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What is the divorce process in California?

Divorce can seem confusing and frustrating if you do not know the process. California does not require a trial separation period before filing a petition. However, the divorce process takes at least six months from beginning to end if there are no extenuating circumstances.

California outlines the procedure for you to get your divorce. The process includes time limitations on when documents are due back to the court.

1. Start your case

If you are the one asking for a divorce, the court considers you the petitioner and your spouse the respondent. Your job is to fill out the petition, summons and, if there are children, a document to determine custody. When filing for divorce you must live in the state for at least six months and in the county for three months immediately preceding the filing of the petition.

2. Serve the forms

A person 18 years or older serves the respondent, who then has 30 days to file the response form and proof of service with the court clerk.

3. Disclose financial information

At the same time as you are filling out the petition for divorce or within 60 days of the filing, you must complete several financial documents to send to your spouse. This includes all tax returns filed in the two years prior.

4. Finish the divorce

Your spouse may respond to your petition in one of four ways:

  • No response and no agreement
  • No response but with an agreement
  • Files a response and agreement
  • Files a response and no agreement

Depending on how your spouse responds tells you how long the divorce proceedings last. For instance, with no response and no agreement, you can prepare a proposed judgment to present to the court. However, if your spouse files a response and no agreement, you may have to go to trial and have the judge resolve the issues.