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How to Get an Uncontested Divorce: A California Checklist

In California, if you are considering getting a divorce (known as a “dissolution of marriage”), then you should consider the benefits of an “uncontested divorce.” California allows spouses who fundamentally agree on the terms of the divorce to fast-track their divorce proceedings.

Here, we examine what an uncontested divorce is, how to go about it, how much it costs, and how fast it takes to decide if the process is right for you. Not all divorces have to be heartbreaking. This type of divorce sometimes helps to get out of the unfortunate situation.

What is an uncontested divorce? California definition

In California, there are two types of divorce: contested and uncontested. Divorce is contested when the spouses do not agree on the terms of the divorce. Considered extremely expensive and time-consuming, a contested divorce requires a judge to make a decision on matters between the spouses.

In contrast, an uncontested divorce is when the terms of the divorce are agreed between the spouses. A much cheaper and quicker option, this procedure does not require the presence of a judge and many spouses choose to do it as a DIY process.

Uncontested Divorce: California Qualifications

To meet the criteria for an uncontested divorce in the Golden State, you must meet the following requirements:

  • One spouse must have lived in California for six months and in the county of divorce for the previous three months.
  • Both spouses should be able to sign all divorce documents
  • Both spouses must agree on the terms of the divorce, including alimony, child custody, child support and division of property

Both spouses should draft a “settlement agreement” a written agreement that memorializes your mutual understanding of the terms of the divorce. This Agreement binds each spouse to their rights and obligations under the Divorce Agreement.

If you are struggling to come to an agreement, you can hire the support of a mediator who can guide you both through the best mutual decision. You can also hire a lawyer to support you in this process.

Finalizing an Uncontested Divorce: The California Process

One spouse (“petitioner”) files a petition stating the reasons, or “grounds” for divorce and what you are seeking (“dissolution of marriage”). The other spouse (“respondent”) responds to the petition filed. If you have minor children, you must complete additional forms about children: child support and custody rights.

Two uncontested divorce proceedings exist in California:

Summary Discharge

This is a simplified resolution of your divorce where both parties agree to the terms, (among other things) there are no minor children, the marriage was less than five years, no real estate is involved, and neither party pays alimony. In summary dismissal, both parties waive the right to appeal the case.

Standard discharge

If you and your spouse do not fit the rubric for summary dissolution, you have a standard case for an uncontested divorce. Complete the application for dissolution of marriage and submit it to the court.

The California Courts website contains a list of forms and instructions that apply to your marriage. Once you file the documents in court, you must serve your spouse with divorce papers from a third party. Depending on whether your spouse responds, the case will proceed as a “default” or uncontested case. There is a six-month waiting period before your divorce is finalized.

What is “Online Divorce”?

An online divorce doesn’t mean you won’t go to court. Instead, this service helps you with the legal documents required for an uncontested case. You simply answer a questionnaire and the company takes two days to return the papers you need to file with the court. This service is useful if you want to simplify the uncontested divorce process in an affordable way.

Uncontested Divorce: California Costs

The filing fee for filing an uncontested divorce in court is $435. If you are unable to pay this fee, you can request a fee waiver. If you choose to hire a lawyer for this process, the costs will be significantly more expensive than if you choose to do it yourself or with the help of an online divorce service. Whether you go it alone in a DIY style or enlist the help of a lawyer or mediator, expect to pay based on your level of support.

Want to file for an uncontested divorce in California? Talk to a professional today

If you want to file for an uncontested divorce, California makes the process relatively simple. Consider speaking with an expert to discuss your best option today.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation and should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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