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"I don't want to get divorced, but. . . ."

Most disagreements in California divorces concern child custody and support, spousal support or division of non-marital assets. In some divorces, however, the dispute centers on the basic question of whether both parties want to end their marriage. What happens when one spouse wants a divorce but the other one does not?

The first issue is to determine why one spouse is not willing to accept a divorce. The reason may be emotional, such as an unwillingness to end the relationship. Another reason is often the interests of the children. A third is fear of the unknown economic consequences that may follow a divorce. Many spouses who resist the idea of divorce simply do not accept the other spouse's proposal for any or all of the above issues.

Anyone who is served with a petition for a divorce has 30 days to respond, and extensions are frequently granted. This period may provide an opportunity for discussions of possibilities for resolving the dispute. If informal discussions do not resolve the deadlock, California law provides several alternatives, including mediation. The court can provide contact information for a family law facilitator who may be able to guide the parties to a peaceful solution. Also, many divorce attorneys are able to rely on their experience to suggest possible ways to resolve many of these disputes.

If a solution is truly beyond reach, the court will set the case for trial. After hearing all of the relevant evidence, the judge will decide the issues that have not been resolved by the couple. Many judges may also order the couple to engage in more supervised mediation before the case goes to trial. A consultation with an experienced divorce attorney may also assist the couple in finding ways to resolve their disputes.

Source: courts.ca.gov, "Contested Process," accessed on April 23, 2018

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