How to Get a Quick Divorce in California
By Beverly Bird
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California offers a summary divorce option for ending your marriage quickly, but this doesn’t avoid the state’s six-month waiting period. Whether you qualify for a summary action or must use the state’s uncontested divorce procedure, the soonest you can finalize your marriage is six months from the date you file your petition.
Determine if you qualify for California’s summary divorce. You must have lived in the state for at least six months. You cannot have any children, and you must have been married less than five years. You must also waive your right to receive alimony. A complete list of qualifications is available on the state’s court website.
Download and complete Form FL-800 from the California Courts website, a "Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of Marriage." Both you and your spouse must sign the petition.
Take your joint petition and at least two copies of it to the court in the county where either you or your spouse has lived for three months. File your paperwork with the court clerk. Pay any necessary fees. The clerk will keep your original petition and return the copies to you, stamped as received.
Download Form FL-820 from the state’s website. This is a “Request for Judgment, Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and Notice of Entry for Judgment." Complete the form, checking box 3a. Write in the date that is six months from the filing date stamped on your petition.
Prepare a settlement agreement telling the court how you are going to divide your property and debts. To qualify for a summary action, you cannot own any real estate. If you rent your home, your lease must be for less than one year. Your joint debts must be less than $6,000, and your joint assets must be valued at less than $38,000. This excludes automobiles and their associated loans. You can’t have more than $38,000 in separate property, such as assets you owned prior to your marriage. A form for a settlement agreement is available on the state’s court website, or you can draft your own. Both you and your spouse must sign it.
Wait out the required six-month period until the court will finalize your divorce. During this time, take the completed Form FL-820 and settlement agreement to the court for filing. In most counties, when the six months has expired, a judge will sign your Form FL-820, and the court will return it to you by mail. You will be automatically divorced on that day, six months from the date you filed your joint petition.
If you do not qualify for a summary divorce, you can still get an uncontested divorce, but it might take a little more than six months. File a regular petition for divorce rather than the joint petition. Your spouse can waive service, so you can avoid the time-consuming step of a waiting period for him to file a response to your document. While you’re waiting for the six months to pass, prepare and file your settlement agreement with the court, just as you would for a summary divorce. The major difference is that a judge will not automatically sign your judgment on the six-month date. Some counties may require a brief court appearance so you can finalize your matter, and the court generally won’t schedule this until the six months have passed.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.