California Family Law Blog

Steps to Getting Divorced in California

Choosing to end your marriage is never an easy decision, but understanding the legal steps involved can make it a more manageable process. Below is a basic outline of the steps involved in getting a divorce in California.

Step 1: Meet the Residency Requirements

To file for divorce in California, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing. You also must have lived in the county where you plan to file for at least three months.

Step 2: File the Petition

The divorce process begins by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage with the court. The petition includes basic information about the marriage, such as the names of the parties, the date of the marriage, the date of separation, and whether any children are involved. You must also state the grounds for divorce, which in California can be either irreconcilable differences or incurable insanity.

Step 3: Serve Your Spouse

Once you have filed the petition, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the petition and a summons. This is typically done by having a third party, such as a process server or sheriff's deputy, personally deliver the documents to your spouse. Your spouse then has 30 days to respond to the petition.

Step 4: Disclose Financial Information

Both parties must complete and exchange a series of financial disclosure forms, which detail their income, expenses, assets, and debts. This information is used to help divide property and debts fairly.

Step 5: Negotiate a Settlement

Most divorce cases are resolved through a settlement agreement negotiated between the parties and their attorneys. This agreement addresses issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. Once the parties have agreed on the terms of the settlement, they submit the agreement to the court for approval.

Step 6: Attend a Court Hearing

If the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the case will proceed to trial. At trial, the judge will hear evidence and make a decision on any disputed issues. However, most cases are settled before trial, and the parties typically attend a brief court hearing to finalize the divorce.

Step 7: Finalize the Divorce

Once the court has approved the settlement agreement or issued a final judgment, the divorce is finalized. The parties will receive a judgment of dissolution of marriage, which legally terminates their marriage. The soonest a marriage can be terminated is six months and a day from when your spouse was served with the petition.


Divorce can be a complex and emotional process, but understanding the legal steps involved can help make it more manageable. By following these general steps, you can navigate the divorce process in California and move forward with your life. However, please note that this is just an overview, and there may be additional requirements or nuances depending on your specific situation. It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced family law attorney to help guide you through the process.

By Amy Shiffman Hendel

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