Summary Dissolution in California

Summary dissolution offers a quicker, simpler way to divorce in California.

Summary dissolution is a way to end a marriage or a domestic partnership in a quicker, less complicated way than the regular process, but it's not for everyone. Summary dissolution may be an option for you if you have no children, relatively few assets and debts, and the marriage or partnership lasted five years or less. If you qualify and your partner or spouse agrees to summary dissolution, you can finalize your divorce by filing the appropriate paperwork and completing a settlement agreement.

Requirements for a Summary Dissolution in California

Summary dissolution is not available to every couple in California—you must meet all of the following requirements. You may qualify if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • you or your spouse or partner must be a resident of California for at least six months and the county where you file for divorce for at least three months
  • you both must agree to end the marriage or partnership because of "irreconcilable differences"
  • you do not have any minor children
  • neither of you is pregnant
  • you have been married or registered as a domestic partnership for less than five years
  • neither of you rent any land or buildings (except for your current residence)
  • you do not have unpaid debts of more than $6,000 (besides car notes)
  • you do not have marital assets that are worth more than $45,000 total (including deferred compensation and retirement, but not including cars)
  • neither of you has separate assets worth more than $45,000
  • you have both signed a settlement agreement dividing all assets and debts
  • you have both signed all documents to transfer any assets and debts according to the settlement agreement
  • neither of you is seeking alimony (Cal. Fam. Code § 2400), and
  • you have both read the summary dissolution information booklet. (Cal. Fam. Code § 2406.)

You don't need to hire a lawyer to complete a summary dissolution, and you can represent yourself during the process. Even though the process is simpler than traditional divorce, one or both spouses or partners can hire attorneys to help them through the divorce. You might want to talk to a lawyer, for instance, if your case feels complex or you have unanswered questions.

How to File for a Summary Dissolution in California

Prepare Your Summary Dissolution Papers

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 Summary Dissolution Papers and Settlement Agreement

You'll need to complete a settlement agreement. You can find a sample settlement agreement on pages 13-15 of the summary dissolution information booklet. 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 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.

Finalize Your Divorce

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.

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