When your spouse won’t sign the papers, you may need the help of a qualified divorce lawyer in order to move the process along — and that means checking quite a few boxes. You already have good, legally sound reasons for wanting a divorce: check. You already have a lawyer in mind: check. You know you have a good case: check. You think the law is on your side, but don’t forget that your spouse probably thinks the same thing. These are the relevant California divorce laws that might affect your case.

  • Eligibility Requirements. In order to legally divorce in the state of California, at least one of the two spouses must have maintained a residence there for at least six months before filing. Boiled down even more, you have to file for divorce in the county where you spent at least three of those six months.
  • No-Fault. California is a no-fault state for divorce, which means neither spouse requires a “reason” for filing — although in some cases it might help move the process along more swiftly. Unfortunately for those whose marriages may have been affected by abuse or adultery, these are not legally sound reasons for determining child support, spousal support, or dividing property unfairly. You may feel like you have been wronged in some way, but legally it makes no difference whatsoever.
  • Waiting Period. Although California is relatively liberal in its policies regarding divorce when compared to many other states, there is still a six-month waiting period after filing before the process can be finalized. If you meet the aforementioned requirements, you can file for divorce in the superior court of the county where you reside (a lawyer will help you do this). Paperwork for the divorce must also be presented to your spouse.
  • Mediation or Trial. When spouses cannot agree on terms or divorce amicably, a third-party must help. A mediator is an option, but not all couples will agree to a process that does not involve principles mandated by law. In the latter case, spouses must present themselves in divorce court, where a judge will have the final say regarding all terms of a divorce.
  • Summary Dissolution. This “simplified divorce” process allows qualifying couples to split more quickly. Neither will receive spousal support. Basic requirements stipulate that the applicants have few debts, little jointly-owned property, no children, and have not been married for more than five years. In other words, this is an option for people who have invested less in their partners than most spouses typically do.