How Fast Can I Get a Divorce in California?

Filing a divorce in California seems to many people like a light at the end of the tunnel. This is in line with the fact that divorcing spouses require papers (legal) to move on with their lives. While some divorces take a short time to complete, others take a bit longer. Divorce processes can be tricky, costly, and overwhelming, depending on the spouse and other factors. This article uncovers, lays down, and looks deeper into California’s divorce processes, aiming to find how fast a divorce can be. It provides in-depth details from residency requirements to procedures and costs in the state.

Residency Requirements

Two main residency requirements must be met before a spouse can file a divorce within the state of California. One of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least six months and within the county where the petition will be filed for at least three months. Anyone meeting these requirements can start a divorce petition.

            Grounds for Divorce in California

There are only two laid grounds for divorce in California: insanity and irreconcilable difference. The state does not allow for a fault-based divorce reason, so nearly everything falls under an irreconcilable divorce.

Irreconcilable differences is simply one spouse saying the marriage is broken and cannot be fixed. No one must provide evidence for the fault.

The other divorce ground is if the spouse is legally or permanently insane. One party will have to show evidence that the other is declared clinically insane and cannot lead a normal life or make proper decisions regarding important matters.

How long does it take to get a divorce in California?

This length of divorce proceedings varies due to several factors. The time frame of a divorce depends on you, the spouse, the children, and assets.

The average contested divorce with lawyers takes around 15 months, while a contested divorce without children usually takes about 12 months. A lot depends on the types of disagreements and how hard the spouses are willing to fight to get their way. The longer the process lasts, and the more court hearings, the more expensive the divorce will be. In some cases, it can extend to many years. The following are factors that can affect the divorce framework:

  • A lengthy document or asset discovery process
  • Disagreements in child custody
  • Disagreements about child support or alimony by the spouses
  • Disagreements in the division of assets
  • Failure to cooperate with the processes
  • Court schedules
  • Hiding information from the attorney

Options are available to resolve contested issues more quickly, like mediation and arbitration. In mediation, a neutral third party guides the spouses towards a resolution by suggesting a mutually beneficial compromise. In arbitration, an arbitrator decides for the couple.

The best way to shorten the process is to agree with your spouse on all contentious issues – mainly the division of property, assets, and debts, child custody and visitation, child support, and alimony.

California has a mandatory waiting period of six months before a divorce can be finalized. This is a compulsory period to allow for reconciliation. However, the state offers two relatively fast pathways towards a fast divorce known as Summary Dissolution and Uncontested Divorce.            

Uncontested Divorces

California refers to a divorce that is resolved without disagreements as an uncontested divorce. Such a divorce can be carried out without going to court. In this case, there are three options: hire a lawyer, do it yourself, or use the services of an online divorce company.

A do it yourself divorce (or DIY divorce) means that you do everything yourself without any 3rd party assistance. You’ll have to collect and complete all your paperwork, file with the court, and keep track of all court dates on your own. This is the cheapest option and can result in just having to pay the court filing fees, but paperwork can be complicated, and if done wrong, could cause significant delays in your divorce or a regrettable outcome. So this option is best for more straightforward cases without children or valuable property.

The easiest but most expensive way is hiring an attorney to complete the paperwork and handle communication with the court. It will save you energy and work, but you’ll be at the mercy of the attorney’s schedule, so prepare your supporting documents and questions in advance to avoid extra meetings.

A perfect middle ground is an online divorce. The online divorce company will select and prepare your paperwork for you in as little as two days, eliminating the hassle and speeding up the paperwork process while giving you the peace of mind of knowing it is done right. The online divorce company will also provide you with filing instructions. And since online divorce services start as low as $139, it is far less expensive than using an attorney.

The best online divorce services are LegalZoom, CompleteCase, and OnlineDivorce. To get a divorce using these sites, one must meet the residency requirements, and the divorce must be uncontested. The spouse fills a questionnaire about their divorce, which the online divorce service uses to select and fill out the required legal documents. Once the forms are ready, the spouse can sign and file them with the local court. These services vary significantly in price. Thus the spouses should dig deep into the features to select one that best fits their budget and conditions.

Summary Dissolution

California offers a fast-track paperwork process for the divorce for the spouses qualifying. It allows a spouse to file for a divorce petition jointly. Although it will still take six months, summary dissolution is simple. A couple qualifies for a summary dissolution if they:

  • Were married for less than five years;
  • Do not have children;
  • Do not own any real estate;
  • Do not owe more than $6000 together;
  • Do not hold more than $41,000 in community property;
  • Do not own more than $41,000 separately; and
  • Agree never to receive spousal support.

Cost of Divorce in California

The minimum cost of divorce is $435 and another $435 for the spouse who files a response to the divorce. There are also additional costs incurred due to photocopying, notary services, and mailing costs.

Any legal or professional services used will also add to the cost of the divorce. The cost of online divorce services ranges from $150 to $600. A lawyer’s service range from $1000 – $3500. And financial experts, mediation, arbitration, and counseling can all add to the cost. So it all comes down to the complexity of your case and the amount and type of help you use.

While the minimum timeframe for divorce is six months, spouses should consider their needs and shared lives. A divorce can leave one with future regret and resentment, so don’t rush the process. Sometimes, moving too quickly, just to get it over with, forces spouses to make agreements that they will regret later. Take your time and think about what is best for all parties involved, especially for children, to ensure a fair division and the ideal conclusion. That is the best way to avoid limitations and complaints in the future.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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