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California Divorce Laws and How to File in San Francisco

Divorce is the most stressful period for those going through one. Divorce lawyers, high costs, and legal forms only further add to both parties' stress. Knowing how to file for divorce in San Francisco will make the proceeding easier.

If both parties know what documents they need and how to file them, they may not even need to involve lawyers. Without lawyers and court involvement, the divorce process is faster and less expensive.

So, let's explore the divorce process in San Francisco County, CA!

How to File for Divorce in San Francisco: All You Need to Know

Across the United States, depending on state laws regarding divorce, it varies from at-fault to no-fault. At-fault states require the party filing for divorce to provide a reason. In contrast, no-fault states allow people to divorce without providing a reason.

California is one of the no-fault states, meaning a person can file for a divorce without providing a reason. However, there are other divorce requirements a couple must meet to separate.

Also, depending on whether a couple's divorce is uncontested or contested, they may need to contact an online divorce service in San Francisco. Uncontested divorces are pretty straightforward. For instance, San Francisco residents may file themselves in the county court.

Many divorcing couples today choose to get an online divorce to avoid the high costs of involving courts and lawyers.

California Divorce Laws

There are four potential ways to end their marriage for San Francisco residents. They are the following:

  • Divorce
  • Legal separation
  • Annulment
  • Online divorce


Also referred to as "dissolution of marriage." divorce is the legal proceeding with which a marriage is officially terminated. With a finalized divorce, both people are legally single and can choose to remarry if they want to.

There are some legal requirements to be eligible to file for divorce in San Francisco, CA. One spouse must be a California resident for at least six months before being able to file for a divorce. Also, they must live at least three months in their current country before divorcing. If the couple fulfills these requirements, they can file for a divorce.

Legal separation

When neither spouse meets the San Francisco residency laws, they may file for a legal separation. The marriage does not end with a legal separation, but the couple may ask the court to make the same orders as in a divorce. Once one of the spouses meets the requirements, they may file for an amended petition to divorce.


Also referred to as "nullity of marriage", annulment is when the court declares a marriage not legally valid. Annulments are difficult to prove, and the courts rarely grant them. The courts may grant annulment for the following reasons:

  • The age of the petitioner at the time of marriage
  • Prior existing marriage
  • Unsound mind
  • Fraud
  • Force
  • Physical incapacity

Online divorce

Many couples are turning towards online divorces due to the high divorce costs. Divorce costs vary from state to state, but California divorces are more expensive due to the high cost of living.

In a city like San Francisco, many couples cannot afford to get divorced because of the bankruptcy risk. This is why spouses seek the help of online divorce services. San Francisco couples can visit the official court website and find PDF versions of the forms they must file.

Once they download the forms, with the guidance of an online service, each party can fill them out. Online divorces work best for couples going through an uncontested divorce.

In the case of a contested divorce, they can seek out mediation, which online services offer to settle matters. Divorcing online means the spouses do not need to hire lawyers and drag out the process needlessly.

Steps for How to File for Divorce in San Francisco

1.   Preparing legal documents and forms

Before one or both parties file for a divorce, they must prepare the documents needed to file for divorce in California. The documents necessary depend on the circumstances surrounding a specific couple's divorce case. For instance, the paperwork depends on things like:

  • If there are shared children between a married couple.
  • Division of marital property.
  • One of the spouses requires alimony.

If the petitioner needs clarification about the forms, they may check with the San Francisco County Clerk's office.

2.   Filing forms to start a divorce

A San Francisco resident must file a Petition (FL-100) with the court to start their divorce case. In the petition, the petitioner must include the necessary personal information.

Also, in the petition, the spouses must include the issues and orders they want to be included in the final divorce. Another form the petitioner must file is the Summons (FL-105). The summons informs the other spouse of the court case start.

The court fees for filing forms in San Francisco divorce court are between $435 and $450. The petitioner may apply for a fee waiver if they cannot afford it.

3.   Response to a summons

Once the other spouse receives the summons, they have 30 days to respond. After they are served, the six-month waiting period starts. Six months is the earliest a court can grant a divorce. The spouse responding to a petition must fill out a Response (FL-120) form.

The response form tells the court how the respondent wants issues regarding property, child custody, and support handled. The form also asks for basic information regarding the marriage.

4.   Financial disclosures

Both parties must share full financial information. The petitioner has 60 days to share their financial information after filing the petition. In contrast, the respondent has 60 days after they file their response to share theirs.

The financial documents both parties will need to gather are the following:

  • Tax returns from the last two years.
  • Proof of income for the past two months.
  • Documents that prove what they own and what they owe.

5.   Making decisions

The shared assets and debts will be divided between the spouses. The property and debts they owned before the marriage are theirs solely. The couple should make decisions on shared property and debt division.

Other things divorcing couples need to decide on are spousal support, custody, and support of their children. If they cannot agree, the court will step in and make these decisions.

6.   Finalizing the divorce

A couple must turn in a set of final forms in the divorce court to officially finalize their divorce. If they have any court orders or an agreement, the couple should submit those also. After the couple submits the final forms, the court will review them to ensure all are present and everything is correct.

If everything is in order, the judge presiding over the divorce case will sign the final form, the judgment. On the judgment form, the judge will state the exact day the marriage officially ends.

How to File for Divorce in California When Both Parties Agree

Most California divorces are one of two types: contested and uncontested. When both parties agree on their divorce, their divorce is uncontested. With an uncontested divorce, the spouses may file joint divorce forms without involving divorce lawyers.

Both parties can draw up a settlement agreement to file with the rest of the forms. The divorce judge will review the agreement to ensure it is fair for both parties before accepting its terms.

For example, custody, support, and visitation terms must be per the state's family law if the couple has any minor children. The only cost when both parties agree will be the fees when filing their forms.

Uncontested divorces are quicker than contested, but still, there is a six-month waiting period. In contrast, contested divorces can last for years due to the spouses' inability to reach an agreement.


How to file for divorce in San Francisco? While the divorce process may seem complicated, as long as couples meet the California requirements, they can file for divorce easily. Plus, the official website provides a complete guide on the divorce steps and the forms they need to file.

San Francisco couples may file for divorce alone if their divorce is uncontested. Yet, if they have difficulty agreeing on the divorce terms, they may need the help of lawyers.

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