How to get a divorce in California: Forms, costs and how to start
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How to get a divorce in California

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There are various ways to get a divorce, but not all of them need to be difficult.

By the time you or your loved one has come to the difficult decision to divorce, the last thing you want to think about is navigating a potentially complicated and expensive process. If you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the divorce, for example, you may be able to complete the process online.

Here’s what you need to know to get started in California: the requirements, the costs and paths you can take to complete your divorce.

Can I get a divorce in California?

To get a divorce in California, you or your spouse must have:

  • Lived in California for at least six months.
  • Lived in the county the divorce will be filed in for at least three months.

If you meet these requirements, you or your spouse can initiate the divorce process by filing a divorce petition.

In California, you do not need to prove any wrongdoing on your spouse’s part to get a divorce. (California was the first state to offer no-fault divorces.) The most common reason given for divorce is “irreconcilable differences,” and you can get a divorce even without your spouse agreeing to it.

Can I get a divorce in California without going to court?

Whether you need to go to court depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. Before you and your spouse can be divorced, you both need to reach an agreement on the divorce terms.

Contested divorce

If you do not agree on the terms, your divorce is contested. In this case, the issues you and your spouse disagree on may need to be settled by a court.

Even if you and your spouse disagree on some issues, you do not necessarily need to go to court. Here are a few alternative paths:

  • Mediation: Someone impartial helps you and your spouse come to an agreement.
  • Collaborative divorce: You and your spouse negotiate an agreement through lawyers trained in collaborative law.

You can find more information about mediation and collaborative divorce at the California Courts website.

Uncontested divorce

If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce (meaning you have an uncontested divorce), you do not have to appear in court. It is possible to complete your divorce by drafting an agreement and filling out the appropriate forms, then sending them to the court.

There are various ways to complete an uncontested divorce, including:

  • Doing it yourself. Handling the divorce process yourself can be complicated, but it is possible. Learn more about the process at the California Courts website.
  • Using an online divorce service. Online services like Wevorce and MyDivorcePapers offer self-guided divorce preparation. They can cost more than preparing your divorce entirely on your own, but they streamline the process by giving you structure and guidance.
  • Hiring lawyers. Family law lawyers can prepare your divorce and provide personalized guidance throughout the process. As we’ll discuss in the next section, this will likely be your most expensive option.

How much will it cost?

The filing fee for a divorce petition is $435. For the spouse filing a response to that petition, the fee is also $435. You may pay additional court fees depending on your county.

Additional costs for your divorce will vary depending on which route you take to resolve it. Here are approximate costs for various paths.

Doing it yourself

Preparing your divorce yourself will cost little to nothing besides additional court fees you may need to pay. However, the process takes more time, because you will need to conduct your own research and ensure you have filled out the divorce forms correctly.

Hiring lawyers

According to a study by Martindale Nolo Research, the average cost for a divorce in California is $17,500 when hiring divorce attorneys.

If your divorce is relatively simple, the cost will be around a few thousand dollars at a minimum. For complicated divorces (for example, those involving child custody), the cost could be as high as $38,000.

Typically, lawyers will bill you hourly — $330 per hour on average. If you choose to hire divorce lawyers, consider negotiating a flat fee for your divorce.

Using online divorce services

Online divorce services typically cost around a few hundred dollars. Costs vary depending on the benefits offered. For example, some services only help you prepare the right forms; others provide tutorials, professional review of your documents and spousal-support plans.

To give you an idea of the range of costs, here are a few online divorce websites and what they charge:

  • MyDivorcePapers: $159
  • Wevorce: $749
  • CompleteCase: $299

How long will it take?

By law, it will take at least six months before a divorce is finalized. Time starts ticking from when the divorce petition is served to the spouse or when the spouse responds (whichever comes first).

A divorce may take longer than six months, depending on the complexity of issues in the divorce and how much you and your spouse can agree on the terms.

Issues that could lengthen the divorce process include:

  • Division of property
  • Custody of children
  • Child support
  • Visitation rights
  • Alimony

According to a study by Martindale Nolo Research, the average divorce takes 15 months to complete with divorce attorneys. Whether you have children with your spouse affects this timing: about 12 months if no children and about 18 months if children are involved.

If you and your spouse agree on most issues, the details of your divorce could be settled relatively quickly. For example, an online service for uncontested divorces can help a couple come to a resolution in as little as a month. (By law, however, it takes six months before the marriage is legally ended.)

How do I prepare for filing online?

Online divorce services are for couples who can work together on divorce terms and who agree on most issues. To use one, you need to:

  • Know where your spouse is.
  • Agree with your spouse on division of the assets and property, as well as child-related matters.

Once you purchase a plan with your online divorce service, you will be given the relevant divorce forms for your county.

How to get a divorce online

Online divorce services like Wevorce and MyDivorcePapers make it easy to quickly get the divorce process rolling.

While the signup process may vary by service, in general you’ll:

  1. Go to the online divorce service website.
  2. Enter your name and contact information.
  3. Specify where you’re filing and whether you have children.
  4. Indicate your spouse’s information and whether you know their whereabouts.
  5. Enter a payment method and confirm to start the process.

Getting a divorce online — now what?

If you’ve signed up for an online divorce service, you will be presented with the divorce forms you need to complete. You will also be given instructions on how to file the documents with your local court.

Rest assured that your online divorce service will guide you from the beginning to the end of the process, when you can move on to healing.

Frequently asked questions

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14 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    MichaelAugust 11, 2018

    I am helping my friend who is an US citizen and he is working in China for a long time, his wife is an USCitizen also , his wife went back to China and filed a divorce with him in local law firm, and then they went to US General Consulate in Guangzhou and filed a document for divorce also, what is the next step for divorce process? Do they have to hire a lawyer or they can do online service for divorce? Both of them had agreed with uncontested.

    Thank you,


    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaAugust 20, 2018Staff

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      While it is possible to get divorced in other countries, there are certain precautions that your friend should consider to ensure that the United States recognize their divorce. There are certain factors that may affect this. One, your friends should have established residency in China for the US to acknowledge their separation. Moreover, the state where they were married should be notified about their divorce.

      Since we can’t provide specific legal advice, it would be a good idea for your friend to consider talking to a U.S. divorce lawyer. This will help him ensure that the necessary steps for divorce to be recognized in the United States were taken.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!


  2. Default Gravatar
    ShannonAugust 10, 2018

    So, it is still going to cost almost $1,000 for a divorce if I do the forms by myself? Yikes!

    • finder Customer Care
      johnbasanesAugust 11, 2018Staff

      Hi Shannon,

      Thanks for leaving a question.

      Apart from the filing fee for the divorce, there may also be court fees that needs to be covered depending on your county. Additional costs may also be incurred depending on the route you will take to resolve it. You may need to do more research to ensure that you do the correct process the first time around to avoid additional fees. You may learn more about these processes by visiting the California Courts website. Hope this helps!


  3. Default Gravatar
    TiaJuly 26, 2018

    I’ve been living in Los Alamitos for many years. I’m going to file for divorce and leave the state. Is the 6 month residency requirement fulfilled for residency before filing the papers or do I have to remain in California for the 6 month waiting period also? Thanks. Tia

    • finder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoJuly 26, 2018Staff

      Hi Tia!

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      It is not necessary to be living in the state you filed for a divorce. As long as either of you has lived in the state for the previous six months, you meet the state residency requirement to be divorced in California.

      Hope this clarifies!


  4. Default Gravatar
    JoyJuly 18, 2018

    I was granted a court approved divorce in California in 1983
    Have just become aware that my lawyer did not file the final divorce papers ( he died before doing so)
    I have a case # how do I finalize this divorce?

    • finder Customer Care
      nikkiangcoJuly 22, 2018Staff

      Hi Joy!

      Thanks for leaving a question on our page.

      Sorry to hear that your divorce papers weren’t filed properly. You can contact the Judicial Branch of California and give your case# to check on your files. They would be able to give you the next steps to take to further with your divorce papers.

      Hope this helps!


  5. Default Gravatar
    bingApril 2, 2018

    Wife and i have pretty much agreed on division of assets and child custody. We are leaning towards online divorce service, but will we both still need to pay $453 twice?

    • finder Customer Care
      AshApril 3, 2018Staff

      Hi Bing,

      Thank you for visiting finder.

      Yes, both of you will be paying $435 as this is for the filing of the divorce and the response of the spouse. The price for filing an online divorce will still depend on the website that you will use:

      *MyDivorcePapers: $159
      *Wevorce: $749
      *CompleteCase: $299

      You may compare the other options for filing a divorce above to know what will be more convenient for the both of your but will suit your needs at the same time.

      I hope this helps.

      Let us know if there is anything else that we may assist you with. Enjoy the rest of your day!


    • Default Gravatar
      TAugust 14, 2018

      So if I choose the online option, that negates the 435 fees for filing and the response, or is it in addition to?

    • finder Customer Care
      AnndyAugust 29, 2018Staff

      Hi T,

      Thanks for your question.

      If you will get a divorce using an online service, you will pay the online divorce services fee in addition to the standard filing fee for a divorce petition which is $435.

      I hope this helps.


  6. Default Gravatar
    LynnJanuary 24, 2018

    Are there divorce attorneys in CA who will take a case on … contingency? I don’t have much cash but have a property. There is equity in our house.

    • finder Customer Care
      RonMarch 10, 2018Staff

      Hello Lynn,

      Good day! Appreciate you contacting finder regarding your inquiry today.

      There may be available lawyers in California who can take divorce cases in contingency. You may utilize this page —, to help you find a lawyer who may be able to provide legal assistance for your divorce case.

      Hope this helps!

      All the best,


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