Grounds for Divorce in California
You don’t need a legally justifiable reason to get divorced in California. You don’t even need the agreement of your soon-to-be-ex (“STBX”). California’s Family Law Act of 1969 made this state the first to allow no-fault divorce. This means anyone can get a California divorce without proof of fault. Every state in the United States has adopted a form of no-fault divorce.
California Divorce Laws Require Residency
Getting divorced in California requires that you or your STBX have lived in California for at least six months and resided in the county where you file for at least three months. A party that doesn’t meet the residency requirements but lives in California can file for legal separation. A legal separation can become a California divorce once the divorce residency requirements are met.
How to File for Divorce in California
A California divorce is commenced by filing what is known as a Petition for Dissolution. Whoever files the Petition will be known as the Petitioner. The Petition and other legal paperwork, including a Summons, is then personally served on your STBX by a third party. You can’t serve your Petition. Service of this initial paperwork informs your STBX that a California divorce has been filed against them, and they must file a response within 30 days of service. The responding party is known as the Respondent. If you fail to file a Response, you may lose your right to contest issues in the divorce and go to trial. The cost for filing both the Petition and Response is $435.
Suppose children are involved in your California divorce. In that case, you must also complete a Declaration containing specifics about when and where your children were born, their ages, and where they’ve lived during the past five years. California courts provide a detailed divorce Self-Help Guide with an overview of the divorce process in California and links to required forms. Additional local forms may also be required in your jurisdiction.
Getting a final divorce decree in California is subject to a six-month waiting period after filing and serving the Petition.
How to Reduce Attorney’s Fees for Your California Divorce
At the commencement of a California Divorce, I’m frequently asked, “How much will this cost?” My response: “It’s mostly up to you and your spouse. Reach an equitable agreement, and we can get this done reasonably. If you or your spouse are not reasonable, the process becomes protracted, and costs escalate.”
There are many ways to cut costs when divorcing in California. For example, suppose the marriage is less than five years, there are no children, you have relatively few assets and liabilities, spousal support is not an issue, and spouses agree to the divorce terms. In that case, the parties can file a joint petition for Summary Dissolution.
There is also the option for mediation or a collaborative process in a California divorce. Both methods can reduce conflict, reduce costs of litigation, and act to preserve a positive relationship between you and your STBX. This is particularly important if you have children.