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California Divorce Self-Help Center

Many customer California divorce questions are answered here.  Browse from the topics below or use the search box to narrow your search.
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General Information State Procedures   Custody, Visitation, Support
  Property and Debts   Special Circumstances Additional Resources
Can my spouse and I get a divorce if we are still living together? 1857
Yes. You can divorce while still living in the same residence with your spouse.
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How long does it take to get a divorce in California? 1959
The Judge cannot sign the Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, which is the document that finalizes the divorce, until six months have passed from the date of service of a copy of Summons and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage or the date of appearance of the respondent, whichever occurs first.

After you file for divorce, you will receive a Divorce Decree in the mail that is signed by the judge and contains the date that the divorce will be officially final. In uncontested divorces, that date is 6 months + 1 day from the date the divorce was filed.
How much is the filing fee in California? 726
The filing fee charged by the Court is NOT included in the DivorceWriter price. California has adopted a statewide fee schedule, which requires a filing fee of $435.00 as of 1/1/2020 ($450.00 in Riverside County and San Francisco County) for a dissolution of marriage.
What are the steps to getting a divorce in California? 1971
1) File the divorce papers with the Superior Court Clerk and pay the filing fee of $435.00 as of 1/1/20 ($450.00 in Riverside County and San Francisco County). Then, have a friend or relative mail a copy of the divorce papers to your spouse.
2) File the Marital Settlement Agreement and related documents with the Clerk after they have been signed by you and your spouse.
3) Receive the Judgment finalizing your divorce approximately 6 months + 1 day from the date you filed for divorce.
How do I serve my spouse with the divorce papers in California? 1961
The spouse who filed for divorce chooses a friend or relative to mail divorce papers to the non-filing spouse. Later, the server and the non-filing spouse each sign a document verifying service, which is filed with the Clerk.

Note: San Diego County filers are generally required to hand-deliver documents to the non-filing spouse unless this is not possible.
What is a California Summary Dissolution? 1816
A California Summary Dissolution is basically a simplified divorce. You must meet several requirements including being married less than five years, having no children, and having little community property. The online interview provides more details and has the option to request a Summary Dissolution if you qualify.
Will either of us be required to attend a court hearing? 39
In an uncontested California divorce, you typically will not need a court hearing. After filing your petition at the court house, you may be able to file the rest of the divorce paperwork by mail.
Which spouse files the divorce documents? 41
The spouse who files for divorce is the Petitioner. The other spouse is the Respondent.

To file for divorce in California, at least one spouse must have been a resident of California for at least six (6) months and of the county where the divorce is filed for at least three (3) months before filing for divorce.
What documents are included in the self-prepared DivorceWriter package? 1477
Your self-prepared California DivorceWriter package includes:

Petition Documents:
  • Petition (FL-100)
  • Summons (FL-110)
Service Documents and Response:
  • Proof of Service of Summons (FL-115)
  • Notice of Acknowledgment and Receipt (FL-117)
  • Response and Request (FL-120)
Disclosure Forms (one set for each spouse):
  • Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140)
  • Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (FL-144) (both spouses sign one form)
  • Declaration of Service of Disclosure (FL-141)
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142)
  • Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)
Settlement and Judgment Forms
  • Marital Settlement Agreement
  • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution (FL-170)
  • Judgment (FL-180)
  • Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL-190)
Customers with minor and/or legally dependent children will also receive:
  • Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL-191)
  • Child Support Case Registry Form (FL-192)
  • Income Withholding for Support (FL-195)
Do we qualify for a summary dissolution? 1840
The DivorceWriter online interview provides qualifying customers with the ability to select the summary dissolution option. If all conditions are not met, you will receive standard dissolution documents. For a summary dissolution, ALL of the following conditions must be met:
  • Either party meets the residency requirements.
  • Both spouses can be present when the documents are filed and both can show valid picture ID.
  • Irreconcilable differences have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage and the marriage should be dissolved.
  • There are no children of the relationship of the parties.
  • The wife is not pregnant.
  • The marriage is not more than five years in duration at the time the petition is filed.
  • Neither party has any interest in real property wherever situated, with the exception of the lease of a residence occupied by either party.
  • There are no unpaid obligations in excess of $6,000 incurred by either or both of the parties after the date of their marriage, not including car loans.
  • The total fair market value of community property assets,excluding all encumbrances and automobiles, including any deferred compensation or retirement plan, is less than $38,000, and neither party has separate property assets,excluding all encumbrances and automobiles, in excess of $38,000.
  • The parties have executed an agreement settlement.
  • The parties waive any rights to spousal support.
  • The parties irrevocably waive their respective rights to appeal and their rights to move for a new trial.
Can I change my name in the divorce proceedings? 215
If you select the name change option in the Online Interview, the request will be automatically added to your documents at no additional cost to you.
Can I file for divorce in California? 1960
To file for divorce in California, one or both spouses must be residents of that state for at least six (6) months before filing. If one of the spouses is not a California resident, it is usually easier if the resident spouse files for divorce.

The divorce can be filed in the county where either spouse has lived for at least three (3) months before filing. If both spouses meet this requirement, the divorce can be filed in the county where either spouse lives.
What are the grounds for filing for divorce? 212
California allows a person to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage on the grounds of (1) irreconcilable differences or (2) incurable insanity. The DivorceWriter online interview accommodates the grounds of irreconcilable differences only.
Where do I file the divorce documents? 203
Divorces are filed at the Superior Court Clerk's office in the county where one or both spouses have lived for at least three (3) months.
What if I want to use the Simplified Financial Statement (FL-155) instead of the Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)? 3819
While DivorceWriter is aware of the Simplified Financial Statement (FL-155), we have elected to continue to offer the Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150) instead because it is compatible with the language of other related dissolution documents such as FL-140, FL-141 and Fl-144, which directly reference use of FL-150. Additionally, as page 2 of the Simplified Financial Statement (FL-155) states, even if you are eligible to use the simplified version you may choose instead to use the Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150).
The Clerk or Judge told me I need to file Further Orders and/or other attachments to my Judgment (FL-180) in addition to the Marital Settlement Agreement. Where can I get these? 2720
In most counties, the Court only requires the Marital Settlement Agreement to be stapled to the back of the Judgment (FL-180) and filed with the Court. However, a few counties may tell the Petitioner to file Further Orders or in the alternative, to staple one or more attachments beginning with a number in the 300's to the back of the Judgment (FL-180) behind the Marital Settlement Agreement.

DivorceWriter makes a Further Orders document available to California users free of charge. To obtain this document, simply send an e-mail to DivorceWriter Customer Service at info@divorcewriter.com requesting the Further Orders document. You will receive an e-mail that contains all of the documents you have already received as part of your DivorceWriter package as well as one or more documents beginning with 888, which are all of our supplemental forms for California. Among the supplemental 888 documents, is a Further Orders document. Note: If Petitioner is asked to file Further Orders, the boxes marked "other" for 4l, 4m, and 4n on the Judgment (FL-180) generally must be checked and "Further Orders Attachment" written in the blank spaces provided.

Most Courts will accept the Further Orders document as a substitute for all of the attachments beginning with a number in the 300's. However, the DivorceWriter 888 supplemental documents may also contain one or more of the 300 attachments requested by the Court, which Petitioner may simply choose to print and file instead of the Further Orders document. If 300 attachment(s) are filed instead of Further Orders, Petitioner will check not check the "other" box for 4l, 4m, and 4m, but will instead check the correct box for the attachment being filed.
I live in San Mateo County. Why am I directed to file in the Southern Branch in Redwood City when I live closer to the Northern Branch in San Francisco? 2928
Effective January 31, 2011, the Family Law/Civil/Probate Clerk's Office located at the Northern Branch has closed. All other family law/civil/probate filings must be filed in Redwood City at the Hall of Justice.
How soon after filing for divorce must the Respondent be served with a copy of the Petition and Summons? 2729
The Petition and Summons must be served on the Respondent and the Proof of Service of Summons (FL-115) signed by the Server must be filed with the Superior Court Clerk within sixty (60) calendar days from the date of filing.
Do we have to be separated to get a divorce? 259
The "date of separation" refers to the date when at least one of the spouses decided to end the marriage with no intent to reconcile. This date is often a matter of interpretation. It is sometimes the date the spouses stopped living together although it is not requirement that the spouses are physically living apart. Moreover, even spouses that live apart might not be considered separated if they are maintaining the marital relationship, attending marriage counseling, and/or holding themselves out as a married couple.

Consider this date carefully as it can affect property division and spousal support if you and your spouse are ever unable to agree about matters pertaining to the dissolution of your marriage at a later time in the process.
I received a document entitled "Requirements for Submitted Judgments" from Los Angeles County. What does this form mean? 2886
If you filed for divorce in L.A. County, you may have received a document entitled "Requirements for Submitted Judgments," which is commonly given to people representing themselves (without an attorney) in divorce. This document contains several tips on divorce requirements in Los Angeles County, not all of which apply to all cases. You should not assume that receiving this document means that you have a problem with your documents. Generally speaking, if a Settlement Agreement signed by both spouses is filed with the Clerk that states what the parties have agreed to concerning child custody, visitation, spousal support, property division, and debt allocation, the requirements addressed in this letter will have been met.
How do I know which courthouse to file my divorce in Los Angeles County? 3371
When both spouses live in Los Angeles County, the divorce can be filed in the district where either spouse lives. For more information, see Los Angeles County Superior Court Rule 2.3.
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Will we be able to customize our documents to fit our specific custody and visitation arrangement? 248
DivorceWriter accommodates parents who want to share joint legal custody while designating one parent to have primary physical custody of the children.

Choose to customize as little or as much as you need.
  • Create a detailed schedule for vacations, holidays, and special occasions, including beginning and end times, or choose to keep your regular schedule during those times.
  • List your parenting schedule priorities to resolve potential conflicts before they arise.
  • Designate the amount of time each parent will spend with the child(ren).
How is spousal support/alimony calculated? 134
In uncontested divorces, spouses reach their own agreement regarding the amount of spousal support/alimony, if any, that one spouse will receive from the other.

Additional information on how courts calculate spousal support/alimony in cases where spouses have not reached an agreement can be found at: www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp
How is child support calculated in California? 35
DivorceWriter's automated system calculates the guideline child support amount based on the income information provided by the customer in this online interview. The customer then has the option to use the guideline child support amount or select a different amount. The child support amount will be listed on the Marital Settlement Agreement, Child Support Registry Form (FL-191) and the Income Withholding for Support (FL-195).

Additional information on the calculation of child support can be found at www.courtinfo.ca.gov
When can a child support order be modified in California? 1920
A child support order can be modified in California if there has been:
  • a significant increase or decrease in either parent's earnings;
  • a change in custody or the amount of time the child spends with each parent; or
  • a change in any other factor that would affect the child support guideline.
What if my spouse and I have agreed to a child support amount that is different from the standard amount? 252
DivorceWriter shows the child support calculation under the guidelines using the parents' income. Then, the customer chooses whether to use the guideline calculation or to deviate from that calculation by entering a different child support amount as well a reason for using a different amount. Information on using a child support amount that is different from the standard amount set by the Child Support Guidelines is available at: www.courtinfo.ca.gov.
What are the different types of custody? 509
Click here to review how the California Code defines the various custody types: leginfo.legislature.ca.gov.
What if we already have an existing child support order? 247
DivorceWriter provides the option to enter information regarding an existing child support order including the amount of support ordered and other identifying case information. Generally, you must also attach a copy of already existing child support document(s) to your Marital Settlement Agreement when you file it.
What if I have additional questions about child support? 133
Additional information on child support can be found at www.courtinfo.ca.gov.
What if my spouse and I have agreed that spouse will be paid directly rather than with a wage garnishment? 3803
In every case involving child support in California, the court will issue a Withholding Order (FL-195). D.4 of the Settlement Agreement contains language indicating that a mandatory Wage Assignment Order (income withholding) will be issued. This method is preferred by courts and many spouses because it creates a clear, undisputable record of child support payments. However, in cases where the Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) is not involved in the case and both spouses have agreed to include language in the Settlement Agreement stating that the obligor (spouse paying support) will make payments directly to the obligee (spouse receiving support), the court may ask the LCSA to stay, or put a hold on, the Withholding Order (FL-195) until a spouse requests that it be activated or until an arrearage accrues.

If you would like to make changes to your document, please note that it may be downloaded in Microsoft Word and self-customized as needed. If you have additional questions concerning child support or wage withholding, please contact an attorney.
I received a notice that the Judge wants me to file a child support calculation sheet. Where can I get one? 3772
Generally, the Court will not expect to see written child support calculations. However, if you have been notified that your Judge wants you to file a document with child support calculations, you may create that document here.
I was told that my documents are missing FC 2105 language and/or Declaration Regarding Service of Preliminary Disclosure (FL-141). What does this mean? 3192
Generally, if you are told that you are missing FC Sec. 2105 language, it means that you and/or your spouse did not follow the instructions concerning filing of the Declaration Regarding Service of Preliminary Disclosure and Income and Expenses Statement (form FL-141). A Form FL-141 is included for each spouse, and each spouse must sign and file this form. Please review the instructions provided in your DivorceWriter California Divorce Filing Procedures (Step 2, Step 3, and Additional Information for Step 3) for more information.
I have been advised that FC Sec. 5616 is missing from my documents. What do I do? 3191
All California Marital Settlement Agreements in cases involving children now include the following FC 5616 language in the child support section: In the event that there is a contract between a party receiving support and a private child support collector, the party ordered to pay support must pay the fee charged by the private child support collector. This fee must not exceed 33 1/3 percent of the total amount of past due support nor may it exceed 50 percent of any fee charged by the private child support collector. The money judgment created by this provision is in favor of the private child support collector and the party receiving support, jointly.
Can I change custody from joint to sole on my California documents? 3781
Yes. On the Petition (FL-100), 7a and 7b ask about legal and physical custody. On the Marital Settlement Agreement, the portion of section C that begins with the sentence "child custody and visitation rights of each party are set forth as follows," contains custody, visitation and parenting time options, which can be self-customized. To make changes to your custody and/or visitation options on the applicable documents, your documents may be downloaded in Microsoft Word and self-customized as needed.
Where do I obtain a Case Identifier for the Income Withholding for Support?  3187
The Court Clerk in your county should be able to provide you with the Case Identifier and the Order Identifier for the Income Withholding for Support . If the Court Clerk will not provide you with this information, contact the California State Disbursement Unit (SDU) for this information. In California, the SDU is responsible for the collection and disbursement of all employer child support wage withholding payments. If you need assistance, you may contact the SDU at (866) 901-3212. In the alternative, you may wish to contact your Local Child Support Agency (LCSA) for assistance. To locate your LCSA, click here.
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Can we customize our documents to fit our plans for our real estate? 597
The DivorceWriter online interview allows customers to list not only the street address, c... more
My spouse and I listed no property or debts in the online interview. Why is 13(b) checked on FL-800 instead of 13(a)? 3197
All California DivorceWriter document packages come with a Marital Settlement Agreement that sets forth several important terms of the divorce. Because a Marital Settlement Agreement is filed, 13(b) is marked on FL-800, indicating that the parties have signed an agreement listing and dividing all our community assets and liabilities. However, if the parties do not have any community assets or liabilities, that portion of the Marital Settlement Agreement will be blank.
What is the "legal description" of a piece of real estate? 2885
The legal description, also referred to as the property description, is usually a one to two paragraph description of land that includes metes and bounds, lot number and/or block number in order to describe the exact legal boundaries of a piece of real estate. The legal description is not the same as the physical address of the property.

The legal description can be found on the deed to the property. The county clerk or recorder in the county where the property is located will be able to provide a copy of the legal description if you do not have a copy of the deed. In addition, often the property tax statement will list the property description as well as the accessor parcel number, or APN.
Why do I have to complete financial disclosures in an uncontested divorce? 3877
More than half of the states require one or both spouses to complete a document listing th... more
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What if one spouse is living in a foreign country? 733
If your spouse is able to receive documents in the mail and is willing to sign and return ... more
What if one spouse is in the military? 803
If both parties are willing to sign the papers, ending your marriage when a spouse is in t... more
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Where can I find the full-text version of the California Family Code online? 740
View the California Code in its entirety. Division 6, part 3 is the beginning of the dissolution of marriage section. Division 7 involves division of property. Divisions 8 covers custody of children. Division 9 covers spousal support and child support.
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