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Respond to Case - Divorce, Legal Separation or Nullity

Also for: Dissolution, Legal Separation or Nullity

Introduction

What's the difference?  If you are unsure about whether you want to request a dissolution of marriage, legal separation or nullity then, you may need additional information about the difference between these options.  Click the What's the difference? link above for more detailed information about each option.

In order to file a Dissolution of Marriage (divorce) case in San Luis Obispo County, at least one of the parties must have resided in the State of California for the last 6 months and in the County of San Luis Obisop for the last 3 months.

A Response (FL-120) must be completed and filed within 30 days of the date the legal documents were personally delivered to you.  If you do not file a Response within 30 days, the other party may move the case forward without you.

If it has been more than 30 days since you were given the legal documents, you may be able to file your Response, so long as the other party has not yet filed a form FL-165 Request to Enter Default.  If the other party has filed the FL-165 then you may request a hearing to ask the judge for special permission to file a Response.  There are legal deadlines to make this special request so you should contact a lawyer immediately.

Sample Forms

You may view the Overview for Respondent & Sample Forms.

Forms Needed

You must complete the following forms to respond to a case already filed by the other party.  Your case number should appear on the legal papers you were given.  Your case number will usually start with "FL" followed by a series of numbers.  There are additional form attachments that you may use as well.  The forms are found at www.courts.ca.gov.  You may click on the form links provided to print out the forms needed.  You may also complete these forms on your computer or print in blue or black ink. 

  • FL-120 (for Marriages) or FL-123 (for Domestic Partnerships) Petition
  • FL-311 Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment* (staple to FL-120)
  • FL-105 Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act*
  • FL-140 Declaration of Disclosure
  • FL-142 Schedule of Assets and Debts
  • FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration

* Complete FL-311 and FL-105 only if there are minor children of the marriage.

If you cannot afford to pay the $435 filing fee you will also need to complete the fee waiver forms below. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, you must bring money to pay the filing fee.

Make Copies

Once the necessary forms are completed you should two hole-punch each original at the top and make two copies of the completed originals; one for you and one for the other party.  The originals are for the Court to keep.

If you would like the Self-Help Center / Family Law Facilitator's Office to review your forms before you file, then do not make copies until after the Center has reviewed your documents.

Deliver Papers

Someone who is 18 years or older must mail to the other party a copy of all the completed legal papers mentioned above (except fee waiver).  The person mailing the other party these papers cannot be you.  The legal papers must be mailed to the address that the other party listed on their legal papers.  The person mailing the other party these papers could be a friend, relative or private process server. This is called "service by mail."  It will be important to write down the date and city of when and where the documents were mailed.

Complete FL-335 Proof of Service

FL-335 Proof of Service by Mail:  The person who mails the legal documents to the other party must sign and complete the  FL-335 Proof of Service by Mail and return it to you.  Do not give the other party the original FL-335 Proof of Service by Mail.  You should make a copy of the FL-335 Proof of Service by Mail for your own records.

File Papers

Take to the Family Law Clerk's Office all the completed originals and 1 copy including FL-120, FL-311, FL-105, FL-150, FL-335 and if you are requesting a fee waiver FW-001 and FW-003.  Do not file the original FL-140 and FL-142 and their attachments.  For more information on where the courthouses are located, see our map.

The Family Law Clerk will file your originals and return a filed stamped copy to you.

Attend Parenting Class

If there are minor children of the marriage, you must attend a class that deals with the impact of divorce and/or separation on children.  The name of the class is Children: The Challenge in Divorce.  There is a $30 fee for this class, however if you have a fee waiver order signed by the judge, the fee may be waived.  Advance registration is required so to register for the class please call Family Court Services at (805) 781-5423.  Please have your case number available when you call.

Finish Case

There are many more forms that you must complete and file before your case is finalized.  You may proceed with your case in one of two: Uncontested or Trial.  You or the other party must file additional documents in order for your case to be final.  The court will not contact you.

After you have completed the steps to respond in your case, you will need to finish your case.

Helpful Tips To Complete Forms

Petitioner & Respondent

If you are responding to a case already filed by the other party, then you will always be the Respondent in this case and the other party will be called the Petitioner.

Date of Separation

Date of separation is the date that in your mind you knew the marriage/domestic partnership was over and you did something to show that you no longer wanted to be together.

Separate Property

Separate property is any asset or debt that was purchased or incurred before your date of marriage/domestic partnership or after your date of separation and will be listed on your FL-100 and FL-142.

Community Property

Community property is any asset or debt that was purchased or incurred after your date of marriage/domestic partnership and before your date of separation and will be listed on your FL-100 and FL-142.

Pension Retirement Plans

A pension can be more valuable than any other asset acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership, including a house. It may be worth more than all of the other assets put together.  There are very specific and technical rules apply to pensions and you should get legal advice from a lawyer in order to protect your interest in the pension.  In some cases, a pension plan must be “joined” as a party in your divorce case before a judge will issue an order about how the pension will be divided. Read the Retirement Plan Joinder — Information Sheet (FL-318-INFO) for more information about whether the pension plan must be joined in your divorce case.  The court order that details how a pension will be divided is called a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. The QDRO must be approved by both the benefits provider and the judge to assure that the spouse/partner that is not the employee of the company or organization will receive those future benefits. A QDRO is an extremely complicated legal document and if you make a mistake, there can be harmful results.

Preliminary & Final Declaration of Disclosure

California law requires that you and your spouse give each other written information about all the income, expenses, assets and debts that you know to exist.  This act of revealing and making something known to the other person is called "disclosure."  Disclosure is required at the beginning of the case (Preliminary) and end of the case (Final).  Disclosure is intended to make sure that you and your spouse are aware of everything each of you own and owe.  With this information you can divide your assets and debts equally, and can make reasonable decisions about support. If you leave anything out, either by mistake or on purpose, your property division may not be accepted by the court and your case may be reopened or changed.

Legal Custody

Legal custody deals with the parents’ right to make the decisions relating to the child’s health, education and welfare. One or both parents can have legal custody. If both parents are making decisions about the child it is called joint legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody deals with the days and times that the child will spend with each parent. If the child primarily lives with one parent it is called physical custody. If you are requesting that both parents spend a substantial period of time with the child, it is called Joint Physical Custody.

Visitation

Visitation is the time that the child spends with the parent who does not primarily live with.  There are several options to choose from when it comes to visitation, generally they are: (1) Reasonable Visitation (2) Specific Visitation Schedule and (3) Supervised Visitation.  Reasonable visitation does not define the days and times that each parent will have physical custody of the child. A reasonable visitation court order usually works when both parents are in agreement about the time share that each is to have with the child. A specific visitation schedule defines the days and times that each parent will have physical custody of the child. A specific visitation schedule may be necessary for parents who have a difficult time agreeing on the days and times that each parent will spend with the child. Supervised Visitation requires that a responsible adult be present during any visitation times with the child. A supervised visitation order may be necessary if there are reasonable concerns that a parent may harm the child if left alone.  You may request a non-professional or professional supervisor.  Click here for more information on Supervised Visitation.

Child Support

To determine the amount of guideline child support that the Court may order in your case, visit www.childsup.ca.gov and click on Calculate Child Support.

Notice of Related Cases

If another cases exists that involves the same parties and issues like child custody, support or restraining orders then a Notice of Related Case should be filed.