How do I start a divorce in Orange County, California?

Divorce may be the only way to solve marital strife for some couples. Beginning the divorce process is the first step in addressing these issues, but knowing where to start can be confusing. Understanding the steps in the divorce process is the best way to feel more confident in beginning any divorce proceedings.

Steps In the Divorce Process

Before starting the divorce process, the petitioners must meet state residency requirements to begin filing. For residents of Orange County, one or both spouses need to be a California resident for at least six months and live specifically in Orange County for three months. California is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that wanting to get a divorce is enough of a reason to begin the filing process. No “proof” or justification for the filing is needed. After meeting these requirements, the divorce process is as follows:

  • The first step in the divorce process is filing the necessary paperwork with the Superior Court of California. The filing fee for any divorce is $435. However, for those unable to pay this fee, a request can be made to waive it if sufficient evidence is present to do so. This filing fee and a petition describing any financial, real estate, and childcare obligations shared by both spouses, should be included in a divorce filing. A summons sent to the respondent, as well as a copy of their response, is needed as well.
  • Once the respondent receives their summons, they have thirty days to respond to the petitioner’s request. The respondent must include a copy of their response, including proof of their service by mail and the notice of their case. If the respondent does not respond within thirty days of receiving the filing, the petitioner can file for a default divorce. A default divorce is decided based on the filing information without input from the respondent.
  • Spouses are financially and legally bound to each other. When filing for divorce, they must provide declarations of their shared property to the court. A Declaration of the Disclosure form, an Income and Expense Declaration, and a Schedule of Assets and Debts submitted by both parties is required. Once presented, the parties file a Declaration Regarding Service of Declaration of Disclosure and Income and Expense Declaration. At this point, any information needed from one spouse can be requested by the other spouse. All forms must be filed within 60 days of filing for the petitioner and 60 days of responding to the filing for the respondent.
  • After the necessary filing, negotiation during mediation can begin. At this point of the divorce process, any terms of the divorce, including asset division, child support, custody arrangements, etc., can be negotiated and settled by both parties. If both parties do not agree upon the terms of a divorce, they are expected to negotiate and come to an agreement. If both parties agree, this is referred to as an uncontested divorce. If they cannot reach an agreement for the majority of the case, they will move out of mediation and into court to settle the divorce, which is called a contested divorce.
  • The divorce can be finalized and put into effect after working out the terms of a divorce or moving through the court to settle the case. Once a judge is satisfied with the terms of the divorce, they will sign off on it and produce an official ruling. This final ruling will solidify all of the divorce terms and set a date for when said terms go into effect. Any matters like child custody arrangements, spousal support, and child support will be detailed in the settlement.

After reaching a settlement, a divorce decree is supplied to the court that makes the separation final. Proof of this final settlement will be delivered from the court to both parties, allowing them to have proof that their marriage is officially over.


Q: How long does it take to file for a divorce in Orange County?

A: Depending on whether or not a divorce is contested vs. uncontested will determine how long it takes to settle. The process starts from the date that the respondent replies to divorce papers. In uncontested cases, collecting information on assets, children, finances, etc., will take around six months to settle. More contested cases, however, can take years to settle.

Q: How much does it cost to file for divorce in Orange County, California?

A: The petitioner must pay a $435 filing fee in Orange County to initiate the divorce process. The petitioner may submit a Request to Waive Court Fees if they cannot afford to pay the fee. The judge will decide if the request is legitimate with the help of any financial information and spending information included by the petitioner.

Q: What is the first step in filing for divorce in California?

A: The first step in filing for a divorce is submitting the necessary information to the county clerk. The county clerk will evaluate the filing and determine whether there is enough information to proceed with the divorce. To be eligible to file, the petitioner or their spouse must meet residency requirements in California and the county they plan to file.

Q: How do I file for divorce by myself in California?

A: Filing alone for a divorce follows the necessary steps of an uncontested divorce but may be more useful in situations where the divorce is not likely to be perceived well by the respondent. In these situations, the respondent will receive divorce papers and a legal request to attend mediation, where both parties can work out any differences in the divorce terms. If mediation is not productive, the divorce can be escalated to court proceedings.

Speaking With an Orange County Divorce Lawyer

Before starting any divorce filings, speaking with a family law attorney to secure representation for mediation is very helpful. The legal team at the Law Offices of Lisa R. McCall can help any Orange County resident looking to file for divorce find the representation they need for mediation and beyond. For more information on our services, visit our website and contact us today.

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