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FAQs

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How do I file for divorce?

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How to File for Divorce

First steps in starting the process of divorce in California.

After the up and down emotions of this decision, you are ready to file for divorce. Divorce paperwork needs to be prepared. However, first, you must be sure you’re filing for divorce in the right state, county, and courthouse. Since divorce forms vary from state to state, and even county to county, you need to know where you’re going to file before you begin.

State Requirements

Divorce laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to understand the rules where you live and how they will affect your case. In order to file for divorce, you must meet your state's residency requirement—meaning you must have lived in the state for a certain period of time. California’s residency requirement is six months.

Divorce laws vary from state to state, so it’s important to understand the rules where you live and how they will affect your case.

Filing in the Right County

In many states, there are additional local residency requirements. For instance, in California, you must have lived within a county for at least three months before you can file for divorce there.

Counties also have their own local divorce rules and legal forms that must be turned in. Check your county’s local rules before you fill out your divorce paperwork. Your county court website should have helpful information on family law filings..

The Divorce Petition

If you’re the one asking for the divorce, you’ll need to file a divorce petition or complaint. Again, the forms vary depending on where you live.

In your divorce petition, you’ll ask a court to end your marriage, but you’ll also have to tell the court why you want the divorce (on what “grounds”). In addition, you must indicate what you want in terms of alimony, custody, child support, and property.

Notify Your Spouse

You need to give your spouse official notice about the divorce filing. Notice requires delivering (or serving) copies of the petition and a summons to your spouse.

Once your spouse has been notified, the court will start your divorce proceeding and may schedule your case for a status conference (a hearing where the spouses (or their attorneys) appear and let the court know how the case is progressing).

In many states, there's a "cooling-off" period which must pass before a court will issue a divorce judgment. In California, you have to wait six months from the date you filed for divorce before you can receive a divorce decree.

You may file for a divorce without an attorney, but it's probably best to at least consult with a lawyer before filing. J Green Law Group has been navigating the family law court system on California for over 15 years. Take advantage of the knowledge of an experienced attorney who will work on your behalf to make a stressful time in life go smoothly.