Instructions for a Default FL-180 Dissolution in California

By Beverly Bird
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Even when your spouse defaults -- she doesn’t get involved with your divorce proceedings in any way -- you need a final stamp of approval from the court before you’re officially free. In some states you have to help the judge along a little by preparing a judgment for him to sign. This is form FL-180 in California, and completing it is mostly a matter of checking off the appropriate boxes.

Preliminary Matters

Before you worry about completing form FL-180, you have to get the ball rolling by filing a petition for dissolution of your marriage or domestic partnership. You must serve a copy on your spouse, and she has 30 days to answer by filing a response with the court. If she does nothing, you can request a default judgment. You can also allow your divorce to default because you’ve reached and signed a comprehensive settlement agreement with her so you don’t need the court to resolve issues. Form FL-180 applies to both situations.

Additional Paperwork

You’ll probably have to complete additional forms to attach to your judgment, and this is where things can get a little complicated. If you need help sorting through what’s required for your particular dissolution, each California county offers family law facilitators to guide you. You’ll be able to skip some forms if your divorce is a true default -- your spouse didn’t respond when you served her with your petition. Otherwise, you’ll need form FL-141 which attests that you and your spouse have exchanged financial information. Form FL-130 tells the court that you and your spouse want your divorce to move forward as an uncontested matter because you’ve reached an agreement. If you don’t want to appear in court to end your marriage, you can file form FL-170. Form FL-190 is a notice of entry of judgment and you must include this as well. Additional forms are required if you have children.

The First Page of Form FL-180

Completing form FL-180 is easiest if you have a copy of your divorce petition in front of you. You can copy the caption -- all the information at the top of the first page -- from the petition onto the judgment form. Beneath that, check the box indicating that you want a dissolution. Paragraph 1 asks about any restraining orders you might have in place. In paragraph 2, check the box that indicates that your case has defaulted or is uncontested -- it’s the same box for both. The third paragraph asks when you served your dissolution petition on your spouse; this is important because California has a six-month waiting period for divorce that begins with this date. Begin the fourth paragraph by entering the earliest date that your divorce can be final -- six months from the date you served your spouse with your petition. You may need some help with the remaining boxes on the first page because they deal with more complex legal issues. A family law facilitator can explain how these boxes affect your personal situation.

The Second Page of Form FL-180

The second page asks for details about your children, if you have any, and how you want to resolve custody and child support. You must also tell the court what you want to do about any community property you and your spouse might own -- meaning what you own together. If you’ve reached a settlement agreement with your spouse, you can check off the box indicating this and attach it. For support and custody issues, you can indicate that you’re attaching the additional documents required.

Filing the Form

Submit or mail the original to the court clerk along with two copies and two envelopes with postage attached, one addressed to yourself and the other addressed to your ex. The court clerk will submit the paperwork to a judge who will sign the judgment when the waiting period expires if you don’t want to appear in court. The clerk will mail signed copies to you and your ex.