2024 How to File For A Divorce In California? Step-by-Step Guide

Divorce is never part of the plan, nor is it ever easy. However, if you find yourself in a place where it’s on the table, you’ll need an experienced Anaheim, CA, Divorce Lawyer. You’ll also need to know what’s coming. Being aware of each of the steps in the divorce process in California can help make a difficult situation a little easier for you.


If you have decided that a divorce is going to be right for you, there are some things you are going to want to do before filing for divorce. This would be a good time to meet with a family lawyer about the process ahead. It also is probably a good time to gather paperwork and make copies of important documents, make sure you’ll have access to the funds you need through the process, and overall be prepared for the upheaval that will be a part of this transition.


The divorce process begins when one spouse files a petition for divorce with the court. As California is a no-fault divorce state, it is not necessary for blame to be made for the split. A claim of irreconcilable differences is enough to move the procedure forward. At this time, a request for temporary orders can be made. This will often regard things like child custody and alimony for the period of the divorce process. Once the divorce is finalized, the temporary orders are lifted so that the final agreement may replace them.

Divorce Papers

When the petition to divorce has been filed, the filing spouse must serve papers to the other spouse. The filing spouse may not serve the papers themselves but rather should use a neutral third party over the age of 18. Whoever serves the papers must then sign a Proof of Service of Summons. That begins a 30-day window in which the served party has a chance to respond. Their response will address the claims made in the petition. They can also have their side heard regarding the temporary orders regarding the case. The party that has been served must respond within 30 days, or the case will be ruled a default in favor of the petitioner with their request for the terms of the divorce to be granted.

Negotiation of Terms

Before negotiation of the agreement can begin in earnest, there will need to be financial disclosures. This is meant to ensure that both sides are able to negotiate with the most complete information possible available to each other. There is also a discovery period of up to 60 days prior to any court date. During this period, either party may ask the other party to produce documents, respond to Interrogatories or Requests for Admissions under the penalty of perjury, or testify in a deposition.

Once the relevant information is gathered, the process of negotiation can begin. If the negotiation goes well, then a trial may be avoided. These are the commonly used means of negotiation:

  • Mediation – Both parties meet with a mediator on their own and together. The mediator then tries to help the two sides come to an agreement about the various issues in a way that satisfies both sides.
  • Collaborative Divorce – Attorneys for both sides get together to negotiate the terms of the divorce. The process retains some elements similar to a trial process, as both sides may present evidence and witnesses in the process of negotiation.
  • Arbitration – A third-party arbiter is sort of like a private version of the local court process. Both parties agree to abide by the arbiter’s decision, there is a hearing, and then the arbiter makes a final ruling. The process can often be less expensive or time-consuming than traditional courts.


If the two sides simply cannot come to an agreement in a timely fashion, the case will go to a trial. In a trial, the judge will hear evidence and arguments from both sides. This option leaves both parties’ fates in the hands of the judge. The judge’s decision is final, and all parties are expected to follow them.

Final Judgment

Whether by trial or negotiation, a divorce will not be finalized until a judge has signed off on the agreement. The judge will ensure that two requirements have been met. The first is a time requirement, which in the state of California is that at least six months have passed since the initial papers were served. The judge will also make sure that the divorce agreement addresses all major issues surrounding the divorce. If the judge believes everything is in order, an Order of Dissolution is signed. At this point, the marriage is officially terminated.


Q: How Much Does It Cost to File for Divorce in California?

A: At the time of this writing, the cost to file for a divorce in California is $435. However, it should be noted that the fee is subject to change. You may also apply for a fee waiver that you may qualify for if you meet certain criteria.

Q: What Is the First Step in Filing for Divorce in California?

A: The first step in starting the divorce or separation process in California, often guided by a divorce attorney, is to fill out a Petition and a Summons. There will be at least one additional form if you and your spouse have children together.

Q: What Documents Are Needed To File for Divorce in California?

A: To get a divorce in California, you will need a variety of documents in a few categories.

  • Proof of residency in California
  • Marriage certificate and any pre-nuptial or divorce agreements
  • Financial documents such as proof of income, title of ownership of assets, bank statements, tax returns, etc.
  • Documents related to any children

Q: Do You Have To Be Separated for a Year To Get a Divorce in California?

A: You are not required to be separated before divorce in California; however, you should be aware that there is a minimum six-month waiting period between when divorce papers are served, and the divorce can be finalized.

Get Experienced Help Throughout the Divorce Process

The divorce process follows a very specific series of steps, but it’s the details within those steps that can make divorce a complex, stressful process. We can help make that process more manageable. Contact us today at Moranda Law Firm, APC to get the help you need.

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