Court Process

First, you must fill out and file with the court clerk the following:

  • Petition – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (form FL-100)

The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is the initial document filed with the California court. It is in this document that the filing spouse will request the court to terminate the marriage under certain specified grounds. Dissolution of the marriage may be based on either of the following grounds: (1) Irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. (2) Incurable insanity.

  • Irreconcilable differences are those grounds which are determined by the court to be adequate reasons for the marriage to not continue and which makes it evident that the marriage should be terminated.
  • A marriage may be terminated by reasons of incurable insanity only upon ample proof, including competent medical or psychiatric testimony from a professional, that the spouse was at the time the petition for dissolution of marriage was filed, and actually remains, incurably insane.

The Petition, which must be completed in all cases, identifies the Petitioner and Respondent, the date of the marriage, the date of separation, the minor children (if any), makes a declaration of assets and debts and states the relief sought. Depending on whether or not the couple are in agreement, other forms may be accompanied with the Petition. For example, if there are minor children of the marriage, the petitioner must file the Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), and attach it to the petition. The couple may have also already written a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), in which case it is submitted as an attachment.

  • Summons (Form FL-110)
  • Declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (FL-105)

Once filed with the clerk, the clerk will stamp and return copies of the forms filed to the petitioner.

The respondent must be served with the court forms, AND a blank response (form FL-120). The respondent can be served with these forms by:

  • Someone 18 years or older who is not the petitioner

Once served, the court proof of service form (FL-115) must be filed with the court.

The Summons-Family Law is the Notice of Service of Process is the proof of service. It stipulates the manner of service to the respondent. It gives the respondent 30 days to respond and carries with it a warning that failure to respond may result in a default judgment against him or her. The Summons also restrains both parties from removing minor children from the state and dissipating marital assets.

The respondent has 30 days to file a response to the Petition. The response form, (form FL-120) can be found here.

Petitioner to Respondent:

Within 60 days of filing the petition, the petitioner must have the following documents served on the respondent. Please note these documents do not need to be filed in court:

  • Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140)
  • Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142)
  • Property Declaration (FL-160)
  • All tax returns filed by the party in the past two years before disclosure documents were served

To File with the Court:

  • The petitioner must file a Declaration Regarding Service (FL-141) with the court, stating that disclosures were served on the other party.

Please note: The 60 day time frame for serving these financial disclosures may be changed by written agreement between the parties, or by court order.

Respondent to Petitioner:

When the respondent files his/her response, they must also have the following documents served on the petitioner within 60 days of filing the response. Please note these documents do not need to be filed in court:

  • Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140)
  • Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150)
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (FL-142)
  • Property Declaration (FL-160)
  • All tax returns filed by the party in the past two years before disclosure documents were served

To File with the Court:

  • The petitioner must file a Declaration Regarding Service (FL-141) with the court, stating that disclosures were served on the other party.

Please note: The 60 day time frame for serving these financial disclosures may be changed by written agreement between the parties, or by court order.

If a spouse does not respond in 30 days, the petitioner may file a Request to Enter a Default, which bars the respondent from further entering into his or her own divorce case.

When a couple agree on all issues, or when either defaults, the court may issue a Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution, which results in a Judgment for Dissolution without a court appearance. After a summary action, an uncontested action coursing along this default route is probably the easiest route to a divorce.