California allows for a “no-fault” DIVORCE. This means that a court can grant the divorce if it finds that the marriage is no longer viable due to irreconcilable differences. This means that one spouse can file for and be granted the divorce even if the other spouse does not want the divorce. Typically, both spouses are active in the divorce proceeding.

There are two ways of obtaining a divorce. A “no-contest” divorce is when the parties agree about the terms of the divorce. More typical is a “contested” divorce, where the parties cannot agree on the issues in the divorce and the court is used to resolve the issues.

Most divorces include the following issues:

  • child custody and visitation
  • child support
  • spousal support
  • property division
  • attorney fees and costs

There is a six month waiting period before a divorce becomes final.

The general steps for filing a divorce in California are:

  1. The Petition to dissolve the marriage and Summons is filed by one spouse (the Petitioner) and served on the other spouse (the Respondent).
  2. The Respondent has 30 days to file and serve a Response.
  3. If necessary, either the Petitioner or the Respondent may file a Request for Order to have the judge make a temporary decision regarding child support, custody, visitation, or spousal support.
  4. The parties then exchange discovery, involving the disclosure of the assets and the debts of the marriage.
  5. After discovery is complete, a conference is scheduled to see if the parties can agree to a Marital Settlement Agreement on all or some of issues. Unresolved isses are heard in court.
  6. Once there is resolution of the issues, a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is filed with the court.
  7. The divorce is not finalized until the judge has signed the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.

To file for divorce in California, you must meet the following residency requirements:

  • You must have been a resident of California for at least six months.
  • You must have been a resident of the county that you are filing in for at least three months.

See also discussuions on Collaborative Divorce and Divorce Mediation, Annulment, and Legal Separation from the PRACTICE AREAS dropdown menu above.