Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Photos by Adam Stewart
Old Zinfandel vines at the Nelson Ranch, south of Ukiah - Photo courtesy of Kim Weston

You can end a marriage or registered domestic partnership in 3 different ways:

  • Dissolution (Divorce)
  • Legal Separation
  • Annulment

To learn about the differences between these 3 ways, go to Options to End a Marriage or Domestic Partnership on the California Courts website.

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 (California Courts website).
  • 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 (California Courts website).
  • For help, visit our Self-Help Center page for our hours, locations, and email address.

To see what steps you will have to take to end your marriage, see Legal Steps for a Divorce or Legal Separation (FL-107-INFO). On this handout, you will see each step, forms you need for each step, and links for more information on each of those.

Lea Pasos legales en un caso de divorcio o separación legal (FL-107-INFO-S).

Filling Out Forms Online with LawHelp Interactive

If you are comfortable on a computer, LawHelp Interactive can fill out many of divorce forms for you that you will need.  Click on the link below to get started:

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.

When is a Divorce Final?

The soonest you can be divorced is 6 months and one day from the earliest of these dates:

  1. The date your spouse or partner was served with the Summons (FL-110) and Petition (FL-100),
  2. The date your spouse or partner filed a Response (FL-120), or
  3. 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, visit the Spousal / Partner Support section of the California Courts website.

  • 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 you should talk to a lawyer or see 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.

You can read more about Property and Debt in a Divorce or Legal Separation on the California Courts website, 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.

© 2020 Superior Court of Mendocino County