If you’re looking for a divorce in California, it usually goes one of two ways: contested divorce or uncontested divorce. If you’re getting an uncontested divorce California can process it fairly quickly. A contested divorce, on the other hand, can take a long time to move through the system.

So, what’s the difference? A contested divorce is generally when you and your spouse disagree with a few or all components of the divorce. Contested divorces need to be processed through a trial where a judge evaluates evidence and witness statements. This process takes quite a while, but it can be unavoidable if there are major issues between the soon-to-be-ex spouses.

To contrast, an uncontested divorce process is when you and your spouse both have a mutual agreement to all terms of the divorce. This means that there is no need for a trial or judge to be involved. Because they are simpler, for uncontested divorces California processing times are much shorter, and costs are relatively low.

If you think you and your spouse will have an amicable divorce, an uncontested divorce may be in the cards for you. Here’s a breakdown of how to go about uncontested divorce procedures.

How Long Will an Uncontested Divorce in California Take?

There is no definitive answer to how long this process can take. It all depends on the circumstances of the marriage and how long each of the necessary steps of the divorce takes. On average, a traditional divorce in California normally takes around six months to be finalized, but an uncontested divorce can take much shorter to process—even a matter of a few months. However, you must keep in mind that every California divorce is subject to a six-month waiting period, regardless of whether it’s contested or uncontested.


What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is a legal separation between spouses who have mutually decided to separate and have agreed to all matters regarding this. A spouse normally files for separation on grounds of no-fault divorce, which means there were irreconcilable differences or the spouse is unable to make decisions due to a factor such as serious illness. Spouses generally agree to a no-fault basis in uncontested divorce procedures.

For a divorce to be uncontested, spouses need to mutually agree on issues such as debt division, property distribution, spousal support, child support, and custody. Child support isn’t necessarily negotiated because the court establishes a minimum amount following child support guidelines.

If you or your spouse wish to set a different amount, you need to agree on it for the divorce to be uncontested.

Uncontested divorces rarely need trials or numerous court appearances, resulting in fewer fees. These divorce proceedings (waiting period notwithstanding) are usually much quicker than six months.

Uncontested Divorce California Requirements

There are a few logistical requirements that spouses need to meet to achieve an uncontested divorce in California. The requirements are as follows:

  • One spouse needs to be a California resident for at least six months before filing for divorce in the state.
  • You and your spouse need to be accepting and complacent to sign the necessary divorce papers.
  • Both parties need to mutually agree on the divorce’s settlement issues.

Can I File for Uncontested Divorce California Online?

Simply put, yes, you can! The online method for divorce enables spouses to end their marriage without the services of an experienced divorce attorney. This saves time and funds and can even prevent any turbulent time between spouses. And, of course, the outcome is the same as in a traditional divorce.

The more traditional method would be to go to your local California courthouse and file for divorce there.

If you choose to do this and you need to use legal advice when filing divorce papers, you can consult a cheaper alternative to a family law attorney, such as a legal document assistant program.

Uncontested Divorce California Process

Here’s a quick breakdown of the very beginning of an uncontested divorce in California proceeding.

Uncontested Divorce California Petition

To first begin your divorce proceeding, you need to file a divorce petition. This is compulsory for all types of divorce in California. Filing the petition labels you as ”the petitioner” and your spouse “the respondent.” The petition tells the court what your intentions are and why.

Within the petition, you need to fill in some basic information about your spouse and yourself. If there are children involved, you must fill in additional documents regarding child custody and visitation. Along with this, you need a property declaration to list all property and debt accumulated during the marriage.

Filing Fee

When filing for a California divorce, you’re required to pay a filing fee in the hundreds of dollars. If this is not possible, you can request a fee waiver. If you qualify, the court can file your papers free of charge depending on approval.

Once you’ve settled the filing fee and filed the documents, you need to serve your spouse with the divorce forms through a third party. Depending on the response of your spouse, the case will proceed as either “default” or “uncontested”. The California courts website has a complete list of forms and steps you will need to file for divorce online.

Filing or Not Filing a Response

Part of the divorce process is serving your spouse with divorce papers. After this, whether or not they respond in a timely manner can affect your ability to get an uncontested divorce.

Failure to Respond: Default Divorce Case in California

A default case occurs when a respondent (the spouse who got served) has failed to file a response to a divorce petition within 30 days. If your spouse chooses the default approach, then you can file the relevant forms for dissolution of marriage by default.

Before going through this process, make sure that you have effectively served your spouse the necessary documents and waited the specified 30 days. If you fail to meet these criteria, the court’s judgment of dissolution will deny your request.

However, this cannot happen in an uncontested divorce. For an uncontested divorce, since you and your spouse have mutually agreed to the divorce’s terms, the judge will validate the agreement. You and your spouse then need to wait for six months before the court issues the judgment of divorce. In certain instances, you and your spouse also need to fill out a final declaration of disclosure when the case is finalized.

Filing a Response and Uncontested Divorce

If your spouse avoids a default divorce and files the requested response to the divorce petition within 30 days, the case is considered uncontested. Either you or your spouse may then submit the final divorce documents to the court and request a final judgment.

These final documents refer to the rulings you want the court to make regarding spousal support, marital assets, property division, debt, child support, and child custody.

If everything is in order, then you and your spouse have to wait for six months before the judge can validate your divorce decree. If there are any errors, the court will ask that you correct them, which could prolong the process. As a source to find the full list of documents relating to your divorce, refer to the California court’s website

Procuring an Agreement

To achieve an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse need to procure a written marital settlement agreement, also referred to as a stipulated judgment. You’ll use this after filing the response. The settlement agreement must confirm that it was a mutual decision to end the marriage. It should include information regarding the following:

  • Spousal support
  • Division of assets
  • Financial documents
  • Debt
  • Child support agreements
  • Child custody (if minor children are involved).

Ruling requests regarding child support must adhere to the state’s guidelines. Overall, the written agreement functions as a contract between spouses and is legally binding to both of them. Be sure to fully read and understand the contents of the agreement before signing.

Once the agreement has been signed, you need to have it notarized. If you choose to use the services of a notary, a legal document assistant can advise you on the agreement and ensure that the documents are filed correctly. You can also make use of a mediator’s services to help you and your spouse reach an agreement should challenges arise.

Man in Black Suit Standing Beside Woman in Black Dress

Uncontested Divorce California Forms You Must Fill Out

Of course, filing a divorce involves quite a bit of paperwork. Here’s an overview:

  • Since you are the one who wants to pursue the divorce process you will first need the Petition for divorce – Marriage/Domestic Partnership: Form FL-100
  • Summons – Family Law: Form FL-110
  • If you wish for a third party to serve the relevant forms to your spouse the third party will have to serve your spouse with a blank Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership: Form FL – 120
  • If you have children with your spouse, you need to include a blank Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act: Form FL – 105/GC-120
  • This document proves to the family court that your spouse has acknowledged, accepted, and received the forms – Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt: Form FL-117
  •  Once you serve the respective documents, you need to prove to the court that you have finished this step by completing this document – Form FL-115: Proof of Service of Summons –
  • Both spouses will need to have written information on their debts, their assets (separate property and community property), their income, and their expenses – Declaration of Disclosure: Form FL-140
  • To notify the court that you have served the preliminary declaration of disclosure, you need to file this – Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure: Form FL-141
  • The preliminary declarations of disclosure consist of the following forms:
    • Declaration of Disclosure: Form FL-140
    • Schedule of Assets and Debts: Form FL-142
    • Property Declaration: Form FL-160
    • Income and Expense Declaration: Form FL-150

Will I Need an Uncontested Divorce California Lawyer?

A divorce lawyer is not necessary for a California uncontested divorce. You can represent yourself if need be, but you will need to be careful to fill out all your paperwork completely and accurately.

Using a legal document service such as A People’s Choice can help with this. Our team of legal document assistants can prepare all relevant forms needed to ensure that your divorce judgment is as efficient and inexpensive as possible. Contact us today to get started.

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