Start your divorce case

To start a divorce or legal separation, you begin by filling out two court forms: a Petition and a Summons. If you and your spouse (or domestic partner) have children together, you will also need to fill out at least one other form about your children.

Before you start

Get familiar with a few key terms

The way you fill out these forms will impact the outcome of your case, so it’s important to do it correctly. The forms include some terms that may be unfamiliar to you. You can read more about these terms:

This website has information to walk you through the basic process. But, you may need more help or legal advice.

Consider getting help

  • Get help from the court. Learn more about the court’s Family Law Facilitator or Self-Help Center.

  • Hire a lawyer to help you with all or a part of your case. It’s possible to complete the process without a lawyer, but if you have a lot of property or debt, you may wish to hire a lawyer.

How to fill out a divorce Petition and Summons

  • Confirm where 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. 

    This is known as meeting the residency requirement. You can file for divorce in any county where one of you meets the residency requirement. Check which county you could file in if you're not sure.

    To file for a legal separation, one of you must live in California. There is no requirement for how long that person must have lived in California.

    You can file for a legal separation. Then, you can change (amend) to a divorce once you meet the requirements. Learn about legal separation.


    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 meet 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. 

  • Fill out forms

    Fill out these forms:

    • Petition — Marriage/Domestic Partnership (form FL-100

      This form asks for basic information about your marriage and the type of orders you want the court to be able to make about things like spousal support and property. 

    • Summons (Family Law) (form FL-110

      The Summons tells your spouse that you've started a court case and that they have 30 days to respond.

    Once you file the Summons and Petition, there are things you can’t do without written agreement from your spouse or a court order. They’re called Standard Family Law Restraining Orders.    

    For example, you can’t:  

    • Give away or hide money and property  
    • Change insurance beneficiaries   
    • Take your children (if you have them together) out of state or get them a new passport  

    Read page 2 of the Summons for a complete list. These same rules will apply to your spouse once they’re served.


    If you and your spouse have children together, you will also need to fill out:

    • Declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (form FL-105)
      You must fill out this form if your children are under 18. This form tells the court where your children were born and live and if there are any other court cases involving them.


    On the forms, you're called the petitioner because you're the one starting the case. Your spouse is called the respondent


    Fill out more forms if you need a fee waiver. 

    There's a $435-$450 filing fee to file for a divorce. If you cant afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver.
  • Figure out if you need the court to decide something right away

    You may need to ask for something right away, rather than waiting until your divorce is final. For example: 

    • Where your children will live

    • You may need financial support from your spouse  

    • You may need to figure out who stays in your home or pays bills 

    There's a process to ask the court to decide by requesting a temporary order. You’ll need to fill out more forms. 

    Learn how to request a temporary order

  • Find out if you have any local forms to complete

    Some courts have additional local forms they require you to use.   

    Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your Family Law Facilitator or Self-Help Center to ask if they have any local forms you need to use. 

  • Make copies of your forms

    After you’ve filled out the forms and signed the Petition, make 2 copies of both forms. 

Start a divorce case

What's next?

Once you’ve completed the forms and made copies, you’ll file them with the court. 


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