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California Summary Dissolution: The Best Guide to a Quick Divorce

Illustration of reduced stress in summary dissolution

California summary dissolution is a straightforward way for qualifying couples to end their marriage or domestic partnership quickly and with minimal hassle. This guide will explain what summary dissolution is, who is eligible, and how to get started. It will also cover various aspects of summary dissolutions, including benefits, requirements, and considerations.

Key Takeaways

  • Summary dissolution in California offers a simplified, quicker divorce process for couples with relatively fewer assets and no children, eliminating court trials and reducing paperwork.

  • Eligibility criteria for summary dissolution include being married or registered as domestic partners for less than five years, having limited assets (less than $40,000 in separate property) and debts (under $6,000, excluding car loans), and having no minor children.

  • Summary dissolution is a cost-effective and less stressful alternative to traditional divorce, featuring lower costs, minimal paperwork, and the absence of courtroom involvement, thereby providing a peaceful end to a marriage or partnership.

Understanding Summary Dissolution in California

Illustration of a couple signing legal documents

Summary dissolution, designed for eligible couples in California, offers a simplified version of the divorce process. It streamlines procedures to minimize paperwork and eliminates court trials, unlike traditional divorce processes that can be lengthy and involve multiple court appearances. As such, it is an ideal option for couples who can amicably work together to terminate their marriage or domestic partnership.

Summary dissolution, with its simplicity and speedy process, markedly differs from traditional divorce. It is specifically tailored to accommodate couples with fewer assets, debts, and without children, facilitating a quicker resolution. Couples married for less than five years may find summary dissolution particularly appealing due to its straightforward nature and the absence of court involvement.

This simplified process involves fewer forms and typically does not require a judge’s input, making it a hassle-free option for many. Opting for summary dissolution enables couples to evade the common stress and trauma associated with courtroom battles, thereby providing a more peaceful avenue to terminate a marriage or domestic partnership.

Eligibility Criteria for Summary Dissolution

Couples, including same sex couples and registered domestic partners, must meet stringent eligibility guidelines to qualify for summary dissolution. Among these prerequisites is that the marriage or domestic partnership must not exceed five years. This criterion ensures that summary dissolution is reserved for relatively brief unions, which are typically less complicated in terms of asset division and other legal matters.

Residency requirements are also crucial. At least one spouse must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county where the filing is made for at least three months. This ensures that the summary dissolution process is managed within the appropriate legal jurisdiction. Additionally, couples must not have any minor children together, either biological or adopted, to be eligible.

Financial stipulations play a significant role in determining eligibility for a summary dissolution. To pursue a summary dissolution, couples must meet strict eligibility guidelines, including the following criteria:

  • Agree on the grounds of irreconcilable differences

  • Neither spouse should own real estate or hold a lease with the option to purchase

  • Neither spouse should possess more than $40,000 in separate property

  • Neither spouse should have incurred debts (excluding car loans) exceeding $6,000 during the marriage

These financial limits ensure that the summary dissolution process remains a simplified alternative to the more complex traditional divorce proceedings.

Benefits of Choosing Summary Dissolution

Illustration of reduced stress in summary dissolution

Selecting summary dissolution presents numerous advantages over traditional divorce. One of the most significant advantages is the cost. Summary dissolution is one of the least expensive ways to end a marriage, making it an attractive option for couples looking to avoid the high legal fees associated with regular divorce proceedings.

Advantages of summary dissolution include:

  • Lower cost compared to traditional divorce

  • Less time-consuming process

  • Simplified paperwork

  • Less stress and conflict

These advantages make summary dissolution a popular choice for couples seeking a quick and affordable way to end their marriage.

Beyond its cost-effectiveness, summary dissolution offers several benefits:

  • Speedier resolution than traditional divorce procedures

  • Minimal conflict between spouses, reducing overall stress

  • Avoidance of the courtroom and emotional trauma often linked to prolonged legal battles

Summary dissolution is a less daunting and more peaceful way to part ways.

Steps to File for Summary Dissolution in California

Illustration of filing summary dissolution documents

The process of filing for summary dissolution comprises several distinct steps, each tailored to streamline the procedure and minimize complications. The journey begins with both spouses reading and signing the Summary Dissolution Information form (FL-810), ensuring they understand the process and requirements. Next, they must gather and share financial information to maintain transparency and fairness.

Following this, couples need to:

  1. Prepare the necessary forms, including the Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution (FL-800) and Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL-825).

  2. Create a property agreement to detail the division of assets and debts.

  3. File their completed forms with the court.

  4. Wait for six months for the dissolution to become final.

Sign the Summary Dissolution Information Form

Initiating the summary dissolution process entails signing the Summary Dissolution Information form (FL-810) as the first step in the basic process. This form must be completed accurately to proceed with the process. This form is mandatory reading for both spouses as it outlines the simplified process and specific requirements for summary dissolution. By signing this form, both parties acknowledge their understanding of the process and confirm their agreement to proceed.

This step guarantees that both spouses comprehend the details of summary dissolution and the implications of opting for this route over a traditional divorce. It’s a crucial step that sets the stage for a smooth and cooperative dissolution process.

Gather and Share Financial Information

Transparency holds paramount importance in the summary dissolution process, necessitating the gathering and sharing of financial information. Both spouses must exchange copies of their tax returns for the past two years, ensuring that all financial dealings are on the table. This step is critical as it helps both parties understand the financial landscape and make informed decisions regarding the division of assets and debts.

In addition to tax returns, both spouses must prepare and exchange financial disclosure documents. These documents provide a comprehensive view of each party’s financial situation, further promoting fairness and transparency in the dissolution process. Each spouse should also keep two copies of the original financial documents for their records.

Prepare the Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution

Once financial information has been exchanged, the next step is to prepare the Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution (FL-800). This form is crucial as it officially documents the couple’s intention to dissolve their marriage or domestic partnership. Alongside this, the Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL-825) must also be completed.

These forms collectively serve as the legal groundwork for the dissolution process. The Judgment of Dissolution will eventually include the formal date of the divorce completion, marking the legal end of the marriage or domestic partnership.

Create a Property Agreement

In the summary dissolution process, drafting a settlement agreement is a crucial step. This agreement ought to outline the division of both assets and debts acquired between the spouses. The settlement agreement can be created using templates provided in the Summary Dissolution Information Form (FL-810) or by drafting your own.

If needed, couples can seek the assistance of an attorney to ensure the property agreement, including community property division, meets legal standards and is fair to both parties. This step helps prevent future disputes and ensures that the division of property is handled smoothly and equitably.

File with the Court

Upon preparing the required forms and property agreement, couples are required to:

  1. File these documents with the court clerk.

  2. Pay a filing fee, which can be waived for low-income individuals who qualify.

  3. The judge will review the submitted paperwork, and no court hearings are required.

Depending on the court’s procedures, the Judgment of Dissolution may be provided upon filing or mailed to the spouses at a later date. This step marks the official submission of the dissolution request to the court system.

Wait Six Months

The six-month waiting period represents the final step in the summary dissolution process. The summary dissolution becomes final after six months and one day following the filing of the necessary paperwork with the court. During this period, couples are technically still married and cannot remarry until the dissolution is finalized.

During the waiting period, if either spouse changes their mind, they can file a Notice of Revocation of Petition for Summary Dissolution (FL-830) to cancel the dissolution. This provides an option for either party to retract their decision. This form allows them to halt the dissolution process before it becomes final.

Costs Associated with Summary Dissolution

Typically, the cost for filing a summary dissolution in California ranges between $435 and $450. However, for couples who cannot afford this fee, a fee waiver can be requested by completing the Request to Waive Court Fees form. This waiver is available for individuals who meet certain income criteria, receive public benefits, or cannot meet basic needs.

If only one partner qualifies for the waiver, the other partner must pay the full filing fee.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Despite the straightforward design of summary dissolution, couples should be aware of common pitfalls. One major issue is agreeing to a property settlement without fully understanding the true value of the items involved, which can lead to feelings of unfair treatment later on. It is crucial to ensure full disclosure of all property, debts, and income to avoid invalidating the summary dissolution.

Another potential pitfall is coercion, where one spouse may feel pressured into agreeing to the dissolution. This can be grounds for setting the dissolution aside. Additionally, errors such as forgetting about certain properties or improperly settling issues can lead to complications. Understanding these pitfalls and taking steps to avoid them can help ensure a fair and successful summary dissolution.

Alternatives if You Don’t Qualify for Summary Dissolution

Other options are available if you don’t qualify for summary dissolution. The most common alternative is pursuing a regular divorce proceeding, which involves filing a petition, serving papers to the other spouse, and potentially going through a trial. This process takes at least six months to complete and may be necessary for couples with more complex situations.

Another alternative is legal separation, which allows couples to remain married while the court divides property and debts and makes orders regarding financial support and child custody. Legal separation can be a suitable option for those who have religious or personal beliefs against divorce or need to maintain certain benefits such as insurance.

When to Seek Legal Advice

Even though hiring an attorney is not mandatory for filing a summary dissolution in California, it can be beneficial to seek legal advice in specific situations. If there are disputes about property division or spousal support, consulting with a legal professional can help ensure that your rights are protected and that the dissolution process proceeds smoothly.

Additionally, seeking legal advice before proceeding with summary dissolution can help avoid potential pitfalls and ensure that all legal requirements are met. This can provide peace of mind and help prevent future complications.


In summary, summary dissolution offers a simplified, less stressful, and cost-effective way to end a marriage or domestic partnership for eligible couples in California. By understanding the eligibility criteria, benefits, steps involved, costs, and potential pitfalls, couples can make informed decisions and ensure a smooth dissolution process. Seeking legal advice when necessary can further aid in navigating this process successfully.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is summary dissolution?

Summary dissolution is a simplified divorce process available to eligible couples in California, requiring less paperwork and no court trial.

Who qualifies for summary dissolution?

Couples qualify for summary dissolution if their marriage or domestic partnership has lasted five years or less, they have no minor children, and meet specific financial limits.

What is the cost of filing for summary dissolution?

The cost of filing for summary dissolution ranges from $435 to $450, with the possibility of requesting a fee waiver for eligible individuals.

How long does it take for a summary dissolution to become final?

A summary dissolution becomes final after a six-month waiting period from the date of filing.

Can I stop the summary dissolution process once it has started?

Yes, the summary dissolution process can be stopped by filing a Notice of Revocation of Petition for Summary Dissolution (FL-830) during the six-month waiting period.

Charles M. Green is Certified as a California Family Law Specialist through the Board of Legal Specialization of the State Bar of California. He has worked extensively in both financial accounting fields and as a litigation attorney specializing in Family Law Cases. He is also diversely experienced in a number of other legal practice areas of importance to individuals, families, and businesses.

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