Summary Dissolution in California

All divorces in California are called dissolutions. A summary dissolution allows you and your spouse to terminate your marriage without a trial or a judge’s input. 

A summary dissolution is one of the least-expensive ways to end your marriage. With a few forms and a small fee, you can finish the divorce process with less paperwork and hassle than a traditional divorce.

When you read about "quick" divorces in California, chances are they are getting summary dissolutions. Why are summary dissolutions faster? Essentially, you and your spouse agree to file for divorce together instead of one spouse "serving" the other spouse. You can submit all of your divorce paperwork to the court at once. And, while you still have to endure the six-month waiting period, you have already done the work to complete your divorce.

But the summary dissolution process isn’t right for everyone. You must meet certain stringent requirements. If you fail to meet even one of these and a few other rules, you must look into another type of divorce

What is a summary dissolution?

During a standard dissolution (or divorce), a judge looks over a couple's paperwork and makes rulings regarding the outcome. At the end of that period, each person has the right to appeal the ruling and challenge the outcome. A summary dissolution is different.

During a summary dissolution, parties fill out paperwork jointly. They settle on the terms of the divorce, and they sign paperwork to that effect. At the end of the summary dissolution process, there is no trial or hearing. They are simply divorced.

Summary dissolution requires a couple to have minimal conflict. If you have lots of valuable assets to divide or complicated scenarios involving children that require negotiation, a summary dissolution is probably not for you.

Get a summary dissolution with Hello Divorce for only $1,500 total for both of you. Learn more here.

Couples can't appeal a summary dissolution in most cases. It's critical to work closely with your spouse and fight for the terms you want and achieve a fair settlement agreement. 


Key facts about summary dissolution in California

  • The process takes six months from paperwork filing to formal divorce. 
  • A summary dissolution isn't always faster than a standard divorce. 
  • You must pay $450 when you file forms for summary dissolution. This is the same as a traditional California divorce filing fee.
  • There are just three steps involved in a summary dissolution.
  • You must meet strict requirements about the length of your marriage, children, and financial health to take advantage of this type of divorce. 

Summary dissolution vs. traditional divorce

A summary dissolution and a traditional divorce will both end your marriage and return you to a single state. However, important differences separate these two options. Which is right for you?

This table provides a brief overview:


Summary dissolution

Traditional divorce


Limited; partners must meet specific income and household criteria

Open; anyone who is married and meets residency requirements could use this option


Low; no lawyers and courtrooms are required

Moderate to high; arguing partners will pay more than those who can collaborate


Few; skipping the courtroom means reducing complexity

Moderate to high; arguing partners will complete several steps, including serving papers, going to court, and more


Not necessarily faster than traditional divorce

Not necessarily slower than summary dissolution

Pros and cons of summary dissolution

A summary dissolution is an excellent option for partners who meet eligibility requirements and are willing to work together to split their estate. You could potentially spend less time on paperwork and avoid the trauma of a courtroom with this method.

A summary dissolution is restrictive, however, and some people don’t meet the requirements for this option. And it can be difficult for some people to work with their partners during this process. If your marriage has been violent or abusive, this method could compound your trauma.

Pros and cons of traditional divorce

A traditional divorce has fewer eligibility requirements than a summary dissolution. If you’re a California resident, you can get a traditional divorce regardless of your marriage length and shared assets.

A traditional divorce also allows you to negotiate spousal support payments and make plans for your children. A summary dissolution doesn’t allow for these options.

Some traditional divorces are expensive, especially if couples can’t agree and need a judge to decide. Collaborative versions are available in California, but they require more paperwork and steps than summary divorces do.

California’s requirements for a summary dissolution

While many people may want to use a summary dissolution to end their marriage, it's not available to everyone.

Spouses who use this option must meet all these criteria:

  •       They have lived in California for the last six months and in the county where paperwork is filed for the last three months.
  •       They have been married less than five years.
  •       They have no shared children younger than 18 and aren't pregnant or expecting a child
  •       They do not own or lease real estate, including a house, land, or a building, unless it is a rented home or apartment and the lease will end within a year of filing for divorce
  •       They accrued less than $7,000 in debt from the day they married until the day they split up (excluding car loans).
  •       Came into the marriage with less than $53,000 in assets (such as property, gifts, and retirement accounts)
  •       They have accrued less than $53,000 in assets together during the marriage (such as property, gifts, and retirement accounts).
  •       Neither person wants spousal support (alimony or alimony).
  •       They agree on how to split all of their debts and assets.

You must meet all of these requirements to qualify for a summary dissolution. Missing just one could mean that this option isn't right for you.

How much does a summary dissolution cost?

When you file your paperwork, you must pay a fee ranging between $435 and $450. You might qualify for a fee waiver if both spouses meet these criteria:

  • Receive public benefits
  • Have low income
  • Struggle to meet basic needs after paying the fee

You don't need to pay for summary dissolution forms, and many couples go through this process without a lawyer. 

Get a summary dissolution with Hello Divorce for only $1,500 total for both of you. Learn more here.

Forms and paperwork required for a summary dissolution 

A divorce is a legal proceeding that requires paperwork. Thankfully, a summary dissolution requires fewer forms and documents than other forms of divorce. 

The paperwork you need falls into two phases.

Phase 1: Financial data

Spouses must disclose important data about how much they have before they can dissolve their marriages. During this stage, you'll use two forms to share information.

These are the forms needed:

  • FL-810, Summary Dissolution Information, explains the process and how it works. You must both read this form and sign it. 
  • FL-150, Income and Expense Declaration, includes data about your financial health. 
  • FL-140, Declaration of Disclosure
  • FL-142, Schedule of Assets and Debts OR FL-160, Property Declaration

Phase 2: Court forms 

You must tell the courts about the decisions you've made and your choices for the future. At this stage, you'll use forms to communicate with the authorities and end your marriage. 

You need these two forms:

  • FL-800, Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution, certifies you and your spouse have agreed to end your marriage
  • FL-825, Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment, is what the court will use to file your divorce. Fill out the top portion of the form only.

How to file a summary dissolution in California 

It's relatively easy to file a summary dissolution in California. A three-step plan should get you from the beginning to the end of the divorce. 

Step 1: Prepare for a summary dissolution 

You must talk about your financial situation with your spouse before you can dissolve your marriage. 

Two forms help you hold this discussion:

  • FL-810, Summary Dissolution Information, explains the process and how it works. You must both read this form and sign it. 
  • FL-150, Income and Expense Declaration, includes data about your financial health. 

Give your partner a copy of these forms along with tax returns from the past two years. If you have any other printed data about your finances, provide that too. 

Step 2: Fill out court forms 

You must inform the court of your decisions and agreement to divorce. Filling out more paperwork makes this possible. 

These are the two forms you need:

  • FL-800, Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution, certifies you and your spouse have agreed to end your marriage.
  • FL-825, Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment, is the form the court will use to file your divorce. Fill out the top portion of the form only.

If you have property, summarize how you’d like to divide it. Attach your plans to form FL-825. Make copies of both forms and your property agreement. Prepare two envelopes, one addressed to each spouse, and put stamps on them. Bring all of this with you. 

Step 3: File your court forms

Use this tool to find a court in your area that processes summary dissolution paperwork. Once you find one, bring all of your paperwork and envelopes with them. 

Give all your paperwork to the clerk, along with the envelopes and your fee. Some clerks will provide you with a Judgment of Dissolution form about your divorce. Others will use the envelope you provide to mail it to you. 

Want help with all these forms? Get a summary dissolution with Hello Divorce for only $1,500 total for both of you. Learn more here.

How long will it take to get a summary dissolution in California?

California requires a six-month waiting period for all divorces, including summary dissolution. 

Your Judgment of Dissolution will include a formal date on which your divorce is complete. Before that date, you aren't technically divorced and can't get remarried. 

Summary dissolution in California FAQ

Many people have questions about summary dissolution in California. These are a few of the queries people have shared with us:

How long does summary dissolution take in California?

You must wait six months from paperwork filing to formal divorce. You can take as long as you'd like to complete your paperwork. 

Is summary dissolution the same as divorce?

A formal divorce involves a judge. A summary dissolution does not. Both are forms of divorce. 

How do you start a summary dissolution in California?

Complete paperwork about your financial situation, and share it with your spouse. This kicks off the summary dissolution process and  signals the moment at which you and your partner collaborate on ending your marriage. 

Read about Hello Divorce's flat-fee Summary Dissolution plan.

How does a dissolution of marriage work in California?

Forms begin and end the actual legal process. Of course, you and your spouse also need to come to an agreement on all matters within the paperwork. Then you fill out all the forms, share them with the court, and the court files them. The process is relatively simple and easy to understand. 

Are my retirement account balances part of my assets?

Yes. The balance in your 401(k) or IRA is an asset. The total could be part of the estate you bring to the marriage, and it could be part of the assets you share. Depending on the size of your balance, it could render you ineligible for a summary dissolution.

Do you need a lawyer for a summary dissolution?

No. A summary dissolution is a streamlined process designed to end short marriages that result in small and uncomplicated estates. You aren’t required to hire a lawyer to help you. Typically, people fill out and file the forms independently.

Watch: How to Get a Divorce in California


FL-810: Summary Dissolution Information. (September 2021). Judicial Council of California. 
Find Out if You Qualify for Summary Dissolution. Judicial Branch of California. 
File Summary Dissolution Forms with the Court. Judicial Branch of California. 
Starting a Divorce by Summary Dissolution. Judicial Branch of California. 
Fill Out Court Forms and Create an Agreement. Judicial Branch of California. 
Find Your Court. Judicial Branch of California.
Co-Founder & President
Divorce Preparation, Divorce Process, Divorce Guidelines, Legal Insights

Heather is Hello Divorce's co-founder, President and Chief Content Officer, and our resident expert on divorce rules, procedures and guidelines across the states. Heather uses her content background, deep legal knowledge, and coding skills to author most of our state-specific divorce software. Heather joined Hello Divorce two months into a planned year-long vacation from the start-up world because she was convinced that the legal world is one of the only things left that truly needed disruption. Since her expertise (obsession) is making complex, frustrating processes easier – and even enjoyable – for consumers, Heather leads the product, customer service, marketing, and content teams at Hello Divorce.

Heather has a Master's in Journalism from Northwestern University and a BA from the University of Notre Dame. Heather lives in California with her husband, two kids, and too many pets. You can often find her answering Hello Divorce's free info calls on weekends, and in her free time, she dabbles in ukulele, piano, and electric bass.