California was the first state to establish “no-fault” divorce. One partner doesn’t have to prove the other is “at-fault” for the divorce. Nevertheless, if you are anticipating a divorce in southern California, you will need to be represented by the right Orange County divorce lawyer.

What steps are required if you file for divorce? If you are served divorce papers, how should you respond, and what should you avoid when you respond? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what to do – and what not to do – when the divorce process begins in this state.

In a California divorce, the partner who initiates the divorce process and files the divorce papers is called the “petitioner.” The other spouse is called the “respondent.” The divorce process in California begins when the petitioner files a summons and petition for divorce.

What Happens First When You File for Divorce?

In most cases, the respondent must be served the divorce petition in person. Petitioners also must file a financial disclosure with the divorce petition or within the next sixty days. Upon receiving the petition for divorce, the respondent also must file a financial disclosure within sixty days.

From the beginning of the process, both parties in the divorce must refrain from any behavior that may be perceived as detrimental or negative. You’re about to read a brief discussion of the specific things that you must not do once the divorce process begins.

Avoid Any Confrontation That Could Be Viewed As Domestic Violence

A confrontational attitude, raising your voice, or making unwelcome contact may be considered domestic violence under California law. Highly charged emotions could actually land you in jail, trigger criminal charges, or put you on the wrong end of a restraining order.

A restraining order or a criminal conviction will damage your ability to win child custody, child support, or spousal support when the divorce is finalized. You must resist any urge to be rude, mean, or abusive.

Don’t Try to Hide or Transfer Assets

Apart from what you’ll need to retain a California divorce lawyer, when you file for divorce or you are served divorce papers, leave your assets where they are. If you drain the bank accounts and try hiding the money, you will be found out.

California divorce petitions include automatic temporary restraining orders that prevent both spouses from moving and encumbering assets. A spouse is not allowed to cancel the other spouse’s health insurance or any other insurance coverage before a divorce is final.

Do Not Hide Your Child or Children or Flee the Jurisdiction

Divorce is always more difficult when the partners are parents. When your child is a California resident, the state retains jurisdiction over that child should you flee the state upon receiving a divorce petition.

If you flee the state under those conditions, your spouse can seek a court order to have the child returned and may also be granted sole custody. Fleeing the state with your child or children jeopardizes a parent’s legal rights.

Don’t Use Your Child as a Messenger

Do what you can to make your divorce easier on your child or children. Younger children should not be involved – to the extent that it is possible. Do not use your child or children as go-betweens, messengers, or spies.

It is also essential to avoid making any negative comments about your spouse in the presence of your child or children.

Avoid Social Media

With no communication, one partner may be curious about what the other is doing. Avoid the impulse to look into your spouse’s social media accounts, and remember that anything you put in writing – on paper or online – may be seen by your spouse’s attorney or by a judge.

Many divorce lawyers would advise you to avoid social media entirely during the divorce process. If your Facebook page shows that you consider yourself a “thug” or a “party animal,” for instance, it won’t help you win child custody or help with any other aspect of your divorce.

Nothing you post online – including what you delete – is ever really private, even if you use the privacy settings. Your spouse’s lawyer can obtain even your deleted posts. For either party, a post or “tweet” that seems harmless may come back to hurt you in the final divorce settlement.

Hacking anyone’s email or computer is a criminal offense, and in a divorce situation, hacking or “trolling” your partner online could be interpreted as stalking – a serious crime in California. If a divorce is going to happen, accepting it and moving forward constructively is the best response.

Don’t Quit Your Job

Refusing to work will not release you from a child support or spousal support obligation. Your spouse’s divorce attorney can seek a court-ordered vocational evaluation, and the amount you owe in child support or spousal support can be “imputed” to you on the basis of that evaluation.

Any failure to make court-ordered child support or spousal support payments can trigger serious penalties in California. Your wages can be garnished or you could even end up in jail for contempt of court.

Do Not Delay Seeking an Attorney’s Guidance

If you are getting a divorce in this state, you must have the advice and services of a good divorce attorney from the beginning of the divorce process – and even earlier, if possible. Find a lawyer who has substantial experience handling similar divorce cases.

The right Orange County divorce lawyer will know the divorce laws and procedures and will be able to discuss your rights and legal options. It’s a discussion that you must not avoid.

If you try to act as your own divorce attorney, anything that you say could be twisted and used against you, and even the simplest mistake in the legal paperwork could cost you dearly.

If you think that you can’t afford a good divorce attorney, the reality is that you can’t afford not to have an attorney. Many who get divorced realize too late that they gave up rights and lost assets and property simply because they tried to save a few dollars when hiring an attorney.

What is the Most Important Thing to Do When a Divorce Begins?

Divorce causes pain and depression for many. Others respond with anger or even violence.. If you are served with divorce papers in southern California, do everything you can to control your emotions and avoid the mistakes that you’ve read about here.

Ignore your negative impulses and work with a southern California divorce attorney who will ensure that you receive fair treatment and justice throughout the divorce process.