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File for Divorce in California


Do you live in California and are wondering what the process is for getting a divorce? State laws can be complicated and often change on a frequent basis. If California is your home state, and you aren’t sure where to start in order to file for divorce, know these basic steps before proceeding.

What to know:

California is a “no-fault” state. This means that neither partner has to give a reason as to why the marriage is ending. The California Courts, or judicial branch of the state government, explains that regardless of infidelities or other factors, nobody is “at fault” in a divorce from a legal perspective. Therefore, you do not need to prove anything about your marriage to the courts.

Follow these steps:

  1. Fill out the proper forms. There are several forms to fill out in order to get a divorce in the state of California. You can find them on the California Courts website, and download them yourself. The forms are different for your specific circumstances, but some are standard across the board. Standard forms include the Petition Form, which includes basic information about your marriage and the Summons Form, which contains information about the divorce process.

If you have children under the age of 18, you will need to fill out the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act Form, which relates to custody issues. Also, see the Property Declaration Form, which provides extra room to disclose your financial information and personal debts.

  1. Get your forms reviewed. Use either the California Court’s family law facilitator or self-help center in order to make sure your forms are completed properly. No matter how careful you are in filling out your paperwork, it is easy to make a mistake. Also, these two resources can help you with any questions you may have in regards to the paperwork.
  1. Turn in your forms to the court clerk. After you have finished filling out your forms, and have checked them using the two sources above, you can turn them into the local court clerk by you in the state of California. There is a fee to turn in this paperwork. If you cannot afford the fee, there is an option to get it waived.
  1. Serve your papers. Paper must be served by someone older than 18. The required papers that must be served are a copy of all of the forms listed above, and a blank “Response”- Marriage/Domestic Partnership Form for your spouse. Once the party has received the paperwork, they have 30 days to respond to your request for divorce using the latter form.

For more details on the requirements pertaining to serving papers, visit the California Courts website. There are also optional temporary forms for child support and visitation rights, which may be applicable to you. These forms are also available on the California Courts website.

  1. Fill out and serve the necessary disclosure forms. On top of all of the forms listed above, there may also be a few disclosure forms that are required. These forms are not done through the courts initially. Rather, they are forms which explain to your partner which assets are yours and how much money you have. Failure to be honest on these forms can result in property which you did not disclose being given to your partner, or a hefty fine.

For detailed information on disclosure forms and which ones need to be submitted to your partner, and later, to the court, visit the Filing Your Case section of the California Courts website.

If you are a respondent to the divorce forms (i.e. you are receiving them), the process is a little different for you. You can find out further information and applicable forms here.

Ask for help: If you are confused about any part of this process or need assistance, talk to a certified facilitator or check out the self-help center to answer any of your questions. A team of experts will be happy to work with you so your divorce paperwork can be filed properly–so you can complete the process more quickly and avoid unnecessary stress.

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