Divorce in California

Divorce in California | How to Get a Divorce & Process (Guide) 2024

In California, there are specific residence criteria and protocols when applying for a separation. Find more about the no-fault dissolution process, reasons for dissolution, division of community property, alimony, and child custody and child support.

The divorce process is known as the dissolution of marriage in California. Any married couple who files for divorce will achieve two goals: ending their marriage and distributing their assets and debts.

The topic of alimony may come up if they have been married for a significant amount of time, and one of them will be unable to support himself. There will be child custody, visitation, and support concerns to be resolved if there are minor children.

Divorce in California can be a complicated maze of formalities, regulations, paperwork, and legalese. It’s simple to become lost in the detours of this supposedly never-ending procedure. Knowing your destination can help you feel more at ease and be better able to decide what is best for you and your kids.

Make sure that you meet California’s divorce residency requirement.

You must first confirm that you are qualified for a divorce in California before beginning the actual divorce procedure.

Parents Name
Wages & Income
Non-Custodial Parent
Custodial Parent

You will therefore need to fulfill the state residency criteria. According to California law, at least one member of the marriage must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to applying for divorce in order to be eligible for a California divorce. Additionally, one spouse must have spent a minimum of three months residing in the county where the court filing was made.

If you want to end a domestic partnership, you must follow the same residency requirements. In actuality, when severing ties with a domestic partner, most divorce laws are relevant; you’ll just require slightly different documentation.

If your divorce addresses any custody-related concerns, such as a parenting or visitation schedule, there are further obligations if you have minor children. Typically, the affected children must have lived in the state with a parent figure for the six months prior to the filing date (or, in the case of any kid who is younger than six months old, since birth). If the six-month threshold has not been met, you should consult with an expert family lawyer to see whether you may be eligible for one of the complex legal exceptions.

How To File For Divorce In California

You’ll need to locate some basic forms and fill them out before you can start the filing procedure. The forms are available for download on the California Courts website. The website offers directions for each form as well as details on the legal divorce process. You should review each of these instructions as you go through the California divorce process.

The same fundamental set of divorce forms is used by all of California’s courts. Typically, there will be two types of divorce paperwork: one for the petitioners (the spouse who filed the initial divorce application) and one for the adversary (the other spouse).

If you are the petitioners and the divorce procedure is only getting started:

  • The Petition—Marriage (Family Law Form FL-100) and the Summons must be downloaded and completed (FL-110). Use the extra Property Declaration if you require additional space to disclose your property and obligations than is offered on the basic petition (FL-160).
  • If you share children under the age of 18 with your spouse, you must additionally file the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (FL-105/GC-120).

Include the optional Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (FL-311), which provides extra details on parenting arrangements and other topics.

If the applicant has provided the defendant with the preliminary divorce proceedings and you are the defendant:

  • According to how you want to give your statement to the petitioner, complete the Response—Marriage (FL-120) and either the Proof of Personal Service (FL-330) or the Proof of Service by Mail (FL-335).
  • Fill out the Declaration Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (FL-105/GC-120) if you share custody of children under the age of 18 with the petitioner. The Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment is an option as well (FL-311).

You and your partner will be eligible to process a combined petition (rather than a distinct complaint and response) along with your proposed settlement and the necessary declarations if you are eligible for a summary divorce (more on that below).

Along with the state-wide documents, you might also need to fill out paperwork specific to your area. If you’re unsure which forms to use, contact your local court clerk or go to one of the California legal self-help centers.

You can get a fair idea of what to expect when you visit the website and divorce forms index of your county court by visiting the Los Angeles Superior Court. It offers links to all the regional paperwork that judges in Los Angeles County will require you to file in addition to the fundamental, state-wide paperwork for California.

Completing the California Divorce Forms

The California Courts website has a number of fillable divorce forms that you can print after filling out on your computer (without even any software installation). When completing the paperwork, be exact and comprehensive. Getting it wrong could result in your application being rejected or other issues in the future. Check which forms need to be notarized as well. In that scenario, wait to sign them until you’re in the presence of a notary.

You can ask the family law facilitator or self-help center in your county to review the documents to make sure you’ve filled them out correctly.  Create two copies of the paperwork, one for your spouse and the other for your records.

Filing Your Forms

When you’re prepared, go to your neighborhood courthouse and request that the paperwork be filed. (To make sure you’re filing in the correct county, take this online questionnaire.)

A filing fee must be included with the preliminary paperwork. (A dissolution petition costs $435 as of 2022.) Nevertheless, if you are unable to pay, you may submit a Request to Waive Court Fees to request a fee waiver (Form FW-001). Remember that you can be asked for specific financial facts to show the court that you are eligible for the waiver.

Your paperwork will be stamped by the court clerk, and copies will be sent back.

Serving Your Spouse

You must serve your spouse with your petition and other paperwork, which is known as “service of process,” unless you and your spouse jointly filed a petition for summary dissolution. In the American legal system, the service of process is essential since it makes sure that everyone is aware of what is happening and has the chance to show up in court and present their case.

You cannot simply hand your spouse the divorce papers to serve them as the petitioner. As a substitute, you usually make arrangements to have the papers personally served by a county sheriff, professional process server, or another competent adult who is not a party to the case.

The FL-117 Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt must be completed by your spouse and returned to you in order for you to fill it with the court. If you believe your partner will cooperate, you can use the service by mail instead.

Make sure you serve copies of everything you filed with the court, including the blank answer form and the blank Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody and Jurisdiction Enforcement Act form. Once service has been performed, a proof of service of summons (FL-115) must be completed and submitted to the court.

If you’re going to assist someone who is difficult to find, in the military, or in jail, different rules can apply. For further information on these peculiar circumstances, contact the court clerk.

Filing the Response Papers

In general, you have 30 days to file your statement with the court if you are the responder in a California divorce. Additionally, you’ll need to pay a filing fee, deliver the answer forms to your spouse, and provide proof of service to the court.

You may be able to avoid submitting a petition and obtain a California default divorce with a written agreement if you and your partner have a signed and notarized legal settlement. If you don’t respond to your parent’s request for a unilateral divorce without an understanding, you should both carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks of doing so.

Reaching a Deal

You will know that both will be participating in settling the aforementioned concerns of child custody, child and spouse maintenance, and how community property should be divided, provided that the defendant has escaped default judgment. You obviously know that you really can accomplish this on your own, with the help of a divorce mediator, an attorney, or with the assistance of an online divorce platform.

However, there is still one more option for negotiating that you might not be familiar with: collaborative divorce.

In a collaborative divorce, you and your spouse each retain an attorney and a mental health specialist to act as your respective divorce coaches and personal advocates.

Additionally, the two of you will collaborate with a variety of additional experts, frequently a child advocate, a financial counselor, or even an estate agent. Your squad will be assembled, taking into account your family’s particular requirements.

Collaborative divorce is typically far more costly than mediation, do-it-yourself, or internet divorce because it necessitates such a wide range of professions. However, because the procedure is set up to encourage cooperation and result in a prompt conclusion, it is frequently less expensive than litigation.

 Obtaining a Final Judgment

You are prepared to complete your divorce now that both you and your partner have separated your lives (either via negotiation or a judge’s decision).

A judge will verify that all prior divorce paperwork has been submitted correctly. She will also check your plan to make sure it doesn’t seem forceful if your divorce settlement was agreed between you two.

You will then be issued a final divorce judgment if all goes according to plan (alternatively known as a divorce decree). Congratulations! You successfully completed this complicated task.

Grounds for Divorce In California

To obtain a divorce and end the marriage partnership, there must be grounds. California offers a foundation for dissolution that is referred to as being without blame. The following sentence needs to be included in the petition: “The parties have irreconcilable disagreements which have resulted in the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” The spouse’s “incurable insanity” is the only alternative reason for the breakup.

Property Division in California

California has adopted the idea of communal property, which recognizes that assets acquired and debts incurred throughout a marriage are considered marital estate when splitting assets and debts. In general, non-marital assets are kept by each party, and marital assets are split equally.

According to California law, the court is not required to take any specific factors into account while dividing property. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement over the division of assets and debt, the court may impose mediation.

Things To Be Done Before Filing For Divorce

It’s wise to prepare for your divorce at all times. Here are some actions we advise you to do before filing:

Copy Important Paperwork.

The following papers should be located and copies made of: tax returns, bank account statements, retirement account statements, statements from life insurance, mortgages, vehicle insurance, credit card statements, and pay stubs.

It’s a terrific idea to create a digital copy of these documents and store them in the cloud using a new random password-protected file. You might want to think about making copies of sentimental items like family photos, home films, and other documents when it comes to monetary ones.

Take personal items away.

Collect your passport, birth certificate, Social Security card, details from your health insurance, and other personal papers. You should transfer these valuables to a secure location. These private papers frequently get mixed up in families, and it is simple for them to go missing when one or both partners leave the family residence.

Alter your passwords.

Change all of the passwords to your personal accounts to maintain your privacy. This includes the passwords for your iCloud, social media, email, and computer accounts. Keeping in mind that your partner likely knows you better than anyone else in the world, make absolutely sure you use a password that they cannot decipher.

List the household goods.

Take a video using your phone of the items in your home. As you record, slowly make your way through each area and characterize the contents. Keep in mind the items you have stored in your household safe.

Credit Protection and Access.

Checking your credit is essential before starting the divorce proceedings. To effectively plan your financial future, you must be aware of all of your debts and the details of your credit report. To have access to medical money, you could choose to obtain a new credit card in your name only, if at all feasible.

Should I inform my partner that I’m considering divorce?

An already arduous process typically gets off to a bad start when you surprise your partner with divorce papers. It’s only normal to want to avoid having this difficult talk and avoid seeing your spouse’s expression when you deliver the news as it combines sadness, rage, and despair. Most of the time, being empathetic and honoring the relationship you had with your spouse by telling them that your marriage is ending is the best course of action.

Decide when it will be best to tell your partner. Make absolutely sure neither the kids nor anybody else will interrupt you. Take into account how your spouse might prefer to receive the news.

Allow your partner to grieve while remaining firm yet sympathetic. Keep in mind that you’ve had time to consider your choice and that your spouse will likely be experiencing different emotions than you. You cannot hasten the mourning period, so exercise patience and allow your spouse to adjust to the divorce.

Avoid getting into a fight; this is not the time to point fingers, level accusations, or go over the past. It’s simple to defend yourself or respond if your partner verbally abuses you. Don’t interrupt when listening calmly. Reassure your spouse that even though the marriage is finished, your relationship is still going strong by trying to actively listen to what they are saying.

Whenever you choose to tell your partner about the divorce, get competent advice and help, whether there was a history of domestic violence, you are concerned for your safety or the protection of your children, or you think your spouse may hurt themselves.

Also, check out Grandparent’s rights in California.

How should I explain the divorce to our children?

Your children will never forget the day they found out you and their other parents were divorcing. For suggestions on how to convey this knowledge to your children in an age-appropriate way, it’s a good idea to speak with a child therapist. To convey a sense of oneness, you and your spouse ought to, if at all feasible, inform the kids jointly.

Guarantee the children of your love for them, that the divorce is not their fault, and that it’s acceptable for them to feel sad or angry. Children require ongoing parental involvement from both parents. Don’t use your kids as messengers, don’t make them choose sides, and don’t include them in your fights. Let them enjoy their relationship with the other parent.

Half of you and half of the other parents make up your offspring. Your children are being criticized and insulted every time you make negative comments about the other parent. Keep your love for your children above your anger at the other parent.

Make sure that via your actions, you and your partner offer stability and consistency. Children frequently ask the same questions of both parents, which can be perplexing if they are given inconsistent answers. Keep in constant contact with the other parent and maintain your unity after divorce in California.


What is the first step in filing for divorce in California?

The first step in filing for divorce in California is to meet California’s divorce residency requirements.

How long does it take to get a divorce if both parties agree in California?

Even if both parties consent to the split right away, the entire divorce procedure in the Golden State might take at least six months. Due to California’s divorce laws and the six-month waiting period, this period of time is necessary. For further details, get in touch with a San Jose divorce lawyer.

How much does it cost to file for divorce in California?

In California, a divorce must be filed for $435. Your spouse will also be required to pay $435 if they choose to address your complaint. Additionally, keep in mind that charges might increase as the case develops. You have the choice to request a fee waiver if you are unable to pay these expenses.

What is the fastest way to get a divorce in California?

Selecting a summary dissolution is one method for obtaining a divorce more quickly. You must be under five years married, have no children together, have little joint debts and assets, and both of you must agree to forego spousal support in order to qualify. Your divorce also needs to be uncontested.

Is it better to be the first to file for divorce in California?

Being the Petitioner or the Respondent truly has no advantage while a divorce case is pending. Because California is a no-fault divorce state, most legal experts think that filing first has a minimal legal benefit because the court doesn’t actually care.

Can I file for divorce on my own in California?

If you and your husband have a legal settlement and your case is straightforward, you can likely handle filing for divorce on your own. The least expensive way to dissolve your marriage is with a do-it-yourself divorce.

How long do you have to be separated before you can file for divorce in California?

There is no waiting period needed in California before requesting a divorce. However, the court must wait six months before approving your divorce. This is due to California’s requirement that you wait six months after filing for divorce before a judge can declare your separation to be final.

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