Divorce can be an extremely stressful process. In California, the necessary steps to get a divorce, such as filing and serving various documents, take at least six months. Some divorces can also require attending court hearings and conducting necessary discovery.

Read on to learn more about the California divorce timeline and how A People’s Choice can help you file for divorce and finalize your judgment as quickly as possible.

How Long Does Divorce Take?

California has a six-month waiting period for the dissolution of marriage. This is the minimum waiting period required to get a divorce judgment. Think of it as a “cool-off” period. So, if you meet the criteria for obtaining a California divorce, you must complete all the paperwork to conclude the divorce as soon as possible.

The mandatory waiting period is not affected by the date of your legal separation. Even if you and your spouse have been legally separated for a decade, you cannot avoid the waiting period. There is no way to get a divorce faster than six months and a day after filing the divorce petition. An extra day is needed for the service of the initial documents before the divorce is finalized.

If your divorce is uncontested (i.e., if there are no conflicts and you and your spouse are in agreement), then six months is the minimum duration. You can apply for a simple divorce, and complications are minimal. However, if there are divorce issues such as child custody concerns or conflicts about the division of property and assets, then your case may require additional time.

What Is the Divorce Process in California?

Here are the requirements for divorce:


Before beginning the divorce process in California, you must know whether or not you are eligible, which is the case only if you or your partner have been a resident of California for six months (180 days).

The state of California does not have a common marriage law. That means unless you have a marriage license, you are not considered married or in a legal relationship and are not eligible for divorce. It does not matter if you and your partner have lived together for a long time, own real estate together, or share a last name. In the eyes of the law, in the absence of a marriage license, you are still single.

Grounds for Divorce

As mentioned previously, California is a no-fault state. Thus, proving that your partner is at fault is not necessary for grounds for divorce. All you have to do is state that you and your partner cannot get along, and the court will provide a judgment for divorce. In legal terms, this is called “irreconcilable differences.”

Nevertheless, if your case includes domestic violence or family abandonment, property division and alimony may be affected. For example, if your spouse spent community funds on an affair, the family law courthouse may order them to reimburse you.

Division of Property

California is one of the few U.S. states that has a community property system. That means all property and debts you and your spouse acquired during the marriage will be divided equally. This comprises all kinds of income, real property, vehicles, savings, or other assets. The family law courthouse requires financial disclosures from you and your spouse as part of the files for divorce to facilitate the division of property.

However, not everything is community property. Your or your spouse’s personal property like inheritances, gifts, or other property acquired before the marriage is exempt. Separate property is not included unless it was mixed up with the marital property later on.

Child Custody and Support

Like in all the other states, the court’s priority is to rule in the best interests of the children in divorce cases. Judges in California courts try to support joint custody arrangements as much as possible since they believe minor children should be in contact with both parents.

The details of the parenting plan are determined by the child’s best interests. If both parents can devise a functional agreement, then the court usually approves it. However, if this is not the case, then you and your spouse may be ordered to attend mediation sessions. If you fail to agree on a plan even after these sessions, then the court takes charge and the judge assumes the responsibility of providing you with a child custody and child visitation agreement.

After the divorce, the court requires parents to support their children. The amount of child support depends on the income, assets, and the time you and your spouse spend with the children. In some cases, the court “imputes” income to a parent who can potentially earn more than what they earn now.

Steps for California Divorce

Step 1: Preparation

Divorce is a big decision that requires a lot of planning. Before you do anything, talk to someone experienced with divorce and give yourself time to think about your situation. Unless you or your children are in physical danger, you must also talk to your spouse about the divorce beforehand. Blindsiding them with divorce papers may worsen things from the very beginning.

Before filing for divorce, make copies of all the important documents related to your assets, income, debts, mortgage statements, insurance policies, bank account statements, etc. Keep your personal documents like Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport in a safe place. If possible, make digital copies of all the documents. It is easy for you to lose these items when either you or your spouse moves out of a shared home, and that would create a serious hassle.

Also, remember to change the passwords for all your personal accounts. Do not create passwords that are easy for your spouse to guess. Inventory all your household items for validation purposes; it would be wise to record a video where you describe all the items while walking through your home. Last but not least, to secure your financial future, make sure that you are appraised of your credit situation.

Step 2: Filing the Paperwork

The next step is filing the initial divorce paperwork for the dissolution of marriage. In California, all divorce proceedings begin with a Summons (FL-110) and a Petition (FL-100). A divorce petition is simply a request to obtain a divorce. You have to file the paperwork at the local courthouse with the family law clerk’s office and pay a divorce filing fee. If you have minor children from the marriage, then you are also required to file a mandatory additional form called the UCCJEA (FL-105).

Step 3: Serving the Divorce Papers

After filling all the papers, you must then serve them to your spouse. This means someone above the age of 18 years, who is not a part of the case, has to give copies of the filing documents to the other spouse. This ensures that your spouse knows that they are subject to Standard Family Law Restraining Orders. Summons (FL-110) notifies your spouse that you have filed for divorce and that they must provide a formal response within 30 calendar days.

Step 4: Settlement or Trial?

After serving the divorce papers, you can either arrive at a divorce agreement with your spouse out of court or you can take the case to court. If you and your spouse can resolve your issues and derive a settlement on common issues like child custody, division of assets, debt allocation, attorney fees, etc., then you may not need to go to trial.

If you and your spouse cannot resolve the issues through settlement, then the judge has to select a date to finalize the divorce via trial. However, a trial is usually the last resort. You will first be directed toward other options such as divorce mediation or a settlement conference.

Do You Need a Divorce Attorney?

Even if you are careful, divorce can get complicated. There is always a possibility of missing something or doing something the wrong way. That’s why many couples turn to family lawyers for guidance.

However, an attorney isn’t really necessary if a married couple wants to have an uncontested divorce. While guidance from a family law attorney might be valuable, you should only seek legal experts if your divorce is contested and could get messy.

Getting lawyers involved can significantly increase the cost of divorce. It is quite possible to complete the divorce paperwork on your own. California even allows couples to complete most of the process online!

Let Us Help You With Your Divorce

If your divorce is uncontested, then you and your spouse can do it on your own. All of the necessary divorce documents are available free of cost on the California court’s website. If you require assistance, there are many online platforms that can handle divorce proceedings. For a fraction of the cost of an attorney, you can get help with filling out the required divorce paperwork.

Contact A People’s Choice if you need help with your DIY divorce. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Beverly Hills, Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Lake Forest, or Newport Beach. Our team of legal document assistants can guide you through the basic steps of the divorce process for a flat one-time fee. Call us today for affordable and fast help!