Ending a marriage can be painful and difficult, but filing divorce papers in California doesn't have to be. Although the actual physical paperwork must be filed in a California court, you can complete your divorce papers online in a simple, straightforward process. You may even qualify to complete your divorce without a lawyer. If you and your spouse are not in agreement about the divorce or how to split marital assets and care for children (if you have any), you may want to consider divorce mediation, or for more complicated situations, seek legal representation.
The following overview will help guide you through the process of acquiring and filing online divorce papers, allowing you to move forward with confidence.
California stopped keeping official data related to divorces in the state in the 1990s. The most recent rates by state at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show California's rate to be 4.3 per 1,000 of the population in 1990, with no data after this date. Judging from figures gathered from other states as recently as 2011, California's rate is probably still somewhere in the 4-5 per 1,000, as most other states have remained fairly consistent over time.
To begin your divorce process in California, you must complete the appropriate divorce papers. These can all be obtained online at the California Courts site. The state does offer instructions for filling out each of these forms, which you should review carefully before entering any information. It is extremely important that everything is filled out correctly if you want to avoid time consuming delays in the divorce process.
The divorce forms required by California are standardized for the most part across the state, but keep in mind that some counties will require additional documentation. You will need to determine which forms your county requires as defined by your local courthouse. It would be prudent to contact the local courthouse by phone to ensure that you are using all the correct forms.
To determine which divorce documents are appropriate for you, different California counties offer Self-Help Centers, where you can get assistance pertaining to your situation. You pick your county from the list, and then you will get further information and contacts to find out what steps you should take. Depending on the center, you may be able to contact qualified assistance by phone, email or in person.
You also have the option to obtain divorce papers online that are targeted to your needs from CompleteCase.com. CompleteCase.com will guide you through the selection process and ensure that the forms are accurate and complete. This can save you considerable time and effort, and avoid costly mistakes.
If you choose to seek out divorce papers on your own, you can find many of the basic forms on the Forms page for California Courts. Some of these documents include:
FL-100 – This is the form to begin the divorce or legal separation process. You will list all the pertinent information related to your marriage, including children, dates and property.
FL-110 – This form is the Summons, which lets your spouse know that the divorce process has begun.
FL-115 – The Proof of Service of Summons, this lets you tell the court that you have notified your spouse of the divorce proceedings.
There are also documents pertaining to children, and additional documents if you and your spouse have extra property that will not fit on form FL-100. Which forms you need will depend on your circumstances, but make certain you use every form that pertains to you. Failure to fill out all appropriate forms can lead to significant delays in the process.
Once you have filled out all of the required California divorce forms, you are ready to file. You will then need to go to the local courthouse to file, where you will be submitting at least the petition and the summons. If you have children, you will need to file the Declarations Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
There is also a fee that you must pay to the state to file your divorce papers. It is possible to have the fee waived if you submit a Request to Waive Court Fees however, the court will need to review and approve your request. Once you have handed over your documents and paid your fee, the county clerk will stamp the forms and give you copies for your records. Your spouse does not have to be present when you file the documents, but if he or she is not present, you will need to serve a copy of the documents that have been stamped to your spouse.
You should serve your spouse as soon as possible after leaving the courthouse. Whether you have acquired your divorce papers online or otherwise, there are a number of methods to serve your spouse in California. These include:
By Mail – If you are certain that your spouse will cooperate with you, you can send the documents by mail. Your spouse will need to fill out a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt and return it to the courthouse to verify he or she was served.
County Sheriff – You can request that the county sheriff serve your spouse. This usually requires paying a fee, but it is a trouble-free way of delivering the documents to a spouse that may not be cooperative.
Friend or Relative – You can also ask someone close to you to serve the papers.
Professional Process Server – There are professional services for serving papers, which you can hire.
California Courts offers additional information on serving divorce papers to your spouse. Once your spouse is served and the papers are filed, California requires a 6 month waiting period to finalize the divorce.
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It's great to have an option like this when dealing with an amicable, uncomplicated divorce - no need for attorneys when there's nothing to hash out.
By Deborah Sharp, USA TODAY
Couples can find a mate, fill out a bridal registry and plan a honeymoon on the computer. Now they can also divorce online.
A Web site started last year by a Seattle attorney gives the unhappily wed in Washington, California, Florida and New York the option of dissolving their marriages online. Texas is next, and several other states are being considered.
The site is the latest twist in a do-it-yourself trend. Changing trends in the USA Average age of first marriage Divorce year male female Divorced Americans Divorces granted 1970 23.2 20.8 4.3 million 0.7 million 2000 26.8 25.1 19.9 million 1.2 million Sources: U.S. Census; National Center for Health Statistics
No national figures exist on self-representation. But some experts estimate that as many as half of 1.2 million couples divorcing annually in the USA do so without a lawyer representing at least one of the parties.
The Web site, www.completecase.com, differs from the many self-help sites offering advice, referrals or downloads of documents needed to file for divorce in a particular state.
For $249, the Web site prompts couples with questions on everything from dividing financial assets to deciding where the kids celebrate birthdays. The software then uses their answers to fill out the documents that a couple can download and submit to a court.
Requirements vary by locale as to whether a couple must show up in court or can mail in or fax their divorce filing. But in all cases, a judge must still sign the order ending a marriage.
Randy Finney, a family law attorney for 11 years and the founder of the Web site, says it was designed for uncontested divorces. It's not for couples with convoluted finances or for those fighting over child custody and who gets the dog.
"The decision to get a divorce comes way before the decision about how to get a divorce," says Finney, 35, who is happily married. "I don't think anyone takes their wedding vows so frivolously that they're going to get a divorce just because they can do it for $249."
Not everyone is thrilled with the notion of cyber-divorce.
Judges and lawyers fret that couples who use the Web site may believe they've had legal counsel when they haven't. And leaders in the movement to save marriages complain that point-and-click divorce further undermines the institution's supposed sanctity.
"I can only think of one use of the Internet that's worse and that's pornography," says Dennis Rainey, executive director of FamilyLife, a religious group based in Little Rock. "We're trying to do all we can to call people to keep their wedding vows."
FamilyLife has joined with 30 other organizations since 1999 in drawing 175,000 spouses nationwide to "I Still Do" ceremonies that affirm marriage.
Despite the marriage celebrations, about one-fifth of American men and women have been divorced at least once.
A study released last month by the U.S. Census shows about 90% of Americans will marry at some point. For men, 54% married just once. For women, 60%. Serial marriage is rare: Only 3% of Americans have married three times or more; 13% have married twice.
Finney estimates his Web site has helped 1,000 couples unhitch. Stacey Kiss of Seattle is among those who traveled to virtual Splitsville. The self-described "Internet junkie" says it took her and her husband of seven years about three hours one night to click through the Web site's detailed questions.
"We never got along on anything through our entire marriage, but we still managed to come to an agreement," says Kiss, 36, a hospital business-services manager. "Why drag it out and make it complicated?"
She says the online split was cheaper and easier than her first, traditional divorce. Now single, Kiss says she's comfortable with dot-com divorce, but she draws the line at cyber-dating.
"I like surfing the Web," she says, "but not for men."
Ernesto Gomez and his wife Blanca had been planning to get a divorce for three years. They had already separated and worked out custody and child support for their two kids. But they had stalled on filing because they didn't want to deal with the hassle and expense. Hiring a lawyer, they were told, would cost at least $1,500. Using a free service offered by the court would involve numerous meetings spread out over several weeks.
So when Gomez heard an ad on the radio for a service called completecase.com that would let him fill out the paperwork online for just $249, he decided to give it a try. Four days after he logged onto the site, he had the papers completed and filed in court. "CompleteCase gives you step-by-step instructions. You can't miss anything," says Gomez, a distribution-center manager in Miami.
Gomez is not the only one turning to the Internet to simplify the process. Other services, like divorcewizards. com and divorcesyourself.com also offer quickie online divorce kits, usually for $300 or less. No lawyer is involved unless a client chooses to pay extra for a consultation by phone or e-mail.
Brian Lee, president of legalzoom.com says his site has handled more than 30,000 divorces since its launch in 2001. Though people still have to convey their forms to the court, the process of filling out the paperwork can take less than an hour, thanks to simple online questionnaires that hand-hold customers through the process.
Online divorce is not an option if the couple can't agree on the terms. Even when they can, not everyone thinks it's a good idea. "Instant divorce is the last thing we need," says Mike McManus, president of the marriage advocacy group Marriage Savers. Instead of a divorce, McManus says, couples often just need time to cool off before working out their differences.
Still, such services are spreading. Utah and California offer do-it-yourself sites that let you fill the forms out online (for $20 at utcourts.gov/how to; free at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/selfhelp) Traffic on the California site rose from 6,800 page views in May 2002 to nearly 17,000 in May 2003. --By Anita Hamilton
The Los Angeles Times; Los Angeles, Calif.; Nov 19, 2001; MARTIN MILLER;
Abstract: Californians can legally split from their spouses over the Web site http://www.completecase.com and never have to set foot in a courthouse or lawyer's office. Legal papers can be completed within anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the complexity of the split, according to Randolph Finney, a Seattle-based family law attorney who founded the site.
For Californians, once the judge signs the documents, they are "legally binding and enforceable," says Finney, but per state law the divorce doesn't become finalized for six months.
Full Text: (Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times 2001 All rights reserved)
The circle of online life is now complete. You can date online; you can marry online; and now you can divorce online.
Californians can legally split from their spouses over the Web site http://www.completecase.com and never have to set foot in a courthouse or lawyer's office. Legal papers can be completed within anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the complexity of the split, according to Randolph Finney, a Seattle-based family law attorney who founded the site.
For a flat fee of $249, the site walks divorcing couples step-by- step through such issues as community property and calculating child support payments. When the online form is completed, the applicant simply signs the papers and mails them to the courthouse.
But it's not for everyone. It works only for those couples who are parting amicably and filing for an uncontested divorce. "If you can't agree on who gets the kids, our site is not for you," says Finney, a married 35-year-old.
The site debuted earlier this year, but only to residents of Washington state. Last month, California was added, and soon Florida, New York and Oregon are expected to be added. So far, the site has helped process hundreds of divorces, says Finney.
The site has drawn critics who denounce the online divorce as yet another blow to society's bedrock institutions. The very ease of the process, some contend, makes family and marriage as disposable as an old appliance. Indeed, a similar site in England was recently condemned by the pope as immoral because it made divorce too easy.
Naturally, Finney disagrees. "I think our Web site has the opposite effect," he said. "If you're going to get divorced, let's do it in a civil manner. I really don't believe having something available that makes it easier and costs less money is going to encourage divorce."
The inspiration for the project came from his law practice, where he primarily handles divorces. It took about a year to get the site up and running. "On almost a daily basis, I would get clients who said they needed a divorce but didn't have the money or the patience with the legal process to pursue it," he said. "These people are really stuck between a rock and a hard place."
For Californians, once the judge signs the documents, they are "legally binding and enforceable," says Finney, but per state law the divorce doesn't become finalized for six months. "It isn't quite as fast as a Las Vegas divorce," he says.
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The next step in completing your divorce petition is to pay the case processing fee.
After your payment is processed, your personal login will be accessible. Logging in will allow you to answer the additional questions required to complete your divorce.
When completing the online questionnaire, help and explanations are provided for each question. Should you have any questions during the process, you may call our support line to speak with a divorce specialist.
We provide a 100% guarantee that the forms provided by CompleteCase.com will be accepted by the court. If the forms are not accepted due to the fault of CompleteCase.com, we will make any changes requested by the court or judge (without charge), or a refund will be issued. Verification of any denial or rejection may be requested.
Based on the information provided you are not qualified to use CompleteCase.com to complete your divorce online at this time.
We recommend contacting a licensed Family Law attorney to help you with your situation.