How to Get a Divorce in California

by Contributor

More than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The process boils down to controlling what you can, and normally, what you won't be able to control is your spouse.

Make every effort toward reconciliation, or at least explaining your intentions to your spouse. The angrier he or she is, the uglier your divorce will be.

Consult an attorney (most will meet for an initial consultation just to explain the process and your immediate options) or research the divorce process in your local area. Divorce laws differ among states, and each county may have different local rules.

Take a trip to your local family law courthouse or the family law department within the local courthouse. In California, the court operates a "facilitators" office to assist those who choose to represent themselves.

Gather your financial documents, including tax returns for the last five years, all retirement accounts and all financial accounts.

Close or freeze joint accounts. You and your spouse may want to divide all accounts equally, assuming that the funds accumulated during your marriage.

Keep track of all debts incurred or paid (credit cards, repairs to the family home, and so forth) once you separate from your spouse.

Keep track of any money that you give to your spouse as "alimony" or child support, and write checks rather than give cash.

Determine whether alimony (spousal support) or child support is warranted. If you are the spouse in need of support, make sure to initiate court proceedings, because you won't receive support until you file (consult an attorney or other resource).

Realize that most states have waiting periods between the time you file for divorce and the time your divorce will be final. In California, the waiting period is six months, so if you're committed to divorcing, you should file sooner rather than later.

Research pension plans, retirement accounts and other savings accounts. You may not be aware of all the plans to which your spouse contributes, or to which his or her employer contributes on his or her behalf.

Negotiate a custody plan if children are involved; you will have to. Most courts offer free assistance (in California, the court offers mediation) to help the parents work out a plan without having to appear before a judge.

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Items you will need

  • Self-help Law Books
  • Stress Management Counseling
  • Stress Relief Products
  • Accountants
  • Detectives
  • Lawyers


  • Consult with an attorney who specializes in family law, even if you plan to represent yourself throughout the process. You'll need some guidance on what to expect.
  • Expect the divorce process to be long and potentially costly.
  • Remove your emotions from the legal process by seeking therapy. Don't use your lawyer or the system to retaliate against your spouse; it will just cost you more money.

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