How To File For Divorce In California For FREE (10 Easy Steps)

Updated: 3 days ago

California Divorce in 2021 - Ultimate California Divorce Guide

Getting a divorce in California is not easy for everyone involved, it's a tedious process, and sometimes it can also be expensive. Under the right circumstances, you can get a divorce for FREE in California (without getting a lawyer involved).

Requirements To Get a Divorce for FREE in California

To be able to get a divorce without a divorce attorney you must:

  1. Have an amicable relationship with your spouse.

  2. Be in mutual agreement about asset division and debts.

  3. Be in mutual agreement about child custody, child support and alimony.

If you don't meet these requirements, you must contact a California Bar Certified Lawyer referral service and request a FREE case analysis. You'll be connected to a pre-screened, and reputable Los Angeles divorce lawyer. Lawyer referrals are unbiased, impartial and available 24 hours a day.

Sometimes it's easier to pay a divorce lawyer (even if you need to request a payment plan) than dealing with you ex, having said that, here's how you may get a divorce in California without getting a lawyer involved.

Uncontested Divorce in California

A divorce in California is “uncontested” when both parties work to settle their differences by way of a written agreement.

In other words, if both of you amicably agree on who gets what, and in the overall terms of your divorce then you can follow these simple steps to get a divorce in California without incurring in additional legal costs.

California Divorce Step 1: Select The Right Divorce Court

You must make sure that the State of California has “jurisdiction” over both individuals and all issues involved in your case, the case should be filed in the right county, and that you follow all local venue rules.

California Divorce Step 2: Download, And Prepare And File The “Initial Document Package”

After selecting the right divorce court, file your completed paperwork with the county clerk.

California Divorce Step 3: Serve The Documents On The Opposing Party

After all the documents have been successfully filed with the county clerk, they must be properly served. There are two ways to meet this requirement. Either your spouse can choose to accept the divorce documents by signing an Acknowledgement Of Service or he/she must be formally served with the documents by a third party.

California Divorce Step 4: If No Response Is Filed ( Entry Of Default )

After the opposing party has been served with the divorce documents and has failed to respond within 30 days, he/she is “in default” it must be recorded by the court clerk. Once the default has been entered, the opposing party will be foreclosed from responding or appearing in the case unless he/she is able to successfully move to have the default vacated.

California Divorce Step 5: Prepare The Financial Disclosure

Under the State of California rules pertaining to divorce, a proper division of community property must be filed making sure that child and spousal support awards will be fair for both parties. To this end, California Family Code Section § 2100 et seq. mandates the exchange of prescribed "preliminary" and "final" declarations of disclosure, along with current income and expense reports.

California Divorce Step 6: Draft And Notarize A Marital Settlement Agreement

If your spouse fails to respond to the summons and petition and it becomes apparent that your case is NOT going to settle amicably due to differences in opinion, this is where you'd need to consider hiring a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer to take over your case.

However, if your spouse agrees with all the terms, you should include all pending issues such as:

  • Custody, Support, & Visitation Of Your Children

  • Spousal Support

  • Division Of Assets

  • Division Of Debts

  • Payment Of Attorney Fees (if any) & Costs Associated With Your Divorce

California Divorce Step 7: If There's No Agreement and Your Divorce Attorney Takes Over, He/She Will Prepare An Order To Withhold Income For Child Support (Wage Garnishment)

Whenever a support order is drafted or modified, the court must include in the order an Order/Notice To Withhold Income For Child Support that directs the paying spouse’s employer to pay to the party receiving support that portion of the paying spouse’s salary due or to become due as will be sufficient to pay:

  • The support amount ordered by the court, and

  • An amount ordered to be paid toward liquidation of any outstanding debts.

California Divorce Step 9: Prepare And File The “Judgment Package”

The goal during the divorce process is to obtain a judgment from the divorce court. The judgment legally dissolves the marriage and is a court order which resolves the all pending issues between the parties. Whether you obtain that judgment on your own or by hiring a divorce lawyer, a proposed “Judgment Package” of documents must be drafted for submission to the court.

California Divorce Step 10: Serve The Judgment

Where there are orders in the Judgment enforceable by contempt it is important that a conformed copy of the Judgment be served on the opposing party and that you obtain a "certified proof of service" of the Judgment. You must have proof the judgment was properly served in order for the court to enforce it.

What Happens After The Judgement

If Children Are Involved, Don't Forget To File The Child Support Case Registry Form

If the court makes a child support order or a “family support” order containing child support orders, both parties must complete and file with the court a “Child Support Case Registry Form” (Form FL-191)

Serve The Wage Garnishment Order On Spouse’s Employer

In divorce cases involving child or spousal support, the last step in the process is to serve your Order To Withhold Income For Child Support on your spouse’s employer so that the support can be withheld and paid on time, every time.

Need Some Assistance With Your Divorce?

If you are in mutual agreement with your spouse about all aspects of your divorce, you can get FREE assistance and download all divorce documents by scheduling an appointment with a family law facilitator near you.

However, if you and your ex are not in agreement with child custody, support, division of assets /debts, and alimony, you must get a divorce lawyer. Going to a California divorce court to face a disgruntled spouse it's like going to war.

You do not want to go to war with a toothpick, get yourself a bazooka instead! Hire a pre-screened, reputable, and knowledgable California divorce lawyer.

How Do I Find Reputable Divorce Lawyers in Los Angeles?

If you feel you need the assistance of a family lawyer, you can request an unbiased and impartial referral to a pre-screened California lawyer specialized in divorce by submitting your case details online 24 hours a day.

You'll be connected to a pre-screened California divorce lawyer within 5 minutes.

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