California – Filing for Divorce

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Divorce Infographic

DIFFICULTY: Legal Help Required

Initial Filing Fee: $435

Divorce is never a simple process. Even the most mutual dissolution of marriage involves lots of paperwork. All divorces start with a petition for divorce. Once this initial form is filed, there is a lengthy back and forth process, where each spouse is given the opportunity to respond to the other and provide as much relevant information about the divorce as possible. Depending on the level of cooperativeness, divorce can culminate in one of several different ways. In a divorce, the person who originally files for divorce is known as the petitioner and the spouse responding the divorce is known as the respondent.

Step 1: Fill out the Forms

Fill out the Petition – Marriage form and the Summons form. Only one spouse needs to fill out these forms. The Petition – Marriage form notifies the court of your intent to file for divorce and the Summons form notifies your spouse of your intent.

Petition – Marriage
Summons

Step 2: File with County Clerk

Take both forms to your county clerk, submit them and pay the filing fee.

Step 2: Serve your spouse

Serve your spouse a copy of the Summons form and a Response – Marriage form. Anyone over the age of 18, besides the petitioner, can deliver these forms to the respondent. At this time, the respondent has the option to decline to respond. The Response form allows the respondent to agree with or dispute the reason for the divorce. The petitioner must wait 30 days for a response before the divorce can continue. The process can continue after 30 days, regardless of a respondent’s Response.

Response – Marriage

Step 4: Fill out Division of Assets forms

Fill out the following forms which determine the division of assets and the terms of the divorce: Declaration of Disclosure, Income and Expense Declaration, and Schedule of Assets and Debts. These forms must also be served to the respondent by an eligible third party. In order for the respondents original Response – Marriage form to be accepted, they must also file these additional 3 forms.

Declaration of Disclosure
Income and Expense Declaration
Schedule of Assets and Debts

Step 5: Four Possible Outcomes

At this point, there are 4 potential resolutions, determined by two factors: whether the respondent has responded, and whether the two parties agree to the terms of the divorce.

1. No response and No agreement – Petitioner files Judgement form after waiting 30 days.

2. No response with Agreement – Petitioner files Judgement form with attached agreement.

3. Response with No Agreement – The court will work with both parties to try and reach an agreement. If no agreement is made, the case will go to trial.

4. Response with Agreement – Petitioner files Judgement form with Appearance, Stipulations, and Waiver form.

Judgement
Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers

Additional Resources

FAQ sheet on filing for divorce
Declaration Regarding Service