Know the Laws: California
UPDATED June 4, 2012
Basic information about divorce in California.
back to topWhat are the grounds for divorce or legal separation in California?
You can file for divorce or for legal separation in California based on either of the following grounds (reasons):
- Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the permanent breakdown of the marriage; or
- Incurable insanity.* For this ground, there needs to be proof (competent medical or psychiatric testimony) that the spouse was incurably insane at the time you filed the petition and that he still is incurably insane.**
* Ann.Cal.Fam.Code. § 2310
** Ann.Cal.Fam.Code. § 2312
back to topWhat are the residency requirements to file for divorce in California?
You or your spouse must have lived in the state of California for at least six months and must have lived in the county where the divorce is going to be filed for at least three months prior to filing for divorce, except in the case of same-sex marriages.*
Spouses of the same sex can get a judgment for divorce, nullity, or legal separation even if neither spouse is a resident of CA at the time the proceedings if:
- the marriage was entered in California; and
- neither spouse lives in a state that will dissolve the marriage (Note: If the state does not recognize the marriage, it is assumed that the state will not dissolve it).
In this case, the same-sex spouse would file in the superior court in the county where the marriage was entered.*
* Ann.Cal.Fam.Code § 2320
back to topWhat are the basic steps for filing for divorce?
While divorce laws vary by state, here are the basic steps:
- First, you must meet the residency requirements of the state in which you wish to file.
- Second, you must have “grounds” (a legally acceptable reason) to end your marriage.
- Third, you must file divorce papers and have copies sent to your spouse.
- Fourth, if your spouse disagrees with anything in the divorce papers, he will then have the opportunity to file papers telling his side. This is called “contesting the divorce.” In this case, you will have to attend a series of court appearances to sort the issues out. If your spouse does not disagree with anything, he should sign the papers and send them back to you and/or the court. This is called an “uncontested divorce.” If a certain period of time passes and your spouse does not sign the papers or file any papers of his/her own, you may be able to proceed with the divorce as an uncontested divorce anyway. You should speak to a lawyer in your state about how long you have to wait to see if your spouse answers the divorce papers before you can continue with the divorce.
- Fifth, if there is property that you need divided, or if you need financial support from your spouse, you will have to work that out in an out-of-court settlement, or in a series of court hearings. Custody may also be decided as part of your divorce.
back to topWhere can I find additional information about divorce?
The following links may provide helpful information. However, WomensLaw.org has no relationship with these organizations and does not endorse their services. We provide these links for your information only.
California Courts Self-Help Center
Provides information on divorce in CA and links to the court forms needed
Divorce Support - California
Provides a professional directory of divorce lawyers, mediators, counselors, financial planners and other divorce professionals as well as articles on child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property and debt division. You will also find access to other state specific resources, products and services.
California Divorce Legal Information Center
A resource on divorce and family law in the State of CA for non-lawyers and pro se litigants.
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