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Is my marriage over when I start the divorce process?

After Filing For Divorce

Brian Don Levy (Attorney-at-Law, Family Law Mediator and Arbitrator) gives expert video advice on: What if my spouse and I agree on all of the terms of the divorce?; What if my spouse and I cannot agree on the terms of the divorce?; Will dating others before the divorce is final affect the outcome? and more...

Is my marriage over when I start the divorce process?

When you start the divorce process, your marriage is not over. It's the beginning of the end, and your marriage is over when you're restored to the status of a single person. That usually takes place at the end of the divorce process. Some people, for various reasons, don't want to wait until the end of the divorce process, so, in California, we have a process called bifurcation. Bifurcation lets people be restored to the status of a single person in six months, and then they can spend the next umpteen number of years fighting the divorce, and battling over assets and debts.

What if I file for divorce but change my mind?

If you file for divorce and change your mind, you can put the whole divorce process on hold for a while, or you can dismiss the divorce and go back to your marriage. So, you really have total flexibility to change your mind, until the end. And once you have a decree at the end that says you're divorced, then you are divorced, and if you change your mind your only option would be remarriage.

What if my spouse and I agree on all of the terms of the divorce?

If you and your spouse agree on all of the terms of the divorce, consider yourself really lucky, because you're going to save a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of grief, and a lot of heartache. See your local divorce professional and have them write up a stipulated agreement. Walk it through. You're done.

What if my spouse and I cannot agree on the terms of the divorce?

If you and your spouse can't agree on the terms of your divorce, you're going to need some help. You need to look for what process you're going to use. You can hire two divorce lawyers. You can spend your entire bank account on going to court and letting some judge make that call for you. You can hire a mediator. Get some help, get some guide lines. Mediators are really good at telling you, "this is what normally happens", this is what you should expect if you go to court, or if you don't have to. Or, you can sign up for a collaborative family law case and get the whole team involved. Bottom line, get as much information as you can and work it.

How does infidelity impact the divorce process?

California is a no-fault divorce state, so infidelity really is a non-issue and the courts don't want to hear it. In theory, infidelity could be a slight issue if you are divorcing and have children, and you happen to be having your little fling at home, and the children see your infidelity and they're damaged and traumatized. But that's not usually the case. Usually, the case is a spouse is angry because their spouse broke the vow of fidelity. And then we get all these issues that are based in anger instead of based in reason. California says it's a non-issue. Infidelity hurts. I know it hurts a lot, but it's not going to get you anywhere in court by playing that card.

Can a judge deny me a divorce?

In California, a judge cannot deny you a divorce. All the judge is going to do is set the terms: Who gets what, when, how? Who pays what, when, why? How the children are parented. If you want a divorce in California, that's a done deal; we're a no-fault divorce state.

What if I refuse to sign the divorce papers?

There's a summary divorce, which is for people that have been married for less than five years, have no children and almost no assets. That process requires both husband and wife to sign, and if one of them refuses to sign: no divorce. The regular divorce doesn't require your spouse's signature. It requires a judge to make an order. So, you can serve your spouse, they don't have anything to sign, you don't need their cooperation, you don't need their consent, and at the end of the process, you're divorced.

Will dating others before the divorce is final affect the outcome?

The problem in dating others before the divorce is finished is the reaction you get from your spouse, and the anger and the hurt and the resentment, and the frustration that comes from that. Men and women think differently. And, generally speaking--not always--but generally speaking, men want to consult with the family law lawyer and want to talk about the process. How do I get from Point A to Point B? How much is it going to cost? How long is it going to take? Generally speaking, women come in, and they want to talk about how they're feeling. And if a woman comes in hurting because her husband is dating some other woman, and sometimes, that client wants to talk about pain, suffering, revenge, how much can I make it hurt. You don't need to be there.

Can I remarry before my divorce has been finalized?

I have been asked if it's legal to remarry before the divorce is finalized, and that's a really tough question because when somebody uses the term 'divorce finalized,' it means different things to different people. It is legal to remarry after you've been restored to the status of a single person. That can come at the end of the divorce, or it can come before the divorce is finalised. Bottom line is, if you haven't been restored to the status of a single person, you're not eligible to be remarried.