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How to do your own divorce in California

Updated on August 20, 2014

Court Facts

According to the California Courts website, there are currently 58 trial courts in the State of California at the time of this writing.

California Divorce Courts

The first step is to find the courthouse in your County that handles divorces. A list of superior courts can be found on the California Courts website at www.courts.ca.gov.

Once you have identified your local court, you need to contact the court or visit the website and find out where your case would be handled. Some County Courts have only one location. Larger County's like Los Angeles have multiple court locations.

Once you have identified your local divorce court you will be able to move forward with completing your divorce.

Finding Divorce Forms in California

Finding California divorce forms is simple. The California Courts website maintains self-help guides that help you get through the divorce process. The self-help guides contain the forms that you will need to get divorced in California. The guides and forms can be downloaded directly from the website.

Most County Courthouses also keep form packets and self-help guides in stock. Some will provide them free of charge, while others will charge a small fee.

You can also purchase, "Do it yourself" legal guides from companies like Nolo Press.

Finding Advice About the Divorce Process

Some courthouses have self-help centers with staff that can answer questions and guide you through the filing process. If your courthouse doesn't have this service you can find guidance with the following sources:

  • Lawyers
  • Legal Document Assistants
  • Nolo Press' California Divorce Guide
  • Public Law Library
  • Non-Profit Legal Aid Services


Filing For Divorce in California

Once you have completed your forms, you will need to file them with your local courthouse. You will need to the original documents and multiple copies to the courthouse (check with the courthouse for more information.)

The court will also charge a filing fee for you to file the documents. Be ready with a checkbook and credit card. You can check local court filing fees at your court's website.

Serving Divorce Papers in California

Once your divorce papers are filed you will need to have them served on your soon to be ex-spouse. The California self-help guide contains information about who can serve documents. You can also have them served by a professional process server.

In many counties the Sheriff's office will serve court documents for a fee. You can check with your local Sheriff's office (or the office in the courthouse) to ask about this service.

Steps to Divorce in California

  • Find your local courthouse
  • Get divorce forms
  • Seek advice and assistance
  • File the documents with the courthouse
  • Serve the documents
  • Get a divorce judgment

Getting a Divorce Decree

Once your initial papers are filed, you will likely need to take additional steps to actually get divorced. The California Divorce self-help guide contains information about getting a final judgment (divorce decree). Your local courthouse will also have forms and information about this process.

You can also always seek the advice of the professionals.

Disclaimer

I am not an attorney. This article is intended to be educational and to give you a starting point of where to find forms and information, it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, please seek the assistance of a properly licensed California lawyer.

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