General Divorce Process in California.

Note: This article is not legal advice and is not intended to apply to your specific situation.

In a California divorce, the main issues that need to be decided are division of property, spousal support, child custody and visitation, and child support. How you fill out the forms to begin the case can have an impact on how your case proceeds. This guide summarizes the California divorce process, and gives you a brief overview of the issues that you may face in your divorce.

Step 1: Starting the divorce

You will need to fill out several mandatory forms to start your divorce. Once complete, you will need to bring the completed forms to your local courthouse to file, and then serve the forms on your spouse.

  • FL-100 Petition - Marriage/Domestic Partnership

  • FL-110 Summons (Family Law)

  • FL-311 Child Custody and Visitation Attachment (only if you have children)

  • FL-105 UCCJEA Declaration (only if you have children)

  • FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons (only after service is completed)

Depending on the county, there are also various mandatory local forms that must be filed along with the Summons and Petition. Thus, prior to filing, please check with your local courthouse for more information. Here are some examples of additional mandatory forms:

  • Los Angeles County: FAM020 Family Law Case Cover Sheet

  • Orange County: L-1120 Family Law Notice re Related Case

  • San Diego County: SDSC Form D-049 Family Law Certificate of Assignment

  • San Francisco County: SFUFC Form 11.17 Notice of ADR

  • San Mateo County: Local Court Form FL-2 ADR Options

  • Santa Clara County: Attachment FM-1050 Family Law Notice and Attachment FM-1021

Step 2: Completing the necessary disclosures

The second step is to complete and serve the financial disclosures. Because a big part of a California divorce is how to split the assets and debts, disclosing to the other side what assets and debts are to be divided is a necessary and important step in the process. The forms include the following:

  • FL-140 Declaration of Disclosure

  • FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration

  • FL-160 Property Declaration, or
    FL-142 Schedule of Assets and Debts

  • FL-141 Declaration re Service of Declaration of Disclosure (only after service is completed)

The financial disclosures can be served along with the Summons and Petition, or served within 60 days after the Summons and Petition were filed. California Family Code § 2104.

Step 3: Finalizing the divorce

Finally, the third step is to complete the divorce and obtain a final judgment of divorce. The forms required for this step completely depends on how the other party has chosen to respond (described below), and also depends on the county that you reside in, as sometimes there are local forms or procedures to follow.

(1) Other party ignores the Summons and Petition and does not file a Response

Once your spouse is served, your spouse has 30 days to file a FL-120 Response, which basically tells you and the court that he or she wants to participate in the case. If the other party does not file the Response within 30 days, then you have a right to proceed with a default. California Code of Civil Procedure § 585. A default is basically where the other party loses their chance to participate because they did not bother to show up. You will need to file the necessary forms and ask the judge for a prove-up hearing to prove why you should win the case.

(2) Other party does not file a Response, but reaches an agreement with you

Even if the other party does not file the FL-120 Response, both of you have the option of settling and having your agreement written into a marital settlement agreement or stipulated judgment. If this is the case, then you both are able to proceed via what is called a “default with agreement.” You will still proceed with the default process, but submit the judgment and written agreement to the judge for approval.

(3) Other party files a Response (FL-120)

If the other party files a FL-120 Response, then you are left with only two choices, settling with the other party or go to trial. If you both can reach an agreement, then you will proceed with an “uncontested divorce” where you submit to the judge a judgment and written agreement for approval. If settlement is not possible, then you will need to prepare for trial, and make your case to a judge who will make a final judgment on the contested issues in the divorce.

In general, the main forms and documents required to complete this step are the following:

  • FL-165 Request for Default (if proceeding by a default)

  • FL-130 Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers (if proceeding via an uncontested divorce)

  • FL-141 Declaration re Service of the Final Declaration of Disclosure, or
    FL-144 Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure

  • FL-170 Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution

  • FL-180 Judgment

  • Written settlement agreement or stipulated judgment, or
    Miscellaneous attachments depending on whether you want the judge to make orders regarding child custody and visitation, spousal and child support, and property division

  • FL-190 Notice of Entry of Judgment