How to Get a Summary Dissolution of Marriage in California

Hossein Berenji, Mar 20, 2017

Summary dissolution offers some California couples an alternative to divorce. If both spouses or partners are in complete agreement about how the marriage or domestic partnership will end, summary dissolution can be a great tool. However, if there are any disputes over property or any desire to collect spousal support, summary dissolution may not be the proper way to end the union.

Requirements for Summary Dissolution in California

There are certain qualifications couples must meet before a California court will grant a summary dissolution of a marriage or domestic partnership. Some qualifications apply to each spouse individually, while others apply to the couple as a whole. A couple may successfully petition the court for a summary dissolution in California if the marriage lasted 5 years or less, they have no children and are not expecting any, and they meet the following requirements.

One of the spouses must:

  • Have resided in California for six months prior to the petition; and
  • Have resided in the county where the petition will be filed.

Both spouses must:

  • Agree to end the marriage and/or partnership due to irreconcilable differences;
  • Sign the property settlement agreement;
  • Read, agree with, and sign the Summary Dissolution Information form;
  • Waive the right to receive spousal support; and
  • Waive the right to appeal.

Neither spouse may:

  • Own real property (such as a home, building, or land);
  • Have more than $38,000 in separate property; or
  • Have incurred more than $6,000 in debt since the inception of the marriage, excluding car payments.

Summary Dissolution Filing Process

If the requirements are satisfied a couple may begin the process of petitioning the court for a summary dissolution in California. The process begins by reading and signing the Summary Dissolution Information form, which outlines their rights and obligations in petitioning for the dissolution. Both spouses are then required to obtain and complete a series of forms that must be included with the petition. The forms help to spouses divide any community property, allocate debts, and clearly establish personal ownership. Each spouse will be required to attach supporting documentation reflecting their income, such as tax returns, tax forms, and bank statements.

After each spouse has completed and signed each of the required forms they must file the petition – and pay all filing fees – with the county clerk. The county in which the petition is filed is the one that at least one of the spouses has lived in for the past three months.

Once the petition is filed the spouses must wait for six months before the court will enter a judgment of summary dissolution. During this waiting period, either spouse may revoke the petition. Once the six month period is over and the court has granted the summary dissolution, the marriage is no longer valid.

Pros and Cons of Summary Dissolution of Marriage in California

Summary dissolution can be a great alternative to divorce for couples who have few assets and who are in mutual agreement about ending the marriage or partnership. In most cases, though, couples who are looking to end a marriage or partnership may not be entirely on the same page. Additionally, couples often underestimate the complexity of their assets and liabilities, and the work that must be devoted to distributing those before the petition is filed.

Summary dissolution petitions require spouses to complete many forms, including the Income and Expenses Declaration, Determining Value and Division of Community Property, Determining Value of Separate Property, Determining Community Obligations and Their Division, Declaration of Disclosure, Schedule of Assets and Debts, and the Property Declaration Form. Many times, an attorney’s expertise is required to complete the forms properly and in their entirety. As a result, summary dissolution may not be an easier – or less expensive – way to dissolve a marriage.

If both spouses or partners are not entirely on the same page about either ending the marriage or how to end the marriage, summary dissolution may not be the best option. Both spouses must agree to and sign each form in the petition. This includes waiving the right to receive spousal support, which is often a deal-breaker for a spouse who may not earn a lot on his or her own. Either spouse may, at any point during the 6 month waiting period, revoke the petition for summary dissolution.

If you are not 100% confident that you and your spouse are in agreement about each and every detail of the dissolution of your marriage, summary dissolution may not be the best option. You may spend a lot of time and money on the petition only to find out you’re your spouse revoked the petition after reconsidering an aspect of the break-up.

Summary dissolution can be a helpful process for couples who are seeking an amicable way to dissolve a marriage. If there are few assets and liabilities, it may be possible to petition a court for summary dissolution without much trouble. However, most couples have significant and/or complex assets and liabilities that may make a petition more complicated without the assistance of an experienced California attorney. Contact us today to learn about whether summary dissolution is the best choice for you.