Do You Need a Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce?


Each divorce case is different, as the circumstances of each marriage can be extremely different. How your divorce might proceed can depend on many different factors, including the nature of your community property, whether you have minor children, and the state of your relationship with your spouse.

Two categories of divorce cases in California are contested and uncontested. If you and your spouse cannot get along and your spouse refuses to cooperate or agree to reasonable terms, you will have a contested case. This means your attorneys will have to engage in negotiation, or you might participate in mediation to agree on unresolved issues. If you cannot agree, the matter might need to go before the court, and litigation can be costly in time, money, and stress.

On the other hand, if you and your spouse are in a relatively amicable state, and you can agree on relevant issues in your divorce before filing your petition, you might be eligible for an uncontested divorce. This is often a faster and less expensive option and can be beneficial for the right parties.

Even if you qualify for an uncontested divorce, it is still important to have an experienced California divorce lawyer on your side. Below we will discuss how uncontested divorce works in California and how the right attorney can help.

Summary Dissolution in California

In some states, you can file an “uncontested divorce,” which has an abbreviated process for a divorce to be final. In California, the simplified divorce process is referred to as “summary dissolution,” and there are specific requirements for you to be eligible for this type of divorce case. Such requirements include:

  • At least one spouse has been a resident of the State of California for six months or longer, as well as a resident of the county where you are filing divorce for three months
  • You must state irreconcilable differences as the grounds for the divorce
  • You must have no minor children, and neither spouse can be pregnant
  • You were married for less than five years before you separated
  • Neither spouse owns any real property except a lease agreement for less than one year
  • Aside from auto loans, neither of you have debts greater than $6,000
  • You have marital assets that are worth less than $43,000 in total, which includes retirement accounts and deferred compensation but excludes vehicles
  • Neither spouse has separate assets that are greater than $43,0000
  • Neither spouse is requesting spousal support
  • You have both signed a written settlement agreement that divides all debts and assets in accordance with the law, and you have taken steps to transfer those debts and assets accordingly

If you meet all of these requirements, there will still be a six-month waiting period before your divorce can be finalized (as is the case with all divorces in California), but you will have no court hearings or additional delays.

Even if you qualify for summary dissolution, it is still wise to contact an experienced family law attorney. A qualified attorney can review your situation and advise you whether you are eligible for summary dissolution and file the proper paperwork with the courts for you to prevent any errors or complications. You also want an attorney to review your settlement agreement to make sure that:

  • It covers all necessary issues required by the court
  • It is in line with requirements under California law
  • It does not go against your best interests or rights in your divorce

All too often, people are unfamiliar with their rights under California divorce law. This can lead them to agree to a property division resolution that is unfair and deprives them of the assets they deserve in their divorce. Not only might this lead the court to reject the summary dissolution agreement, but if the court does approve it, you could end up with much less than you deserve. Allow a divorce lawyer to protect your rights and financial future.

Uncontested Divorce in California

Even if you do not qualify for summary dissolution – such as because you have children – you can still have an uncontested divorce case. This simply means that you and your spouse agree to get divorced and agree on how to resolve all issues, including:

  • How to distribute your community property
  • What qualifies as separate property that you each get to keep
  • Who will be responsible for which debts
  • Whether or not one of your will pay/receive spousal support
  • How to set up your child custody arrangement
  • Whether one parent will pay child support to the other and how much

You can submit your settlement agreement to the court, which can approve it if it is in line with the law. While it is not technically the same as the summary dissolution process, it still eliminates time and expense from the divorce process to file uncontested.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Many spouses assume that because they can agree on the issues to end their marriage, they do not need to contact divorce attorneys. However, this is often a mistake, as errors during the uncontested process are common and can cause delays and unexpected costs.

For instance, all child custody arrangements in California must be based on what is in the best interests of the child. There are many factors that the court considers when determining your child’s best interests, and the court can reject a child custody agreement that the judge believes does not reflect this standard. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to review your proposed arrangements and advise you on how to tweak the agreement to have the best chances of being approved by the court. Your attorney can do the same with all relevant matters, including community property division, child support, and spousal support.

You also want to make sure your settlement agreement is drafted by an experienced lawyer, so it meets the necessary requirements to be granted as part of your divorce order. Having an attorney for your uncontested divorce can save you money and time in the long run, as well as protect your rights and interests.