10 Steps To Getting Divorced in California

Updated September 22, 2023
14 min read
10 Steps To Getting Divorced in California


Walking through the complex maze of marital dissolution may appear overwhelming — however, you don't have to feel lost. Understanding the procedure of getting divorced in California under California Family Code Section 2320 allows you to gain control over this pivotal phase in your life. Each step of getting divorced in California brings you closer to a fresh, empowering start.

Our guide is carefully crafted to guide you adeptly through these occasionally overwhelming changes, offering comprehensive insights to streamline the process. Regardless of whether you're contemplating the possibility of divorce or have already set foot on this transformative path, our methodical guide will shed light on the roadmap to successfully getting divorced in California, serving as a comforting companion on your challenging journey toward a new beginning.

Step 1: Considering Divorce

Embarking on the journey of getting divorced in California requires more than just a decision. It demands introspection, ironing out emotions, and laying out a clear path for the future. The critical first step in getting divorced in California is determining if divorce is truly the most viable solution for your situation. This important decision should be steeped in introspection rather than impulsivity.

Emotional considerations are crucial during this time. This isn't just about finishing a legal contract — it's about coming to terms with the end of a personal relationship that likely bore significant meaning in your life. Therefore, involving a professional counselor or therapist in your deliberation process might provide valuable emotional support and guidance. 

Step 2: Gathering Information

Once you've taken a step toward getting divorced, assembling all the necessary information is crucial in preparing yourself for this legal journey. Distinguishing between legal separation and divorce, as well as identifying children's needs, marital assets, and debts, are primary areas of attention when getting divorced in California. Here's a list of information that you might need:

  • Proof of residency in California to qualify for getting divorced in the state. You can also check the peculiarities of the divorce process in Florida here.

  • Comprehensive details about your current income and financial standing, including your bank statements, pay stubs, and tax returns.

  • Knowledge about your spouse's financial status that will help in fair asset division while getting divorced in California.

  • A detailed list of all the joint and individual assets you and your spouse own, such as real estate, retirement funds, motor vehicles, and other properties.

  • Information regarding all debts incurred during the marriage, like loans, credit card debts, and mortgages.

  • If you have children, identifying their needs, including daily living expenses, educational requirements, and healthcare expenses, is of utmost priority while getting divorced in California.

  • A clear understanding of your healthcare, insurance policies, and retirement plans — all these may require adjustments after your divorce.

  • Finally, acknowledging your personal well-being and emotional state is the key to successfully managing the stress that comes with getting divorced in California.

Step 3: Hiring a Divorce Attorney

When you're embarking on the complex legal journey of getting divorced in California, having the right guide can make all the difference. Engaging an expert divorce attorney can play a pivotal role in this process. Their expert assistance can transform what initially seems like a challenging process into a journey that is far more manageable, less stressful, and more predictable.

If you're wondering where to find a dependable lawyer with nominal fees, consider checking out the legal professionals available on Lawrina, a reliable legal tech ecosystem. Lawrina provides access to a network of experienced lawyers tailored to your exact needs, making your path to getting divorced in California smoother and more secure.

Step 4: Filing a Divorce Petition

Moving forward with getting divorced in California requires filing a divorce petition, a key procedure that sets the legal wheels of your divorce in motion. This notable step clearly expresses your intent to dissolve your marriage.

The process of filing a divorce petition when getting divorced in California can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Obtain a petition for divorce form: This is the legal document you file to initiate the divorce proceedings. You can use reliable personal templates available online.

  2. Fill out the form: You'll need to provide comprehensive details like the reason for divorce, details about child custody or support, and division of property and debts.

  3. File the form: Once completed, submit the form to your county clerk's office.

  4. Pay the filing fee: In pursuing the goal of getting divorced in California, you'll also be required to pay a non-refundable filing fee.

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Step 5: Serving the Divorce Papers To Your Spouse

The legal proceedings of getting divorced in California mandate notifying your spouse about the impending divorce. This step is mandatory and forms the backbone of divorce proceedings in any state, including California.

In this stage of getting divorced in California, the spouse filing for divorce (the petitioner) needs to formally deliver the divorce papers to the other spouse (the respondent). The packet contains several important documents, including the Petition for Divorce and the Summons. These papers inform the respondent about the commencement of divorce proceedings and key information, such as the details of the court where the case has been filed.

Step 6: Response To the Petition

Upon receipt of the divorce petition, the receiving spouse must respond within a certain time frame. This is a significant step in getting divorced in California, as it allows the responding party to voice their wishes concerning the division of assets, child custody, and other decisive issues. This response can either agree with or contest the terms proposed by the initiating spouse. If, in the process of getting divorced in California, a spouse fails to respond, further actions can be taken.

Understanding default cases

When getting divorced in California, it's critical to understand the implications of a spouse not responding to a divorce petition. After a 30-day time frame, the court may declare a default case, meaning the divorce proceedings can move forward without the non-responding spouse's participation. It connotes an automatic agreement to the terms stated in the petition. 

Step 7: Negotiating Settlement

Negotiating a divorce settlement agreement can be complex but vital when getting divorced in California. It forms the foundation for your future by setting terms for asset and debt distribution, along with child custody provisions and child or spousal support. Contingent upon the cooperation between spouses, negotiations might be tranquil or strenuous. An experienced divorce attorney can ease these negotiations, thereby significantly impacting the outcome of your divorce.

Splitting of assets & debts

Everyone wondering how to get divorced in California learns that assets and debts are split equally between spouses, thanks to California's community property rules. This protocol takes into account any assets and debts accumulated during the marriage, dividing them evenly regardless of who earned or incurred them. The division may not always be physical but could be in terms of comparable value. It's vital to consider the future values of assets and not just their current worth. 

Child custody and support

The custody and welfare of minor children are always of utmost importance when getting divorced in California. The state's family courts consider the best interests of the child while deciding on physical and legal custody. As part of the process, both parents are required to develop a parenting plan detailing any visitation rights and schedules. But in cases where parents fail to agree, the court may rule instead.

Step 8: Attending Court Hearings

After creating your settlement plan, getting divorced in California necessitates attending court hearings. This is where a judge meticulously reviews your agreement while addressing any unresolved matters from the settlement discussions. These hearings facilitate a legal platform for both parties to present their case, either personally or through their attorneys. 

Step 9: Finalizing the Divorce

Before you can declare yourself single, getting divorced in California includes an obligatory legal step. The court issues a divorce decree, which is a formal, written document in the court's register. It officially signals the legal termination of your marriage. Essential components of the decree might include orders related to child custody or support, and division of property and debts. Getting divorced records in California means starting a new life without extra obligations.

Step 10: Life After Divorce

Stepping into life after getting divorced in California potentiates new beginnings. Post-divorce life deserves thoughtful focus on coping mechanisms and financial planning — signaling the first days of your new life. Adopting constructive measures, like relying on support networks, indulging in self-care rituals, and seeking professional counseling, can help manage the emotional aftermath of divorce. Simultaneously, comprehensive financial planning aids in achieving stability and independence in your newfound life.


In essence, getting divorced in California is not only a legal process, but it also involves emotional and financial transitions. Understanding the steps to divorce enables you to navigate this transformative journey with a sense of control and preparedness. While it can be a challenging period, knowing what to expect can provide much-needed peace of mind. Every divorce is unique, just like every marriage, and with the right resources in hand, you can make informed decisions that will lead to a hopeful post-divorce life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much time does it take to get divorced in California?

In the process of getting divorced in California, the minimum time frame is six months from the date the individual officially notifies the other spouse about their intention. However, it's important to remember that this is a minimum timeline — complex situations may require more time to achieve a fair resolution.

How much does a typical divorce cost in California?

The costs associated with getting divorced in California can vary quite a bit, mainly depending on the complexity and length of the case. While typical expenses range from $1,000 to $10,000, a variety of factors can substantially influence the final total, such as attorney fees, court costs, and potential mediation expenses.

Does California have a waiting period for divorce?

Yes, California law stipulates a six-month waiting period from the initial filing date until the divorce can be finalized. This means getting divorced in California involves engaging in a mandatory waiting period, providing a timeframe for amicable discussions and negotiations before the divorce decree is issued.