California Prison Divorce Laws

By Claire Gillespie

Updated August 03, 2018

Generally, the divorce process in California is the same whether a spouse is incarcerated or not. Inmate divorce rights are the same as those of any other California resident. You need the cooperation of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to serve your incarcerated spouse with divorce papers.

Divorce Requirements in California

To file for divorce in California, one of the spouses must have lived in California for a minimum of six months immediately prior to filing, and one of you must have lived in the county where you want to file the divorce petition for a minimum of three months immediately prior to the divorce. California is one of the no fault divorce states, meaning you don't need to prove that your spouse was at fault to be granted a divorce. California law allows divorce based on irreconcilable differences between you and your spouse.

Filing for Divorce in California

To begin divorce proceedings in California, file a Petition for Dissolution in a California court. On the form, provide all requested information about you, your spouse and your marriage, and state that you meet the requirements for divorce. If you have an incarcerated spouse, divorce filing forms are exactly the same as forms for spouses who are not in jail. After the petition is filed, your spouse must be served with a copy and given a chance to respond; she has the right to defend a divorce even if incarcerated.

To serve your spouse while he is in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, you'll need to send the documents to the litigation coordinator at the facility where your spouse is housed, including a proof of service form and a self-addressed stamped envelope. The litigation coordinator will log in your documents and give them to your spouse’s correctional counselor, who passes them to your spouse.

The court requires proof that your spouse was served with the divorce papers. When the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation returns the signed proof of service, file this document with the court. Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, your spouse may file additional documents with the court, but the court can make decisions about your case once it knows your spouse has been properly served. If you have divorce questions in California, consult with an experienced attorney.

Inmate Divorce Rights

If you are the incarcerated spouse and want to file for divorce, seek advice from the prison legal service. The procedure is the same as for individuals who are not incarcerated, but it may be difficult for you acquire the proper forms and to attend court hearings while incarcerated. You may be able to attend the hearing by telephone if you cannot be there in person.