The good news: California is a no-fault divorce state, so if you are ready to call it quits and walk away from a marriage, you don't have to throw dirt at your spouse to make it happen. The bad news: you still have to jump through a number of procedural hoops. Fortunately, the California state court system provides lots of assistance, including a self-help website, to walk you through a do-it-yourself divorce. Even if you are using an attorney, it's a good idea to learn the ins and outs of the process just to help you navigate your way through.
Sacramento Divorce Court
In California, a divorce action begins with the filing of a petition for dissolution. Remember that California is a no-fault state. That means that, although it takes two to marry, it takes only one to divorce. If you want to get a divorce, it doesn't matter what the other spouse thinks about it. You are entitled to end your marriage if you want to. A dissolution of marriage ends the marriage and resolves all legal issues between the spouses, including child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support and property division.
If you or your spouse live in Sacramento, California, you could file your petition for dissolution in the Sacramento Superior Court. Since the family court hears divorce cases, it is sometimes called the Sacramento divorce court.
How to File for Divorce in Sacramento County
It's a good idea to obtain the divorce form packets from the Sacramento divorce court so that you have everything you will need, including complete instructions. The Dissolution Packet Step 1 includes the forms you use to start a divorce action: the dissolution form, the summons and a proof of service. The petition is family law form FL-100, the summons is FL-110 and the proof of service is FL-120. You'll also need to file the Family Law Case Participant Enrollment Form (Party), local form FL/E-LP-665, and, if you have minor children, a Declaration Under Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), FL-105.
While the petition identifies you and your spouse, as well as all minor children of the marriage, and formally asks for a divorce, the summons tells your spouse about the action. It also advises him where and when he must file a response to the petition. The court papers must be legally served on him so that the court is certain that he got notice of the action. Dissolution Packet Step 2 contains the instructions for this step.
Serving the Dissolution Papers on Your Spouse
Legal service means getting the papers served on the other party to an action in a way that the law considers reliable. Service of a dissolution petition is usually done by personal service. This means getting an adult who is not a party to the action to hand the papers to your spouse. You can use a friend or a family member to hand him the papers, or you can hire a process server (who serves papers professionally) to hand him the papers.
Whoever serves the papers must sign the proof of service under penalty of perjury, telling the court when and where your spouse was served. This is evidence of the exact date when the dissolution forms were served. You need to be sure the proof of service gets signed and then arrange to have it filed with the court. It is a very important document and begins the official countdown to the day your spouse must respond to your papers.
Once this service is completed, the divorce case is underway. If your spouse doesn't file a response, you can begin the process to ask the court to enter a default judgment against him.
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