Summary dissolution in California is a divorce. It’s a way to end a marriage or a domestic partnership – or in some cases, both – in a quicker, less complicated way; but it’s not for everyone. It is limited to couples that have no children, relatively few assets and debts, and a marriage or partnership that lasted five years or less, among other conditions explained below.
Who can File for Summary Dissolution?
This fast-track legal procedure is available to married couples and domestic partners regardless of gender and to those who began as domestic partners and later married. Couples don’t have to end their domestic partnership when they marry. On the other hand, they can end both their marriage and domestic partnership at the same time with summary dissolution.
To qualify for summary dissolution, you have to meet all of the following requirements at the time you file your petition.
- One of you has lived in California for the last 6 months and in the county where you file the petition for the last 3 months. (There's an exception to this residency requirement for same-sex married couples who no longer live in California, but were married in California. If this is your situation, you can file for summary dissolution in California if your current state of residency will not dissolve your marriage. To do this, you must file in the California county where you were married.)
- Both of you want the marriage or domestic partnership to end because of irreconcilable differences.
- You have no minor children together and do not expect (are pregnant) any children together.
- The marriage or domestic partnership lasted five years – from the date you were married or registered as domestic partners to the date of separation – or less.
- Neither of you owns any real property, in other words, land or buildings. You can have a lease, but it can’t have an option to purchase and it must end within one year from the date you file your summary dissolution petition.
- Neither of you has incurred more than $6,000 in debt since the start of your marriage or domestic partnership. You can exclude car payments, however.
- You have $38,000 or less in community property. Generally speaking, community property is all assets and debts acquired or earned during marriage. You can exclude your cars here, too, but you must include any deferred compensation (like a 401K) or retirement benefits earned during the time of the marriage or domestic partnership.
- Neither of you has more than $38,000 in separate property. Separate property tends to be anything you owned before marriage or registration as domestic partners and after separation. It also includes any gift or inheritance you got during marriage or your domestic partnership.
- You both complete and sign a property settlement agreement, which divides your community property. Before filing your summary dissolution petition, you also must sign the necessary paperwork to make this agreement effective. In other words, you need to take care of title certificates, bills of sale, or other transfers.
- You both agree to waive (give up) any rights to spousal support.
- You both waive your rights to appeal once the court enters your summary dissolution, and
- You both agree that you have read and understand a booklet called Summary Dissolution Information(provided by the California courts).
If you don’t qualify for a summary dissolution, but still want to end your marriage or domestic partnership, you can file for a regular dissolution (divorce), which you can read more about it on our California Divorce and Family Law page.
How to File for Summary Dissolution
The best place to start is to read the court’s Summary Dissolution Information (it’s also called form FL-810). It explains the step-by-step process and has worksheets for dividing your debt, community property, and separate property. There’s also a sample Property Settlement Agreement. Once both of you complete the worksheets, you need to exchange them and then sign off on your property settlement agreement.
To start the clock on the proceedings, you need to file your Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution along with a series of forms explained in the Summary Dissolution Information booklet. Remember that you need to file it in the right county.
Summary Dissolution Waiting Period
You need to wait six months after filing your petition for summary dissolution. Once this time runs out, the court will enter a judgment that dissolves your marriage or domestic partnership. At that point, your marriage or domestic partnership is over and your property settlement agreement goes into effect. You are also free to remarry or enter a new domestic partnership.
There is a catch, however. Either of you can stop the summary dissolution by filing a Notice of Revocation for Summary Dissolution within the six-month waiting period. This tends to happen when couples reconcile, or if one decides to pursue a regular divorce (perhaps to receive spousal support), for example. You can file to revoke your summary dissolution and then re-file for a regular divorce. If you re-file within 90 days, then the time already spent during your waiting period applies to the time you must wait in a regular divorce.
If you miss that six-month window, then you still have limited recourse. If your dissolution was a result of fraud, mistake, or some other injustice, then you can make a motion to set aside the summary dissolution. Then, however, you would have to go to court to prove it.
If you would like to read the law on summary dissolution in California, you can find it in Sections 2400-2406 of the California Family Code.
In addition to the Summary Dissolution Information booklet, check out the court’s webpages on Summary Dissolution For Married Couples, Summary Dissolution For Domestic Partners, and Summary Dissolution For Couples Ending Marriage And Domestic Partnership.