DIY Divorce California
Divorce is a challenging legal process involving two parties, paperwork, and court proceedings. For many, the expense associated with hiring lawyers can be overwhelming. However, there is an alternative to costly divorce proceedings: the do-it-yourself (DIY) divorce. This article will guide you through the DIY divorce process in California, providing you with essential information and tips to handle the process efficiently and affordably.
How does a DIY divorce work in California?
A DIY divorce in California is a cost-effective option for couples who want to save money and are willing to work together to reach an agreement. The process involves the following steps:
- Filing for divorce: One party fills out the necessary paperwork, files it with the court, and serves a copy to the other party.
- Sharing necessary information: Both parties exchange financial information using California documents.
- Deciding how to separate: The couple makes decisions regarding debts, assets, childcare, property, and more.
- Finalizing the details: The couple creates a final set of documents and files them with the court.
The process allows flexibility in completing each step, though some steps may have deadlines or time frames. California’s court system offers extensive online resources and guides to support individuals through the DIY divorce process.
The process for filing for a DIY divorce in California
Filing for a DIY divorce involves filling out specific forms, serving them to your partner, and filing the documents with the court. Here are the initial forms required:
- Petition—Marriage/Domestic Partnership (FL-100): Initiates the divorce process.
- Summons (Family Law) (FL-110): Requests your partner’s response to the divorce petition.
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (FL-105): Identifies children impacted by the divorce.
Your partner must be served with these papers by someone older than 18 and uninvolved in the proceedings. Once the forms are served, Proof of Service of Summons (FL-115) should be filled out by the person who served the papers.
All forms should be filed with the court that will handle the case, typically the court closest to your place of residence. The responding partner must submit the Response—Marriage/Domestic Partnership (FL-120) within 30 days.
Share information: Filling out financial documents
Both parties are required to fill out the same set of documents to exchange financial information. The forms include:
- Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140): Serves as a cover sheet.
- Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150): Provides information about income, with supporting documents attached.
- Schedule of Assets and Debts or Property Declaration (FL-142 or FL-160): Provides data about debts and property.
- Optional, Property Declaration (FL-160): Used when additional space is needed.
The documents are typically served to one another using the U.S. Postal Service with the Proof of Service by Mail (FL-335) form.
Negotiating the terms of the divorce
During this stage, both parties must come to an agreement on crucial aspects of the divorce, such as childcare arrangements, child support payments, spousal support (alimony), debt distribution, property, and liquid assets. Some couples quickly reach agreements, while others negotiate in bursts through phone calls and email.
Finalizing the divorce: Submitting the required forms
Once the divorce terms are agreed upon, it’s time to submit the decisions to the court. Finalizing the divorce involves providing the judge with various forms, along with a document confirming both parties’ understanding of the agreement.
The following forms should be prepared and filed with the court:
- Judgment (FL-180): Outlines the agreement reached by both parties.
- Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Order Attachment (FL-341)
- Child Support Information and Order Attachment (FL-342)
- Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (FL-343)
- Property Order Attachment to Judgment (FL-345)
- Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (FL-141)
- Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers (FL-130)
- Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (FL-170)
- Spousal or Domestic Partner Support Declaration Attachment (FL-157)
- Notice of Rights and Responsibilities (FL-192)
- Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (FL-144)
If you’re unsure whether you’ve completed all the required forms, you can use the Judgment Checklist – Dissolution/Legal Separation (FL-182) as a final check.
Once all the paperwork is ready, file it with the court to complete the process.
The cost of a DIY divorce
A DIY divorce is a cost-efficient option compared to hiring lawyers, which can cost thousands of dollars. The filing fee for the paperwork is $435 to $450. This fee covers the opening of the case, and you can add additional documents to the file without incurring extra charges.
If the filing fee poses a financial burden, some individuals may qualify for a fee waiver, though it’s generally reserved for those using public benefits or living close to the poverty line.
The time frame for a DIY divorce
The time frame for a DIY divorce varies depending on how quickly both parties can agree and work together. After filing the final paperwork, there is a mandatory 6-month waiting period before the divorce is legally binding. However, it may take several months to prepare the final set of documents.
Is a DIY divorce right for you?
A DIY divorce is a suitable option for couples who meet the following criteria:
- Both parties are amicable and can reach agreements quickly.
- The couple has minimal debts and assets, simplifying the negotiation process.
- The couple does not share children, avoiding additional complexities.
On the other hand, a DIY divorce may not be suitable for couples who:
- Seek revenge and are not willing to cooperate.
- Have significant assets that require careful division and consideration.
- Expect disputes over child custody and support.
Tips for a successful DIY divorce in California
While every divorce is unique, the following tips can make the DIY process smoother:
- Be honest: Provide accurate information on all forms and avoid deception.
- Don’t assume: Read all documents carefully and ensure your future is protected.
- Think about the future: Consider support payments and discuss them openly.
- Factor in pensions and retirement accounts: Include these assets in your divorce disclosures.
DIY divorce in California FAQs
Q1: Can I file for a divorce myself in California? A: Yes, you can file for a divorce without your partner’s agreement. This step doesn’t require both parties to act together.
Q2: Can you divorce in California without going to court? A: Yes, the DIY process outlined above does not involve courtroom cases. However, you will need to file your documents with the court.
Q3: How can I get a quick divorce in California? A: While California law requires a 6-month waiting period before the divorce becomes final, a DIY divorce can still be faster and more cost-effective than traditional methods involving court trials.
Q4: How much is a simple divorce in California? A: The filing fee for a DIY divorce in California is $435 to $450, making it the least expensive option for dissolving a marriage in the state. Hiring attorneys can cost thousands more.