Cart 0

Filing for Divorce in California

Every day, thousands of married people in California ask themselves: should I stay or get a divorce? When a couple's difficulties grow so large that they can't be solved, divorce can be the best way to move forward so both people enjoy their next chapter. But it's no easy decision or process. 

Filing for divorce involves lots of paperwork, and skipping even one form can mean halting the process or needing to revisit it later. But don't be intimidated – following the process step by step can get you what you want in a time-efficient manner. 

Are you eligible to file in California?

California courts can only intervene in cases that originate from a party within their jurisdiction. Residency requirements ensure that they handle the right cases. 

To file in California, only one of you must meet these requirements:

  • A resident of California for the prior 6 months
  • A resident of the county in California in which you’re filing for the prior 3 months 

If neither of you meets these requirements, you can’t file quite yet. You must wait until you do meet these rules. 

Will your partner collaborate?

In a collaborative divorce, both spouses or partners agree to work together to split their assets and debts and determine the final "rules" for ending their marriage. They don't need to do the work alone. 

Collaborative law involves spouses who get legal help from trained lawyers, mediators, or other advisors (including those in the Hello Divorce family) who help couples to negotiate. Each party meets separately with their own legal helper, and then these individuals meet with one another to hammer out the details. 

Both parties must agree that they will not go to court. They agree to work openly and honestly with one another during the collaboration to come to terms. 

If everything goes wrong with a collaborative divorce, both parties can (a) Start over or (b) Go to court and settle things there. They will need to hire new legal assistance, though. 

Can an outsider help you collaborate?

Going to court to solve divorce conflicts is a common practice, but it's not the only way to end your marriage and is far from the best. People who "lawyer up" rarely get a fair outcome. Sometimes, you can work with a professional mediator, counselor, CDFA, or divorce coach and avoid the courtroom. If you use one of these services and resolve issues, you can file for an uncontested divorce, sign paperwork, and skip the courtroom. 

Mediation 

During mediation, a trained professional helps couples reach agreements they can both accept. While mediators can't make decisions for you, they can help you come to terms with your partner, even on tricky conditions that seem impossible to resolve. 

Some couples use a mediator to help them move through the whole divorce. Other spouses pick an issue or two they can't figure out alone and use mediators to resolve those issues only.

A mediator could help you push through problems to end your marriage with an uncontested divorce

Lawyers

Many couples think about lawyers and long divorce cases. In reality, a lawyer could work just like a mediator and untangle a few sticky points for couples. 

You and your partner could both hire lawyers. You could work alone with your lawyer, and your partner could do the same. Then, your lawyers can come together and advocate on your behalf.

You must sign all agreements, and you don't have to accept anything your lawyer recommends. But this process could help you move closer to an uncontested divorce without spending time in a courtroom. 

What if you can't come together?

In a contested divorce, couples agree that they can't come to an agreement and want a court's help. 

Most divorcing couples need lawyers to help them through a contested divorce. A legal professional can do the following:

  • Give you advice 
  • Help you gather evidence
  • Prepare witnesses for your case
  • Advise you if it's time to settle 

Some spouses begin the trial process, come to an agreement, and avoid court altogether. But others must go through the entire court process to end their marriages. 

Watch: How to Get a Divorce in California

 

Steps for filing for divorce

California courts require a lot of paperwork before couples can either begin or end the divorce process. These forms help officials understand what couples want to do with their estates and their futures. 

You can't skip even one form, and you must follow each step properly. If you get confused or lost, remember you can ask a lawyer or legal expert for help. 

Complete paperwork 

One spouse starts the divorce by completing forms. They include the following:

  • Petition: Marriage/Domestic Partnership (FL-100
  • Summons: Family Law (FL-110
  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (FL-105) (skip this form if you don't have children younger than 18)

Make two copies of each form, and bundle them together for the next step. 

File your divorce papers with the court

Find a courthouse in your county that accepts divorce papers. Not all of them do, but one in your area should help you with your process. 

Bring all of your forms to this courthouse in person. Give your papers to the clerk, and pay a $435 to $450 filing fee. The clerk will give you two copies back. One is for your files, and the other is for the next step. 

Serve your partner 

Your partner needs one copy of your paperwork, along with a blank version of the Marriage/Domestic Partnership (FL-120) form.

Someone (not you) who is older than 18 must give these documents to your partner. When that step is complete, your server should fill out a Service of Summons (FL-115) form and give it back to you.

Make two copies of this form, and bring them to the court handling your case. The clerk will keep one, and the other is for your files. 

Understand financial disclosures 

You're required to make a formal assessment of your finances, including what you own and owe, and you must share that information within 60 days of filing for divorce

Fill out three forms:

  1.  Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140)
  2.  Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)
  3.  Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142) or Property Declaration (Fl-160

Ask someone 18 or older to mail copies of these documents to your spouse. Fill out a Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (FL-141), and make two copies of it. Bring those copies to the courthouse and file them. With this step, you prove you've served financial documents to your partner. 

At the end of this step, you've finished filing for divorce. Now, you're ready to move forward with making decisions, reaching an agreement, and legally ending your marriage.

References

Divorce in California. Judicial Branch of California. 
Resolve Your Divorce or Separation Out of Court. Judicial Branch of California. 
What to Know About a Divorce Trial. Judicial Branch of California. 
Start Your Divorce Case. Judicial Branch of California. 
File Your Divorce Petition and Summons. Judicial Branch of California. 
Serve Your Divorce Papers. Judicial Branch of California. 
Gather and Share Financial Information. Judicial Branch of California.