What do these papers mean?
Petition and Summons (FL-100 and FL-110)
If you received these forms, your spouse or domestic partner is asking the court to legally change your marriage or domestic partnership. Usually, this means they’re asking for a divorce. They may be asking for a legal separation or annulment.
This page will help you understand what the form means and your options for what to do next.
What your spouse is asking for
Divorce (dissolution): your spouse asked to legally end the relationship. You’ll be single at the end of the process.
Legal separation: your spouse, at this point, is not asking the court to legally end the relationship. At the end of the process, you’ll still be married or in a domestic partnership, but your finances will be separate. Find out more about legal separation.
Annulment (nullity): your spouse asked the court to find that your marriage or domestic partnership was never legal. Find out more about annulments.
What your spouse wants the court to decide
Checked boxes on pages 2-3 of the Petition say what else your spouse asked the court to decide.
How to split any property or debts
Whether one of you needs spousal or partner support
The care and support of your children (if you have them)
You can respond and say how you want the issues decided. If you don’t respond, your spouse may ask the court to decide without your input.
How to respond and what happens if you don't
You can respond by filing a Response (form FL-120) in court.
If you don't file a Response within 30 days of getting these papers, your spouse can ask the court to decide the case without your input. This is called a default.
The court could end your relationship or make orders about your property or the custody of your children without your input. The court may also order you to pay support or attorney’s fees.
Things you cannot do now
Once you're served the Summons and Petition, there are things you can’t do without a 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 apply to your spouse.
What to do next
Decide if you'll respond within 30 days
If you respond, this means you will participate in the divorce process and have input on any court decisions. You and your spouse may still agree and not need to go to court. If you don’t agree, you can use a court process to have the court decide.
File your Response within 30 days of getting the Petition. After 30 days, your spouse can ask for a default and the court can decide the case without you.
You can choose not to respond because you and your spouse already have a written agreement. This is called a default with an agreement. The court will decide the case based on the information your spouse provides, and will include your agreement.
Consider getting help
This website has information to walk you through the basic process. But, you may need more help or legal advice.
Get free help from the court. The court where the case is filed has a program where they offer free legal information about divorce. 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 do this process without a lawyer. But, if you have a lot of property or debt, you may wish to hire a lawyer.
Explore your options
- In California, the divorce and legal separation process is very similar, if you and your spouse or domestic partner want a legal separation you can still use these instructions. This site uses the term divorce for both unless noted.
- Ending a marriage and ending a domestic partnership are very similar, so if you are in a domestic partnership you can still use these instructions. This site uses the term spouse to mean both a spouse and a domestic partner, unless noted.
Respond to the divorce papers
Get step-by-step instructions for how to respond to divorce papers and participate in the divorce process.
Don’t respond, because you already have an agreement
Learn more about default with an agreement. The court will decide the case based on the information your spouse provides, which includes your agreement.
Learn more about a default. This means your spouse can move the case forward without your input.