Divorce and Legal Separation
You can end a marriage or registered domestic partnership, or legally separate from your spouse, in 3 different ways:
- Dissolution (Divorce)
- Legal Separation
To learn about the differences between these 3 ways, read the Overview on the California Courts Self-Help Center.
Generally, if you are filing for divorce, you or your spouse or registered domestic partner must have lived in California for 6 months, and in the county where you are filing for at least 3 months. There may be some exceptions in same sex marriages or registered domestic partners, so ask for help if you think those may apply to your case.
- For a legal separation, you do not have these residency requirements. But if you file for legal separation, and later want to end your marriage, you will have to re-file your case as a divorce.
- If you and your spouse agree to the divorce, have no children, have been married less than 5 years, and have little or no property or debt, you may qualify for a simpler way to get divorced. It’s called a Summary Dissolution. Click to see if you qualify for a summary dissolution.
- If you are low income or cannot afford the court filing fees, you can ask the court to waive your fees by asking for a fee waiver. Find out more about fee waivers.
- For help, visit our Self-Help Center page for our hours, locations, and email address.
To see what steps you will have to take, see Legal Steps for a Divorce or Legal Separation (FL-107-INFO).
Lea Pasos legales en un caso de divorcio o separación legal (FL-107-INFO-S).
Filling Out Forms Online
If you are comfortable on a computer, there are form completion programs that can fill out many of divorce or legal separation forms for you that you will need.
Click on the link below to get help starting a divorce or legal separation case:
Make sure you create an account with a user name and password that you write down in a safe place so you can return to your paperwork if you need to.
This program will:
Ask you questions and put your answers into the forms you need.
Combine the forms into a single packet (a .pdf file) that you can download, email, & print
Included in the packet will be BLANK FORMS for your spouse: these are for you to have served on your spouse along with your completed, stamped forms.
For help online, click to register for a workshop to fill out all the forms to start a divorce or legal separation case.
What If Your Spouse or Partner Filed for Divorce?
If your spouse or partner filed for divorce or legal separation, learn about responding to a case. You can also get help responding to a divorce or legal separation with a form completion program called Guide & File.
When Is a Divorce Final?
The soonest you can be divorced is 6 months and one day from the earliest of these dates:
- The date your spouse or partner was served with the Summons (FL-110) and Petition (FL-100),
- The date your spouse or partner filed a Response (FL-120), or
- The date you or your spouse/partner filed the Appearance, Stipulation, and Waivers (FL-130).
But, you MUST file papers to finish your divorce and will not be divorced until the court enters a Judgment. You will not automatically be divorced after 6 months.
If you filed for legal separation, there is no waiting period. You will be legally separated on the date the court enters a Judgment in the case.
Spousal / Partner Support
When two people who are married or in a registered domestic partnership separate or divorce, the court can order 1 spouse or partner to pay the other one a certain amount of support (called spousal or partner support) every month. Spousal or partner support used to be called “alimony.”
To learn about how a judge makes decisions about spousal and partner support, how to ask for spousal support, how to end it, and how to write up an agreement, click on Spousal / Partner Support.
Visite la página de Manutención del cónyuge o pareja de hecho de las Cortes de California para obtener información sobre qué factores se consideran para determinar la manutención de un cónyuge o pareja de hecho, cómo se pide la manutención, cómo se da por terminada, y cómo llegar a un acuerdo con su cónyuge.
Spousal or partner support can be a complicated legal issue so talk to a lawyer or contact our Self-Help Center to understand your rights and/or obligations.
Property and Debts
In a divorce or legal separation, couples (or the court) must also make decisions about how to split their property and their debt.
This can be complicated, especially if there is a lot of property (for example, houses, bank accounts, retirement or pension plans) or a lot of debts (for example, credit cards, mortgages, medical bills or car payments)
Watch the online course Finances After Separation to understand how financial issues must be decided as part of your divorce or separation.
Vea Finanzas Después de la Separación, un curso en línea, para ver cómo manejar los temas financieros en un divorcio o separación.
Click to read more about Property and Debt in a Divorce or Legal Separation, including how to collect on a family law judgment if your ex-spouse or partner will not pay you what the court ordered after dividing your property.
Visite la página de Bienes y deudas den un divorcio o separación legal de las Cortes de California para obtener información sobre cómo separar sus bienes en su divorcio o separación, y cómo cobrar un fallo en su caso de familia y su ex-pareja no cumple con una orden judicial.