Welcome to FreeDivorce.com.
Christina: This is Christina.
Ed: This is Ed. Today, are going to discuss the initial court forms you need to start the divorce process and how to file those forms with the court.
Christina: Are the forms different depending on whether you want to file for a divorce, versus filing for a legal separation, versus an annulment?
Ed: No. You use the same forms. The forms you use to start a divorce are the exact same forms you would use to file for a legal separation or for an annulment. You basically just check different boxes on one of the forms.
Christina: How many court forms do you need to start the divorce process?
Ed: It depends. If you don’t have minor children by your marriage, you need just two forms. If you have minor children, you will need to fill out the third form.
Christina: What are the court forms you will need to complete to get started:
Ed: The two court forms everyone needs to fill out to get started are the Petition, which is FL-100, and the Summons, which is FL-110. If you have minor children, you will also need a third form known as the UCCJEA, which is FL-105.
Christina: Where can I get these forms?
Ed: You can find all three of these forms in our Court Forms Database. You can go to our Court Forms Database, pull up the FL-100, the FL-110, and the FL-105. Fill out the forms on our website and then print them. You can then file the forms with the court. There is no cost for the forms. All three forms are free.
Christina: What is the divorce petition?
Ed: The Petition, which is FL-100, is a three-page form. It can be used to file for divorce, for legal separation; or to nullify your marriage. It’s all the same form. If you want a divorce, you check the box marked “Divorce”. If you want a legal separation, check the box that says “Legal Separation”, and if you want an annulment, check the box that says, “Nullity”. If you were not married, but have a domestic partnership that was registered with the California Secretary of State, you can also use the FL-100 to dissolve your domestic partnership. The FL-100 is essentially a request form, where you are requesting that the court give you a divorce, issue a judgment of legal separation, or a judgment nullifying your marriage.
Christina: What is the Summons?
Ed: The Summons, which is FL-110, is a two-page form. The first page of the Summons is essentially a notice. It tells the other party that a legal proceeding has been initiated against them and warns them that they have 30 days after having been served to file a Response form with the court. Page Two of the Summons sets forth “Standard Family Law Restraining Orders”.
Christina: What are “Standard Family Law Restraining Orders?
Ed: These are orders that go into effect automatically in every case. You don’t have a choice about whether or not these restraining orders are issued. These orders are printed on the Summons form and just automatically go into effect as soon as the Summons is issued by the court. They include orders such as don’t take the children out of the State of California without your spouse’s written consent; Don’t cancel existing health insurance or life insurance coverages; don’t sell or otherwise dispose of any assets without your spouse’s written consent. These restraining orders are intended to protect both parties until a judgment is entered.
Christina: You mentioned that if you have minor children by your marriage, you also need to fill out a third form called a UCCJEA. What is that form?
Ed: The UCCJEA Declaration, which is FL-105, is a two-page form. You only need to fill out this form if you have minor children by your marriage. If you don’t have minor children, you can skip this form. The basic purpose of this form is to let the court know if any other court has previously issued orders pertaining to your children. If a court in another state or another county has previously issued child custody orders, or if custody orders have previously been made in a domestic violence proceeding or a juvenile court proceeding, then you use this form to advise the court about those prior orders. If no such orders have ever been issued, you still need to complete this form. The FL-105 is designed for use with one or two children. If you have more than two children, you will also need to fill out an attachment, which is FL-105(A).
Christina: Are these forms difficult to fill out?
Ed: some of the forms are straightforward and some are confusing. For those of you who want additional help with the initial filings, we offer Video Guides packages you can access from our FreeDivorce.com homepage. The guides are offered at a nominal cost which helps us offset the cost of producing and hosting them.
If you elect to purchase the Initial Filings video guide package, you will get access to three instructional videos. One video guide shows you how to fill out the Petition. One shows you how to fill out the Summons and the third shows you how to fill out the UCCJEA declaration. The video guides walk you through each court form, line-by-line, providing valuable tips and information on how to fill out each form to your advantage. The guides also include explanations about certain legal concepts such as “date of separation”; the differences between “legal custody” and “physical custody”; the differences between separate property and community property and so much more.
Those explanations will be useful when making decisions about what to write down on the forms and which boxes to check.
Christina: Do I have to buy the Initial Filings” video package in order to get access to the Summons, Petition, and UCCJEA forms.
Ed: No. The Summons, Petition, and UCCJEA forms are absolutely free in our court forms database. We make the Initial Filings video package available at a nominal cost to simplify and clarify the process of filling out these forms.
Christina: What do I do with the initial court forms after I have filled them out?
Ed: After you have filled out the initial forms consisting of the Summons and Petition and, if you have minor children, the UCCJEA declaration, make two copies of all of your forms. Go to the Superior Court and file the forms with the court clerk. You file your divorce petition in the Superior Court in the County where you reside. If your spouse resides in a different county, you have the option of filing in the county where your spouse resides. The proper county to file is referred to as “venue”. For proper “venue”, you or your spouse must have been a resident of the county where you file your petition for at least three months before you file.
Christina: What will happen when I give my forms to the court clerk?
Ed: The court clerk will keep the originals and give you back the two copies. The copies will be filed-endorsed copies. This means they will have the court’s stamp on them in the upper right-hand corner that says the date on which the forms were filed with the court. One set of copies is for you and one set is for your spouse.
Christina: Can I file my court forms with the court on the weekend?
Ed: No. The courts are closed on weekends and holidays. Before you go to the court, you may want to look at the court’s website for your county and see when the court clerk’s window is open. In most counties, the clerk’s window is open from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Some counties have different hours. Many courts have a number system. When you enter the courthouse, you get a number from a clerk at a desk or sometimes from a machine. You then wait for your number to be called. Not all counties have this system. For some counties, you just get in line to file papers with the court clerk. When you go to file your papers, you want to file with the family law clerk as opposed to the clerk that handles traffic cases, criminal cases, probate cases, or other types of civil cases. Be prepared to wait in line, sometimes for a long time, particularly if you live in a county that has a large population. It is usually best to go to court early in the morning, preferably at 8:00 a.m. when the line usually is not as long.
Christina: When I file my paperwork with the court clerk, will I have to pay any filing fees?
Ed: When your file a divorce petition, the court clerk will charge you a filing fee. The court increases the amount of the fee from time to time. Currently, the fee is $435. This payment is also known as a “first appearance fee” or a “first paper fee”. Bring your checkbook or a credit card when you go to file your petition. You can also pay in cash. If your income is below a certain level, you may qualify for a fee waiver. To get a fee waiver, you have to fill out a fee waiver application. Watch the next free video on how to fill out a fee waiver application. If you can’t afford the filing fee, fill out the fee waiver application and take it with you when you go to court to file your Petition and Summons.