Uncontested Divorce in California
Updated: Nov 22
What is an uncontested divorce in California? It arises when one spouse fails to respond to a divorce petition or where the spouses mutually agree to get divorced, and they come up with a divorce agreement. If you fail to respond to the petition, you waive your right to have any say in the divorce, which increases the probability of the court granting your spouse their wishes. This is all you need to know about an uncontested divorce in California.
Is summary dissolution the same as uncontested divorce?
No. Spouses need to meet specific criteria to file for summary dissolution. For example, the marriage must have lasted for five years or less, and they should not have children together, whether biological or adopted, to mention a few.
Issues that affect an uncontested divorce
1. The length of the marriage
If the marriage lasts for more than 10 years, a spouse is entitled to spousal support. However, spousal support is not an absolute right, and the parties can waive the right to spousal support in the agreement.
If children are involved, the agreement will need to specifically address the issue of child support and/or custody, visitation, and parenting plans. The Department of Child Support Services has a convenient calculator that helps parents figure out the amount of child support to be paid. However, the parties can agree on a different amount, which has to be approved by a judicial officer.
3. Debts and assets
Assets and debts acquired during marriage should be divided equally among the spouses. California recognizes separate property, that is, property acquired before the marriage and gifts or inheritance received during the marriage. Separate property belongs to the spouse who owns it and will not be divided during the divorce.
Will you be required to go to court?
A “perfect” uncontested divorce in California can be completed without the court’s intervention. However, issues with paperwork may result in you being summoned for a court appearance. This is why it is important to have a divorce attorney review all the relevant documents and confirm you have all the paperwork needed.
How long will it take?
Divorce proceedings in California last for at least 6 months from the day the individual filing the divorce notifies the spouse. If both parties are cooperative and reach an agreement, they can approach a judge to approve their divorce before six months lapse.
How much will it cost?
The cost depends on whether the parties agree on their issues. If there are no disagreements, you will only pay court-filing fees that amount to less than $500.
NOTE: Different cases have different outcomes. Never assume that what worked for others will work for you. Although it is not necessary, it is advisable to consult an attorney to look through the documents as a precautionary measure. They will look out for clauses in the agreement that are disadvantageous to you and point out mistakes that can lead to problems in the future.