Your Initial Concerns

Before you start the mechanics of preparation, consider two important areas. What happens if you die? Does your will leave all your property to your spouse? Does the title on your home, or other property, read "joint tenants?" Talk to your attorney and prepare a new, simple will that takes your impending divorce into account.

You might choose to leave your property, including your one-half of the community property, to your sister or brother in trust for your children. Name a guardian for your children in case your spouse doesn’t survive you. Sever any joint tenancies on your properties so your interest goes according to your will, not around it to the survivor, your spouse. Eliminate the right of survivorship without altering the extent of the interest held by you or your spouse.

The other area to be handled immediately is the well-being of your children. Are there any problems apparent at this time? See Chapter Eight, now, to get an appropriate order if any exist. You may need a child psychologist to provide therapy to your children and an expert opinion to the court if the situation is truly traumatizing to your children. Circumstances that threaten or seriously disturb your children demand quick action. See Chapter Twelve for dealing with serious problems or custody disputes.

7.03 Your First Court Papers

You will start your legal divorce action by filing your first paper, the petition or complaint, with the court. The summons is first issued by the clerk of the court and then served on your spouse with a copy of the petition, notifying your spouse the divorce action has been filed and he or she has thirty days to respond. If you were served with a petition, your first paper is a response or answer. All original papers are filed with the clerk; the proof of service on the summons is completed before the original summons is returned and filed.

The petition and response, both pre-printed court forms, include statistical information such as the length of your marriage and your children’s names and ages. Separate and marital community property are listed: your attorney may list property now, wait until later when all the property is identified, or both by listing major assets now and stating the list will be supplemented later when all property has been identified. You also declare your position on custody, support and attorney’s fees.

Standard restraining orders are preprinted and included on the summons, including orders against removing children from the state, changing any insurance or disposing of any property. These court orders automatically take effect upon service and eliminate the need to prepare an additional request and order unless special problems are anticipated. When specific temporary orders are needed: in addition to the petition and summons, prepare your sworn declaration, a request for temporary order and a proposed order; present everything to a judge for review and signature; file the originals, except the summons; serve copies of all the papers on your spouse; and file the proof of service.

Your Case Evaluation is your initial agenda. Continue to update this document as you go, review your objectives, discuss the items with your attorney and set priorities. Advise your attorney when it becomes necessary or desirable to pursue something previously given no priority. Each of you has an obligation to communicate with the other.