Starting a Divorce



If you’re wondering how to tell your spouse you want a divorce, take a step back and focus on this one question. Plan a strategy to begin the process successfully. However, before you move forward, consider exploring the possibility of reconciliation if either you or your spouse have doubts about ending the marriage. It can be a tough choice to make, but it’s worth considering. If reconciliation is your goal, make sure to have a clear and well-thought-out plan so that you have the best chance of success.

A reconciliation plan details what commitments you and your spouse will put towards reconciling. Consider working with a marriage therapist to create a plan for you. With the help of your therapist, you and your spouse can set clear boundaries and goals about what it will take to reconcile and what will happen during that time. You and your spouse might agree to alternate between individual and couples counseling every week for six months.

During that time, you will continue to live together and follow the behavioral goals that you established in counseling. A goal might be to arrive on time for dinner. Another might be that all family-related decisions will be made jointly or to speak with each other with respect.

If the time you dedicated to reconciliation has not worked, you can revisit the decision to divorce. You will do better knowing you have given your marriage and family the time and energy they deserve.

Talking with Your Spouse I want a divorce:

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When reconciliation isn’t possible, divorce may be the only choice. It’s not an easy choice, and for some, it wasn’t their choice at all. In California, it only requires one person to want a divorce. If you don’t want a divorce, even if it is for religious or moral reasons, you still need to participate in the process if your spouse decides to go forward. Otherwise, you risk losing a number of legal rights because your spouse can complete the divorce without you

If you are the one initiating the divorce, your first step is to tell your spouse. For the majority, the person initiating the divorce does better when he or she tells her spouse about the divorce before filing the papers. This allows you to gain a tremendous amount of goodwill and set a cooperative tone for your divorce, which will help you finish quickly and avoid a costly court battle.

You do not need to surprise your spouse with the divorce papers. This will typically hurt your case. I’ve litigated a number of cases where the divorce talk was not handled correctly and it fueled years of expensive litigation. Without a meaningful conversation about the divorce, your spouse is more likely to interpret your divorce papers as a statement that you are not going to cooperate or be amicable. Upset, your spouse may retaliate and you can lose any chance you had to negotiate. 

There is a small percentage of cases where telling your spouse first might cause you actual harm. These include situations where there is domestic violence, whether physical or verbal, or financial abuse. There are also times a spouse may need to file first because the divorce filing will be part of a drug or alcohol intervention. Or you may need to file because it affects your immigration status in the US. In these cases, you may need to file first before discussing it with your spouse.

6 Steps of How to Speak with Your Children about Divorce:

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After you and your spouse have had the divorce talk, you need to decide when you will speak with your children. Some of my parents have told me that their children just know, but they have not spoken directly with their children about the divorce. Others are overwhelmed just thinking about it. They worry they won’t do it right; they’ll traumatize their children; or feel the timing is never quite right. These are all valid feelings, but it’s important to have this conversation with your kids. They need to hear it from you and be reassured that everything is going to be okay. And remember, this doesn’t have to be your only conversation with them.

Before you have the conversation with your kids, discuss with each other how you will each participate in the conversation. Make sure you both are clear about when and where the conversation will happen so that you are both emotionally and mentally prepared. 

This talk can be daunting but try not to stress over it. You can be so worried about hurting your children that you overthink it. Again, it won’t be your only opportunity, just the first of many conversations. You love your children. Just let that shine through:

  • •Talk to them together 
  • Be Age Appropriate 
  • Be Honest 
  • Expressing Love to Children:
  • Striving for a Lasting Agreement
  • Managing Pressure in Divorce Discussions

Be Age Appropriate:

First, your talk also needs to be age appropriate. The kind of details you share depends on your child’s age. The younger your child, the simpler the conversation. For young kids, the conversation should also happen around the same time there will be changes, like when you or the kids are going to move. For the youngest kids, one week can feel like an eternity so telling them a month in advance doesn’t help. If you have an age gap between your children, you may need to have a separate conversation with your older children. With older children, you can discuss more details about the divorce but steer clear from blaming each other.

Talk to them together:

When you do tell your children about the divorce, it’s often best that you do it together. Although you are talking to them about separating, seeing you together is comforting. It says, “We are still your parents.” “We can still sit together and have important conversations with you.” It shows that you are still in control and can create a safe place for them. Choose language that shows you support each other, showing them that you can continue to parent them together after the divorce. What you say in your talk matters.

Be Honest:

Second, be honest. Tell your children the truth. You are getting a divorce. They need to hear it from you. Acknowledge that it’s a difficult situation. If you cry, that’s okay, but don’t lose control. Your kids need to know they can express their emotions too, but they don’t need to take care of you. If you can, share good things about each other. Let you children know they can come back and discuss the divorce with you, and you want them to share with you what they need from you to make it easier on them.

Expressing Love to Children:

After that, the most Important thing is to tell your children that you love them. They cannot hear it enough. Remind them that even if you are splitting up, they are loved and the divorce is not their fault. There is nothing they could have done to stop it from happening. 

As you speak with your children, watch them for cues. Give them an opportunity to share their concerns, and listen carefully before responding. 

Striving for a Lasting Agreement

Your goal is not only to reach an agreement, but a lasting one. If you rush, you will have less time to understand your agreements or include important details, greatly increasing the chances of having disagreements in the future.

Later, when there’s a conflict, you might realize your agreement does not say what you believed it to say. Instead of rushing, take time to understand the law, these lessons, and how it applies to you before you try and resolve your divorce. You’ll do yourself, and your spouse, a big favor. 

Please reach out to us! We have the tools to help you succeed and can get you started in the best possible way.

Managing Pressure in Divorce Discussions

Once you have discussed the divorce with your spouse and kids, you may feel pressure to resolve your divorce quickly. Some couples can have productive conversations with each other to work out their divorce; but, more often, I see couples who come to me with prearranged agreements that end up having real problems. As we start talking, we realize at least one of them didn’t understand the agreement or the law. If one of them asks for changes, the other stops trusting, thinking an agreement will never be followed.

This makes it harder for them to revise their agreement after they have been educated on the agreement or the law.

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At TheCompleteDivorce, we provide you with what you need to successfully do your California divorce on your own. We provide all the required family law court forms in our automated forms program, all the video tutorials, and an automated customizable Marital Settlement Agreement (Divorce Agreement). If you need more help, you can get our package which includes time with a divorce mediator.

Starting a Divorce

How to get a cheap divorce in California without lawyer


There are four steps to obtaining a divorce in California. All of these you can conveniently handle through our program, The Complete Divorce.

Let’s get started in four Steps:

  1. File for divorce,
  2. Disclose your financials to your spouse,
  3. Settle your divorce issues – the division of property and debts, spousal support, and if you have children, child custody and child support; and
  4. Get a divorce judgment.
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Ca Divorce Process:

Let’s discuss how you start a legal divorce in California.

Step One: Starting your Divorce

You start your divorce by filing a petition in the family court in your county. I discuss the steps to completing these initial court papers in more detail in “Starting a Divorce,” in our video tutorials.

Ways To Terminate Your Marriage:

In your petition, you’ll select how you’ll terminate your marriage. In California, there are three ways:

annulment, dissolution of marriage, or legal separation.

  • Annulments are strictly reserved for marriages that fall under legally accepted reasons, such as incest, bigamy, or underage marriage. Religious reasons do not qualify.
  • A dissolution of marriage or as we know it, divorce, is the most common way. There are two legal grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences and permanent legal incapacity to make decisions. Irreconcilable differences are the most common ground and probably apply to 99% of all cases.
  • The third way to end your marriage is a legal separation. Legal separation requires a court filing and has the same steps as a divorce. But unlike a divorce, you’ll still be married when you finish. You do not need to file for a legal separation before you file for a divorce and you are not considered legally separated if you live separately from your spouse. If you are filing for a legal separation, follow the same process as divorce.

Residency Requirement:

Except for legal separation, in order to file for divorce in California, at least one of you needs to be a resident of California for the last six months and in your county for the last three months. If you have children, your children must also have lived in California for the last six months for the court to have the authority to make child custody orders in your case.

Step Two: Exchanging Financials

The second step is to disclose all financial information to

your spouse. Part of that disclosure will be completing the Declaration of Disclosure and exchanging them with their spouse at the start of your case and then again at the end, unless and exception applies.

If you fail to complete these forms, you cannot finish your divorce and the court can penalize you for leaving something off your forms.

Step Three: Negotiate an Agreement

After you have completed at least your first set of disclosures, the third step is to resolve your divorce issues; division of assets and debts, child custody, and child and spousal support.

Your best option here is to negotiate an agreement with your spouse, instead of going to court. In our video tutorials, I go over each of these issues, assets and debts, child custody, child support, and spousal support, in detail.

Step Four: Final Agreement

Once you have successfully negotiated an agreement, you are ready to submit your agreement to the court to obtain a divorce judgment, the last step. If your spouse has refused to participate, instead of an agreement, you’ll submit a proposed order.

At this point, if you haven’t reached an agreement, you have the option to proceed to trial to resolve those issues. Based on the evidence you present, the judge will decide the unresolved issues and those decisions will become your divorce judgment.

I explain these differences and how to submit your agreement in our video tutorial, “Final Agreements

Work through these steps with your spouse and you’ll save time, money and avoid court. If your spouse isn’t involved, your spouse might doubt the agreement is in their interests, and at the end, your spouse won’t sign. If that happens, you might have to start over. You can also reach out to us at TheCompleteDivorce. Check out our packages that include time with our expert CA divorce mediators.

Now, it’s crucial that you watch these courses in order before you start. In each lesson, I go over each of these steps in detail, breaking down the law and how to complete these steps successfully. If you go out of turn, rush, or skip material, you risk missing out on information you need to finish correctly. Remember, these lessons contain more than enough information to complete your divorce.

But, it’s not legal advice. I also cannot go into every legal scenario or exception in these lessons. Some divorce situations are complicated. It could be the law as applied to your case or your specific situation. If you run into a complicated scenario or need help, reach out to us. The extra help will be well worth it.

Before you go, consider if we can help you. We have helped thousands of couples in California. Our guided DIY divorce is successful and cheap! Our services are all 5-star!

Starting a Divorce

Successful Strategies for Divorcing a Narcissist: 5 Winning Tips

Successful Strategies FOR Divorcing a Narcissist

Divorce is not an easy process, especially when divorcing a narcissist, so therefore when one or both parties involved display narcissistic tendencies, the process can become even more challenging. Working with a spouse who exhibits such behavior during divorce mediation requires careful navigation and strategic approaches. The unique dynamics of divorcing a narcissist call for specific strategies to help you navigate this difficult situation.

Understanding Narcissism: 

Narcissism is a personality trait characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance, a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward others. When divorcing a narcissistic spouse, it is important to recognize their manipulative tactics, emotional manipulation, and self-centered behaviors that can impact the mediation process.

Choosing the Right Mediator and Relying on Professional Counsel: 

Working with a mediator who is experienced in dealing with high-conflict personalities, such as narcissists, is essential. Look for a mediator who understands the different dynamics involved and can maintain control of the sessions, ensuring a fair and balanced process. Their expertise in managing power imbalances and facilitating communication can be invaluable. To counteract the narcissist’s attempts to manipulate the negotiation process, rely on objective criteria and seek advice from professionals. Consult with a family law attorney who understands narcissistic behavior and can help you evaluate options and make informed decisions based on legal guidelines rather than emotional manipulation.

5 winning Strategies for Divorcing a Narcissist

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1-Prepare Thoroughly: 

Before entering mediation, gather as much documentation and evidence as possible to support your case. Narcissists often distort facts and manipulate situations, so having solid evidence can help counter any false narratives. Document instances of abuse, financial impropriety, or any other relevant information that may affect the divorce settlement

2-Set Clear Boundaries:

Narcissists thrive on power and control, hence, it is crucial to establish firm boundaries and ensure they are kept during mediation. Articulate your expectations for respectful behavior and firmly assert your rights. Stay focused on the issues at hand and avoid getting drawn into their attempts to divert attention or provoke emotional reactions.

3-Stay Calm and Emotionally Detached: 

Narcissists excel at pushing buttons and provoking emotional reactions. During mediation, maintain emotional composure and detach yourself from their attempts to engage you in their drama. Focus on the facts, stay objective, and rely on your legal counsel and mediator for guidance.

4-Consider Parallel Parenting:

If you have children with a narcissistic spouse, it may be necessary to explore the concept of parallel parenting. Parallel parenting involves disengaging from direct communication with the narcissistic parent and creating a clear and structured parenting plan. This approach helps minimize conflict and provides a stable environment for your children.

5-Self-Care and Support:

Dealing with a narcissistic spouse can be emotionally draining. It’s crucial to prioritize self-care and seek support during the divorce process. Lean on trusted friends, family, or support groups who can offer a listening ear, practical advice, and emotional encouragement. Therapy can also provide valuable tools for coping with the challenges of divorcing a narcissist.

Remember, while divorce mediation with a narcissistic spouse presents unique challenges, it is possible to navigate the process successfully. Prioritize your well-being, seek support, and rely on experienced professionals to help you protect your rights and reach a fair settlement. By staying focused, setting boundaries, and maintaining emotional detachment, you can empower yourself to move forward with confidence and create a better future post-divorce.

At The Complete Divorce, we provide you with what you need to successfully do your California divorce on your own. We provide all the required family law court forms in our automated forms program, all the video tutorials, and an automated customizable Marital Settlement Agreement (Divorce Agreement). If you need more help, you can get our package which includes time with a divorce mediator. 

Before you go, consider if we can help you. We have helped thousands of couples in California. Our guided DIY divorce is successful and cheap! Our services are all 5-star!

Starting a Divorce

Is Divorce Mediation Legally Binding? 4 benefits of Divorce Mediation Agreements

Is divorce mediation legally binding?

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Divorce is challenging. It’s a very personal and private matter thrown into a very legal process. To stay in control of your divorce, divorce mediation is a terrific option compared to traditional litigation. Divorce mediation offers a collaborative approach that allows couples to work together with a neutral third party to reach agreements on various aspects of their divorce. Divorce mediation agreements are legally binding and often far better than any agreement you could get in court. They are more detailed and the couple was in control of the agreements, not a judge or lawyer.

The most important part of your divorce is to stay in control of your process. Mediation allows you to do this. First, divorce mediation is voluntary. You and your spouse participate because you both are interested in reaching an agreement. You might not agree yet on those agreements, but you share the goal to not litigate and work it out. 

In California, you can work with a divorce attorney as a mediator or a non-attorney mediator. When you work with a divorce attorney-mediator, your mediator can also file the documents for you, prepare the filings, and help you with support calculations. An either trained mediator will also help you negotiate and resolve issues related to your divorce. The mediator acts as a facilitator, helping you and your spouse communicate effectively, explore options, and reach mutually acceptable agreements. Unlike litigation, where a judge makes the decisions, divorce mediation allows the couple to make their own decisions. 

Legal Nature of Divorce Mediation: 

The agreements reached in mediation are legally binding when filed with the court to become a court order. At Families First Mediation, we prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement, which contains your agreements on all the divorce topics, including asset division, child custody, child support and spousal support. We then file this with the court on your behalf, and it becomes your Divorce Judgment, a legally binding court order.

Court Approval and Enforceability: 

The court reviews the Marital Settlement Agreement and the Divorce Judgment package to make sure it complies with legal rules and procedures. The court does not assess or weigh your agreements. In other words, the court doesn’t decide if your agreements are good or bad. You have the right to reach agreements you believe are correct for you and your family. However, that means you need to be responsible in your negotiations. You want to fully participate in the mediation and make sure you understand the benefits and potential problems of the agreements you make with your spouse. The mediator should work with you on these points. 

4 Benefits of Legally Binding Divorce Mediation Agreements:

  1. Flexibility and Customization: Mediation allows couples to tailor their agreements to their unique circumstances, giving them more flexibility compared to court-imposed decisions.
  2. Cost and Time Savings: Mediation is often more cost-effective and faster than litigation, as it avoids lengthy court processes.
  3. Reduced Conflict: Mediation promotes open communication and collaboration, potentially reducing the acrimony and hostility that can arise from adversarial litigation.
  4. Better Co-Parenting Relationships: By working together during mediation, couples can establish a cooperative foundation for future co-parenting, prioritizing the best interests of their children.

At Families First Mediation:

At ffmediation, we work with you to weigh the benefits of the agreements both in short-term and long-term views. This is very important given the court will approve your agreements. Then, if there is a conflict in the future, the court will enforce your agreement. This means that failure to comply with the terms outlined in the agreement can lead to legal consequences. Mediation gives you that flexibility and power, but again, it means you need to be responsible and an active participant in your mediation. That kind of control and power of your personal life is huge compared to a very impersonal and complicated legal process.

California protects parties when it comes to mediation. Your mediation is confidential and the mediator has immunity. This is great for you when it comes to exploring various options prior to reaching an agreement. This also means whatever happens in the mediation will stay in the mediation, except for your final agreement, in our case, the Marital Settlement Agreement, once it is filed with the court. 

At Families First Mediation, we strive to create quality long-lasting agreements that are fully enforceable, legally binding, and ones that our parties understand. If you are looking for divorce mediation, set up your free consultation with our office today. We would love to see how we can help you.