Divorce or Legal Separation: Filing, Responding & Completing
Basic steps to file for a divorce or legal separation:
- Fill our your court forms (see the next section): To file for divorce or legal separation, you have to fill out the same forms. If you want specific legal advice about how to fill out your court forms, talk to a lawyer. What you write on your court papers can be very important and can affect the outcome of the case. It is very important to be accurate and complete, and a lawyer can help you figure out how to fill out the forms so that they accurately reflect your position. This is especially important if you think you and your spouse or domestic partner are likely to have disagreements about the issues that the court forms ask you about.
- File your forms: Turn in your forms (the originals AND copies) to the court clerk. If there are no obvious errors, the clerk will take the original of each form and return the copies to you, stamped “Filed.”
You will have to pay a filing fee. If you cannot afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you want the judge to make temporary orders for child or spousal support, bill payment, protection from domestic violence, or other issues, you must fill out and file other forms with the order form for a divorce or dissolution of marriage. Talk to your family law facilitator or self-help center to ask for help with temporary orders.
- Serve your court papers: The law says your spouse or domestic partner must be told that you have started the legal process for a divorce, legal separation, or annulment. To do this, you must “serve” your spouse or domestic partner with copies of all your court papers. The judge CANNOT make any orders or judgments in your divorce or legal separation case until your spouse or domestic partner has been properly “served.”
- Fill out and serve your financial disclosure forms: You have filed your petition in your divorce or legal separation case. Now, you are ready to complete the financial disclosures needed to get divorced or legally separated. Keep in mind that you can provide your financial disclosures at the same time as your petition if you wish, but NO LATER than 60 days after filing your petition.
- The next steps all depend on whether or not your spouse or domestic partner has responded to your service. Please see the Judicial Council of California’s website here: for more information on what to do next, or speak to your court’s family law facilitator or an attorney.
Basic Steps to Responding to a Divorce or Legal Separation:
- Either spouse in a marriage or partner in a registered domestic partnership can ask the court to end their legal relationship.
- If you have been served with a petition and summons for dissolution (divorce) or legal separation, your spouse or domestic partner is asking the court to end your relationship. In California, as long as 1 person wants to end the marriage or domestic partnership, the court can end it, even if the other spouse or domestic partner does not agree or want to get divorced or legally separated.
- You can either respond by contesting the divorce or dissolution or you can respond by not contesting it, meaning you agree and have no changes to make to the request.
There are a lot of California forms that must be completed if you are filing, responding, or completing a divorce or legal separation. You may also have special forms that must be completed depending on the county you live in. To find your county, please see Appendix A on PG. X to find your county.
It is VERY important that all of you forms are completed and filed at the right time. To make sure you follow and complete all the steps, you can talk to a lawyer or a family law facilitator to help.
Below is a list of forms that you will have to complete whether you are filing or responding to a divorce.
- Petition — Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Form FL-100). On this form, you give the court some basic information about your marriage and/or domestic partnership, and you ask for the orders you want the court to make.
- Summons (Family Law) (Form FL-110). This form contains important information for you and for your spouse or domestic partner about the divorce or separation process. It contains some standard restraining orders limiting what you can do with your property, money, and other assets or debts. It also prohibits you or your spouse or domestic partner from moving out of state with your children from your marriage or partnership, and from applying for a new or replacement passport for any of your children together, without the prior written consent of the other or a court order. And it lets you know that if you or someone in your household need affordable health insurance, you can apply for Covered California. READ this form carefully!!
There may be things you must “declare” meaning you are to tell your spouse and/or the court what you have in order to get a divorce. Below are various forms you may also need to complete.
- Property Declaration (Family Law) (Form FL-160). Use this form if you need more space to list your property and debts.
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120). Use this form if you have child under the age 18 with your spouse or domestic partner.
- Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment (Form FL-311). Use this form if you want to ask the court to make orders about custody and visitation at the time of your divorce. It is an optional form (you do not have to use it).
An important part of filing for divorce is “service” which is also considered notification or how the other spouse and, or the local child support agency is told that you want a divorce.
Below are forms that you may need:
- Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (Family Law) (Form FL-117). Use this form if you decide to do service by mail. This form shows the court that your spouse or domestic partner received your forms. If your spouse or domestic partner does not sign, date, and return this form, you will have to have him or her served again by personal service. Remember, you must have someone 18 years or older (NOT you) and not involved in the divorce (NOT a family, friend, or relative) do this for you.
- Proof of Service by Mail to the Local Child Support Agency (Form FL-335). This form is used when you must serve the LSCA because either you or your spouse receives money or help from the government for a child in your relationship or if you have a current custody case taking place with the LSCA.
- Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115). This form must be completed whether you decide to have someone hand deliver divorce papers or mail them for you. It is very important your server fills out the Proof of Service correctly. If possible, have your family law facilitator or self-help center review it to make sure it was filled out properly.
In California, you and your spouse must give each other written information on what property or money you have and what expenses you have. This must be done so the property between two people can be split up equally. It also gives you financial information in order to make decisions about child support. If financial disclosures are not exchanged or if the financial disclosures are not correct, the divorce can be cancelled and the court can make orders about the property
There are two times when a disclosure occurs: (1) At the time of filing (preliminary disclosure), and (2) at the end of the divorce (final disclosure).
Below is a list of official court forms and other things you may need.
- Declaration of Disclosure. (Form FL-140). This is the form that you will use to write down your expenses. It must be sent to your spouse within 60 days of filing for divorce. This form will not be filed with the court, only given to your spouse.
- Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142) or a Property Declaration (Form FL-160); This form will not be filed with the court, only given to your spouse.
- Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150). Use this form to include money you have earned as part of business or investment opportunities you have had.
- Your Tax Returns for the last two years. These forms will not be filed with the court, only given to your spouse.
- Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141). This form tells the court that you have given your spouse or domestic partner the preliminary or final declaration of disclosure. This form will be filed with the court.
There are a lot of steps to completing a divorce or dissolution of marriage. Luckily, the Judicial Council of California has put together a website showing you each and every step, including links to all the forms you need. We recommend you check them out,
If you are FILING for divorce, please visit http://www.courts.ca.gov/1229.htm for the steps on how and when to file these forms.
If you are RESPONDING to your spouse request for a divorce, please visit http://www.courts.ca.gov/1235.htm.
If you are completing a divorce and responses have been received OR the required waiting time has passed, please visit http://www.courts.ca.gov/1035.htm.