DIY Divorce Proceedings in California

Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can experience. Aside from the emotional trauma that many suffer, people going through divorce must also navigate mountains of paperwork, complex money restraint, and perplexing legal terminology.

In California, people going through divorce proceedings can obtain legal representation from an experienced Los Angeles divorce attorney or choose to represent themselves. The proper legal term is “in propria persona.” Many people chose this option to avoid expensive attorney fees, or if they have a simple case (e.g., no children, little property). If you choose in propria persona, prepare to thoroughly research laws and procedures, as it requires a great deal of organization and patience.

As an overview, individuals representing themselves should:

• Acquire, prepare, and serve dissolution and disclosure package forms.
• Make all agreements in writing and file them with the court.
Prepare for court filings by completing all necessary paperwork and making sure everything complies with codes.
• Present admissible evidence in court and bring up any issues the judge must consider.
• Obtain judgment from the court, and the divorce will be finalized.

Grounds for Divorce

In California, there are two grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. The first is almost always used, the latter very rarely. California has residency requirements for divorce:

1. You and your spouse must have lived in California for at least 6 months; and,
2. Resided in your particular county for 3 months.

Filing for Divorce

To file for divorce, you must purchase a dissolution package from the clerk of courts in your county. Divorce fees in California are some of the highest in the nation, costing $395 and taking about 360 days to fully process.

You must pay the fee and fill out a petition and summons for divorce. This paperwork needs to be delivered to your spouse by an adult other than yourself, and it must be signed and returned within 30 days. This paperwork notifies the court what issues need to be resolved in front of a judge (e.g., custody, property, etc.).

If your spouse contests any items listed, you will need to have a court hearing. Mutual agreements streamline the process and may not require a judgment or temporary orders. If you qualify for a summary dissolution, you will benefit from having to file less paperwork and not having to appear in court. There are a number of requirements for a dissolution, which may be found here.

During the Process

Filing divorce petitions automatically enacts restraining orders. Neither you nor your spouse will be able to leave the state with your children under the age of 18 without written permission. Additionally, neither of you can make adjustments to your insurance policy, such as changing the name of the beneficiary. Lastly, any irregular spending will require permission and will need to be accounted for in front of the judge.


Property in California falls into one of two categories: community property and separate property. Usually, anything acquired after being married, even debt, is considered community property and will be divided equally. If you and your spouse agree to unequal division, that requires signed affidavits.


Terms of custody for your children will need to be settled as well. You and your spouse may agree upon joint legal custody, sole legal custody, joint physical custody, or sole physical custody – each with its own set of requirements. Custody plans can be changed in the future if necessary.

Boyd Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA is a full-service law firm with a broad variety of practices and specializations. We serve Orange County and Greater Los Angeles and are especially experienced in family law, divorce, business law, and bankruptcy. If you are looking for an experienced divorce attorney, contact us today.