Divorce is a big decision
You can get through it with your dignity and your pocketbook in tact.
Read on for real answers (we never hide the ball) on how to develop an exit strategy that gets you off to a legally advantageous start and strategically plan your divorce.
Just for CaliforniaThis website is only for California divorces.
Should I hire a lawyer?Consider the risks to getting divorced without legal representation.
Residence requirementsResidence requirements to file for divorce in California.
Spouse’s consentDo I need my spouse’s consent to get divorced?
Grounds for divorceDo I need grounds to get divorced?
Legal SeparationWhat are the differences between a divorce and a legal separation.
AnnulmentWhat are the grounds to get an annulment?
Where to fileWhere do I file my divorce petition?
Local court rulesEvery county has local court rules that apply only to that county.
Court FormsBasic information you must understand about court forms before you go any further.
We offer a variety of free divorce resources. Click a topic to learn more.
Need more help? This section also has a paid instructional package available.
FAQ’s Related to Preliminary Considerations
No. All of the court forms on the website are for proceedings filed in California. All of the videos on the website discuss laws and procedures for California. The laws in other states are very different.
If you can afford a lawyer and important rights are involved in your case, such as child custody, child support, spousal support, and valuable property, then you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer. If you can’t afford to pay a lawyer a large retainer and hundreds of dollars per hour to work on your case, then you may not have a choice in the matter.
You or your spouse must have resided in California for at least six months before you file a petition for a divorce. However, there is no residency requirement to file a petition for a legal separation. If you can’t meet the six month divorce residency requirement, you can get around it by filing a petition for a legal separation to get the process rolling and, after you satisfy the six months residency requirement, it’s easy to amend your petition for a legal separation to a petition for a divorce.
You don’t need your spouse’s consent to get a divorce. If one party wants a divorce, the court will grant the divorce. Your spouse cannot stop the court from dissolving the marriage.
California is a “no fault” divorce state. What this means is, you don’t need to prove your spouse did something wrong, such as being unfaithful or abusive, to get a divorce.
You do need grounds to get divorced, but this is a very simple matter. There are two, and only two, grounds for ge ng a divorce or a legal separation in California: 1) irreconcilable differences; or 2) permanent legal incapacity to make decisions. This last ground was previously known as “insanity”.
In almost all cases, you want to file for divorce and not a legal separation. A divorce and a legal separation are nearly identical. The main difference between the two proceedings is that a Judgment of Divorce terminates your marital status while a Judgment of Legal Separation does not.
Why would anyone file for a legal separation if it is just like a divorce, but the court does not terminate your marital status?
There are 3 common reasons: 1) Neither party can meet the six month residency rule required to file for divorce; 2) In a limited number of cases, you can continue health insurance coverage for a spouse if you get a legal separation; and 3) Religious beliefs.
A divorce judgment dissolves a marriage. An annulment is when the court issues a judgment that says your marriage is nullified, like the marriage didn’t happen.
There are two types of annulments. One type says your marriage was void from the very beginning. The other type says your marriage was valid, but it can be voided.
There are two grounds for this type of an annulment: 1) incest; and 2) bigamy.
What are the grounds for the second type of annulment, where the court says your marriage was valid, but can still be voided?
There are six grounds for this type of annulment: 1) you were underage at the time of the marriage; 2) There was a prior existing marriage or domestic partnership; 3) Your spouse is of unsound mind; 4) Fraud; 5) Force; or 6) Physical incapacity.
A divorce can be completed from start to finish by filling out various court forms and then filing those forms with the court. Each court form has a name and also a form number. For example, a Petition For Dissolution of Marriage is known as FL-100. On our website, we always give you both the name of each form and the form number.
All of the forms are in our free Court Forms Database. The database is organized by groups of forms and then by the form number. All the Family law forms, which are “FL” forms, are grouped together. All the domestic violence forms, which are “DV” forms, are grouped together. The Court Forms Database has blank forms you can fill out on-line and print. It also has many samples of completed forms.