California Divorce Form Instructions

by Teo Spengler
Divorce can be painful, but completing divorce forms need not be confusing.

Divorce can be painful, but completing divorce forms need not be confusing.

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The basic divorce form in California, termed FL-100, is straightforward. The California Courts website provides not only the requisite form in printable or fillable versions, but also written and video instructions on completing it. The best plan is to walk through the form in draft to be certain that you have the required information before preparing the final version. However, if you need assistance filling out the form, an attorney or online legal document service is recommended.

Petition for Dissolution

You use California Judicial Counsel form FL-100 to ask for a divorce, also termed a dissolution of marriage. Only two pages long, the form is the basic petition asking the court to end the marriage. Before you begin the form, determine where you intend to file for divorce. You can file in any California county in which you or your spouse have resided for the past three months.

Identify the Parties

The heading of Form FL-100 asks for your contact information. Put in your name, address and telephone number if you do not have an attorney. Enter the name and address of the court in the next section. Fill in the full names of you and your spouse in the section of the heading entitled "Marriage of." The person filing for divorce is called the petitioner; the other spouse is termed the respondent. You need to check the "dissolution" box to indicate that you are seeking a divorce, not a separation or an annulment. You cannot fill in your case number yet. The court will assign you one when you file and fill it in for you.

Establish Jurisdiction

The first paragraph of the petition asks you for information confirming that the court you have chosen is allowed to rule on the divorce. You must check the box to indicate which spouse has lived in the county and for how long. If you have both lived in the county, you can check both boxes.

Calculate Timing

In paragraph 2 of the form, you must provide the date of marriage. You must also put in the date of separation and calculate the length of your marriage in years and months. The date of separation can be important in determining property division, so consult with an attorney if you are not sure which date to use.

List Minor Children

Divorce is more complicated with minor children. If you have no minor children, you can skip paragraph 3. If you have minor children, you must list their names, birth dates, ages and sex in this place on the form. If the spouses had any children prior to the marriage for which the father has completed a declaration of paternity, check the box in paragraph 3(d) and remember to attach it to the petition.

Community and Separate Property

You need to state in your divorce filing which property belongs to you and which belongs to both you and your spouse under California's community property rules. Generally, unless you and your spouse made a different agreement, California attributes most property debt acquired by either spouse during a marriage to the community. Exceptions include gifts or devises made to one spouse. Assets acquired and debts incurred by either spouse before the marriage are viewed by the law as the property of that spouse. The determination of which property belongs to you and which to the community can be complex and you may require legal assistance. Once you identify your separate property and debt, list it in paragraph 4 of FL-100. List community property and debt in paragraph 5. If either of these lists is extensive, you can use additional forms or attachments.

Specify Grounds for Divorce

In paragraph 6, you check the box (a) to indicate that you are asking for a divorce, and then you specify the grounds for divorce. California is a no-fault state, and most dissolutions are granted on the basis of irreconcilable differences. If this is your case, check box 1 under 6(a). The other option is incurable insanity. For this option, check box 2 under 6(a).

Request Relief

In the final fillable paragraph in the petition, you tell the court what relief you seek. If you have minor children, you indicate the arrangement you are seeking for legal and physical custody and visitation, and indicate if you wish a determination of paternity. Next, you may request that your spouse pay attorney fees and costs, as well as spousal support. The form is complete when you sign and date it.