Under new family court procedures at work across California, the controversial one-day divorce method is not only allowing amicable couples of modest means the opportunity to quickly get on with their lives, but it is also winning approval from judges frustrated with clogged dockets and confused litigants.
In a state where nearly 75 percent of all divorcing spouses navigate the system without an attorney, judges decided it was time to move away from spending thousands of dollars litigating fairly amicable divorces with minimal issues to unravel. As a result, the one-day option was born, and it is gaining speed across several states yearning for a similar solution to their own overwhelmed divorce courts.
One-day divorce: The basics
The one-day divorce is not for every couple. For instance, cases involving high net worth spouses are generally considered too complex for the one-day option and are better served by the traditional route to divorce, including hiring an attorney.
However, couples of modest means with few issues to work out, and couples who are able to resolve those few key issues on their own, could greatly benefit from the one-day model, which generally works as follows:
- Residency requirements: One-day divorce is a bit of a misnomer if either party needs to establish residency. Under California law, one or both partners must have lived in California for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. Individual counties also have residency requirements.
- Filing and service: In order to be eligible for the one-day track, a petition must already be filed and the other party must have received valid notice and service of process.
- Agreeing on everything: The one-day option is not intended for spouses who are embroiled in a bitter and venomous disagreement on every aspect of the divorce. It is intended for couples who are able to come to a mutual agreement on issues like child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and the division of property.
- Filling out paperwork: In some counties, a one-day divorce assistant works directly with the parties, emailing them the paperwork they will need to complete the process. Parties will also need a documented divorce settlement agreement and information relating to monthly income.
- Attending the one-day clinic: Clinics are generally by appointment only. The parties are escorted by a neutral third party into a conference room to discuss the contents of the settlement and ensure all issues are mutually agreed upon.
- Obtain the order: The final step in the process involves a judge’s review of the paperwork and settlement, followed by the issuance of the divorce decree.
And that is it. Due to its immense popularity, with some judges reportedly overseeing four or five one-day divorces per week, it’s probable that other jurisdictions will implement similar options for the amicable divorce demographic.
Benefits and realities of the one-day option
The one-day option was offered as a way to service and accommodate the growing number of family law litigants turning to do-it-yourself document preparation services to prepare and file divorce paperwork. These websites are often problematic in that they do not take into account the state- and county-specific requirements of divorce filings, including nitty-gritty formatting issues. This service is appealing to those who are seeking a divorce but do not intend to enlist the services of a private attorney, which can seem unnecessary when all issues are worked out between the parties on their own.
On the national scale, the truncated divorce process is a growing trend, with states like New Hampshire and Nevada offering low-cost divorces with short processing times.
California, known for its matrimonial trendsetting, was the first state to offer the no-fault divorce option, which allowed parties to skip more intense, fault-based divorce proceedings. Time will tell whether the one-day divorce will catch on, as most states report similar issues with unrepresented litigants unsure of how to advance their divorce through the vast court system.