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Divorce

During the Case

If you and your spouse or partner (or either one of you on your own) have decided that you want to end your relationship, you can ask the court to give you a divorce (dissolution of marriage) or to dissolve your registered domestic partnership.

The court requires people to follow certain procedures in just the right way. For that reason, it is best that you follow each step listed below one at a time, and in the order they are listed.

In general, this is how a divorce, dissolution of registered domestic partnership, legal separation, or annulment case starts:

1. The person starting the court case (petitioner) gets and completes all the appropriate forms.

  • The forms can be found on this website, at most courthouses, in public libraries, and in other places.
  • Sometimes it helps people to get a friend to read the papers and work with them as they try to understand what is being asked on the forms.

2. The petitioner calls the closest courthouse to ask three questions.

  1. Is this the courthouse where this case should be filed? If not, where should I file?
  2. After I have filled out the forms, how many photocopies of these forms will I need to make for filing?
  3. How much money it will cost to file the forms, and how can I pay the fees?

3. The petitioner files his or her court forms.

  • "Filing the forms" means taking the forms to the courthouse and giving them to a court clerk. The clerk will put the original forms in a file that starts the court case, then stamp the photocopies and return them to the person doing the filing.

NOTE: It costs money to file the forms.

4. A person over 18 who is not connected to the court case gives the other spouse or partner (the respondent) copies of the court forms.

  • When a lawsuit is filed, the person being sued has a right to be told about it. This needs to be done in time for the person to go to court and tell the judge his or her side of the story before the judge makes a decision. This is called "service of process" and is very important.

5. The person who serves copies of the court forms on the respondent fills and files a form to show they have given the correct forms to the respondent in the right way.

6. The respondent gets the forms he or she needs and fills them in.

7. The respondent files his or her court forms.

SPECIAL NOTE: The respondent only has 30 days to file his or her court forms. If the respondent does not file a response, the judge can make a decision ending the marriage or dissolving the registered domestic partnership without hearing the respondent's side of the story.

8. A person over 18 who is not connected to the court case gives the petitioner copies of the respondent's court forms.

9. The person who serves copies of the court forms to the petitioner fills and files a form to show they have given him or her the correct forms in the right way.

As soon as you file a divorce case, court orders go into effect that limit what you can do with your property, money, and children. These orders are listed on the second page of the Summons form. Read them carefully. By signing and filing a divorce petition, you are agreeing to follow these orders.

In general, the orders state:

  • Neither you nor your spouse or partner can sell or give away any property (unless necessary for day-to-day living);
  • Neither you nor your spouse or partner can change any insurance, including beneficiaries,
  • Neither you nor your spouse or partner can take any children of the relationship outside of California without written permission from the other spouse or partner, or a court order.
If you do need to take your children out-of-state or sell property, you can do so if your spouse or partner agrees in writing or you get permission from a judge.

The same restrictictions do not apply to your spouse or partner until you serve him or her with the Petition and Summons.

About Court Forms to Start a Divorce: To ask the court to legally end your marriage or registered domestic partnership you will need to complete many court forms.

  • For a small fee you can get these forms from most courthouses and many libraries or bookstores. You can download these fors from this website or your Court's website for free.
  • You may want to work with someone to help you understand and fill out your court forms. You should also consider hiring an attorney to help make sure that you have completed the forms correctly before they are filed.
  • Although many people fill out their court forms online and then print them, you may also fill out court forms by hand. If you hand write your forms, they must be printed neatly so other people can read them easily. You may use "white out" on your court forms if you make a small mistake, but it must not get in the way of the form being easy to read.
  • On the forms, the person who files the first papers is called the "petitioner", and is listed as the petitioner on all court forms connected with this court case - no matter how long the case lasts. The other spouse or partner is called the "respondent", and will always be listed on the court form in this way.

NOTE: You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you're not sure which forms to use, talk to your Family Law Facilitator or a lawyer.

Find low-cost legal aid. Find local court forms you may need at your county's court website.

To start the court case, the petitioner must fill out and file:

  • Petition-Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Form FL-100) See the instructions on form FL-100-INFO.
  • The Summons (Form FL-110)

The Petiton tells the court the date you got married or registered your domestic partnership, the names and ages of any children you share, the property you own, any debts you have, and so on. It also tells the court how you want to restructure your life after the divorce. The Summons tells your spouse or partner that a court case has been started. It also includes standard orders that both of you must obey until your case is finished.

If you and your spouse or partner have children together, and they are 18 years old or younger, you must also fill out:

  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) Form FL-105/GC-120)
  • See the instructions for this form.

Other forms as needed. If you need the judge to make orders about child custody or support, spousal support or other property issues while your divorce is pending, you will have to file more forms and ask for a Court date. See the sections in this website on Child Custody, Child Support, and Spousal Support to learn how to do this.

If there is an emergency and you need immediate help from the court:

You may ask the court to make emergency orders (called Ex Parte orders), or for a quick court hearing date. These orders will only last until your next court hearing where your spouse or partner can be present and the judge can make a decision about whether or not to extend the orders longer. Learn more about getting emergency orders.

'Filing your court forms' means mailing or taking the forms to the courthouse and giving them to a court clerk. The clerk will put the original forms in a file that starts the court case, then stamp the photocopies and return them to the person doing the filing. Here's how to do it:

Call the courthouse closest to you and ask three questions:

  1. Is this the courthouse where this case should be filed?
  2. How many photocopies of the forms do I need to bring?
  3. How much money will it cost to file the forms, and how can I pay the fees?

Find the courthouse closest to you.

File your court forms:

When you think your forms have been filled out correctly and completely, make the required number of photocopies of each form and all of the attachments.

You will have to pay a filing fee.

  • Learn about filing fees in California.
  • If you cannot afford the filing fees, there are "Fee Waiver" forms you may file to ask if the judge will allow you to pay less or nothing at all.

You can file your court forms in one of three ways:

  • In person By visiting the courthouse, handing the forms to the clerk , and paying the filing fee. You can do this yourself or have someone do it for you. There are also companies that can do this for you for a fee.
  • By mail Mail the Court the original and copies of the forms along with the filing fee. Enclose a letter that tells the clerk what you are sending and that you want the forms filed. Include a self-addressed, stamped envelope so the clerk can mail back the copies to you after they've been stamped. Note: this process can be slower than filing in person if you have made big mistakes in completing the forms.
  • Online In some Counties, you can file your divorce papers and pay your filing fee online. Check your County Court website to see if this is possible.

Once the court clerk has your forms and filing fees, he or she will:

  • Assign a case number. (You will always use this same case number when submitting forms and documents related to this court case.)
  • Stamp all photocopies of the forms, and keep the original copy of the Petition to put in the court file.
  • Return the original copy of the Summons to you. (Be sure to keep this in a safe place because you will need it for the next step of the process.)
  • Give you two (or more) sets of forms and attachments. (You will keep one set of forms, and you will have the second set of forms served on your spouse or partner.)

Next, get one (1) more form:

  • Response-Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Form FL-120)

Now you need to "serve" the papers.

California law requires that your spouse or partner be given formal notice that you have started a divorce or dissolution of a registered domestic partnership case. This is called "service of process," and it is very important. In fact, the judge cannot make any decisions until the other spouse or partner has been properly "served."


YOU CANNOT SERVE THE COURT PAPERS YOURSELF.

Who can serve the court papers?

Someone over 18 (for example a friend, relative, the Sheriff, or a professional process server) who is not involved in the case in any way must serve the court forms for you.

How are court forms served?

There are two ways copies of the documents filed with the court can be "served". These are:

  • Personal Service: A person over 18 who is not involved in this case hands copies of the forms to your spouse or partner.
  • Service by Mail with a Notice of Acknowledgment & Receipt: If your spouse or partner agrees to accept the papers by mail, you can have an adult, not you, mail the copies of the Forms and two blank copies of the Notice of Acknowledgment & Receipt. You must also include an envelope addressed to you with first class postage. Your spouse or partner must send one copy of the receipt to the court, and must send one copy to you. If they don't, you'll need to have the documents Personally Served.

What Needs to Be Served?

Your spouse or partner must be served a copy of ALL of the forms filed with the court. This includes:

  • Petition-Marriage/Domestic Partnership for a marriage or domestic partnership
  • Summons for either a marriage or registered domestic partnership
  • Any temporary orders you may have asked the court for
  • Any property declarations you may have filed
  • Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (if you have children)
  • A blank Response Marriage/Domestic Partnership for a marriage or domestic partnership

Who has to be served?

  • You must serve your spouse or partner, as well as
  • Anyone else who is involved in the case.

For example, you must serve the welfare office if you, your spouse or partner, or a child of this relationship is on welfare (or has applied for welfare and you are waiting for it to start.)

If any of you are receiving (or has applied for) welfare, you must also serve a copy of your filed forms on the local child support agency's office in the county where the benefits are being paid. (The local child support agency can be served by mail.)

You may need to consult an attorney in soem cases:

There are special rules that apply to the below situations. You may need to consult an attorney or get help from a Self-Help Center if:

  • You do not know where your spouse or partner is
  • Your spouse or partner is in the military
  • Your spouse or partner is in jail
  • Your spouse or partner lives in another state or Country, or
  • If you are having a difficult time serving the forms for any other reason

After the papers have been served:

The person who serves the court forms must fill out the:

  • Proof of Service (Form FL-115)

Once this is finished, he or she will give you the form, and you must make and keep one copy for yourself, and file the original copy of this form with the court.

ALERT! Your case will be delayed if you do not serve your spouse or partner, or do not file the "Proof of Service" with the court.

The judge cannot hear your court case until three things have happened. One, you have filed your court forms properly. Two, you have served copies of these forms on your spouse or domestic partner. And three, you have filed a form that shows the court that the forms were served in the right way by an adult who isn't connected to the case.

First:

To prove to the court that your spouse or domestic partner has been served in the right way, the person who served these forms must fill out the following forms and then give that form back to you:

For Personal or Mail Service the person must fill out and sign:

  • Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115)

For Service by Mail the person must also attach:

  • The Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (Form FL-117), which has been signed by your spouse or domestic partner. Attach this to the Proof of Service of Summons.

Second:

  • You must make one copy of each Proof of Service form. Mail or take these forms to the court clerk. The clerk will file and stamp all of the forms. The court will keep the original of each form, and will give the copies of these forms back to you.
  • KEEP YOUR COPY OF EACH PROOF OF SERVICE IN A SAFE PLACE. Take it to any court hearing that has been scheduled in this case.

Next, California law requires that you and your spouse or partner give each other written information about what you own and what you owe. This is called "disclosure." For more information on exchanging information, go the next item in this list.

California law requires that you and your spouse or partner give each other written information about what you own and what you owe. This is called "disclosure."

  • Disclosure is intended to make sure that you and your spouse or partner are aware of everything each of you own and owe. With this information you can divide your property and debts equally, and can make reasonable decisions about child and spousal or partner support.
  • If you leave anything out, either by mistake or on purpose, your property division may not be accepted by the court, and your case may be reopened or changed.
  • The first set of Disclosure forms, must be given to your spouse or partner either with the Petition or within 60-days from that date that you filed the Petition.

First: Complete your Disclosure Forms.

Do your Preliminary Disclosure by filling out:

  • Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140)
    See the instructions for this form.
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142)
    See the instructions for this form.
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150)
    See the instructions for this form.
  • Disclosure of investment opportunities since you separated, if any. (Write these out on a clean sheet of paper. There's no form for this.)

Second: Get Copies of your Tax Returns

  • Make copies of your tax returns filed in the last two-years.

Third: "Serve" your Financial Forms

  • Make copies of all the above forms and have an adult, NOT you, mail them, along with the tax returns, to your spouse or partner.
  • You keep your original disclosure forms.
  • Your spouse or partner will serve his or her Preliminary Disclosure on you.

NOTE: Do NOT file your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosures with the court. Only have them served on your spouse or partner.

Fourth: Compete and file the "Declaration Regarding Service" with the court.

  • Complete a Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141)
    See the instructions for this form
  • Make copies of the completed form, file the copies and original with the Court. Keep a filed copy for your records.
NOTE: Both you and your spouse or partner are responsible for making sure that the financial information you give each other is current. Therefore, if changes occur or you get new information about what is owned or owed, you need to fill out and serve new Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure forms. This rule applies until your property is actually distributed by agreement or court order.

Next: Go to "How to Finish a Divorce Case: Options."

A divorce in California cannot be finished in less than six (6) months and one (1) day after the first papers were filed at the courthouse and copies of these papers were served on (given to) the other spouse or partner. Note that this is not automatic: you must complete all of the steps in this section before you can be divorced, even if it takes more than 6 months.

During those 6 months, the couple is expected to have worked out:

  • How they are going to divide and share their parenting responsibilities (if they have children together), and
  • How they are going to divide and share their financial assets and liabilities (what they own and owe).

These decisions may have been resolved by stipulations (written agreements), or through court hearings.

  • Get ready for a court hearing.

NOTE: Even when all of these issues are resolved, however, the divorce is NOT final until a "Judgment" has been signed by a judge.

  • The court will not contact the spouses or partners to tell them that it is time to finish their divorce.

Information about how to get your "Judgment" signed by a judge:

The way you end your divorce or dissolution of registered domestic partnership case depends on several factors. To learn what you need to do, click on the description that best describes your situation.

1. If the other spouse or partner DOES NOT file a response to the papers asking for a divorce or dissolution of the registered domestic partnership, the petitioner can ask for the judge to decide the case by default.

A. "True Default" case: If a Petition was filed and served, no response was filed, and there is no written agreement about the terms of separation this is called a "true default" case.

B. "Default With Agreement" case: If a Petition was filed and served, no response was filed, but the couple has a written agreement about the terms of their separation this is called a "default with agreement" case.

2. If the other spouse or partner DOES file a response, it may be an uncontested or a contested case.

C. Uncontested Case: If a Petition was filed and served, a response was filed and served, and there was a full written agreement on all issues, this is called an "uncontested case."

D. Contested Case: If a Petition was filed and served, a response was filed and served, but there is no written agreement on all issues, this is called a
"contested case."

Alert! When your Judgment is signed there is paperwork to do right away. To learn how to do this, please go to After You Get Your Judgment.

If you have to go to court, please go to Step 7: If You Have a Hearing.

A True Default case is when one spouse or partner filed and served on the other spouse or partner a petition for divorce with a court summons, more than 30 days have passed since service of the Petition and Summons, and:

  • the other spouse or partner did not file a response, and
  • there is no written agreement about the terms of the separation.

NOTE: You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you're not sure which forms to use, talk to your Family Law Facilitator or a lawyer.

Find low-cost legal aid.

Find local court forms you may need at your county's court website.

In this situation, the divorce can be finished by filling out and filing four more forms:

1. Request to Enter Default
30 or more days after one spouse or partner had copies of the Petition and court Summons served on their spouse or partner, they can file:

  • Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165)
    See the instructions for this form.
  • A stamped envelope addressed to the spouse or partner is to be provided to the Clerk's Office so that a copy of the Request can be mailed to him or her.

NOTE:

  • A default judgment ends the other spouse's or partner's chance to file a Response.
  • A Judgment may be made based on the Petition (Form FL-100)
  • As explained earlier, the court will need to see that a Declaration of Disclosure with an Income and Expense (Form FL-150) and a Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142) OR a Property Declaration (Form FL-160) have been served.
  • As explained earlier, a Declaration Regarding Service of Disclosure (Form FL-141) must have been filed.

2. Declaration for Default
Any time after the Request to Enter Default has been filed and served, the petitioner is also to fill out and file with the court:

  • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation
    (Form FL-170)

    A copy of this form must also be served on the other spouse or partner.

3. Judgment
To complete the divorce process, someone has to complete and file with the court:

Attach to the Judgment a copy of the forms that clearly show the specific arrangements regarding child custody, visitation, child support, spousal or partner support, property division, and anything else requested as part of the judgment. (The pile of attachments may become quite thick.)

  • Get the form(s) to attach to the judgment if child custody and visitation orders are being requested.
  • Get the forms to attach to the judgment if child, spousal or partner support is being requested.
  • Get the form(s) to attach to the judgment if there is separate property or debt, or community property or debt, to divide.?

NOTE: If child support is assigned to the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) for collection, the judgment MUST include the signature of the DCSS attorney before it is submitted to the court.

4. Notice of Entry of Judgment
With the Judgment (Form FL-180), also file:

  • Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190)

Mail or take the completed Judgment form and all attachments, with two copies of everything, to the Clerk's Office for processing.

  • You will need to give the clerk two large, stamped envelopes, addressed to each of the spouses or partners.

The divorce is final when the judge signs the Judgment (Form FL-180)

  • A court clerk will mail the "Notice of Entry of Judgment" to each spouse or partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
  • It is important that copies of this Judgment (Form FL-180) and the Notice (Form FL-190) are kept in a safe place. They may be needed in the future

ALERT! When your Judgment is signed there is paperwork to do right away. To lean how to do this, please go to After You Get Your Judgment.

If you have to go to court, please go to "Step 7: If You Have a Hearing."

A Default with Agreement case is when one spouse or partner filed and served on the other spouse or partner a petition for divorce or dissolution of a registered domestic partnership with a court summons, more than 30 days has passed since service of the Petition and Summons, and:

  1. The other spouse or partner did not file a Response
    (Form FL-120), and
  2. The couple agrees about all the issues involved in the case (people can submit a signed settlement agreement or show their agreement on the Petition
    (Form FL-100), and
  3. Both spouses or partners have signed and had notarized a
    Settlement Agreement, or a Stipulation for Judgment.
SPECIAL NOTE: A default judgment ends the other spouse's or partner's chance to file a response.

NOTE: You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you're not sure which forms to use, talk to your Family Law Facilitator or a lawyer.

Find low-cost legal aid.

Find local court forms you may need at your county's court website.

In this situation, the divorce can be finished by taking the following steps:

1. Request to Enter Default
Thirty (30) or more days after one spouse or partner had copies of the Petition and court Summons served on their spouse or partner, they can file a:

When you mail or take this form to the court clerk to be filed, you also have to give the clerk two stamped envelopes -- one addressed to each of the spouses or partners -- so that a copy of the filed Request can be mailed to both of you.

2. Declaration for Default
Any time after the Request to Enter Default has been filed and served, the petitioner must also fill out and file with the court a:

  • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation
    (Form FL-170)
A copy of this form is to be served on the other spouse or partner. Then a Proof of Service form is to be filed at the court.

3. Final Disclosure
Normally, the court will need to see that the two spouses or partners have exchanged up-to-date financial information with each other.

4. Judgment
To complete the divorce process, the petitioner is to fill in and file with the court a:

  • Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-180)

Attach to the Judgment the original written "Settlement Agreement" or "Stipulation for Judgment".

Make two copies of the completed Form FL-180, including all the attachments. Then, mail or take the original and two copies of each form (and the attachments) to the clerk to be filed.

SPECIAL NOTES:
  • If child support is assigned to the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) for collection, the judgment must include the signature of the DCSS attorney before it is submitted to the court.
  • Signatures of all persons acting without an attorney must be notarized.

5. Notice of Entry of Judgment
At the same time as the Judgment is filed, the petitioner is to fill in and file with the court a:

  • Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190)
    Again, he or she must give the clerk two (2) stamped envelopes (one addressed to each spouse or partner) so that copies of the the final forms can be sent to each of them after they have been signed by the judge. for this form.

The divorce is final when the judge signs Judgment (Form FL-180)

  • A court clerk will mail the "Notice of Entry of Judgment" to each spouse or partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
  • It is important that both spouses or partners keep their copy of the Judgment (Form FL-180) and Notice (Form FL-190) in a safe place. They may be needed in the future.

ALERT! When your Judgment is signed there is paperwork to do right away. To lean how to do this, please go to After You Get Your Judgment.

If you have to go to court, please go to Step 7: If You Have a Court Hearing.

An Uncontested Case is when:

1. One spouse/partner served the other spouse/partner with a court summons and a filed petition for dissolution of marriage/domestic partnership.

2. The couple agrees about all of the issues involved in their case, and

3. The person who did not start the court case (the respondent) filed a response with the court.

NOTE: You may not need all of these forms. Or you may need more forms. If you're not sure which forms to use, talk to your Family Law Facilitator or a lawyer. Find low-cost legal aid. Get local court forms you may need at your county's court website.

In this situation, the divorce can be finished by taking the following steps:

1. Declaration of Service of Final Declaration of Disclosure
The person who started the court case (the petitioner) must fill out and file a Declaration of Service of Final Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141). Normally, this includes showing the court that you and your spouse or partner have exchanged up-to-date financial information with each other.

  • Declaration of Service of Final Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141)
    See the instructions for this form.

2. Appearance, Stipulations and Waiver
Either spouse or partner may compete and file an Appearance, Stipulations and Waiver form (Form FL-130). The person who completes and files this form must then serve the form on the other spouse or partner, and file a Proof of Service with the court.

  • Appearance, Stipulations and Waiver (Form FL-130)

3. Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution
If you want your judgment approved by mail, each spouse or partner must complete a Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution form (Form FL-170). Each spouse or partner must show that he or she completed the Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure, and then serve a copy of the Form FL-170 on the other spouse or partner. There will be no hearing.

  • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution (Form FL-170)

4. Judgment
Either spouse or partner may fill out and file the Judgment (Form FL-180). This form may have one or more attachments in addition to the original Stipulation for Judgment form.

5. Notice of Entry of Judgment
At the same time as the Judgment is filed, the petitioner must fill in and file with the court a:

The person who fills out and files the FL-180 form must make two copies, including all the attachments. Then, he or she must take the original and two copies of each form and the attachments to the clerk. The original is filed.

He or she must also give the clerk TWO stamped envelopes (one addressed to each spouse or partner). The copies of the final forms will be mailed to each spouse/partner after the forms are signed by the judge.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • If child support is assigned to the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) for collection, the judgment must include the signature of the DCSS attorney before it is submitted to the court.
  • Signatures must be notarized for anyone not represented by an attorney.

The divorce is final when the judge signs the Judgment (Form FL-180)

  • A court clerk will mail the Notice of Entry of Judgment to each spouse or partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
  • It is important that both spouses or partners keep their copy of the Judgment (Form FL-180) and Notice or Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190) in a safe place. They may be needed in the future.
ALERT! When your Judgment is signed there is paperwork to do right away. To lean how to do this, please go to After You Get Your Judgment.

If you have to go to court, please go to Step 7: If You Have a Hearing.

A Contested Case is when one spouse or partner filed and served on the other spouse or partner a petition for divorce with a court summons, more than 30 days have passed since the service of the Petition and Summons, and:

  • the other spouse or partner filed a response, and
  • there is NOT agreement about all of the issues involved in the separation.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you have a contested case, you may well need help – including legal counsel. The following are general guidelines. The actual rules for contested cases are different in each county, so learn your county's local rules of court on trial procedures.

The following are the steps to take to finish a contested divorce case:

1. One of the spouses or partners must request a hearing or trial.

NOTE: There is often a form you must file to request a trial. Each Court may have its own unque form. Ask your family law facilitator what form to file.

Once you have finished this request:

  • Make two photocopies of the request -- one for the court and one for your spouse or partner.
  • Take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
  • The court will schedule a Pre-Trial Conference.
  • Serve a copy of this request on the other spouse or partner.

2. Pre-Trial Statement
Each spouse or partner must prepare a PRE-TRIAL STATEMENT, which summarizes all of the issues of their separation, and includes a copy of all the documents each spouse or partner intends to give to the court during the trial to prove that his or her position is correct.

Again, there is no Judicial Council form for a pre-trial statement. This would be an excellent time to get help from an attorney, if you can. If not, your local county law library will have self-help books you may use.

Once you have finished this statement:

  • Make two copies of the statement and attachments - one for the court and one for your spouse or partner. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
  • You must serve a copy of this statement and all the attachments on your spouse or partner.

3. Witness List

If you intend to call witnesses (other than yourself and your spouse or partner) you must prepare a witness list prior to the trial. This list must include the names of all witnesses you intend to call, as well as a brief description of their expected testimony.

Once you have finished this list:

  • Make two copies of the list - one for the court and one for your spouse or partner. Then take (or mail) the original and two copies to the court to be filed by a court clerk.
  • You must serve a copy of this list on your spouse or partner.
  • Make sure your witnesses know how to find the court and what time to be there. It might be a good idea to give them a copy of the checklist on this website for how to dress and how to behave in court.

4. Final Disclosure
Normally, you will need to show the court that you and your spouse or partner have exchanged up-to-date financial information with each other.

5. Prepare to Testify

6. Trial
Each spouse or partner is to prepare a trial brief and evidence.

You may want to consult with an attorney about what evidence is allowed, or to assist you in preparing youir evidence in a form that is likely to be persuasive to the court. Submit originals to the court. Keep a set of copies for yourself and the other side.

7. Judgment
Either spouse or partner may fill out and file the Judgment (Form FL-180). It is important to note that the FL-180 form may have one or more attachments in addition to the original settlement agreement or Stipulation for Judgment form.

8. Notice of Entry of Judgment
With the Judgment (Form FL-180), the spouse who or partner who prepares and files the Judgment is also to prepare and file:

  • Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190)

Whoever fills out the Form FL-180 must make two copies of the completed form, including all the attachments. Then, he or she will mail or take the original and two copies of each form (and the attachments) to the clerk to be filed. He or she must also give the clerk TWO stamped envelopes (one addressed to each spouse or partner) so that copies of the the final forms can be sent to each of them after they have been signed by the judge.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • If child support is assigned to the Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) for collection, the judgment MUST include the signature of the DCSS attorney before it is submitted to the court.
  • Signatures of all persons acting without an attorney must be notarized

The divorce is final when the judge signs the Judgment (FL-180)

  • A court clerk will mail the Notice of Entry of Judgment to each spouse or partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
  • Be sure to keep a copy of this Judgment (Form FL-180) and Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190) in a safe place. You may need them in the future.
ALERT! When your Judgment is signed there is paperwork to do right away. To lean how to do this, please go to After You Get Your Judgment.

If you have to go to court, please go to Step 7: If You Have a Hearing.

Reasons for a Court Hearing:

You may have a few issues that you cannot resolve yourselves and you want a judge to make those decisions for you. Or, the judge may have a few questions about your settlement that he or she wants answered before signing your final judgment. Or, you may simply want your judgment forms reviewed by a judge at a court hearing.

NOTE: If you are requesting a "Judgment of Nullity of Marriage or Domestic Partnership", there will always be a hearing which you must attend.


IMPORTANT NOTE: If a court hearing is scheduled, you have to attend it.

ALERT: Even after the final court hearing, the case is not done. Please go to After Your Case.