California’s 6-Month “Cooling Off” Period

Depending on your family’s specific situation, more often than not, couples filing for divorce want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. Many states, however, including California, have mandatory waiting periods before a divorce can be finalized. The waiting periods among states vary from 1 month to 2 years (sometimes shorter if both parties consent).

Pursuant to California’s Family Code section 2339(a) “no judgment of dissolution is final for the purpose of terminating the marriage relationship of the parties until six months have expired from the date of service of a copy of summons and petition or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.”

What can this Mean for Your Divorce?

Timeline: You should prepare your timeline expectations accordingly. You should go into the divorce process expecting to not be legally divorced for at least 6 months.

Legally Married: During those 6 months, you and your spouse will remain legally married, but this does not mean that you have to remain “socially married”. You do not have to live together, you can request temporary custody and support orders, you can seek discovery, etc. The only thing you cannot do during this time is remarry.

Taxes: Depending on the time of year you file for divorce, you should consider how the additional 6 months of legal marriage may affect your tax filing. You may want to discuss the implications of the various filing statuses with your accountant.

Does this Mean the Divorce will be Over in 6 Months?

No. The 6 month cooling off period only represents the minimum amount of time prior to termination of the parties’ marital status. As most people know, divorce proceedings can widely vary in length depending on the nature of the case and the parties’ willingness to be cooperative and move toward settlement.

There is good news though. Since the 6 month cooling off period only applies to termination of the marital relationship, after 6 months have passed, either spouse can request to bifurcate (separate) and terminate marital status. This means, either party can ask the court to terminate the marital status in their case, even if there are other issues in the case that remain unresolved (i.e. support, property division, etc.). Upon termination of marital status, both parties are free to remarry. For more information on bifurcating and terminating marital status, please see the Mello & Pickering news release “Bifurcating Issues” published in March 2017.

Here at Mello & Pickering, LLP with 40 years combined experience, we know the ins and outs of the divorce process and can make sure that your divorce is resolved as easily and efficiently as possible. We have assisted many clients in bifurcating and terminating marital status successfully.

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