Getting a divorce started is one of the simplest parts of the process. Here is what you need, and how to get it done.
The forms required to start your divorce in California are available online for free, and are relatively simple to fill out. The forms include these:
- Summons – Family Law
- Petition – Family Law (for all MARRIAGES) (or Petition – Domestic Partnership in appropriate cases)
- Property Declaration
- If there are minor children of the marriage, Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act.
Download all four to your computer first, because they will not save with the portions you will need to type in later.
Make an inventory of the things you know you bought while you were married. While making that list, try to estimate what everything is worth. For things like furniture, use “Craigslist” or “garage sale” values. For cars, use Private Party value from kbb.com.
Filling Out the Paperwork:
Start with the easiest one: the Summons. To fill out the Summons, put your spouse’s name in the “Notice to” line at the top. Then fill out your name at “Petitioner’s name” line. The court will provide the case number when you file everything.
Fill out the bottom of the first page with the address of the courthouse, and the your own name, address, and telephone number at the very bottom. The second page does not need to be filled out.
Make three copies, or two copies and a scan. Set the original and the copies aside.
The Property Declaration.
The series of boxes at the top of the first page is the “caption.” It needs the following information: (a) your name, address, and telephone number; (b) the court’s address; and (c) the names of you (as Petitioner) and your spouse (as Respondent). As before, the court will provide the case number when you file your documents.
The Property Declaration has instructions on the last page. This is where your inventory of property comes into play. Fill it out the best you can. Your list of property does not need to be exhaustive, so long as you hit the most important things, like the house, cars, investments. Also, you can lump certain things, like collections, together in one line, like “gun collection” or “women’s jewelry.”
Make three copies, or two and a sacn. Set the original and the copies aside.
The Petition is pretty straightforward, too. Fill out the caption like you did in the Property Declaration. Check the box for “Dissolution of Marriage,” “Legal Separation,” or “Nullity of Marriage.” (I will discuss the difference in a separate article.)
Check the box next to Petitioner for paragraph 1, “Residence.”
Fill out the date you were married for line 2(a).
Fill out the date you and your spouse stopped living as a married couple for line 2(b). (I will discuss date of separation in a separate article.)
Fill out the total duration of your marriage in line 2(c).
If you have no children with your spouse, check the box for 3(a). If you have children, check the box for 3(b), and list their names, birthdates, ages, and sexes. At this point, you will also need to fill out your Declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act if you have kids.
If any of your kids were born before you were married, and you have a voluntary declaration of paternity, then check the box for 3(d).
Under Part 4, check the box marked “below.” In the space under “Item” write this:
“All property obtained before marriage, after separation, or by gift devise, or bequeath; and any property purchased using the proceeds of the sale of any such property.”
In the space under “Confirm to” write “Petitioner.”
Under Part 5, check the box next to part 5b, and the box next to “in Property Declaration (form FL-160)
Ninety-nine point nine percent of divorces and legal separations are based upon irreconcilable differences. If that is what is motivating you to get a divorce, then check the box under 6(a)(1) for divorces, or 6(b)(1) for legal separations. If you are asking for annulment, call a lawyer to talk about your case.
Paragraph 7 is where the trickiest parts of the Petition are located.
- If you have kids you need to check all boxes that describe who you want to have legal and physical custody, and visitation (lines 7a, 7b, and 7c).
- If you have children born out of wedlock, and no voluntary declaration of paternity, check the box next to 7d.
- Check the box next to “Respondent” for line 7e
- Check the box next to “Petitioner” for line 8a
- Check the boxes for 7g and 7h.
- If you changed your last name when you married, and you want to go back to your name before marriage, check the box for 7i, and write your full former name in the line at the end.
- Check box 7j, and write “such further relief as the court deems just an proper” in the area adjacent to that line.
Sign and date the Petition. Make three copies, or a scan and two copies. Set them aside.
Declaration under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act.
If you have minor children with the other party, you must fill this form out. The caption is filled out just like the other two documents. If you have domestic violence, child neglect charges, a contested adoption issue, or any other legal problems regarding your children, call a lawyer because things will get confusing while filling out this form.
List your oldest child first in Box 3a. Put all prior addresses going back five years.
Assuming all your children lived with you together at the same address, write the name of your other child in box 3b, and then check the box under his or her name stating the address information is the same for all other children.
On the second page read through everything carefully. If you can honestly answer “No” to everything under part 4, then check “No.” If you must answer yes, then call a lawyer. Same thing about paragraph 5. If there is an existing Domestic Violence Restraining Order, then call a lawyer. And same thing with paragraph 6. If you must answer “Yes,” call a lawyer.
Sign and date this form, too. As before, make three copies, or one scan and two copies. Set it aside.
Assembling the final product.
Take the original Petition. Behind that, add the Property Declaration and then the UCCJEA form. Staple them together. Make the other two (or three) copies look the same. Many courthouses require you to punch two holes in the top edge of the document so they can be affixed to the court’s file. Punch all three copies.
Then staple the summons and use the two-hole punch on it.
Going to Court.
As of the date this article was written, the filing fee is $435. Bring a check, the originals, and two copies with you down to the family law courthouse. Go to the clerk’s office. Wait in line. File your documents, and pay your filing fee.
You just started your divorce process!