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Do All Divorces Go To Court?

Updated: May 8, 2021

Technically, all California divorces “go to court.” In order to get divorced, you must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with a series of other required forms with the court.

From there, your interaction with the court will vary depending on your case.

If you have an uncontested divorce, your interaction with the court system will likely be minimal. An uncontested divorce is one where both spouses participate, and they reach an agreement.

In that situation, you can submit the required forms and your agreement to the court for the judge’s signature. Once the judge signs, the date of divorce will be on the first page and agreement becomes a court order. Generally, the court will not get in the way of a parties’ agreement.

In Los Angeles, this process does not require you to actually go to court, you can simply submit your documents. It is important to make sure that you’ve met procedural requirements, like the financial disclosure process and submission of all required forms, so that the court can process your judgment and finalize the divorce.

If you have a contested divorce, your interaction with the court system will be much more involved. A contested divorce means that you do not have an agreement about your divorce and you need a judge to decide the issues in your case.

A contested divorce generally entails a trial so the judge can decide matters of property division, child custody, or financial support. A contested divorce is more complicated than an uncontested divorce and can be extremely expensive. It is also emotionally taxing and time consuming. In most divorces, it's not financially or emotionally wise to go to trial. A negotiated settlement is almost always more cost effective than a contested divorce.

In a trial, the court hears testimony and receives evidence. Admission of evidence is subject to very complex rules, which are different in different jurisdictions. You and your spouse will likely need to testify on the witness stand under oath. You also may need to hire experts to analyze your case and testify. These experts can be forensic accountants, domestic violence experts, child custody experts and evaluators, and more.


The Law Office of Emily E. Rubenstein is a full service divorce and family law firm. We proudly serve Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Culver City, the South Bay, Glendale, Pasadena, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Encino and all of Los Angeles County.

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