Those seeking a “quicky” divorce in California will find themselves sorely disappointed. There is no such thing. The soonest parties can end their marriage in California is six months plus one day from the day one of them effectively serves the other spouse with initial divorce papers.
For example, if you file your petition for dissolution on February 28 and serve your spouse on March 1, the soonest your divorce would be legally effective is September 2. That is six months plus one more day after the papers were served.
The reality is that most divorces require more time than six months and a day. One reason is that family courts are understaffed and packed with litigants, pushing hearings on every matter back farther and farther down the calendar. Another reason is that one litigant oftentimes drags his or her feet. Finally another reason could be that one of the issues in the case, for example custody or property valuation, may require more time than six months.
What is a “Summary Dissolution”?
Parties will often say, “But me and my husband/wife are in total agreement on everything! Isn’t there a faster option for us?”
The short answer is “no.” There is no way to get divorced sooner than six months and a day from the date of initial service. The California Legislature prefers to give parties a “cooling off” period, in which it is conceivable they will reconcile, thus canceling the divorce. And that does happen in some cases.
However, if parties are in total agreement, and fit certain criteria, they can qualify for a “summary dissolution.” A summary dissolution bypasses some of the typical procedures required of those seeking a typical divorce. In that way, it makes your life easier, requires less work, and can be resolved in the minimal amount required to finish a divorce.
The other advantage of a summary dissolution is that it is automatic. In other words, once you file the initial papers, unless one of the parties withdraws his or her agreement to the summary dissolution, you will be divorced on the soonest date legally possible. Compare this with a typical divorce, where the parties must move the court, typically appearing at a hearing, to obtain a final divorce judgment.
The disadvantages of a summary dissolution is that you have to waive certain rights when you agree to one, specifically spousal support.
Do I Qualify for a Summary Dissolution?
To qualify for a summary dissolution of your marriage you must meet ALL of the following requirements. You and your spouse must:
- Have been married for less than 5 years (from the date you got married to the date you separated);
- Have no children together born or adopted before or during the marriage (and you are not expecting a new child now);
- Do not own any part of land or buildings;
- Do not rent any land or buildings (except for where you now live, as long as you do not have a 1-year lease or option to buy);
- Do not owe more than $6,000 for debts acquired since the date you got married (Do not count car loans);
- Have less than $38,000 worth of property acquired during the marriage (Do not count your cars);
- Do not have separate property worth more than $38,000 (do not count cars);
- Agree that neither spouse will ever get spousal support; AND
- Have signed an agreement that divides your property (including your cars) and debts.
These requirements are conjunctive. In other words, you must satisfy ALL of them, not just one or two. In addition, at least one of the parties must meet the jurisdictional and timing requirements that any couple seeking dissolution must meet. In short, one of you must have lived in California for at least 6 months, and the county in which you are filing for at least 3 months.
If you meet these qualifications, California publishes a helpful guide to assist you when filing for a summary dissolution. It is highly recommended you read this entire guide.