Filing for divorce can be a complicated process. In order to file for divorce in California, the first step is to file divorce papers with your county court. This guide will walk you through some of the necessary forms you will need to fill out and file to commence divorce proceedings.

Form One: The Separation Form – FL 100

For all divorces in California, you will need to file a Separation Form. This form covers most of the basics regarding your marriage, dissolution, children, and property. Listed below is a summary of the information you will need to provide as well as definitions for some of the terminology on this form:

(A) What Are You Petitioning For?

Here, you will need to identify what you are petitioning for. There are three options:

  • Dissolution of Marriage – this option is a formal divorce that will end your marriage. Afterward you will be legally single and can re-marry.
  • Legal Separation – this option does not legally end your marriage, but still allows for court rulings on property distribution and child custody issues.
  • Nullity of Marriage – this option applies only if your marriage was either never valid in the first place for reasons of incest or bigamy, or otherwise voidable for reasons such as force, fraud, or incapacity.

(B) Address & Marriage Information

Next you will need to fill in some basic information regarding your current residence and the dates surrounding your marriage.

(C) Children

Here you will need to list the name, age, and birthday of any minor children you have with you spouse.

(D) Property

Here you will need to list both your separate property and shared community property.

  • Separate Property generally constitutes property you obtained prior to marriage, after dissolution of marriage, or through inheritance -- and you should be able keep all of this property after divorce.
  • Community Property generally constitutes property you obtained during marriage and will be split with your spouse (unless other agreements have been made).

(E) Reason for Dissolution, Separation, or Nullity

Next you will check off whether you’re ending the marriage because of irreconcilable differences with your spouse or because of your spouse’s insanity. Generally irreconcilable differences will be the appropriate box to check here unless there are genuine psychiatric issues.

(F) Petitioner Requests

Here, if you have children with your spouse, you will need to identify your requests in regard to custody and visitation rights.

  • Physical Custody refers to who the children will live with. You can check off Petitioner (for you), Respondent (for your spouse), or Joint if you want the children to split time living with both you and your spouse relatively equally.
  • Legal Custody refers to who will have decision-making power for the children’s upbringing. This may include medical care, schooling, and religious decisions. Here you can again check off your preference as noted above.

It is important to note that physical and legal custody are distinct from child visitation rights. For example, one parent can have sole physical and legal custody, while still granting the other parent rights to spend lots of time with their children.

(G) Child Support Orders

Here, the form notes that the Judge may make rulings on child support orders requiring one spouse to pay amounts to the other spouse to help raise any minor children.

Form Two: Summons Form – FL 110

This form requires information identifying your spouse and gives your spouse formal notice of your filing for divorce.

The summons form must be served on your spouse by someone else, 18 or over, who is not a party to the case.

Form Three: Proof of Service Form – FL 115

This form proves to the court that your spouse was properly served the notice of summons form and must be filled out by the person who served your spouse.

Form Four: Children Identification – FL 105/GC 120

If you have children under the age of 18 with your spouse, you will also need to fill out the Children identification form. Here, you will simply list identifying information regarding any children you have with your spouse.

Form Five: Optional Child Visitation Form – FL 311

This optional form allows you to further detail your child visitation preferences.

Form Six: Additional Property Form – FL 160

This optional form allows you more space to list your separate and community property as well as any distribution requests.

What Happens Next?

After you file all of your papers with the court and serve your spouse, your spouse will have 30 days to respond. If your spouse does not respond, the Judge may issue a default judgment in your favor granting all of your requests.

Alternatively, your spouse may file response papers disputing some or all of the terms you requested. If that is the case, the court will likely request that you participate in mediation proceedings to see if you and your spouse can reach an agreement. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement, the Judge will have the discretion make final rulings on property distribution and child custody issues.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

Contacting an experienced divorce attorney is a wise investment in most divorce proceedings. Professional legal assistance can help ensure you handle all steps of the divorce expertly to reach the most positive outcome possible.