period begins when either (1) the spouse who started the Divorce by filing a Petition for Divorce serves the other spouse with the filed Petition and Summons or (2) when the other spouse appears in the case (files their first paperwork).
For example, assume that a married person files a Divorce Petition on April 15th and serves their spouse with the filed paperwork on April 30th. The six-month waiting period and the earliest termination date of the marriage would be October 30th (six months from the date of service).
As with any complicated legal matter, it’s always best to consult with an experienced divorce attorney who can help guide you through the complicated subjects of Divorce.
Is a California Divorce Automatically Complete After the Six-Month Period?
The marriage is not automatically ended after the six months have elapsed. The six-month waiting period determines the earliest date the marriage can be terminated. A divorce is not final until the court signs a Judgment for Divorce.
If the Divorce Takes Longer Than Six Months to Resolve, Is There an Option to End the Parties’ Status as Married People Before a Final Trial?
Often, parties going through a divorce want to end the marriage without delay once the six months have elapsed, rather than remaining married for the duration of the Divorce proceedings.
Where a divorce requires the litigation of some or many issues, it will often take more than six months to get to a trial. Under those circumstances, parties have the option of asking the court to terminate their status as a married couple separate from the other issues. In other words, even though the case is not completely resolved, parties can request that the termination of the marriage be granted before the trial. This can be done by agreement of the parties, or by way of a formal motion to the court.
Because a Judgment for Divorce terminates a substantial body of rights and benefits, courts will put in place certain conditions as a requirement for granting the termination of the marriage before trial. These conditions are found in California’s Family Code Sections 2337(c) & (d). The conditions are extensive and can have a significant economic and legal impact on the party or parties to which they apply. It is, therefore, crucial that individuals who are considering this step have experienced family law counsel who is conversant with these conditions. In some instances, parties may ultimately conclude that the financial impact of an early divorce is simply too much. On balance, it would be best to forego the early termination of the marriage.
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The attorneys at Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy have achieved national recognition as some of the best family law attorneys in Orange County and Southern California. For more information, please contact us by using our online form or by calling us at 949-474-0800.