Getting a divorce usually involves interwoven legal, financial, emotional, family and social processes and events. Here are just the basic legal procedural aspects of how to get a divorce in California.
How to Get a Divorce – Steps
The minimum steps required to get a divorce in California are:
- Start a divorce case by filing forms including a petition (FL-100) and a summons (FL-110) and by paying the court’s filing fee (unless you are poor enough to succeed in getting it waived).
- Have a third party serve your spouse with the divorce papers (usually in person or by mail).
- Fill out and and exchange with your spouse the financial disclosure forms (FL-150 and either FL-142 or FL-160) and file a form letting the court know you have done so.
- File a “judgment package” of forms/documents advising the court of the divorce agreements you have made with your spouse (co-parenting, child support, spousal support and division of assets and debts) to enable the court to sign off on your divorce.
- Receive the order of the court granting your divorce.
This assumes an uncontested divorce in which you and your spouse work together to get it done.
This also assumes that you don’t meet all the qualifications to apply for a simpler summary dissolution. Even if you do qualify, not many couples use the summary dissolution route and it does have potential drawbacks.
The hardest part is often coming to agreement with your spouse on all the areas required for a divorce (in step 4 above). Some couples are able to do this on their own and many others make use of divorce mediation. The preparation of the “judgment package” in step 4 above is daunting for most couples and most therefore obtain outside assistance with this.
How to get a divorce if it is contested? There can be many additional steps including:
- the spouse who is not the petitioner files a response – which requires another court filing fee (currently $435 or so);
- various types of “discovery” including depositions, written interrogatories and document production;
- motions asking the court to make interim orders;
- hearings on the filed motions;
- mandatory mediation (with a court mediator) on custody/visitation matters;
- written evaluations by experts;
- updating the financial disclosure forms;
- mandatory settlement conferences;
- a trial.
The court’s website gives additional information. A short summary of the process is given in the court’s FL-170-INFO. An excellent book describing how to get a divorce in California is Ed Sherman’s “How to Do Your Own Divorce in California.”