How to file for divorce in California?

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Published: January 19, 2021

When the marriage ends: The goal of the dissolution process is to end the marriage and decide issues such as child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and division of assets and debts.

Residency requirements: To file for dissolution of marriage in California one spouse must be a resident of California for at least six months and a resident of the county of filing for at least three months immediately prior to filing the petition. If you have been a resident of the state of California for less than six months or of the county less than three months you may file for legal separation and amend your legal separation to a dissolution of marriage after you have met the residency requirements.

Grounds for dissolution: The grounds for dissolution of marriage in California are “irreconcilable differences” and “incurable insanity.” Grounds for incurable insanity can only be asserted if the individual is medically insane.

Out of state and foreign marriages: In general, all marriages entered into outside of California that were valid under the laws of the state or county where they were made are valid in California. No matter where you were married, if you meet the residency requirement you may file for dissolution of marriage in California.

Uncontested vs. contested proceedings: If you and your spouse can agree on all of the issues you have an “uncontested case.” If your spouse fails to file a response, in other words he or she defaults, your case can be completed as an uncontested case. Many uncontested uses can be handled by mail and in most instances you may not have to see the judge at all. Some courts have a case management system that require case status hearings.

If your spouse files a response you have a “contested case.” you may have to appear before a judge at least once in order to resolve your disagreements. If your case starts out or later becomes contested your may be able to come to an agreement through negotiation or mediation. Please call our office to speak to an experienced attorney to help you through the process.