summary dissolution(updated 3/28/22) Not many couples meet all the requirements to be able to take advantage of the simplified “Summary Dissolution” process for a divorce in California.  For those that do, it’s easier – although your divorce still won’t become effective for 6 months and there are other possible drawbacks.  The Summary Dissolution process can only be used for a divorce – not for a legal separation.

Qualifications for Summary Dissolution

You and your spouse must meet all of these requirements:

  • married for less than 5 years (from the date you got married to the date you separated).
  • no children together (either born or adopted) before or during the marriage.
  • not expecting a new child now.
  • don’t own any real property (land or buildings, in part or in whole).
  • don’t rent any land or buildings (except for where you now live, provided you don’t have a 1-year lease or option to buy).
  • don’t owe more than $6,000 for debts taken on during the marriage (not counting vehicle loans).
  • own less than $47,000 worth of property acquired during the marriage (not counting vehicles).
  • don’t have separate property (acquired by either of you prior to marriage or after the date of separation) worth more than $47,000 (not counting vehicles).
  • both agree that neither of you will ever receive spousal support from the other.
  • have a signed agreement dividing your marital (community) assets and debts (including vehicles).
  • either of you must have lived in California for the last 6 months and in the county where you file for summary dissolution for the last 3 months.

The court’s website provides further information and some tools to help you figure out if you qualify.

Steps for Summary Dissolution

If you qualify for a summary dissolution and want to go this route, here are the steps to follow, explained in more detail on the court’s website:

  1. Read the booklet called Summary Dissolution Information (Form FL-810).
  2. Find the right court in which to start your case.
  3. Fill out and both sign a Joint Petition (Form FL-800) and any required local court forms.
  4. Fill out a Judgment (Form FL-825).
  5. Fill out and exchange the required financial forms and/or worksheets and certain financial documents including tax returns
  6. Fill out and both sign your division of assets and debts agreement and attach it to the Joint Petition.
  7. Have your forms reviewed before filing (optional but advisable).
  8. Make at least 2 copies of your forms (including your assets and debts agreement).
  9. Pay the filing fee and file your forms with the court clerk together with 2 self-addressed stamped envelopes, one addressed to each spouse.
  10. Wait to receive Form FL-825 signed by the judge.  This is your divorce judgment.

Summary Dissolution Considerations

Fairly few people use the summary dissolution process.  Some possible reasons:

  • It doesn’t shorten the time it takes for a divorce to become final.
  • Either spouse can revoke the process by filing a simple form at any time prior to the granting of the divorce judgment.  If this happens, the other spouse would need to use the regular divorce process to accomplish the divorce.  If the regular divorce petition is filed within 90 days of the revocation, the time spent waiting for the Summary Dissolution can be applied to reduce the 6 month waiting period for the regular divorce.
  • The filing fee is the same as for a regular divorce.
  • The need to file everything (including the agreement dividing assets and debts) at the beginning of the process may add unwanted pressure and seem hasty for some people.