Self Help Divorce Tips – Getting Your Divorce Started
Resources From Proven Divorce Lawyers in Orange County, CA
The following information is not meant to be legal advice. It offers alternatives,
tips and resources for those with no means to hire an Attorney.
In order to obtain a
divorce in California, you must have resided in California for at least 6 months,
and also lived in the county where you plan to file for divorce for 3 months.
- If you don’t meet these requirements, you may be able to file for
legal separation, and later amend your petition to file for divorce.
GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE
- California is a “No-Fault” state. You don’t need any
special grounds to file for divorce, and your spouse does not have to
agree to get a divorce. In the form you filed with the court (the Petition
for Dissolution) you can just check the box “Irreconcilable Differences”.
FILING FOR DIVORCE
All forms can be found at
www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm under Family Law – Dissolution)
Go to www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm and read the form, “FL-107-INFO”.
This is a form that sets forth in more detail, the legal steps for a divorce
or legal separation. Below, we have provided more general information
so you can quickly get an idea of the steps involved.
- Also go to http://courts.ca.gov/1229.htm and read this webpage. It is the
court’s information which has the steps for filing your case. It
has links to the forms referenced below, and video instructions as well.
- The process starts with one party, known as Petitioner, filing certain
forms with the court:
- A Petition for Dissolution (Form FL – 100)
A Summons (FL-110). This gives notice to your spouse that you have filed
Exception, you may qualify for “Summary Dissolution” which
is a more simple process, and which requires that you fill out different
forms. To determine if you qualify and what forms to fill out, see FL-810
“Summary Dissolution Information”.
Generally, to qualify you must not have any children by your marriage,
have not been married more than 5 years, don’t own any land or buildings, “community property” is worth no more than $40,000 (not including cars), your “separate
property” is not worth more than $40,000, total “community
debt” is $6,000 or less, you don’t want spousal support, and
you agree with your spouse as to how property is to be divided. See FL-810
for more details.
Note, there are “Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders” ("ATKOS")
that go into effect when the Petition is served. They are printed on page
Two of the Summons. Read them, so you know your rights and don’t
- ATROS preclude certain actions, such as removing minor children from the
state, cancelling insurance or removing the other party from insurance,
transferring and changing title to property, etc.
- A Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement
Act, FL -105 (if you have minor children from the relationship you are
Note Regarding Real Property:
- If there is any real property in your case, seriously consider seeking
assistance to file a Lis Pendens in the office of the county recorder
where the real property is located. This puts the world on constructive
notice that any subsequently acquired interests to the property will be
subject to the ultimate judgment in your Dissolution action. This is to
protect your interest in the property, and is especially important where
you are not on title.
Make at least two copies of your forms and go to the courthouse to file
them with the court clerk. The clerk will stamp all your papers, keep
the original, and give you back your stamped (“conformed”)
copy. At the time of publication of this article (2014), the court filing
fee is $435.
- If you cannot afford the filing fee go to: www.occourts.org/self-help/resources/shfeewaiver.html )
SERVE THE FORMS
Gather the following forms:
- The stamped copies of the forms you filed with the court clerk.
- FL-117 (ONLY if service was effectuated by mail and your spouse filled
it out and returned it.)
- Serve your spouse with the above papers by having another person over age
18 give the gathered forms to your spouse in person, or by substituted
service. This person (not you) can also serve your spouse by mail, but
your spouse will have to fill out FL-117 and return it to the person who
served them. If your spouse fails or refuses to return FL-117 they will
still need to be served in person or by substituted service. However,
you may then be entitled to recover from your spouse the costs associated
with personal service.
- The person who is served also known as the Respondent must fill out and
sign forms FL-115 (and FL-117 if served by mail) and return these documents to you.
- File the completed and signed form FL -115 (and FL-117 if service by mail)
with the courthouse clerk. (No charge to file this paperwork.)
- For more information on the procedure for serving your spouse with court
forms, see form FL-330-Info (Information Sheet for Proof of Personal Service),
Prepare the following:
- FL -140 “Declaration of Disclosure”.
- FL-150 “Income and Expense Declaration”, and Debts, and supporting
documentation including your last 3 pay stubs.
- FL-142 “Schedule of Assets” or FL-160 “Property Declaration”
and supporting documentation.
- Obtain your last two years of tax returns.
- Declaration (Written Statement) that contains an accurate and complete
update to your spouse about financial opportunities which have occurred
after you were separated.
- Serve your spouse a COPY of all the financial disclosure forms and information.
You can serve them along with the original petition if you want to save
- Financial disclosures must be served within 60 days of the date you filed
your Petition for Dissolution with the court clerk.
Fill out and file FL-141 (“Declaration Regarding Service”)
ONLY with the court clerk. (No fee for this filing.)
DO NOT FILE with the court (you only serve them on your spouse) financial
What happens next depends on whether your spouse responds to service within
30 days by filing and serving
FL-120 with the court, and whether you are able to resolve issues amicably. Everything
starts to get a bit more complicated at this point.
For more information you can refer to: