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Unraveling the Eligibility Criteria for Uncontested Divorce in California

Despite what celebrity news websites might suggest, divorces are becoming less adversarial over time. While angry, combative splits still happen, they are becoming less common as the stigma against divorce fades. 

Instead, many couples are opting to split up sooner, before their unhappy marriage poisons their ability to collaborate. As a result, uncontested divorces are becoming more popular as spouses work together on their settlements instead of battling things out in the courtroom.

However, not every couple is eligible for an uncontested split. You must meet a few specific criteria before proceeding with an uncontested divorce.

Understanding Uncontested Divorce in California

Divorces are grouped into one of two categories: contested and uncontested. A contested divorce occurs when the couple cannot agree on handling important matters in their divorce settlement, such as asset division, spousal support, or child custody. Typically, contested divorces occur when one spouse contests, or disputes, the terms listed in the other’s petition. 

When this occurs, the couple must go through the court system to resolve their dispute. They will attend one or more hearings, depending on the number of disagreements they have. At these hearings, the judge will hear both sides’ arguments and make decisions that will be bundled into the final decree. 

The uncontested process is much simpler. The couple typically works together before filing the initial petition to reach an agreement on all issues. This agreement is used to structure the divorce petition and response. Since there are no disputes, the court will usually approve the petitioner’s requests in full. As a result, uncontested splits are less time-consuming, stressful, and expensive than contested divorces. 

Eligibility Criteria for Uncontested Divorce in California

You must meet a few criteria if you’re interested in an uncontested split in California. Here’s what you need to know about eligibility for this type of divorce:

Residency Requirements

Before you can file for divorce in California, you or your spouse must meet state residency requirements. One of you must have lived in California as your primary residence for at least six months before you can file there. Additionally, the resident must have lived in their specific county for at least three months. The only exception is for military personnel and spouses, who may file in a county as long as they are currently stationed there. 

Spousal Agreement

You and your spouse must collaborate and draft your settlement agreement for a truly uncontested divorce. This agreement should account for all issues involved in your split. Generally, this includes:

  • Asset division: How marital property will be divided, including liquid assets, real estate, and investments.
  • Child custody and support: How custody should be split and how much support will be paid; note that child support for minors cannot be waived.
  • Spousal support: If and how much support will be paid.

You will need to mutually agree on how to handle each of these concerns. If you cannot agree or are coerced into signing an agreement you do not understand or support, your settlement may be invalidated. It is considered best practice to work with skilled divorce attorneys to draft your contract to ensure it meets state requirements, addresses all issues, and is not coerced. 

Should you reach a mutually satisfying agreement, you can use it to create your petition. You will also submit the final document as part of the legal process. 

Financial Disclosure Requirements

Before divorces can proceed, spouses must provide each other full financial disclosures. These disclosures ensure both people understand the full scope of their marital property and finances. There are three forms you need to present to your spouse:

These forms will require you to have the past two years of your tax returns and two months of pay stubs on hand. You will likely also need titles and deeds for your property, bank and investment account statements, and other documents demonstrating your current finances. 

It is crucial to complete these forms accurately. Failing to do so can invalidate your settlement and potentially put you at risk of financial sanctions. 

The Uncontested Divorce Process in California

If you meet the three criteria above, you can begin the process of filing for an uncontested divorce. Your attorney will walk you through the following process step by step:

  • One spouse files the petition for dissolution of marriage using the details in the agreement. 
  • The filing party has the other person served with the divorce paperwork.
  • The other spouse files their uncontested response agreeing to the terms of the original petition.
  • The couple will exchange official financial disclosures. 
  • The couple will jointly submit their settlement agreement, the judgment, and the notice of entry of judgment forms.
  • Both spouses must appear for a court hearing if the judge deems it necessary to confirm elements of the agreements or verify that both people consent to the terms. 
  • Once the six-month waiting period is over, the judge will finalize the divorce and issue a decree using the terms set in the agreement. 

Talk to Skilled Marin County Uncontested Divorce Attorneys

If you and your spouse are able to work together, an uncontested divorce is often the best way to end your marriage. You’re likely eligible for an uncontested split if you meet state residency requirements, are prepared to share your financial information, and can draft a spousal settlement agreement. You can start the process by consulting with the experienced divorce attorneys at Kaspar & Lugay LLP. Our Corte Madera lawyers have years of experience representing clients in contested and uncontested splits of all kinds. Learn more about how we can help you draft a comprehensive settlement agreement and streamline your divorce by contacting our family law firm today.