The Divorce Process Checklist

Use this checklist as your guide to the paperwork that is necessary to file for divorce in California.
What's your situation?

Residency Requirement

In order to get divorced in Contra Costa County:

  • You must have lived in California for 6 months, and
  • You must have lived in Contra Costa County for at least 3 months.
  • If you don’t meet these requirements and still want to get divorced in California, you can file for a Legal Separation and wait until you’ve meet the residency requirements.

Summary Dissolution – Easier than divorce

If you’ve been married less than 5 years and don’t have many assets, and don’t have children, you may qualify for a Summary Dissolution. For details read this form.

Collect these documents to prepare your forms

These documents are the basis for the financial disclosure divorce filings:

  • Individual income tax returns from the past three to five years (federal and state)
  • Any business income tax returns from the past three to five years (federal and state)
  • Proof of your current income (Including W-2 forms, 1099 forms, and recent pay stubs)
  • Prenuptial agreement, if one exists
  • Bank statements from all joint and individual accounts – checking and savings
  • Retirement account statements (401K, IRA, and similar accounts)
  • Stock portfolios and options
  • Pension statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Any existing loan documents
  • Utility bills and other bills (tuition, medical bills, etc.)
  • Life, health, automobile and homeowners insurance policies
  • Real property deeds for each property you or your spouse own, or any properties owned by any entity that you have an interest in
  • A detailed list of personal property, including jewelry, home furnishings, artwork, electronic equipment, clothing, etc. If you and your spouse own any particularly valuable or unique items you may wish to photograph them and inventory them and perhaps obtain an appraisal.
  • List of real property and assets owned by each spouse prior to marriage
  • Wills, trusts, living wills, powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney
Download these forms, file them with the court, and have them served to your spouse

Forms to begin the process in California

  • Petition – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Form FL-100)
  • Summons (Form FL-110)
  • If you have children – Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) (Form FL-105/GC-120)

Financial Disclosure Forms

These forms will also be needed, but can be filed after the forms above. These are the forms most commonly used to disclose your financial status to the court. The court will use this information to determine how to divide assets for the divorce. It is important that you have all of the information from the previous step.

  • Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140)
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142)
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) OR Financial Statement Simplified (Form FL-155)

Once these forms are completed, they also must be filed with the county, and served to your spouse.

File them with the county

  • First, make a copy of the completed paperwork.
  • Take them to the county and file them with the clerk. Fees will apply, probably $435.

Have these papers served to your spouse

After you get the documents processed by the court, you must serve your spouse with the papers. You must find someone to serve the papers.  You may not serve divorce papers to your spouse. You can have a friend or a professional service company serve the papers.

You will need these forms to prove that your spouse was served:

  • Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt (Form FL-117)
  • Response – Marriage/Domestic Partnership (Form FL-120)
  • Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115)

After the forms are filed, you must wait at least 6 months and 1 day to determine what happens next.

Option 1 - TRUE DEFAULT - Your spouse didn't respond to your filing at all

Your spouse has 30 days to respond to service of your Petition for Dissolution  If s/he does not respond in a timely manner, you are eligible to request the Court enter a default.  Again, 30 days MUST have passed since you served your spouse or domestic partner with your summons and petition.

  1. Complete Court Forms
  2. Ensure you complete all applicable Child Custody forms if applicable.
  3. Complete forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
  4. Ensure you complete all applicable Child Support forms if applicable.
  5. Complete forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Child Support Information and Order Attachment (Form FL-342).
    • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) or a Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL-155);
    • Child Support Case Registry Form (Form FL-191);
    • Notice of Rights and Responsibilities — Health-Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures and Information Sheet on Changing a Child Support Order (Form FL-192) (there is nothing to fill out with this form, but read it carefully);
    • Income Withholding for Support (Form FL-195) (if you want your spouse’s or domestic partner’s wages garnished for child support). You can use the Income Withholding for Support – Instructions (Form FL-196). When filling out Form FL-195, make sure to only write the last 4 digits of the social security number of the person ordered to pay support – the law requires it to protect their privacy.
  6. Speak with a family law facilitator with questions about child support calculations.
  7. If you are asking for spousal or partner support, fill out the applicable forms
  8. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment (Form FL-157) – this form is optional, but by using it, you can make sure you give the judge all the information he or she will need, by law, to make a decision about spousal or partner support.
    • Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (Form FL-343);
    • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150);
    • Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (Form FL-435) (only if you are NOT also asking for child support). If you are asking for child support, you can include the spousal or partner support information for wage garnishments in Form FL-195. When filling out Form FL-435 or FL-195, make sure to only write the last 4 digits of the social security number of the person ordered to pay support – the law requires it to protect their privacy.
  9. Spousal or partner support can become complicated. Talk to the family law facilitator in your court for help with these forms and any questions you may have.
  10. If you are asking for an order dividing your community property and debt, fill out the applicable forms
  11. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Property Order Attachment to Judgment (Form FL-345);
    • Property Declaration (Form FL-160);
    • Pension Benefits — Attachment to Judgment (Form FL-348) (if you or your spouse or domestic partner has a pension plan). And read Retirement Plan Joinder — Information Sheet (Form FL-318-INFO) to find out if you need to join the pension plan to your divorce case and how to do that. Read the section on Property and Debt for more information on pension plans.
  12. Property issues can become complicated. Talk to a lawyer for help with these forms and any questions you may have. If the family law facilitator or self-help center in your court helps with property issues in divorce cases, you can also talk to them. You can also get more information by reading the section on Property and Debt.
  13. Fill out local forms, if required
  14. Some courts ask you to fill out local forms. Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to yourfamily law facilitator or self-help center to ask about your court’s local forms that you must complete for default cases.
  15. Have your forms reviewed
  16. Ask your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center to review your paperwork. They can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case.You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire divorce case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click forhelp finding a lawyer. Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.”
  17. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
  18. Make sure you include all the attachments and, if any are double-sided, that you photocopy both sides. One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your spouse or domestic partner. The original is for the court.
  19. Turn in all your forms to the court clerk, with 2 large envelopes (with postage)
  20. Turn in your forms to the court clerk. The clerk will process your paperwork and give it to a judge to review.
    • Make sure you have already filed the Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115) (or file it now) AND the Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141).
    • If all of the judgment documents are completed correctly, the judge will sign the Judgment without either named spouse or domestic partner having to appear in court.
    • If there is a problem with the documents, a court appearance may be necessary. Or you may just need to fix a mistake on your paperwork.
  21. You receive your final judgment
  22. A court clerk will mail the Judgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment to each spouse or domestic partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
    • Keep a copy of these forms in a safe place. You may need them in the future.
Option 2 - DEFAULT CASE - Your spouse did not respond but you have a written agreement on all issues

This situation is called a “default with agreement” because more than 30 days have passed since you served the petition and summons, and:

  • Your spouse or domestic partner did NOT file a response (so he or she “defaulted”);

                                      AND

  • The 2 of you have a written agreement about your divorce or separation, dividing your property and debt, child custody and visitation, and support issues.

In this situation, you (the petitioner) MUST follow these steps (after having completed steps 1 – 4):

1. Write Up Your Agreement

2. Fill Out Your Final Forms

3. Completing the Final Declaration of Disclosure

Alert! If your spouse or domestic partner is currently in the military, special rules apply under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Talk to your family law facilitator, self-help center, or a lawyer.

1. WRITING UP YOUR AGREEMENT

In your agreement, you can both agree to end your marriage or domestic partnership. You can also reach an agreement about:

  • How to divide your property and your debt;
  • Whether anyone will pay the other spousal or partner support; and
  • If you have children together, what child support and custody and visitation orders you want.

You need to have your written agreement notarized. Make sure, when you sign the agreement, that you understand everything you are agreeing to. This type of agreement is often called a “marital settlement agreement” or MSA.

For some issues, like child support, when you have an agreement you have to meet certain legal requirements, so make sure you follow the rules. Read about child support agreements. And keep in mind that, if 1 of the spouses or domestic partners gets public assistance and the local child support agency (LCSA) is involved (or if the LCSA filed a child support case at the request of 1 of the parents), the LCSA will have to sign off on any agreement that includes child support.

You should also get more information about spousal or partner support and custody and visitation agreements. You can get some information on this website. Click on the topic that you are interested in:

If you have questions or want to make sure the agreement is in your best interest (and that of your children if you have children), talk to a lawyer before you sign it.

If your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center helps with divorces, ask them for help too. Even if they cannot help you with the divorce itself, they may be able to help you with parts of it, like the child support and spousal or partner support.

2. FILL OUT YOUR FINAL FORMS

As the petitioner, you must turn in the final forms to the court asking for a judgment of divorce or legal separation. You must also include the other orders you want the court to make about property and debt, spousal or partner support, and, if you have children with your spouse or domestic partner, about custody, visitation, and child support.

You CANNOT file these final forms until at least 30 days have passed since you served your spouse or domestic partner with your summons and petition.

  1. Fill out your court forms
    • Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165) or an Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers (Form FL-130). With Form FL-130, the respondent may have to pay a filing fee.  If the respondent cannot afford the filing fee, he or she can ask for a fee waiver.
    • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (Form FL-170).
    • Judgment (Form FL-180).
    • Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190).
    • The written, notarized agreement between the spouses or domestic partners, agreeing on the terms of divorce or separation, and attach this to the Judgment.
    • The final Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141). Or if you agree to waive (skip) the final declaration of disclosure, a Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure(Form FL-144). Follow the instructions below for completing a final declaration of disclosure. You can also get a court order waiving receipt of the other party’s final declaration of disclosure.
  2. If you are asking for custody orders, you can fill out any of the forms that may apply to your case
  3. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
  4. If you are asking for child support, fill out the applicable forms
  5. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Child Support Information and Order Attachment (Form FL-342).
    • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) or a Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL-155).
    • Child Support Case Registry Form (Form FL-191).
    • Notice of Rights and Responsibilities — Health-Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures and Information Sheet on Changing a Child Support Order (Form FL-192) (there is nothing to fill out with this form, but read it carefully).
    • Income Withholding for Support (Form FL-195) (if you want your spouse’s or domestic partner’s wages garnished for child support). You can use the Income Withholding for Support – Instructions (Form FL-196). When filling out Form FL-195, make sure to only write the last 4 digits of the social security number of the person ordered to pay support – the law requires it to protect their privacy.
  6. Child support can become complicated. Talk to the family law facilitator in your court for help with these forms and any questions you may have.
  7. If you are asking for spousal or partner support, fill out the applicable forms
  8. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (Form FL-343).
    • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150).
    • Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (Form FL-435) (only if you are NOT also asking for child support). If you are asking for child support, you can include the spousal or partner support information for wage garnishments in Form FL-195. When filling out Form FL-435 or FL-195, make sure to only write the last 4 digits of the social security number of the person ordered to pay support – the law requires it to protect their privacy.
  9. Spousal or partner support can become complicated. Talk to the family law facilitator in your court for help with these forms and any questions you may have.
  10. If you are asking for an order dividing your community property and debt, fill out the applicable forms
  11. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Property Order Attachment to Judgment (Form FL-345).
    • Property Declaration (Form FL-160).
    • Pension Benefits — Attachment to Judgment (Form FL-348) (if you or your spouse or domestic partner has a pension plan). And read Retirement Plan Joinder — Information Sheet (Form FL-318-INFO) to find out if you need to join the pension plan to your divorce case and how to do that. Read the section on Property and Debt for more information on pension plans.
  12. Property issues can become complicated. Talk to a lawyer for help with these forms and any questions you may have. If the family law facilitator or self-help center in your court helps with property issues in divorce cases, you can also talk to them. You can also get more information by reading the section on Property and Debt.
  13. Fill out local forms, if required
  14. Some courts ask you to fill out local forms. Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your family law facilitator or self-help center to ask about your court’s local forms that you must complete for default cases.
  15. Have your forms reviewed
  16. Ask your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center to review your paperwork. They can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case.You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire divorce case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.”
  17. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
  18. Make sure you include all the attachments and, if any are double-sided, that you photocopy both sides. One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your spouse or domestic partner. The original is for the court.
  19. Turn in all your forms to the court clerk, with 2 large envelopes (with postage)
  20. Turn in your forms to the court clerk. The clerk will process your paperwork and give it to a judge to review.
    • Make sure you have already filed the Proof of Service of Summons (Form FL-115) (or file it now) AND the Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141).
    • If all of the judgment documents are completed correctly, the judge will sign the Judgment without either named spouse or domestic partner having to appear in court.
    • If there is a problem with the documents, a court appearance may be necessary. Or you may just need to fix a mistake on your paperwork.
  21. You receive your final judgment
  22. A court clerk will mail the Judgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment to each spouse or domestic partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
    • Keep a copy of these forms in a safe place. You may need them in the future.

3. COMPLETING THE FINAL DECLARATION OF DISCLOSURE

You and your spouse or domestic partner may each have to prepare and serve a final Declaration of Disclosure at the end of your case. The final Declaration of Disclosure will use the same forms as the preliminary declaration and must have complete, up-to-date information.

You do NOT have to file a final Declaration of Disclosure if:

  • You and your spouse or domestic partner agree in writing to waive (skip) your final declarations of disclosure;
  • You get a court order waiving receipt of your spouse’s or domestic partner’s declaration of disclosure;
  • OR
  • Your spouse or domestic partner has not filed a response to your petition for divorce AND your spouse or domestic partner has not signed a written and notarized agreement and/or a stipulated judgment.

If you both want to waive your final Declaration of Disclosure, you can use the Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-144). If you do not use this form, make sure your written agreement has very specific language about the waiver.

If you DO need to prepare a final declaration of disclosure, fill out:

  • Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140), which is a cover sheet for your declaration of disclosure;
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142) or a Property Declaration (Form FL-160); and
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150).
  • And, as part of the declaration of disclosure, you must also write, on separate sheets of paper:
    • A statement explaining how you came up with your estimated value of all assets that are all or partly community property;
    • A statement listing values of the assets and debts that you and your spouse or domestic partner may be liable for; and
    • A list of your investment opportunities since you separated.

These are not court forms; use regular sheets of paper and write your case name and case number at the top. Attach them to your Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140).

Once you have sent your disclosure forms to your spouse or domestic partner, you need to fill out and file with the court:

The Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141), which tells the court you have sent your disclosure documents as required.

Option 3 - UNCONTESTED DIVORCE - You and your spouse agree on everything

This situation is called “uncontested” because:

  • Your spouse or domestic partner filed a response to your summons and petition;

                                   AND

  • The 2 of you have a written agreement about your divorce or separation, dividing your property and debt, child custody and visitation, and support issues.

In this situation, the petitioner and respondent MUST follow these steps:

  1. Write Up Your Agreement
  2. Fill Out Your Final Forms
  3. Completing the Final Declaration of Disclosure

WRITING UP YOUR AGREEMENT

In your agreement, which is also called a “stipulated judgment,” you can both agree to end your marriage or domestic partnership. You can also agree about:

  • How to divide your property and your debt;
  • Whether anyone will pay the other spousal or partner support; and
  • If you have children together, what child support and custody and visitation orders you want.

You need to have your written agreement (or “stipulated judgment”) notarized. Make sure, when you sign the agreement, that you understand everything you are agreeing to.

For some issues, like child support, when you have an agreement you have to meet certain legal requirements, so make sure you follow the rules. Read about child support agreements. And keep in mind that, if 1 of the spouses or domestic partners gets public assistance and the local child support agency (LCSA) is involved (or if the LCSA filed a child support case at the request of 1 of the parents), the LCSA will have to sign off on any agreement that includes child support.

You should also get more information about spousal or partner support and custody and visitation agreements. You can get some information on this website. Click on the topic that you are interested in:

If you have questions or want to make sure the agreement is in your best interest (and that of your children if you have children), talk to a lawyer before you sign it. Click for help finding a lawyer.

If your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center helps with divorces, ask them for help too. Even if they cannot help you with the divorce itself, they may be able to help you with parts of it, like the child support and spousal or partner support.

FILL OUT YOUR FINAL FORMS

Either the petitioner or the respondent must turn in these final forms to the court asking for a judgment of divorce or legal separation. You must also include the other orders you want the court to make about property and debt, spousal or partner support, and, if you have children with your spouse or domestic partner, about custody, visitation, and child support.

  1. Fill out your court forms
    • Request to Enter Default (Form FL-165) or Appearance, Stipulations, and Waivers (Form FL-130). The respondent may have to pay a filing fee. If the respondent cannot afford the filing fee, he or she can ask for a fee waiver;
    • Declaration for Default or Uncontested Dissolution or Legal Separation (Form FL-170);
    • Judgment (Form FL-180);
    • Notice of Entry of Judgment (Form FL-190);
    • The written, notarized agreement or “stipulated judgment” between the spouses or domestic partners, and attach this to the Judgment; and
    • The final Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141). Or if you agree to waive (skip) the final declaration of disclosure, a Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure(Form FL-144). Follow the instructions below for completing a final declaration of disclosure. You can also get a court order waiving receipt of the other party’s final declaration of disclosure.
  2. If you are asking for custody orders, you can fill out any of the forms that may apply to your case
  3. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
  4. If you are asking for child support, fill out the applicable forms
  5. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Child Support Information and Order Attachment (Form FL-342);
    • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150) or a Financial Statement (Simplified) (Form FL-155);
    • Child Support Case Registry Form (Form FL-191);
    • Notice of Rights and Responsibilities — Health-Care Costs and Reimbursement Procedures and Information Sheet on Changing a Child Support Order (Form FL-192) (there is nothing to fill out with this form, but read it carefully);
    • Income Withholding for Support (Form FL-195) (if you want your spouse’s or domestic partner’s wages garnished for child support). You can use the Income Withholding for Support – Instructions (Form FL-196). When filling out Form FL-195, make sure to only write the last 4 digits of the social security number of the person ordered to pay support – the law requires it to protect their privacy.
  6. Child support can become complicated. Talk to the family law facilitator in your court for help with these forms and any questions you may have.
  7. If you are asking for spousal or partner support, fill out the applicable forms
  8. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (Form FL-343);
    • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150);
    • Earnings Assignment Order for Spousal or Partner Support (Form FL-435) (only if you are NOT also asking for child support). If you are asking for child support, you can include the spousal or partner support information for wage garnishments in Form FL-195. When filling out Form FL-435 or FL-195, make sure to only write the last 4 digits of the social security number of the person ordered to pay support – the law requires it to protect their privacy.
  9. Spousal or partner support can become complicated. Talk to the family law facilitator in your court for help with these forms and any questions you may have.
  10. If you are asking for an order dividing your community property and debt, fill out the applicable forms
  11. Fill out the forms that apply, if any, and attach to your Judgment (Form FL-180):
    • Property Order Attachment to Judgment (Form FL-345);
    • Property Declaration (Form FL-160);
    • Pension Benefits — Attachment to Judgment (Form FL-348) (if you or your spouse or domestic partner has a pension plan). And read Retirement Plan Joinder — Information Sheet (Form FL-318-INFO) to find out if you need to join the pension plan to your divorce case and how to do that. Read the section on Property and Debt for more information on pension plans.
  12. Property issues are usually complicated. Talk to a lawyer for help with these forms and any questions you may have. If the family law facilitator in your court helps with property issues in divorce cases, you can also talk to them. You can also get more information by reading the section on Property and Debt.
  13. Fill out local forms, if required
  14. Some courts ask you to fill out local forms. Contact your court clerk’s office, check your court’s website, or talk to your family law facilitator or self-help center to ask about your court’s local forms for uncontested cases.
  15. Have your forms reviewed
  16. Ask your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center to review your paperwork. They can make sure you filled it out properly before you move ahead with your case.You can also hire your own lawyer to review your papers or to get legal advice, either with your entire divorce case, or just the parts of it that you may need more help with (called “limited scope representation” or “unbundling”). Click to learn more about “limited scope representation.”
  17. Make at least 2 copies of all your forms
  18. Make sure you include all the attachments and, if any are double-sided, that you photocopy both sides. One copy will be for you; another copy will be for your spouse or domestic partner. The original is for the court.
  19. Turn in all your forms to the court clerk, with 2 large envelopes (with postage)
  20. Turn in your forms to the court clerk. The clerk will process your paperwork and give it to a judge to review.
    • If all of the judgment documents are completed correctly, the judge will sign the Judgment without either spouse or domestic partner having to appear in court.
    • If there is a problem with the documents, a court appearance may be necessary. Or you may just need to fix a mistake on your paperwork.
  21. You receive your final judgment
  22. A court clerk will mail the Judgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment to each spouse or domestic partner, with the date that the judgment was filed stamped in the upper right corner.
    • Keep a copy of these forms in a safe place. You may need them in the future.

COMPLETING THE FINAL DECLARATION OF DISCLOSURE

You and your spouse or domestic partner may each have to prepare and serve a final Declaration of Disclosure at the end of your case. The final Declaration of Disclosure will use the same forms as the preliminary declaration and must have complete, up-to-date information.

You do NOT have to file a final Declaration of Disclosure if:

  • You and your spouse or domestic partner agree in writing to waive (skip) your final declarations of disclosure;
  • You get a court order waiving receipt of the your spouse’s or domestic partner’s declaration of disclosure;
  • OR
  • Your spouse or domestic partner has not filed a response to your petition for divorce AND your spouse or domestic partner has not signed a written and notarized settlement agreement and/or a stipulated judgment.

If you both want to waive your final Declaration of Disclosure, you can use the Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-144). If you do not use this form, make sure your written agreement has very specific language about the waiver.

If you DO need to prepare a final declaration of disclosure, you need to fill out:

  • Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140), which is a cover sheet for your declaration of disclosure;
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142) or a Property Declaration (Form FL-160); and
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150).
  • And, as part of the declaration of disclosure, you must also write, on separate sheets of paper:
    • A statement explaining how you came up with your estimated value of all assets that are all or partly community property;
    • A statement listing values of the assets and debts that you and your spouse or domestic partner may be liable for; and
    • A list of your investment opportunities since you separated.

These are not court forms; use regular sheets of paper and write your case name and case number at the top. Attach them to your Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140).

Once you have sent your disclosure forms to your spouse or domestic partner, you need to fill out and file with the court:

The Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141), which tells the court you have sent your disclosure documents as required.

Option 4 - CONTESTED DIVORCE - You and your spouse do not agree on everything

This situation is called “contested” because:

  • Your spouse or domestic partner filed a response,

                            AND

  • The 2 of you do NOT have a written agreement about your divorce or legal separation, dividing your property and debt, child custody and visitation, and support issues.

The case can be contested because you do not agree on how to divide your property and your debt, or because you do not agree about custody and visitation, child support, or spousal/partner support. You may agree on some issues but not others. If this is the case, you can write up your agreement on the issues you worked out and leave the other issues for a judge to decide.

If you are in a contested case, you may want to try mediation to resolve your case yourselves and not leave the decision up to a judge. If you and your spouse or domestic partner can reach an agreement on all or at least some of the issues in your divorce or legal separation, you can save yourselves time and money, as well as the emotional stress of fighting over these issues in court.

In most courts, when there are issues you cannot resolve by agreement, one of you has to file and serve a form to set a trial date. Also, most courts usually require the parties to attend a settlement conference before the trial. Ask the court clerk what your next step should be and whether there are any special, local forms you need to fill out. Find the website, address, and telephone number of your local court. You can also ask your court’s family law facilitator or self-help center.

If you and your spouse or domestic partner want help to settle your case, ask the court clerk, family law facilitator, or self-help center at your local court if there are any mediation programs available.

The information we provide you on this Online Self-Help Center is very general and cannot provide you the level of detail and information you will need to handle your contested case. The steps to follow in contested cases vary a lot depending on the individual circumstances in your case.

ASKING FOR A SEPARATE TRIAL

Sometimes, a case is contested because the spouses or domestic partners cannot agree on ALL issues, though they may agree on some. When this happens, the parties can ask for a separate trial on the issues they cannot agree on so they can resolve those and then finalize the entire case. This is sometimes call “bifurcation” which means “to separate the legal issues in a case.”

Some issues, among others, that can be dealt with this way are:

  • Permanent custody and visitation of the children,
  • Date of separation of the parties,
  • The validity of a prenuptial agreement, and
  • Ending of the marital status (dissolving the marriage or legally separating).

Courts may allow separate trials because sometimes resolving this 1 issue can be the only thing that stands in the way of the rest of the case being decided. For example, the date 2 people separate can be very important because it can determine when property or debt stops belonging to both spouses or partners. Sometimes people argue about this date because it can mean whether a certain piece of property belongs to both of them or only to 1 of them. Having the judge make a decision about this date can then settle that issue, and then the arguments about whether something belongs to both or to just 1 would be resolved.

Asking for a separate trial is not easy and you have to convince the judge that he or she should grant it. You will need to file a Request for Order (Form FL-300) and attach a Request or Response to Request for Separate Trial (Family Law) (Form FL-315). You can use the Information Sheet for Request for Order (Form FL-300-INFO) for help filling out Form FL-300.

If your spouse or domestic partner has filed a motion for a separate trial, you can file a response by filling out and filing a Responsive Declaration to Request for Order (Form FL-320) and attaching the Request or Response to Request for Separate Trial (Family Law) (Form FL-315).

Requesting a separate trial is not easy and you have to convince the judge that he or she should grant it. Talk to a lawyer for advice on how to prepare your paperwork.

Asking for a separate trial on the issue of marital status

Sometimes, spouses or domestic partners want to move ahead with ending the marital status or domestic partnership while other issues remain to be resolved. When this happens, a party can ask for a “bifurcation” of marital/partnership status. This means that the court makes a decision on ending your marriage or domestic partnership while other issues remain open and to be decided.

Courts do not generally like to encourage this because they want cases to be decided as a whole and completely resolved. Also, sometimes when spouses or domestic partners get the divorce or separation, they do not have as much incentive to finish the rest of the case, so it can take longer. But if you have a really good reason for asking for a bifurcation, you may be able to get the divorce or separation while the rest of the issues are still unresolved.

To ask for a bifurcation, you have to ask the court for a separate and earlier trial on the issue of ending your marriage or domestic partnership. So for that reason, this request is called an “application for a separate trial.”

To ask for it, you will need to file a Request for Order (Form FL-300) and attach an Request or Response to Request for Separate Trial (Family Law) (Form FL-315). You can use the Information Sheet for Request for Order (Form FL-300-INFO) for help filling out Form FL-300. And talk to a lawyer for advice on how to prepare your paperwork.

If your spouse or domestic partner has filed a motion for a separate trial, you can file a response by filling out and filing aResponsive Declaration to Request for Order (Form FL-320) and attaching the Request or Response to Request for Separate Trial (Family Law) (Form FL-315).

COMPLETING THE FINAL DECLARATION OF DISCLOSURE

If you have a contested case and both of you do not waive your final declarations of disclosure, you will have to exchange your final declarations of disclosure.

In a contested case, you must exchange your final declaration of disclosure at least 45 days before your “first assigned trial date.”

If you both want to waive your final declarations of disclosure, you can use the Stipulation and Waiver of Final Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-144). If you do not use this form, make sure your written agreement has very specific language about the waiver.

If you DO need to prepare a final declaration of disclosure, fill out:

  • Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140), which is a cover sheet for your declaration of disclosure;
  • Schedule of Assets and Debts (Form FL-142) or a Property Declaration (Form FL-160); and
  • Income and Expense Declaration (Form FL-150).
  • And, as part of the declaration of disclosure, you must also write, on separate sheets of paper:
    • A statement explaining how you came up with your estimated value of all assets that are all or partly community property;
    • A statement listing values of the assets and debts that you and your spouse or domestic partner may be liable for; and
    • A list of your investment opportunities since you separated.
  • These are not court forms; use regular sheets of paper and write your case name and case number at the top. Attach them to your Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-140).

Once you have sent your disclosure forms to your spouse or domestic partner, you need to fill out and file with the court:

The Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure (Form FL-141), which tells the court you have sent your disclosure documents as required.

Understanding the law is your next best move.