Divorce in California

This guide can help you

This guide uses the term spouse to mean spouse or domestic partner, unless noted.

 

 

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Overview

In California, you get a divorce by starting a court case. No one has to prove someone did something wrong to cause the divorce (this is called no fault divorce). You can get a divorce even if the other person doesn't want one. 

You can divorce to end a marriage or domestic partnership. A legal separation has a similar process, you can use these instructions. You need different instructions for an annulment.

Make sure you can file in California

To file for divorce in California, either you or your spouse has to have lived in California for the past 6 months and in your current California county for the past 3 months. 

Legal separation 
You can file for a legal separation as soon as one of you moves to California. If either of you wants a divorce instead, you can change to a divorce once one of you has lived in California (and a county) long enough.

Same-sex couples 

If you married in California, but now live somewhere that doesn't allow divorces for same-sex couples, you can file for divorce in the county you married. The court can end your marriage, but may not be able to make decisions about property, support, or children. Check with a lawyer to find out more. 

Domestic partners 

  • If your domestic partnership is registered in California, you don’t need to meet the residency requirement. But, if neither of you meets the requirement, the court could end your partnership, but may not be able to make decisions about property, support, or children.  
  • If it’s not registered in California, you will need to meet the residency requirement. 
Looking for copies of divorce papers? Contact the court where you or your spouse filed the case.

File papers to start the case and pay a fee

When you file forms with the court, you'll pay a fee. 

illustration representing a fee to be paid

Pay a fee It costs between $435 and $450 to start the case. If you can't afford the fee, you can apply for a fee waiver.

Share the divorce papers with your spouse

Once you file your papers, you must have someone deliver a copy to your spouse. 

illustration of a signed paper form changing hands

Serve court papers Serving court papers is the official legal way to let someone know you started a court case.

Finish the divorce

To finish the divorce, you must

  • Share financial information with your spouse
  • Make an agreement about how to split your property, handle finances, and care for and support your children. If you can't agree or your spouse won't participate, the court can decide for you. 
  • Submit final paperwork to the court so your divorce can become final

By law, the divorce can't be final for at least 6 months (called a waiting period). 

You can get a divorce without a lawyer. 

This guide can help you with the process. Your court's Self-Help Center staff can help you with forms and offer legal information. If you have a lot of property or debt, you can hire a lawyer to help with all or part of your case.