Are you considering filing for summary dissolution in California? There are several pros and cons to doing so. One benefit of filing a summary dissolution is that a couple can get a divorce within six months and one day after filing the Petition. Surprisingly, a Judgment of Divorce can often be obtained in a regular divorce earlier than this six month period, although the termination date of the marriage will still be based on the 6 months and 1 day. The downside of filing a summary dissolution is making sure each party completes all the required forms. There is also a risk of the case being unilaterally dismissed by either party. Read on to learn more about the downside of summary dissolution in California.

What is a Summary Dissolution in California?

Summary dissolution is often “thought” to be the quick and easy way to get a divorce in California. You do not have to hire a lawyer or appear before a judge upon filing a summary dissolution. You don’t need to hire a lawyer or appear before a judge with most regular divorces either. Since filing a Summary dissolution in California is limited to couples who have no biological children together, have been married less than five years, and have few assets and debts, the process is not for everyone.  What is often misunderstood, however, is that filing for a summary dissolution in California is not any less complicated, quicker or cheaper than filing a regular divorce proceeding, and sometimes can be more so.

Qualifications for Summary Dissolution

You and your spouse must meet the following criteria to file for summary dissolution:

  1. Been married for less than five years;
  2. Have no children together (biological or adopted);
  3. Do not own any land or building;
  4. Do not lease a unit that has a 1-year lease or option to buy;
  5. Do not owe more than $6,000 in debt (community property debts only);
  6. Own less than $41,000 worth of community property;
  7. Do not own separate property valued over $41,000;
  8. Agree that neither spouse will ever receive spousal support; and
  9. Sign a marital settlement agreement dividing community assets and debts.

In addition to meeting the requirements above, you and your spouse must have lived in California for the past 6 months and resided in the county where the summary dissolution was filed for the last 3 months.

Myths About California Summary Dissolution

Myth #1: Summary Dissolution is Easier

Filing for summary dissolution is not easy. Unfortunately, form changes and other requirements for the procedure have made filing a California summary dissolution much more cumbersome than filing a regular simple divorce. I recommend you read the Summary Dissolution Booklet before you start the process. You will need to file your summary dissolution in the right court by completing and filing the following forms in addition to any local court forms:

Unlike a regular divorce where forms are filed in multiple steps, in a California summary dissolution proceeding all the forms are filed at once at the beginning of the case.

Myth #2: Summary Dissolution is Faster

Filing for summary dissolution is not faster compared to filing for a regular divorce. A summary dissolution divorce is not final until six months and one day after the Petition for Summary Dissolution has been filed. This is exactly the same as in a regular divorce; there is no difference and a summary dissolution proceeding does not get the parties divorced any earlier than had they filed a regular divorce proceeding.

Myth #3: Summary Dissolution is Cheaper

If you do not hire an attorney, summary dissolution may be cheaper. However, because of the other forms required in a summary dissolution as compared to a simple uncontested divorce, many non-attorney legal document preparer services will actually charge the same or higher fees for preparing summary dissolution paperwork. This is because the financial disclosure requirements and other paperwork is much more cumbersome than a regular divorce proceeding.

The filing fee to file a California summary dissolution proceeding is the same as that to file a divorce. The one difference is that often people filing for summary dissolution also ask for a waiver of the court filing fee. Since filing for summary dissolution is a joint filing process, the income of both parties is taken into consideration in the fee waiver application process. A petitioner that would otherwise qualify for a fee waiver if filing a regular divorce, may not qualify for a fee waiver when filing a summary dissolution proceeding.

Downside of Summary Dissolution in California

Though filing for summary dissolution in California may be convenient, there are several downsides to doing so:

    • Strict Qualifications – There are strict qualifications that must be met to file for summary dissolution. As mentioned above, you and your spouse must meet all the requirements in order for a court to hear your summary dissolution case.
    • Paperwork more tedious for both parties – Summary judgment paperwork can be tedious for both parties. Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how we can help you prepare and file your summary dissolution paperwork.
    • Court filing fee – The income of both parties is considered which may affect the parties’ qualifications for a filing fee waiver.
    • Can be unilaterally dismissed by either party – Either party can submit a request for summary dissolution revocation up to six months from the date the summary dissolution request was filed. Unfortunately, we have known couples who have filed for summary dissolution only to later have one of the parties unilaterally file to dismiss the case because they had a change of heart about the terms of their agreement. Either party can dismiss the case in a summary dissolution without the consent of the other party.

If either party decides that they do not want to go ahead with the summary dissolution during the 6 months while they wait for the divorce to become final, they can file a Notice of Revocation of Petition for Summary Dissolution (Form FL-830) with the court.  This Notice of Revocation can be filed by either spouse which cancels and invalidates the summary dissolution case and any Judgment that has been entered.

If one of the parties files a Notice of Revocation and the other party still wants to go ahead with terminating their marriage, they would have to file for a regular divorce and start the proceedings all over again.

Contact A People’s Choice for more information about summary dissolution in California and the best way to terminate a marriage in California.

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