July 17, 2022 | Divorce

I Was Just Served Divorce Papers. What Happens Now?


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Divorce Papers

This is often one of the most stressful events that can happen in someone’s life, so it is understandable to be anxious or concerned. While your next steps may feel unclear, seeking out a consultation with an experienced attorney at California Family Law Firm at 949-503-7200 will help provide clarity to that process. Our attorneys will guide you throughout your case and help you every step of the way.

After being served, here is what you can expect:


The very first step after being served is to read over the documents that you were given. One of the papers handed to you should include a two-page document titled Summons. On the first page, the Summons details that you must file a Response within 30 days of service or that orders may be made without your input (called a Default).

The second page begins with a heading titled Standard Family Law Restraining Orders, and details conduct that each party is prohibited from doing. This includes things such as removing any minor children from the state, applying for a passport for minor children, making changes of any kind to insurance of either spouse or children, disposing or selling of property outside of your normal course of business, or creating a nonprobate transfer that affects any property at issue in your case. You must also provide proper notice of any proposed extraordinary expenditures prior to incurring such expenses.

The words Restraining Orders may sound alarming, but do not be worried. These are not restraining orders in a typical sense, such as requiring you not to contact or be within a certain distance of a person, but instead only restrains (prohibits) your conduct related to preventing a spouse from fleeing with children or concealing money or property.

These Restraining Orders are effective upon you immediately upon being served the Summons. If this all sounds a bit confusing, we understand! When you retain us, we will go over what each of these orders means for your specific case and answer any questions you may have.


The next step in your case will be to file a Response.

We will go over some statistical information with you, such as your date of marriage, the date you separated (which can be more complicated than it appears at first glance, and can have long lasting ramifications), as information about your children.

We will also go over what you will be requesting in terms of child custody, spousal support (commonly referred to as alimony), property, and attorney’s fees.

This Response must be filed with the Court within 30 days, so it is important to act fast.


During this process, we can also file any motions related to child custody or visitation, child support, spousal support (alimony), attorney’s fees, or control of property.

At California Family Law Firm, we will often first attempt an amicable solution to any problems, whereby we reach out to your spouse or their attorney and try to reach a mutual agreement. If everyone is agreeable, we will draft up a binding Court Order for everyone to sign, and file it at the courthouse.

This method is often preferable because it saves you money, as well as the time and stress to obtain those orders through the Court. However, this is not always possible if your spouse or their attorney will not agree to terms. In that case, we will work with you to persuasively and concisely state the facts relevant to any motion, file that motion, and then represent you at a hearing on that motion in Court.

Financial Disclosures

After filing your Response, we will begin working on your financial disclosures, which consists of an Income and Expense Declaration and Schedule of Assets and Debts (or alternatively, Property Declarations). On your Income and Expense Declaration, we will go over information related to your employer, education, tax filing status, income, and monthly expenses.

On your Schedule of Assets and Debts, we will go over all of the assets that you or your spouse own, including any homes, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and more.

We will also instruct you on what supporting documentation is required, such as paystubs, bank statements, or car titles. We will also go over any debt you may have, including a mortgage, car loan, or credit card debt and will request supporting documentation for those as well. We will also request your latest tax returns.

When complete, we will serve all of these documents upon your spouse or their attorney, and then file a notice to the Court that we have done so. While these forms may appear daunting, an experienced attorney at our firm will take you step by step through them and can provide helpful tips as we fill them out based upon your answers to our questions.


Oftentimes, one spouse may be unaware of valuable assets such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, or investment accounts.

Do not worry if you do not know all of the details as we fill out your financial disclosures. We can engage in the discovery process to help determine the details of any accounts and calculate each spouse’s interest in them. Think of the discovery process as the exchange of information between spouses.

Even if your spouse is difficult and refuses to disclose such assets, we can issue subpoenas to third parties, such as their employer or banks, to compel them by legal order to turn over any relevant documents.

Negotiation of Settlement

At this stage, we will begin negotiation to attempt to finalize your case. We will work with you to go through all of the relevant issues, which include:

  • Child Custody
  • Child Support
  • Spousal Support
  • Identification and Division of Community Property
  • Confirmation of Separate Property
  • Reimbursements and Credits
  • Attorney’s Fees and Costs

As we go through each of these issues, we will inform you of all of your legal rights as they relate to each issue, and advise you on how to best proceed while allowing you to make the ultimate decisions.

We will work with you to put together a settlement offer to present to your spouse or their attorney, and negotiate with them if necessary.

Mandatory Settlement Conference (if necessary)

If we do not reach a settlement, we will enter the end stages of your case. Here, we will request the Court set a Mandatory Settlement Conference, the last step required before a trial.

To do so, all parties must have finished up their discovery and filed their financial disclosures. We will put together a Mandatory Settlement Conference Brief and all supporting documents while conferring with you throughout. We will then attend the Mandatory Settlement Conference with you and negotiate on your behalf for the best possible legal outcome, where you have final approval over any settlement.

The vast majority of cases usually settle by this point. If we do reach a mutually agreeable settlement, we will draft or review a Judgment which lists the legal disposition of each issue of your case. There are many mistakes that can be made here, so it is best to have an experienced attorney guide you through this process.

Trial (if necessary)

If your case is one of the few that does not settle by this stage, we will begin preparation for trial.

The judge in your case will set a trial date and require each party to complete another round of financial disclosures, as well as prepare a Witness List, Exhibit List, and Trial Brief with facts and law that support your positions. We will confer with you throughout this process and prepare the best possible case for you. We will then attend trial and represent your legal interests to bring your case to conclusion.

Afterwards, we will prepare or review a formal copy of the judge’s orders so that you can legally enforce those orders in the future. We will then go over any final questions you may have before wrapping up your case.

Need Legal Help? Contact California Family Law Firm, APC.

Contact California Family Law Firm to be put in touch with an experienced attorney and begin the next steps in your case today at 949-503-7200.

The information above does not establish an attorney-client relationship and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice. There are many factors that might influence or change advice specific to your case following a consultation. Contact California Family Law Firm at 949-503-7200 to speak with an experienced attorney in order to obtain advice specific to your individual case.

contact us for legal help

Strong legal representation near you is not only important, but vital to your case. We are available to schedule a no pressure, confidential initial consultation to discuss your options by either phone, video, or in person.

949-503-7200 19200 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 454
Irvine, CA 92612.