On March 1st, the County of San Diego launched a One Day Divorce Program in the San Diego County Superior Court. The program is intended to streamline the divorce process for couples who are unrepresented by legal counsel and do not have any contested issues to resolve in their divorce.

In order to participate in the program, both parties must represent themselves in the process without legal counsel, and the parties must have reached agreement on all the orders that will be included in the judgment, such as the division of community property and debts, the payment or nonpayment of spousal support, provision for child support and a child custody parenting plan. One party must still file a petition for dissolution of marriage with the court and serve it on the other spouse, as in the regular divorce process.

The name of the program may be a little misleading, since at least six months must have passed since the divorce petition was filed before the spouses may participate in the program, assuming they qualify. Participation in the program means that once you are ready to finalize your divorce, you appear at the courthouse to meet with a family law expert and go over the terms of the proposed agreement and complete all necessary forms. The parties can then get their divorce finalized with a final judgment in court later that same day.

The One Day Divorce Program should prove beneficial to the San Diego court system, which like other California courts has been hampered by budget cuts in recent years and has difficulty handling its caseload in a timely fashion. For the litigants themselves, this process may be useful for couples who truly have no contested issues, or where the filing spouse is to receive a default judgment because the other spouse failed to respond to the petition. It is very important, however, for both parties to go into the process with their eyes wide open. It is easy for persons who are unrepresented by legal counsel to not fully understand their rights in a divorce to property, custody and support, so that one or both parties could wind up giving away valuable rights that they later regret.