divorce petitionThe divorce petition (form FL-100) starts a divorce case in California.  It is the main form but not the only form required.  It gives basic information about the marriage.  It also has sections in which the petitioner (person filing for divorce) can tell the court what they want the outcome to be.  How you fill out the divorce petition is important.  It’s important to be accurate.  How it is delivered to your spouse can set the tone for your divorce.

Divorce Petition – Considerations

The divorce petition can be, but is not necessarily, an adversarial document.  If the petition specifies what the petitioner wants from the court, the other spouse is placed on the defensive.  The non-petitioner spouse will likely want to file a written response to be protected from a possible default judgment granting what the petitioner requested.  The court filing fee for a petition is currently $435.  The same amount is also required if a response is filed.

If however both spouses are in agreement up front that they intend to resolve all the matters in their divorce by mutual agreement, attorney Ed Sherman suggests that the petitioner might write “to be determined by written agreement” in the relevant sections on the petition.  This signals the intention for a non-adversarial proceeding to both the court and the other spouse.  You will find this suggestion and other valuable information in Ed Sherman’s best-selling book “How to do Your Own Divorce in California.”

Other very important considerations are how your spouse finds out about the petition and how he/she physically receives it.  There are ways to soften the blow and even work together collaboratively on this.

Divorce Petition – Section Notes

Section 2 – The date of separation is the last date you were living together.

Section 3 – You need only list children who are still minors. If you have any, you will also need to fill out and file form FL-105 as regards the children.  If the wife is pregnant, include the unborn child.

Section 4 – Separate property is a spouse’s property that was owned before marriage or obtained by gift or inheritance or after the date of separation.

Section 5 – Community property and debts are those that were acquired during the marriage.  Quasi-community property and debts were acquired during the marriage but out of state.

You can obtain the assistance of an attorney, a legal document assistant or an on-line service such as CompleteCase in preparing your divorce petition.  The court’s website can also be a valuable resource.  Before filing the petition with the court clerk, if you don’t have an attorney you can have it reviewed without cost by the Self-Help staff at the court.