How Fast Can You Get a Divorce In California
Timeline For a Fast and Easy Divorce in California
If you plan on having an uncontested divorce, the timeline for the divorce process can be lengthy, but there are things that can help you save time during the process.
To get a divorce in California, you or your spouse must first meet residency requirements. That requires that you or they lived in the state for at least six months before filing a petition. Once a person has lived in the state for six months or more, they are considered a California resident.
If neither you nor your spouse meets residency requirements, you can file for legal separation at any time after you arrived in the state, but a legal separation cannot terminate your marriage.
In addition to the residency requirement, there is a mandatory waiting period of six months for all divorce proceedings in California.
The first thing to avoid delays in the process is to file your petition forms as soon as possible. Once you have filed your forms, you must serve your spouse or domestic partner with the initial divorce paperwork. This is usually done with a process server. The six month waiting period does not start until the other party receives the petition.
After the other party is served, the fastest way to get your divorce decree is to avoid a contested divorce. Contested means that the other party disagrees with some or all the requests you make in your divorce petition. Amicable divorces resolve rather quickly and without the need for a court battle.
Related: Contesting a Divorce
How to Obtain An Uncontested Divorce
There are several ways to finalize a California divorce quickly. The three most common are:
- Stipulated Judgment
- Default judgment
- Summary dissolution
In a stipulated judgment, you and your spouse participate in the legal process and have agreements in all areas. When parties agree, those agreements can be drafted as a written agreement. You and your spouse will sign the agreement, which is attached to a divorce judgment and submitted to the court. The court then files the necessary paperwork and grants the divorce without the need for court appearances.
In a default judgment, the respondent fails to respond to the divorce papers. In that case, the divorce process can proceed without the other spouse. The party who filed for the divorce will submit a proposal to the court. The major issues that must be addressed in the proposed judgment will be property division, custody of minor children, child support, spousal support, and attorney fees and costs. The paperwork must demonstrate that the proposal includes equal property division and reasonable child support and spousal support orders.
If you were married or in a domestic partnership for less than 5 years, have no children in common, own no real estate, and have minimal property or debt, you may qualify for a Summary Dissolution. Both parties have to file forms consenting to the divorce and certify that they meet the requirements for Summary Dissolution. Both spouses also have to agree to the division of property and that they give up the right to spousal support from the other.
In any of these three simple divorce types, the filing of the paperwork may take place well in advance of the six month waiting period. Uncontested divorces often occur quickly and so your judgment with all the terms of the divorce might be entered but you may have to wait a bit longer for your actual marriage to end until that mandatory waiting period passes.
What If We Aren’t In Agreement?
In cases where there is a formal disagreement on issues, there is still hope for a quick divorce.
If the only major disagreement is on child custody matters, every court in California must provide free child custody mediation services. You will be assigned to mediation after filing a motion with the court indicating that there is a disagreement on custody matters. The mediation process can assist divorcing couples create a parenting plan that works for their children.
If a married couple has disputes over custody of children, community property, financial issues, a dispute over separate property, or a combination of these issues, the parties can obtain professional help through private divorce mediation or Collaborative Divorce.
Sometimes one spouse is very upset about the end of the marriage, and so both hire attorneys to address legal issues. While this can help resolve issues, many divorces are prolonged by overly-aggressive lawyers trying to take unfair advantage of the couple’s elevated emotional state.
In divorce mediation and Collaborative Divorce, there are trained mediators and negotiators involved to help couples divide their home and other assets, resolve custody and financial disputes, and help conclude the divorce case in a way that is agreeable to both parties. If an agreement is reached, the paperwork can be submitted to the court to finalize the case as an uncontested divorce.
Related: Disagreements in Divorce
Do I Need An Attorney For An Uncontested Divorce?
Many couples can complete their uncontested divorce without attorneys but divorce in California can be complicated, even when there is a full agreement.
The process to obtain a California divorce is the same for all uncontested divorces including parties married outside of California, registered domestic partners, and same sex couples. If you want assistance with the divorce process, McKean Family Law, A.P.C. has skilled, compassionate attorneys who can help you through the process, work toward a settlement, and try to avoid litigation.f