Our top pick: 3 Step Divorce
- For uncontested divorces
- Pay a flat-fee of $299
- Ready-to-file divorce forms
- Court approved forms or your money back
Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our content.
The divorce process can be complicated, overwhelming and costly. We’re here to unravel and lay out the logistics of a California divorce, from residency requirements to costs and procedures.
To get a divorce in California, you’ll need to meet residency requirements for the county and the state. You or your spouse must have:
The person who meets these requirements can initiate the divorce process by filing a divorce petition.
Yes, most uncontested divorces can be handled outside of a courtroom. If you and your spouse can agree to the terms of the divorce, you can choose to get an online divorce, do it yourself or hire lawyers.
A contested divorce occurs when you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye on at least one issue. You can still get a divorce without heading into the courtroom if you opt for a collaborative divorce — where the lawyers negotiate — or try mediation or arbitration.
At a minimum, you’ll need to pay the $435 filing fee to get divorced in California. The spouse that files a response to that divorce petition will also pay a $435 filing fee. You’ll also need to factor in photocopies and mailing costs.
You can expect to pay between $150 and $6,000 to use an online divorce service, plus your state filing fee. Some providers offer add-ons where they take care of serving your spouse the divorce papers and filing your case at the courthouse on your behalf for an additional fee.
These legal preparatory services help you complete your divorce documents without hiring a lawyer. They’re one of the cheapest ways to get divorced for uncontested cases — where you and your spouse agree on the divorce terms.
The average cost for a divorce in California is $17,500 when hiring divorce attorneys, according to a study by Martindale Nolo Research.
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.
If you choose to go about the divorce process on your own, it could cost you as little as $500 for your state’s filing and court fees when you submit your divorce packet. But you’ll need to compile all the required legal forms on your own — either from your county clerk office or online.
Aside from the $435 filing fee, other costs involved with a DIY divorce in California might include:
If you’re receiving public benefits, if your household income falls below a certain threshold or if paying for the court fees will prevent you from being able to afford your household’s basic needs, you can apply for a fee waiver.
As of February 2019, the income threshold to be approved for a fee waiver ranges from $1,264.59 per month before taxes for a single-person household to $3,514.59 per month before taxes for a six-person household. If your income is above that threshold, you may still qualify for a fee waiver based on your income, money and property holdings, and monthly expenses and deductions.
To get a divorce online in California, you’ll generally need to be going through an uncontested divorce and meet the state residency requirements. If you meet these criteria, you’ll answer a questionnaire and the online divorce service will use your responses to fill in the relevant fields of your legal forms.
Once your legal forms are complete, you’ll sign, notarize and file them with your local court. Online divorce services vary greatly by price and features, so shop around to find one that best fits your budget and needs.
If you want some guidance through the divorce process, but don’t want to hire an attorney, take a look at a few online divorce services:
I chose to get an online divorce for a few reasons. In California, divorce filings through the court are considered public record. There is also a six-month waiting period between filing and receiving the divorce decree.
I needed the decree to be able to refinance my mortgage and sell my half of my house to my ex. So we used online divorce service Wevorce, which is considered private arbitration. There was no waiting period for a decree, and the agreements and legal documents are private. And we were able to avoid the lawyer expenses and going to court.
The process was tough for me to understand because I had never been through it before. The online process also differs from the regular court process. Trying to understand the differences, in comparison to what little I already knew, took some time. Thankfully, my private judge at Wevorce was super helpful in making sure all of my questions got answered in a way I could understand.
It took less than 30 days for me to start and complete my divorce online. Since a divorce would’ve probably taken a year going through the court system, choosing the online route was totally worth it for me.
It takes at least six months before a divorce through the court system can be finalized in California, due to its mandatory waiting period. However, some online divorce services like Wevorce that use private arbitration are able to issue your decree immediately.
The average divorce with divorce attorneys takes 15 months to complete, according to a study by Martindale Nolo Research. Whether you have children with your spouse affects this timing: It takes about 12 months if you don’t have children and about 18 months if you do.
Divorcing couples who can’t agree generally end up dragging out the divorce process, leading to a lengthy, expensive and public court hearing. The more issues you and your spouse can resolve on your own, the faster and cheaper it’ll be.
California is a no-fault divorce state and only has two grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences or insanity.
Irreconcilable differences can include anything from the fact you and your spouse just can’t get along to adultery or abuse. Unlike some states, you don’t need to show fault to end the marriage.
The other grounds for divorce is if your spouse is permanently and legally declared insane or unable to make decisions.
If you and your spouse meet the state and county residency requirements to file for divorce in California, the next step is figuring out your approach. If your divorce is uncontested, your cheapest option is to use an online divorce service or compile the documents and fill them out yourself. But you’ll likely need to hire a lawyer for help if you and your spouse don’t see eye to eye on everything.
You can learn more about the process of consciously uncoupling with our guide to filing for divorce
Do my spouse and I need to live in California to get a divorce?
No. 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.
Can I still get a divorce if my spouse doesn’t want to get one?
Yes. Your spouse cannot stop you from getting a divorce. If your spouse chooses not to work with you on the divorce, you will receive a default judgment — basically, the divorce will be completed along the terms you set.
Find more information about default cases on the California Courts website.
Can I still get a divorce if I can’t locate my spouse?
Yes. However, you first need to make an exhaustive good-faith effort to locate your spouse. For example, you might check telephone listings, use private investigators or look through property records.
If you still can’t find your spouse, and if a judge rules that you have searched as much as you were able, you can initiate service by publication. This means you publish a divorce summons in a newspaper. If your spouse doesn’t respond within 28 days, you can request to receive a “default” judgment on your divorce.
Do my spouse and I need to live in the same county to get a divorce?
No. You or your spouse just need to be living in a county for three months before the divorce is filed in that county.
Say that you’ve lived in Marin County for the past three months and your spouse has lived in Napa County for the past three months. In this case, you can file for divorce in Marin County, or your spouse can file in Napa County.
Get a line of credit with low closing costs — but you can’t apply online.
Learn what the moving expenses deduction is, how to claim it on your taxes and more.
Learn about what will happen to your home loan when you die and how to avoid any nasty situations with some pre-planning.
Options to get a startup business loan when your credit score is below 580.
Invest in your retirement while enjoying tax breaks and peace of mind.
An online DIY service that charges a flat rate to generate your divorce paperwork — but watch out for the automatic membership fee.
Reduce your debt by around 30% after fees — but only if you can stick with the program. Here’s how.
Here’s where to get financial help for yourself and your business if you’ve been affected by the storm in February 2021.
No-cost options are available, but these policies may not offer the coverage you need.
From gathering your financial documents to finding a good therapist, we asked the experts for their No. 1 tip for divorcing spouses.
finder.com is an independent comparison platform and information service that aims to provide you with the tools you need to make better decisions. While we are independent, the offers that appear on this site are from companies from which finder.com receives compensation. We may receive compensation from our partners for placement of their products or services. We may also receive compensation if you click on certain links posted on our site. While compensation arrangements may affect the order, position or placement of product information, it doesn't influence our assessment of those products. Please don't interpret the order in which products appear on our Site as any endorsement or recommendation from us. finder.com compares a wide range of products, providers and services but we don't provide information on all available products, providers or services. Please appreciate that there may be other options available to you than the products, providers or services covered by our service.