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Sacramento Divorce Attorneys

Experienced Divorce Lawyers to Help You Get Through Tough Times

Divorce can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be that way. Our family attorneys will work hard to ensure you get the best possible outcome for your situation.

Sacramento Divorce Lawyers

Gain Peace of Mind with Expert Legal Representation

Many divorce clients experience disagreement and anxiety over custody of children, division of property, and the payment of child and spousal support. The experienced family law attorneys at Hughes Law Group are here to make the separation process easier on you.

Our customized services address your actual legal needs and we communicate with you regularly so that you understand your options and rights. We represent parents and spouses throughout Sacramento, Yolo, Placer, and El Dorado Counties with negotiation (whenever possible) and litigation (whenever necessary).

Hughes Law Group Sacramento divorce attorneys handle both contested and uncontested divorces as well as legal separation and annulments. We represent our clients zealously through informal negotiation all the way through courtroom litigation. 

sacramento divorce attorney Marc Hughes meeting with clients

Divorce Does Not Need To Be Awful

At Hughes Law Group, we help guide you through the divorce process and empower you to make your own decisions.

  • Attentiveness in your case

  • Unmatched Client Experience

  • Honest and Frequent Communication

Table of Contents

    The Divorce Process: What to Expect

    If you are considering a divorce, here is a look at the process and what you can expect.

    Divorce is not a simple legal matter that can be solved in a day. In fact, the necessary paperwork and procedures for divorce can become extremely complex, particularly if you are planning to address child custody, support, and division of property. For this reason, consulting an experienced divorce attorney is typically the best course of action.

    Initial Filings & Service (Automatic TROs)

    In a large majority of cases, one spouse (referred to as the “petitioner”) sets the process in motion by filing the first two forms required for a divorce in California, the Petition and Summons. The petitioner completes and files these two forms, which are then served upon the other spouse (called the “respondent”). After papers have been served, a proof of service must be submitted to the court, so that the actual legal proceedings for divorce can begin.

    • Petition and Summons
      • The Petition form asks for basic details about your marriage (or domestic partnership), as well as the orders you are requested from the court.
      • The Summons form contains information about the divorce process, including the Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs). TROs are standard restraining orders that outline the limitations on what both spouses can do with their collective money, property, assets, and debts. These orders also prohibit either party from taking the children of your marriage/partnership out of California without written agreement or a further order. Applications for new/replacement passports for any of these children is also forbidden unless written consent is obtained or court order. Lastly, the Summons restricts the parties from making changes to insurance and offers details about affordable health insurance coverage through Covered California.
    • Response
      • After service of the Petition and Summons is completed, a proof of service is filed and the deadline for response After being served, your spouse has 30 days to respond if they wish to contest any aspect of the proceedings.

    Temporary Orders (Optional Orders Pending Trial or Judgment)

    After the Petitions and Summons forms have been served, either party can opt to request one or more temporary orders. Temporary orders are intended to address the issues that need to be immediately addressed, with the intent to provide a solution to each that stands until the completion of the trial. These orders may be used to establish requests for child custody and visitation, temporary spousal or child support, exclusive use of property, and more.

    In the state of California, a Request for Order (RFO) hearing is required for the temporary orders to be made. Both parties involved in the divorce proceedings will be heard in court before a judge and given an opportunity to present information to support or contest the requests.

    • Temporary Child Custody: Also called “Pendente Lite Custody Orders,” these orders dictate which spouse/parent will have custody of the minor children under 18, pending either trial or settlement. It is important to be aware that it is very common for this order to set the precedent for permanent custody arrangements.
    • Temporary Child Support: This order addresses child support, which one spouse will pay to the other to allow for proper care of their children. Typically, the standard formula is used by the court to calculate accurate support amounts. However, there are processes for negotiating child support and the court has discretion to deviate from the guideline formula, making assistance from a skilled attorney vital to your case.
    • Temporary Spousal Support: In some cases, temporary spousal support may be requested for one spouse to provide financial support to the other to preserve the “status quo” prior to marriage dissolution.
    • Temporary Control of Property: This order usually addresses communal real estate, bank accounts, a vehicle, or business. It grants one spouse temporary control/use of this property until the final division of property is complete.
    • Attorney and Expert Fees: One spouse can ask that the other pay for all or a part of the expenses to reimburse them for retaining a divorce attorney and/or other experts that are needed for the case.

    Financial Disclosures

    We are often asked, “Are financial disclosures required for divorce?” The simple answer is yes.

    In a California divorce, the financial disclosures serve as the foundation of your financial judgment. These mandatory forms identify the assets and debts both the marital estate and your separate estate, involving significant complexities. There will be no permanent adjudication of spousal support, property division, or attorney fees without full compliance of the disclosure process.

    The preliminary financial disclosure forms include the following:

    • Income and Expense Declaration
    • Schedule of Assets and Debts
    • Tax Returns
    • A statement of any Investment Opportunities

    If you are the petitioner of the divorce proceedings, you must serve your preliminary disclosures on your spouse (the respondent). If they do not appear in the case, and the case moves forward as a true default case with no marital settlement agreement, you have the option to waive your spouse’s preliminary disclosure.

    Settlement Negotiations or Prepare for Trial

    A well-prepared CA divorce attorney is an asset at all stages of a divorce trial, but particularly so in the process of negotiating a settlement. In cases of amicable divorce, both parties may be able to reach an agreement for settlement. For example, the terms outlined in temporary orders, if approved by both petitioner and respondent, may serve as the final settlement. Or, your attorneys will go back and forth to determine acceptable compromises. Once terms are finalized, your next step is the Marital Settlement Agreement/Judgment (see below).

    However, there are other situations in which settling a divorce is far more difficult. In this scenario, you will move forward with preparations for a divorce trial. As outlined below, your legal team will work to secure detailed evidence, witnesses, and expert testimony to support the request(s) you are bringing before the judge. A final legal briefing ensures that you are ready for the your next step - trial, ruling, and judgment (see below).

    • Securing Evidence
    • Witness Preparation (witnesses may include accountants, custody evaluators, etc.)
    • Expert Preparation
    • Legal Briefing (usually filed about 1 week before trial)

    Marital Settlement Agreement and Divorce Judgment

    For divorcing couples that were able to successfully reach a resolution in settlement negotiations, the next step is completing the Marital Settlement Agreement/Judgement. The Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) or Stipulated Judgment is a legal document prepared by an attorney, detailing every issue in your divorce case. There will also be various provisions designed to allow both parties to carry out the intent of the settlement.

    It is critical that you read, understand, and confirm this document in its entirety. Your Sacramento divorce attorneys can assist you with this process. Do not hesitate to ask questions about any terms you may have.

    Topics covered in significant detail in the MSA include:

    • Child Custody
    • Child Support
    • Post-Judgment “Permanent” Spousal Support
    • Award and Division of Community Property and Community Debts
    • Attorney and Expert Fees
    • Enforcement Provisions

    Once the parties have signed the Marital Settlement Agreement and the court approves it, the terms are final.

    Trial, Court Ruling, and Judgment

    If you case was not completed in settlement negotiations, it will move to trial. Both your attorney and the divorce attorney for your spouse will present their trial briefs, as well as arguments, documentary evidence, case citations, and other details pertaining to the issues listed below.

    • Child Custody
    • Child Support
    • Post-Judgment “Permanent” Spousal Support
    • Award and Division of Community Property and Community Debts
    • Attorney and Expert Fees

    Remember that your attorney is there to serve not just as your legal counsel, but also as your advocate. As one of the leading firms for divorce law in Sacramento, the attorneys at Hughes Law Group are committed to supporting you at every stage of the divorce process.

    If your case does not settle, the Judge will rule on all disputed issues of fact or law after trial is concluded.  Your divorce attorney then uses the terms of the judge’s ruling to draft the final divorce judgment.

    Divorce FAQs

    How to file for divorce in California?

    A divorce action starts with filing a Petition (Judicial Council Form Fl-100) in the Superior Court in the county where either you or your spouse has lived for at least three months.  Other than possibly selecting between two available counties, there is no advantage of being the Petitioner (the party that files first) or the Respondent (the party that is served with the Petition). The first filing fee due to the court is $435.00.

    How to prepare for divorce?

    Book a confidential consultation with an attorney, preferably one with experience and a practice limited to family law. Make an inventory of your property. Secure copies of all financial records.  Review your credit report.  Save funds for fees and open a credit card in your name alone. Open a P.O. Box. Change all your passwords.  Turn “share location” services off on your cell phone.  If you fear your spouse, speak to a domestic violence prevention counselor about a “safety plan” and discuss a restraining order with your attorney.

    How much does divorce cost?

    The cost of a divorce depends entirely on the complexity of issues and the level of cooperation in the case.  According to a Lawyers.com survey, the average California divorce costs between $12,000 and $15,000 - but that figure is not very helpful because it includes cases with and without children, no property and complex property estates, as well as representation varying from a single consultation through full-service representation.  Every case is entirely different.

    What is an uncontested divorce?

    An uncontested divorce means that the parties have a full agreement for custody of their children, support, and division of their property. One party (the “Petitioner”) files the Divorce Petition and has the Respondent served, the parties then exchange financial disclosures and reach a full written marital settlement agreement (the “MSA”) before the time expires for the Respondent to file his/her Response.  The Petitioner files other necessary forms with the court and (after judicial approval), the MSA becomes the terms of the Divorce Judgment.

    How long does a divorce take?

    A California divorce cannot be finalized for at least six months after the Respondent is served with the Summons, but the financial (property and support) issues can be resolved any time after the parties have exchanged their financial disclosures. The average contested case in California takes around eighteen months.  If the parties don’t settle, the disputed issues are determined by a judge at trial. Trials should be set months in advance to allow the parties to secure all needed evidence.

    Divorce, Legal Separation or Annulment?

    In the state of California, a married couple may enter into separation agreements that defined their property and custody rights without a divorce.  A Judgment of Legal Separation is sometimes preferred to divorce for a number of reasons, usually involving religious practice or availability of dependent benefits.  In the absence of a default, both parties must agree to a legal separation instead of the divorce.

    Our Client's Reviews

    Krystal L.

    During our meeting, Mr. Hughes was so informative and to the point, he was so kind and gave me a realistic idea of what I would need for my case.