How to Fill Out Divorce Papers in California

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

How to Fill Out Divorce Papers in California

By Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq.

When filing for divorce in California, it's helpful to have a family attorney prepare your petition so you don't miss anything to which you're entitled. Still, California has made filing for divorce without an attorney easy, with interactive online forms.


How to Fill Out Form FL-100

A California divorce starts with a petition, Form FL-100—“FL" stands for family law. First, you must meet the residency requirements for filing for divorce, aka dissolution of marriage. You must reside in the state for at least six months before filing, and you must reside in the county in which you're filing for at least three months. File the petition in Superior Court in the county in which you or your spouse reside.

1. Put your name and address at the top. Include an address where you can receive mail, such as your parents' house. You can omit your email address. Include a phone number. Where it requests “Attorney For," enter “In Pro Per" or “Pro Per," which tells the court you're representing yourself.

2. Name the Superior Court county in which you're filing. Look up the address online. Enter the court's address and branch name. Use the name of the courthouse if it has a specific one. If you're not sure of the branch name, call the court.

3. Fill in names of petitioner and respondent. You're the petitioner, and your spouse is the respondent. You can use just first and last names.

4. In the column “Petition For," check Dissolution. You will also check “Marriage," as this petition is for dissolution of a marriage.

5. Under line 1, enter that your legal relationship. You can note that you are married or in a domestic partnership.

6. Under 2a, note that you meet the residency requirements. Check either that you, as petitioner, have met the residency requirements, or that respondent has met the requirements.

7. In line 3 under “Statistical Facts," enter date of marriage. Then enter the separation date. This is when you were officially separated in court, or the date you believed your marriage was over. The separation date is important because certain rights and consequences occur if the marriage is long term or short term. A long-term marriage is longer than 10 years. Calculate how long, in years and months, it's been from the date of marriage to the date of separation and enter that in line 3.

8. In line 4, indicate whether there are children of the marriage. This includes biological and adopted children. Enter each child's name, date of birth, and age. If there are no children, check line 4a. If you have more children than there are spaces, check 4b and include this information on a piece of blank paper. If there's a voluntary declaration of parentage, check 4e and attach a copy to the petition. If you have children, you'll also need Form FL-105, which relates to custody.

9. In line 5, under “Legal Grounds," check divorce. Also enter that the grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences, as “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions" is extremely difficult to prove.

10. In number 6, list your preferences for custody. Legal custody means you're taking on major decision-making, such as medical, educational, religious, and childcare choices for your children. If you want shared legal custody with the other parent, check joint. Under physical custody, if you want the child to live with each of you, check joint. If you don't want to share legal and physical custody, such as where there's domestic violence, check petitioner for both 6a and 6b. Then check 6c so that the respondent gets parenting time, and either check Form FL-311 and complete that form, or check “Attachment 6c(1)," which you can add to the petition.

11. Read number 7. However, you don't need to take action on this item now. Request child support when your case gets to court. Eventually you'll file financial statements.

12. Spousal or domestic partner support is tricky. If you're the petitioner, and you want spousal support, check 8a, and check where it says petitioner. If you don't want to pay child support, also check 8b, and check respondent.

13. Fill out separate property in detail. Check 9a if there's no separate property. Separate property is property you obtained before marriage or after separation, or any gifts or inheritances you received during marriage. If there's separate property, check 9b and “Property Declaration." You'll also have to complete Form FL-160 on property designation.

14. List community property on line 10. Community property is what you, as a couple, owe and own. Even without owning a house, your personal items are divided as community property. Check 10b and the box that says “as follows," and list a summary of what you have, such as a piano, china, and so forth. Be more specific on Form FL-160. This includes insurance policies, retirement accounts, and savings accounts.

15. Check attorney's fees in line 11. You may not have an attorney now but may want one later. Check 11a and respondent on that line. If you want your name restored to what it was previously, check 11b and write your maiden name. Check 11c and explain if you have other requests.

16. Read line 12. Write the date, print your name, and sign the form. You're now ready to file the petition.

Other Necessary Forms

You'll need to file Form FL-110, the summons, and Form FL-115, proof of service of summons, for your process server or other adult to file. You cannot serve your spouse yourself but must use a process server, a sheriff, or someone who is not a party to the action and who is at least 18 years old. File Form FW-001 if you want a fee waiver, or pay the fee to the court clerk to file your summons and petition.

If, after working on the petition and summons, you still have questions, consult a family attorney, or check with family law facilitators in the courthouse who offer legal assistance.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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