California Divorce Forms
- Step-by-step guide to divorce papers in California
- How to serve divorce papers
- Glossary of terms
The California court system relies on numerous forms to process divorces. The information you provide in these documents helps officials understand your estate, what you want, and what you've agreed to as a couple.
You'll become very familiar with California's forms as you move through the divorce process. Seeing all the divorce paperwork you might need to complete in a list can be intimidating, but know that most forms require little more than a few checkboxes and some supporting documents. You'll be an expert in no time. You can also ask for help from your account coordinator if you are a Pro client or above.
Step-by-step guide to divorce papers in California
These are the forms you'll use at each step of the divorce process, along with some advice on key sticking points.
1. Preparing your forms
Three forms start the divorce process. They are as follows:
- Petition – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (FL-100): This is your official divorce kickoff document.
- Summons (Family Law) (FL-110): Use this form to request your partner's response to the divorce proceedings.
- Proof of Service of Summons (Family Law – Uniform Parentage – Custody and Support) (FL-115): This form is proof you've served your partner with papers. The person who serves your partner with papers will fill this out.
If you share children, you also need these forms:
- Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (FL-105): Identify the children you share and will discuss during your divorce.
- Optional, Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application Attachment. (FL-311): If you already have an understanding with your partner about child custody, use this form.
Watch: Your Complete Guide to Local Forms in California Divorce
2. Decide if you need immediate help
Notify the court with the form Request for Order (FL-300) if some divorce details are too sensitive to wait. You'll need to attach more forms to this one to specify just what you want to happen next.
Additional forms include the following:
- Temporary Emergency (Ex Parte) Orders (FL-305): Use this form to tell the court about any potential harm that could come to children or property during a long divorce.
- Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Application Attachment (FL-311): Tell the court about the custody arrangements you'd like during the process.
- Request for Child Abduction Prevention Orders. (FL-312): Use this form if you're worried your spouse will take your children away during the divorce.
- Children's Holiday Schedule Attachment (FL-341C): Use this form to talk about where the children should spend holidays like Christmas and Mother's Day.
- Additional Provisions – Physical Custody Attachment (FL-341D): Use this form to outline other issues, such as child care or canceled visits.
- Joint Legal Custody Attachment (FL-341E): Use this form to outline how joint legal custody will work during your divorce.
- Income Withholding for Support (FL-195): Use this form to ask the court to set up support payments paid during the divorce.
Make two copies of every form you fill out.
3. File your paperwork
Take the forms you’ve filled out to the courthouse in your California county (find it here). Give your original paperwork and the two copies to the clerk, who will stamp them and give two copies back to you.
Prepare to pay a fee of $435 to $450 to file your forms. If you can’t afford this fee, fill out the Request to Waive Court Fees form (FW-100). If you receive public benefits, have a low household income, or struggle to cover basic household fees, you may qualify.
4. Serve your spouse
Notify your spouse of the impending court case through a technical process called serving. Find an adult unconnected to your case (your server) to help you. Give your server the official copies of the paperwork you got back from the clerk, along with a blank Marriage/Domestic Partnership form (FL-120). Your server will personally hand the documents to your spouse.
Give your server a Proof of Service form (FL-115). Once the handoff is complete, the server will fill out this form and give it to the clerk at the courthouse you’ve chosen.
5. Share financial data
Financial information is crucial, and you're required to share it with your spouse within 60 days of filing for divorce. The four forms you must fill out and provide to your spouse are as follows:
- Declaration of Disclosure (FL-140): This cover sheet outlines the documents you're sharing with your partner.
- Income and Expense Declaration (FL-150): Offer information about your income, and attach two months of supporting paperwork.
- Schedule of Assets and Debts or a Property Declaration (FL-142 or FL-160): Use either of these forms to provide data about the debts you owe and the property you own as a couple.
- Optional, Property Declaration (FL-160): If you need more space than allowed on the prior forms, use this document.
- The Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (FL-141) form is a little different. File this paperwork about your financial state with the court, not your partner.
6. Wait for a response
Your spouse is required to respond within 30 days to the papers you’ve served. If they don't, the court can make decisions without their input.
Your spouse will use the blank Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership for (FL-120) you served. Your spouse must also provide versions of all of the financial forms you sent.
Your spouse will file these documents with the court you’ve chosen, and you’ll get official copies served.
Preparing for divorce? Don't miss a thing.
Our free download can help.
7. Divide your property and debts
As part of your divorce, you must agree on ownership and obligations. These are sensitive discussions, but you don't have to hold them in person. You could hammer out details via email, or you could hire a mediator to help you agree.
Dividing property is relatively simple. Each person should keep the property they entered the marriage with, and any community property is split fairly equally.
Debt is harder, especially if one party ran up credit cards. You could sell off jointly owned items to pay off the debt together. You could also determine who is the person best capable of paying off the debt and give that person more community property as payback.
At the end of your conversation, document your arrangements in a formal agreement using a template like this.
8. Finalize your divorce
Once you've settled all decisions about debt, property, and children, it's time to complete the process.
Attach your signed agreement to the form Judgment (FL-180). Fill out additional forms, including these:
- Child Custody and Visitation (Parenting Time) Order Attachment (FL-341)
- Child Support Information and Order Attachment (FL-342)
- Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (FL-343)
- Property Order Attachment to Judgment (FL-345)
- Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (FL-141)
- Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers (FL-130)
- Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (FL-170)
- Spousal or Domestic Partner Support Declaration Attachment (FL-157)
- Notice of Rights and Responsibilities (FL-192)
- Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (FL-144)
If you're not sure you've completed all the forms you need, use the Judgment Checklist - Dissolution/Legal Separation (FL-182) as a final check.
Once you're done, you could go to court to complete your agreement and finish the process the same day. Visit your court's Self-Help Center to find out more.
How to serve divorce papers
We’ve discussed serving divorce papers via an adult unconnected to your case. This can be a quick and easy way to notify your spouse about the upcoming case, but it’s not your only option.
If you don’t have an adult you trust to work as your server, you could hire a professional process server to complete this step for you. Or, you could ask the county sheriff to serve. Both of these choices come with fees, which can vary dramatically.
If you’re on good terms with your spouse and are sure they’ll work with you, the U.S. Postal Service can help. Prepare all the documents and ask another adult to mail them to your spouse. Fill out the top part of the Notice of Acknowledgement and Receipt form (FL-117), and give it to your server. That person will sign FL-117, make a copy of it, and mail the documents. Your spouse will sign FL-117 and mail it back to your server. When it arrives, it can be filed with the court.
Glossary of legal terms
As you fill out divorce papers in California, you may encounter some words and phrases that seem unfamiliar or strange. This quick glossary might help:
- Community property: This term refers to debts and assets acquired during the marriage. Typically, these are split equally in divorce.
- Separate property: This term refers to assets and debts you brought into the marriage. Typically, they leave with you in divorce.
- Spousal support: California uses this term instead of alimony.
- Server: This is an adult (18 or older) unconnected to your case who will deliver (or serve) legal paperwork to your spouse.
Watch: How to Get a Divorce in California
Start Your Divorce Case. Judicial Branch of California.
Divorce Forms. Judicial Branch of California.
Respond to Divorce Papers. Judicial Branch of California.
Ask for Temporary Spousal Support. Judicial Branch of California.
California Divorce Laws & How to File 2022 Guide. (August 2022). Forbes.
Ask to Change Your Long-Term Spousal Support Order. Judicial Branch of California.
Make Decisions. Judicial Branch of California.
Get Familiar with the Law and Your Rights. Judicial Branch of California.
Common Challenges When Splitting Debt. Judicial Branch of California.
File Your Divorce Petition and Summons. Judicial Branch of California.
Ask for a Fee Waiver If You Can’t Afford Filing Fees. Judicial Branch of California.
Serve Your Divorce Papers. Judicial Branch of California.
Finish Your Divorce When You Have a Written Agreement. Judicial Branch of California.
Serve by Notice and Acknowledgement of Receipt. Judicial Branch of California.