Some couples don't want to get divorced for religious reasons, personal beliefs, or financial reasons. For example, they stay married to keep a spouse or domestic partner on an insurance or benefit plan.

Sometimes a spouse files a legal separation because they don't yet qualify for a divorce. To divorce, spouses must meet the divorce residency requirements.

  • Divorce residency requirement: Before filing for divorce, one of the spouses must have lived in California for the past 6 months and at least 3 months in a county where the case is to be filed.

To file for a legal separation, only one spouse must live in California. There's no time requirement.

If a spouse wants a divorce and doesn't want to wait to meet the residency requirements, they can file papers (a petition) to ask for a legal separation. Then, once they meet the residency requirements they can change (amend) the petition to ask for a divorce.

In California, you get a divorce by starting a court case. No one has to prove someone did something wrong to cause the divorce (this is called no fault divorce). You can get a divorce even if the other person doesn't want one.

You can divorce to end a marriage or domestic partnership. A legal separation has a similar process, you can use these instructions.

Make sure you can file in California

To file for divorce in California, either you or your spouse has to have lived in California for the past 6 months and in your current California county for the past 3 months.

Pay a fee It costs between $435 and $450 to start the case. If you can't afford the fee, you can apply for a fee waiver. Share the divorce papers with your spouse Once you file your papers, you must have someone deliver a copy to your spouse.

Serve court papers Serving court papers is the official legal way to let someone know you started a court case. Finish the divorce

To finish the divorce, you must

  • Share financial information with your spouse

  • Make an agreement about how to split your property, handle finances, and care for and support your children. If you can't agree or your spouse won't participate, the court can decide for you.

  • Submit final paperwork to the court so your divorce can become final

By law, the divorce can't be final for at least 6 months (called a waiting period).

Reference Courts.ca.gov