The simplest way is to file a "Summary Dissolution," which is created and signed by both parties and submitted to the court. However, the method can only be used if you - together - have less than $5000 in assets/debts, and have been married less than 5 years with no children. You can obtain an instruction booklet at any 'forms window' at most district courts in Los Angeles county.
If you don't meet this criteria, then you can go to the 'self-help' center at the district court nearest you, and they will help you complete the paperwork. Keep in mind there is a lot a paperwork, and this process will involve several steps and several trips! Depending on the value of your time, there are low-cost attorneys who will walk you through it.
Under California law you can file a "summary dissolution" if you meet the following criteria:
(a) A marriage may be dissolved by the summary dissolution procedure provided in this chapter if all of the following conditions exist at the time the proceeding is commenced:
(1) Either party has met the jurisdictional requirements of Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 2320) with regard to dissolution of marriage.
(2) Irreconcilable differences have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage and the marriage should be dissolved.
(3) There are no children of the relationship of the parties born before or during the marriage or adopted by the parties during the marriage, and the wife, to her knowledge, is not pregnant.
(4) The marriage is not more than five years in duration at the time the petition is filed.
(5) Neither party has any interest in real property wherever situated, with the exception of the lease of a residence occupied by either party which satisfies the following requirements:
(A) The lease does not include an option to purchase.
(B) The lease terminates within one year from the date of the filing of the petition.
(6) There are no unpaid obligations in excess of four thousand dollars ($4,000) incurred by either or both of the parties after the date of their marriage, excluding the amount of any unpaid obligation with respect to an automobile.
(7) The total fair market value of community property assets, excluding all encumbrances and automobiles, including any deferred compensation or retirement plan, is less than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000), and neither party has separate property assets, excluding all encumbrances and automobiles, in excess of twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000).
(8) The parties have executed an agreement setting forth the division of assets and the assumption of liabilities of the community, and have executed any documents, title certificates, bills of sale, or other evidence of transfer necessary to effectuate the agreement.
(9) The parties waive any rights to spousal support.
(10) The parties, upon entry of the judgment of dissolution of marriage pursuant to Section 2403, irrevocably waive their respective rights to appeal and their rights to move for a new trial.
(11) The parties have read and understand the summary dissolution brochure provided for in Section 2406.
(12) The parties desire that the court dissolve the marriage.
(b) On January 1, 1985, and on January 1 of each odd-numbered year thereafter, the amounts in paragraph (6) of subdivision (a) shall be adjusted to reflect any change in the value of the dollar. On January 1, 1993, and on January 1 of each odd-numbered year thereafter, the amounts in paragraph (7) of subdivision (a) shall be adjusted to reflect any change in the value of the dollar. The adjustments shall be made by multiplying the base amounts by the percentage change in the California Consumer Price Index as compiled by the Department of Industrial Relations, with the result rounded to the nearest thousand dollars. The Judicial Council shall compute and publish the amounts.
If you meet these requirements you can do this yourself by going to the self-help center at the nearest Superior Court branch or purchasing a CURRENT year copy of the Nolo press book on California marital dissolutions.
If you have no property or children it should be fairly easy to file for a divorce on your own. If you have been married for less than 5 years, are not asking for spousal support (and are willing to waive it in the future), and have minimal assets you may be able to file for a summary dissolution. You both need to be agreeable, and both of you have to sign the paperwork agreeing to the divorce. Even if you have been married for over 5 years and have no children or property to speak of, you should be able to do it yourself. Contact the Court self-help center for Los Angeles county. You also must meet residency requirements.
For the county of Los Angeles, go to http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org to download fillable forms. You can also google "judicial council forms," and go to the Los Angeles Superior Court forms site.
Start with form FL100, which is the Petition for Dissolution. If you have been married for a short period and do not have children, you may be able to petition the court for a Summary Dissolution, which is a different form.
Summary Dissolution is a simpler process provided you meet the following criteria:
1. have been married or been registered domestic partners less than 5 years on the date you file your Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution of Marriage or Notice of Termination of Domestic Partnership.
2. have no children together that were adopted or born before or during the marriage or partnership (and neither of us are pregnant now);
3. do not own or have an interest in any real estate (house, condominium, rental property, land, or a 1-year lease or option to buy);
4. do not owe more than $6,000 for debts acquired since the date of your marriage or registration of your domestic partnership (do not count auto loans);
5. have less than $36,000 worth of property acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership (do not count your cars);
6. do not have separate property (opens in new window) worth more than $36,000 (do not count money you owe on the property or auto loans);
7. agree that neither spouse nor domestic partner will ever get spousal or domestic partner support; AND
8. have signed an agreement that divides your property and debts.
If you browse through the self help section under Family Law, you should be able to review the different forms that you may require.
FL100 must be filed with a Summons (FL110) as well as the Family Law Case Cover sheet. The filing fees schedule is also online. Currently (2/17/2009), it's $350 for the Petition, and it's filed in Room 426, on the 4th Floor at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. One original is filed. Two copies are conformed. One conformed copy is for your file and the other conformed copy is to be served on your spouse.
After filing the initial documents, you need to serve the respondent (your spouse). You can download Proof of Service of Summons (FL115) as well as Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (FL117). You have to have someone other than yourself (over 18) serve the documents on your spouse, and that person has to sign the Proof of Service.
The Proof of Service of Summons (FL115) has a list of documents that are required to be served on your spouse, such as Declaration of Disclosure (FL140), blank Response (FL120), and other disclosure documents as necessary. This, of course, is in addition to the documents you filed with the court (conformed copy as mentioned above).
The Declaration of Disclosure (FL 140) is NOT filed with the Court. It's only exchanged between the parties.
File the completed and signed Proof of Service with the Court. You can do this by mail.
After your spouse has been served, he/she has 30 days to respond to the Petition. If there is no response, then you can file a Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution (FL170). There's also the Judgment (FL180) and Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL190) that you should submit to court.
There are other documents as well depending on your situation. You can go to Room 426 to get free assistance. There's a long wait, so take a book.
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