While the overall divorce process in most states is quite similar, several states have an additional step. California is one of these states. In California, a couple's divorce is not finalized at the last hearing as it is in many other states. Instead, the divorce enters an interlocutory judgment for a specific period of time.
While many states have a waiting period during which couples must wait between the filing date and the finalization date, these states grant a finalized divorce at the last hearing. However, in California, couples must wait an additional period of time beyond the final hearing. Couples have up to six months after their final hearing to change their mind and remain married. If they do not change their mind at the end of the six months, a final divorce decree is entered.
It is important for a couple to recognize that one or both of them must file for interlocutory judgment to be entered as a finalized divorce at the end of the six-month period. Some people mistakenly think that a divorce is automatically finalized upon completion of the waiting period; however, this is not the case. Someone must request that the divorce be finalized or the couple remains married in the eyes of the law. This sometimes results in ineligible marriages when one person remarries without a finalized decree.
During Interlocutory Judgment
Because the couple is still considered married during the period of an interlocutory judgment, they can still reap some of the benefits of marriage. For instance, if one person passes away during this time frame, the spouse can inherit the estate of the deceased. However, the separation agreement entered at the interlocutory hearing can address these situations and prevent one spouse from inheriting from the other during the interlocutory period. Without this issue addressed in the agreement, though, the spouses are still treated as legally married.
Making a couple wait six months after the final divorce hearing in California seems like an unusual practice because, if the couple has reached this point, they likely will not reconcile. However, the main purpose of the interlocutory judgment is to give the couple time to reconsider their divorce and remain married if they choose. But, opponents of the interlocutory period feel the law simply slows down the process and is unnecessary. In fact, a couple can actually remarry each other more easily than they can stop the interlocutory process.