What you should know if you are served with a Petition for Dissolution


I often receive calls from parties who were just served with divorce papers (formally referred to as the Petition for Dissolution). Needless to say, this can be a traumatic event when the receiving party is unaware of his or her spouse's desire to divorce.

If you are served with a Petition for Dissolution, there are important issues that are triggered upon your receipt. For instance, upon personal service of the Petition and Summons, automatic mutual restraining orders (ATROs) immediately take effect and remain binding upon both parties until entry of final judgment, dismissal of the petition or further court order.

The ATROs are codified under California Family Code section 2040 and restrain the parties from doing the following acts:

  1. Removing the minor children from the state without the prior written consent of the other party or an order of the court;
  2. Cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile, and disability, held for the benefit of the parties and their minor child or children;
  3. Transferring, encumbering, hypothecating, concealing, or in any way disposing of any property, real or personal, whether community, quasi-community, or separate, without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life; and
  4. Creating a nonprobate transfer or modifying a nonprobate transfer in a manner that affects the disposition of property subject to the transfer, without the written consent of the other party or an order of the court. Before revocation of a nonprobate transfer can take effect or a right of survivorship to property can be eliminated, notice of the change must be filed and served on the other party.
  5. Finally, you must notify each other of any proposed extraordinary expenditures at least five business days prior to incurring these extraordinary expenditures and account to the court for all extraordinary expenditures made after these restraining orders are effective. You may, however, you may use community property, quasi-community property, or your own separate property to pay an attorney to help you or to pay court costs.
  6. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, within 30 days of being served with the Petition for Dissolution, you must file and serve a formal Response to the Petition. If you fail to timely file and serve your Response, your spouse can move for Default, thereby obtaining a significant tactical advantage in the dissolution and possibly terminate your rights otherwise preserved under the Family Code.

Our office is located in Valencia, serving communities in the Santa Clarita Valley, San Fernando Valley, and Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. If you have any questions regarding divorce, spousal support, child support, or questions specific to being served with a Petition for Dissolution, please call Eric Martinelli with the Martinelli Law Group for a free consultation.