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Quickest, Cheapest Way to Divorce: Summary Dissolution

Divorce is emotional. Divorce is time-consuming. Divorce is costly. With summary dissolution, however, it doesn’t have to be any of those things. Let’s dive in.

What is a summary dissolution, and who can get one?

Summary dissolution is still a divorce; it just doesn’t take as long or cost as much as a “traditional” divorce. If you have no kids, your marriage was short, and you don’t have many assets or debts, you may be eligible for summary dissolution.

Requirements to be eligible for summary dissolution

  1.  Your marriage lasted under five years (from the date you got married to the date you separated).
  2.  You have no children together (born or adopted before or during the marriage), nor are you expecting a child now.
  3.  You do not own any part of land or buildings, other than your marital home.
  4.  Except for where you now live (with limited exceptions), you do not rent any land or buildings.
  5.  Your shared debt is not greater than $6,000 ("community obligations").
  6.  Any property acquired since your marriage date (community property*) is worth less than $47,000 (not counting the value of cars).
  7.  Any separate property you have is valued under $47,000.
  8.  The spouses agree that neither will ever get spousal support.
  9.  You formally agree on property and debt division in writing.

In California, these requirements also apply to domestic partnerships. If you’re married and have a registered domestic partnership, a summary dissolution can dissolve both.

Who is not eligible for summary dissolution?

  • Spouses with a child or children
  • Couples whose marriage lasted longer than five years
  • Wealthy couples
  • Marriages where spousal support is requested

Differences between summary dissolution and divorce

Both a divorce and a summary dissolution will end your marriage. California has a waiting period of six months. This means you cannot get a final divorce decree until at least six months after you’ve filed for divorce – and the rule applies to both divorce and summary dissolution. So, while summary dissolution often speeds up the divorce process, you must still wait at least six months after filing. 

In a divorce, spouses often disagree on how to split their marital assets and debts. In summary dissolution, you don’t have a choice. You must agree on everything, or you can’t file for summary dissolution. 

The most important aspect of summary dissolution to remember is that you must meet the specific requirements outlined here. If you don’t meet them, you can’t file for summary dissolution.

Once you’ve agreed on how to divide up your marriage, you’ll need to write that down in a marital settlement agreement, or MSA. This document sets forth the division of assets and liabilities for your marriage. A judge will review the document, along with your petition for summary dissolution, to ensure it seems fair and that neither spouse is being taken advantage of. (More on MSAs below.)

Steps toward summary dissolution

Filing the petition

Unlike a regular divorce, your summary dissolution petition is completed by both you and your spouse, filed together. The joint petition must state:

  • You meet the requirements for summary dissolution
  • Each spouse’s current address
  • Whether either spouse wants to return to their pre-marital name

Providing information

You must also provide detailed information about your marital and individual assets, tax returns from the last two years, and information about any assets or debts acquired since you and your spouse separated. Here are some relevant forms:

Marital Settlement Agreement 

Before you file your petition, you’ll also need to complete a marital settlement agreement. This document lays out all the terms of your dissolution and discusses in detail how each item will be divided. This is a vital step in the summary dissolution process.

File summary dissolution

Once you’ve completed these documents, it’s time to file your summary dissolution. You’ll also need to pay a filing fee. If you meet certain financial requirements, you may be able to have the filing fee waived or reduced. 

Divorce decree is scheduled

If you meet the requirements and the judge is satisfied with your marital settlement agreement, they will schedule your divorce decree for six months after the date you filed the petition. You may not remarry until that time has elapsed, as your divorce won’t be final until that date.

Hello Divorce offers a summary dissolution package. This can help guide you through the necessary steps and ensure you submit the right documents. We also help couples looking for other divorce options beyond summary dissolution.

FAQ about summary dissolution

How long does summary dissolution take?

Because California has a waiting period of six months, summary dissolution often takes exactly that amount of time.

How much does summary dissolution cost?

The filing fee is $435.

Can I get a summary dissolution in any state besides California?

Possibly. Other states offer similar quickie divorce processes, including Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana.