Filing for dissolution of marriage in California requires that one of the parties meets certain residency requirements. Specifically, he or she must have been a resident of the state of California for the last 6 months, and of the particular county where the case is filed for the last 3 months. I wrote about California’s residency requirements for a dissolution of marriage in a previous blog post.
After the petition for dissolution of marriage has been filed with the court and properly served with a summons on the other party, the parties must wait a minimum of 6 months to become divorced. This 6 month waiting period cannot be shortened no matter how simple the matter, how amicable the parties, or how much they want the divorce to be finalized. In many cases, the parties are able to resolve all marital issues including division of property, spousal support, child support, and child custody in less than 6 months and are left counting the days until they can be divorced.
If you have recently moved to California, or live in California but do not meet the 6-month / 3-month residency requirements, you could find yourself waiting up to 6 months to be eligible to file for dissolution, and then at least 6 more months to actually get divorced. In this situation, you may be able to reduce your wait by up to 6 months by filing for legal separation first.
A Petition for Legal Separation Can be Amended to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
Legal separation is the termination of certain marital responsibilities without the termination of the marriage itself. People choose to file for legal separation instead of dissolution for religious and personal reasons. Legal separation is also used when the residency requirements for dissolution are not immediately satisfied. California Family Code Section 2321 allows a person to file a petition for legal separation and then amend that filing to a petition for dissolution of marriage after the 6 month/3 month residency requirements are met. In this situation, the amended petition for dissolution can satisfy the residency requirement, and the dissolution can proceed as quickly as if the original petition for legal separation had been filed as a dissolution. Filing and then amending a petition for legal separation can save up to 6 months over waiting to satisfy the residence requirements before filing for dissolution.
It is important to understand that depending upon the facts and circumstances of your marriage, your case, and your spouse, obtaining a divorce in California can take more than 6 months or a year. Many divorces are not finalized within a year of filing. For some people who do not meet California’s 6-month / 3-month residency requirements, however, filing a petition for legal separation and then amending it to a petition for dissolution can help accelerate the resolution of marital rights and lead to a faster divorce. If you live in California, or out of state, and are thinking about getting a divorce or legal separation in California, you can call or email to schedule a free consultation with a Los Angeles family law attorney