Uncontested Divorce in California

Learn more about simplified divorce procedures in California.

When a divorcing couple disagrees on issues like child custody and property division, their divorce proceeding can become complicated and expensive. But when a divorcing couple agrees on all of the terms of their divorce, they can typically pursue a simplified divorce in California.

Most states allow for a faster and cheaper option called an uncontested divorce. This article will explain whether you are eligible for a similar process in California, and if you are, how to file.

Requirements for a Summary Dissolution in California

Summary dissolution is not available to every married couple in California—you have to meet the following requirements:

  • one spouse must be a resident of California for at least six months and the county where you file for divorce for at least three months (Cal. Fam. Code § 2320 (a).)
  • the grounds for divorce must be “irreconcilable differences”
  • the couple must not have any minor children, and neither spouse is pregnant
  • there are less than five years between the date of marriage and the date the spouses separated
  • neither spouse has any real property other than a lease under one year
  • there are no unpaid debts of more than $6,000, besides car notes
  • the marital assets are worth less than $45,000 total, including deferred compensation and retirement, but not including cars; neither party has separate assets worth more than $45,000
  • the spouses have signed a settlement agreement dividing all assets and debts
  • the spouses have signed all documents to transfer any assets and debts according to the settlement agreement
  • neither spouse is seeking alimony (Cal. Fam. Code § 2400), and
  • each spouse has read the summary dissolution information booklet. (Cal. Fam. Code § 2406.)

While you can complete a summary dissolution on your own, it is a good idea to check with a family law attorney to make sure you and your spouse meet the requirements before filing for divorce. You should also have an attorney review your settlement agreement to make sure it covers everything the court requires. You can find a sample settlement agreement on pages 13-15 of the summary dissolution information booklet.

How to File for a Summary Dissolution in California

Prepare your divorce papers and exchange documents

A married couple must file a joint petition to get a summary dissolution in California. (Cal. Fam. Code § 2401 (a).) Both spouses will sign the petition, which must state the following:

  • the spouses meet all conditions for a summary dissolution
  • each spouse’s mailing address, and
  • whether either spouse wants to return to a former name, stating the name the spouse wants. (Cal. Fam. Code § 2401 (b).)

Both spouses must also fill out and exchange several documents showing their property, income, and expenses, including:

File your divorce papers and settlement agreement

You’ll need to complete a settlement agreement. Make copies of all of the exchanged documents and your settlement agreement for you and your spouse since you’ll submit the originals of everything to the county superior court. You will have to pay a filing fee, currently $435 when you file your petition for summary dissolution and other documents with the court clerk. If you can’t afford to pay the filing fee, you can request a “fee waiver” from the court.

Give the petition, required disclosure documents and filing fee to the court clerk, along with two self-addressed, stamped envelopes for you and your spouse. You can find your county’s court clerk’s office on this California Court website.

If you meet all of the legal requirements, the court will issue a judgment of dissolution and notice of entry of judgment that will list your date of divorce as six months after the date you filed for summary dissolution. You can not remarry until the judge issues the dissolution and notice of entry.

Receive your final divorce documents

There are no court hearings required for a summary dissolution in California. The court will either give you a judgment of dissolution when you file your petition and other documents or mail the judgment to you at a later date.

Resources

If you have additional questions about summary dissolution in California, you should speak with a local family law attorney. You can also visit the California Courts website for more information on qualifications and requirements for an uncontested divorce in California.

To read the full text of the law on uncontested divorce and summary dissolution in California, read the California Family Code § 2400-2406.

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