January 25, 2020
Dissolution, Legal Separation, and Annulment

California law entitles you to a divorce (called a dissolution) based on irreconcilable differences. Fault in causing the breakdown of the marriage is no longer relevant in California. Your spouse does not need to give you permission, or even agree with you. To file for a divorce you must have lived in the state of California for the last six months, and in the county where you file for the last three months. If you do not meet these residency requirements you may still file for a legal separation

Self-Prep and File

Before you file for a dissolution, understand that a divorce:

  • will legally end your marriage forever
  • may divide your property and debts
  • provide for child support and if requested, spousal support
  • determine who will care for the children and be entitled to make decisions on their behalf.
  • the initiation of an annulment or nulity is similar to a divorce

If you're not sure that you are ready for a divorce, you may want to seek personal or marriage counseling.

When is the legal process complete and the divorce final?

The process of getting a divorce begins once you file the initial papers. Before your dissolution is complete, all the issues must be resolved, either by default, agreement or through contested court proceedings (hearings and/or trial) and as soon as you have prepared and filed all of the necessary paperwork. Everyone's case will take a different amount of time. The process may take several months if the case is uncontested, or it could take years if there is a lot of disagreement or complex issues. DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU ARE DIVORCED UNTIL THERE IS A JUDGMENT FILED AND ENTERED BY THE COURT.

Do you qualify for Summary Dissolution?

Legal Steps for a Divorce or Legal Separation

A person is able to remarry only after the Judgment has been entered terminating marital status. The earliest date upon which marital status can be terminated is six months and one day after the Respondent was served with the Petition and Summons for dissolution.

It is the responsibility of either or both parties to bring the case to Judgment. It is important that you seek legal advice if you have any questions.

Need assistance?
Anyone can obtain the necessary forms from the Clerk's office of the Superior Court of California, County of San Mateo to begin a dissolution.

The Family Law Facilitator can also review your completed paperwork, give you information on filing and service of process, and refer you to legal assistance and self-help resources.

© 2020 Superior Court of San Mateo County