If you qualify, there is a simplified and more cost-efficient way to get divorced in California that a standard divorce petition. It is called Summary Dissolution of your marriage, and while it will not expedite your divorce action (you still have to wait the required six months in California no matter what type of divorce you are seeking), it requires less paperwork and only one filing fee since both spouses file jointly on the same petition.
However, the qualifications for a summary dissolution are pretty narrow. If you don’t qualify on all of them, then you need to file a regular divorce petition. The requirements are laid out in detail in California Family Code section 2400, but the basic requirements are:
1. The marriage has to have been for less than five years. Once you celebrate your fifth year anniversary, then you cannot file for a summary dissolution.
2. No minor children of the parties, including that the wife cannot be expecting. If you have minor children, than you don’t qualify and must file a regular divorce petition.
3. Neither party has any interest in any real estate anywhere. If either of you owns or has an interest in any real property, than you cannot file a summary dissolution.
4. The debt from the marriage (with an exception for an automobile debt) cannot be more than $6,000.00. This is adjusted for inflation over time.
5. The value of community property assets (assets acquired during the marriage), not including automobiles, cannot exceed $38,000.00.
6. The value of each individual spouse’s separate property assets, not including automobiles, cannot exceed $38,000.00.
7. Both spouses agree to forever waive any right to spousal support (alimony) from the other spouse.
If you qualify on all of the above requirements, than you can choose to have your matter proceed as a summary dissolution. The process requires a joint petition for divorce be filed, that both spouses sign together. Before filing the petition, the spouses are required to have exchanged financial information with each, and read a required booklet on summary dissolution. Then you must wait the six months cooling off period required under California family law, and after that you file you Judgment forms and your divorce will be finalized and mailed out to you.
The most important caveat to remember is that a summary dissolution requires that both parties agree to proceed this way. At anytime prior to the Judgment being entered into, either spouse can change their mind and file a revocation of the summary dissolution petition. If that happens, then the divorce can no longer proceed as a summary dissolution, and you must go through the regular divorce process. But if you both agree, a summary dissolution can be a simpler and easier way to get a divorce in California.
When calculating separate property for a summary dissolution, are debts subtracted from assets? I have more than $38000 in separate assets but I have a large student loan that if deducted would bring me below the limit.
[This is not legal advice nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship. This information is general in nature. You should consult an attorney who can review your unique situation and advise you accordingly. ]
Debts are only subtracted if that debt is owed on the specific asset, such as if you bought a TV on credit and still owe money on it. Unrelated debts are not subtracted from the value of the assets. If you want to see a sample worksheet on how to calculate separate property value, California Judicial Council has a helpful one here.