A divorce (also called “dissolution of marriage” or “dissolution of domestic partnership”) ends your marriage or domestic partnership (or both if you are both married and in a domestic partnership with your spouse). After you get divorced, you will be single, and you can marry or become a domestic partner again.
You can get a divorce if you say you have “irreconcilable differences” with your spouse or domestic partner. You do not have to give the court any other reason or prove anything. There is no “guilty” or “non-guilty” person, from the court’s point of view. That is why California is called a “no-fault” divorce state.
The only thing the court is interested in is helping the separating spouses or partners reach a fair agreement about how their life will be restructured after the divorce so they can move ahead to rebuild their lives.
When you start a divorce case, you can ask the judge to make orders about:
- Custody and visitation;
- Child support;
- Spousal or partner support;
- The division of your property; and
- Who will be responsible for paying debts.
If lawyers are involved, you may be able to get orders about who will pay their fees. You can also ask the judge to make other orders about things like domestic violence. Learn more about domestic violence and staying safe.
The divorce process will take at least 6 months from the date the person filing for divorce officially lets his or her spouse or domestic partner know about the divorce. The case can take longer. BUT it cannot be faster than the 6 months. This is a mandatory waiting period required by California law and no couple can be divorced faster than 6 months. You will be able to get all your paperwork turned in to the court and your divorce judgment approved, but the divorce itself will not be final until at least 6 months after starting the case.
Some couples that have been married or in a registered domestic partnership for less than 5 years can get a “summary dissolution” as long as they also meet other requirements. A summary dissolution is an easier way to end your marriage or domestic partnership (or both). Learn more about summary dissolutions.
California residency requirements for divorce
For married persons to get a divorce:
You MUST meet California’s residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have lived in:
- California for the last 6 months, AND
- The county where you plan to file the divorce for the last 3 months.
If you and your spouse have lived in California for at least 6 months but in different counties for at least 3 months, you can file in either county.
If you do not meet the residency requirement, you can still file for a legal separation. Once enough time has passed so that you meet the residency requirement for a divorce, you may file an “amended petition” and ask the court for a divorce.
EXCEPTION: Same-sex married couples who got married in California but do not live in California and live in a state (or states) that will not dissolve a same-sex marriage, can file to end their same-sex marriage in California, regardless of these residency requirements. You must file in whichever county you were married. Keep in mind that if neither of you lives in California, the court may not be able to make orders about other issues like property and debt, partner support, or your children. If this is your situation, talk to a lawyer with experience in same-sex marriage laws. Click for help finding a lawyer.