Steps for Filing Divorce in California

By Tom Streissguth

If you are seeking a divorce in California, you must follow the state's filing procedures and, in most cases, attend a court hearing. The state allows for "no-fault" divorce, meaning you do not need to supply specific grounds for the divorce. The state does impose residency requirements, however, as well as a six-month waiting period after the original petition is filed.

Step 1

Obtain the divorce forms you need: You need Form FL-100 to start. Official divorce forms are available online from the California Courts website at

Step 2

Fill out Form FL-100, the state's official divorce petition form, checking the box for "Petition for Dissolution of Marriage." You need to give the date of the marriage, the grounds for the divorce, and information regarding any minor children of the marriage. Attach Form FL-160, Property Declaration, or fill in the petition's own blank spaces, listing marital assets to be divided by you and your spouse.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Step 3

Bring or mail the form to civil court in the county where you live; present the form to the clerk and pay the filing fee, which varies by county. The clerk will date-stamp the petition and enter it into the court records.

Step 4

Serve the petition on your spouse, also known as the respondent. An officer of the court, such as a sheriff’s deputy, personally delivers a copy of the petition to the respondent; a private process server can also carry out this step.

Step 5

Wait for an answer to the petition from the respondent, who has 30 days from service to file. This provides the respondent with an opportunity to respond to the facts set out in the original petition, including the grounds for divorce.

Step 6

Work out the terms of the divorce with your spouse, including the division of property, child custody, and any alimony or child support payments. California imposes a six-month waiting period after service of the petition, so you can use this time to work out the agreement with your spouse. During this period, you remain legally married although in most cases you're physically separated.

Step 7

File an Order to Show Cause with the court if you cannot agree on terms of the divorce. The court clerk will schedule a hearing so that a judge may review the dispute and issue the necessary order. At any time, one party can request that the court issue a restraining order on the other party. California also requires that any disputes over child custody and visitation schedules be subject to counseling and mediation at a conciliation court. If the dispute can be worked out between the parties, then the court will cancel the mediation.

Step 8

File a Marital Settlement Agreement with the court. This document establishes the final terms of the divorce. Because California is a community property state, all property is divided equally among the petition and respondent, unless the parties agree on a different division. The court reviews and approves the MSA at a public hearing, then issues a Final Judgment. If the parties agree on terms, their appearance at court may not be required.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Divorce Process in Georgia



Related articles

Procedures for an Amicable Divorce in Maryland

Maryland offers an amicable divorce process for couples who can agree on all the terms of their divorce. This is known as an uncontested divorce and eliminates the need to prove that one spouse was the cause of the marriage's collapse. Further, by drafting separation or divorce agreements, parties to an uncontested divorce have more control over the terms of their divorce, avoiding the uncertainty in having these matters decided by a judge.

How to Get an Uncontested Divorce in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, the uncontested divorce process provides couples with the option of avoiding some of the time-consuming aspects of standard divorce. As long as the eligibility requirements are met, a couple may initiate the process together, enter into mutual agreements and often finalize their divorce within a month. To qualify in Massachusetts, you and your spouse must be on the same page regarding all the major issues related to your divorce, including property, support and child custody.

What to Do if Your Spouse Will Not Sign Divorce Papers

In the case of a legal divorce, one party may not cooperate with the action, sign any agreements or negotiate any terms. The laws of each state govern the process of divorce, and all set down guidelines for actions in the case of a non-cooperative respondent.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How to Get a California Divorce Decree

Divorce law is state law; California's divorce law contains distinctive features such as the concept of community ...

Divorce Petition for Texas

The state of Texas offers two types of petitions for use in divorce proceedings -- one for use if you have children and ...

Information on How to Fill Out Divorce Papers in Kansas

A Kansas court can grant a divorce as soon as 60 days after you file your petition. The court’s divorce decree ...

How to Finalize a Divorce in Califonia

In order to move on from an unsuccessful marriage, a divorce must be finalized. In California, this process can take ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED