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Divorce Chronology in California

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What Are Grounds for a California Divorce?

Before spouses can file for divorce in California, at least one spouse must live in the state for six months, and in the county where they are filing for three months. Every divorce case requires the filing of a family law summons and a petition for dissolution of marriage.

California offers two kinds of petitions for dissolution:

  • Summary Dissolution - Simplified process for a divorce since there is no trial or hearing. Couples eligible for Summary Dissolution must both agree in writing to a division of assets and debts and:
    • Be married five years or less
    • Have no children from the relationship
    • Neither spouse owns real estate
    • Value of all community property amounts to less than $25,000
    • Combined debts does not exceed $5,000
    • Parties waive spousal support
  • Regular Dissolution: Couples filing for a divorce and are not eligible for a Summary Dissolution must file a petition for dissolution and include one of the two grounds for dissolution:
    • Irreconcilable differences: The marriage will not work and counseling will not save the union
    • Incurable insanity: Evidence of medical proof that one spouse is insane and is incurable at the time the petition is filed.

After the Filing of the Petition

No California divorce can be final until at least six months from the time the petition is served and the issues have been agreed to (division of property, debt, support payments and parenting arrangement). Ultimately, these decisions must be in writing and filed with the court. A divorce is final when a judge has signed a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, which becomes an order of the court.  

Do I Need an Attorney If I Want a Divorce?

In California you can file for a divorce without a lawyer. However, an experienced family attorney can advise whether you should file a Regular Dissolution rather than a Summary Dissolution, based on your circumstances. Plus, your attorney can review the marital settlement agreement to ensure that your interests will be protected and cannot be challenged later nor misrepresented.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 12-31-2013 02:38 PM PST

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