Getting a Divorce in California? Be Sure to Have These Documents Handy.

  • 01 18, 2019
  • Irwin & Irwin
  • Divorce

Divorce in California can be relatively simple. It can as little as simply filing paperwork for summary dissolution or require years of complex litigation. The documentation you need to file for and litigate a divorce in Orange County is often dependent on the following factors:

  • The type of divorce you’re seeking,
  • The extent and value of your assets, including where they’re located and when they were acquired, 
  • Whether you have children common to the marriage, and
  • How long you’ve lived in California.

The most important factor, however, is the amicability of the divorcing spouses. If you and your spouse agree on certain areas of property distribution, such as who will take the house, you may not need paperwork to prove ownership and value. It’s when spouses disagree on the nature and value of property and child custody arrangements that documentation becomes especially necessary during a divorce.

No-Fault Divorce in California

California is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means you do not have to prove your spouse’s wrongdoing to divorce. In fact, your only option is a “no-fault” divorce. This means you would not submit evidence of a spouse’s affair or abuse during the early stages of the divorce process. While these factors may be considered during custody and property distribution proceedings, proof of fault is not generally submitted with your initial divorce application.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in California

The first consideration in filing for divorce in California is the residency requirement. In order to file for divorce in California, the filing spouse must have resided in the state for at least six months and in the county were the divorce paperwork is filed for at least three months. Many spouses move out of state to begin anew after a marriage ends. This can prevent you from filing for divorce immediately. You should have a copy of your California-issued identification and proof of residency before filing for divorce in California. For new residents of California, proof of residency may include the following:

  • At least three months of county utility bills in your name,
  • Bank statements with proof of address,
  • Employment documentation in California,
  • The deed to your house or proof of rental payments,
  • Affidavits from a landlord attesting to your residency, and
  • Dated change of address forms from the post office.

Contact a qualified Orange County, California divorce attorney if you don’t meet California’s residency requirements. There are alternatives to filing for immediate divorce that can provide you with similar legal protections.

Proof of Income and Asset Documentation

The majority of divorce documentation involves your marital and separate assets. California is a community property state, which means “all property, real or personal, wherever situated, acquired by a married person during the marriage while domiciled in this state is community property.” Therefore, if you obtained the property during your marriage while living in California, each spouse owns half. For example, Husband purchases a car from Germany during his California marriage and titles it only in his name. This car is still owned equally by Husband and Wife in California. He may have to pay Wife half of the vehicle’s value in order to take the vehicle after a divorce. For this reason, documentation regarding where and when you purchased your assets is essential. Property acquired before the marriage or while you were domiciled in another state may not be community property.

Bank accounts and income acquired during the marriage are also considered community property subject to equal division. As such, the following documentation may be necessary to claim your rightful property after a divorce:

  • Proof of any money or property you inherited in your name only, even if inherited during the marriage,
  • Documentation of any property/income obtained before the marriage,
  • The title to your home and vehicles, if any,
  • Any pre-marital agreement regarding the distribution of property,
  • Any evidence of where the property was acquired in combination with proof you lived out of state, and
  • Documentation of you and your spouse’s income for calculation of support and distribution.

Financial documentation is often voluminous, adding stress to an otherwise already stressful situation. Consider speaking with a collaborative divorce attorney prior to filing your divorce paperwork. If you and your spouse can agree on certain distributions, it may greatly reduce the paperwork necessary during your divorce.

Children & Child Custody Documentation

Child custody can be one of the most hotly contested areas of divorce. Even if you agree on visitation, the court can only enter a custody order if it’s in the best interest of your children. Best interest considerations include the age and maturity of the child, his social life, the relationship between the child and his parents, and any physical, mental, or emotional abuse. The court may request the following documentation in order to analyze what’s in the child’s best interest:

  • The child’s birth certificate,
  • Any information regarding the child’s special needs,
  • School and education records,
  • Positive records of the parent-child relationship such as vacation photos, videos, and birthday cards,
  • Negative records of the parent-child relationship such as negative text messages, police reports, and medical records, and
  • Affidavits from friends, family, and teachers attesting to the mental health and best interest of the child.

The court may not request this documentation early in the divorce process, but it can take time to gather. You should be prepared with any documentation that tends to support or disprove what’s in the best emotional and financial interest of your shared children.

Summary of Helpful Divorce Documentation

California provides a document bank of financial worksheets necessary to file for divorce in the state. These worksheets can help you think about the documentation you’ll need during a contested divorce, and they provide a good starting point for gathering your documents. Every divorcing couple is different, but you should prepare to file for divorce by gathering the following documents:

  • Any pre-nuptial and divorce agreements,
  • Your marriage certificate,
  • Proof of residency, i.e., California I.D., utility bills, and change of address forms,
  • Proof of income, i.e., your W-2, 1099, and tax returns,
  • Title to your marital home, vehicles, and major assets,
  • Bank statements and account information, and
  • The birth certificates of your children, if any.

The longer and more complex the divorce process, the more documentation you’ll need. This can seem overwhelming, but a qualified Orange County, California divorce attorney can help.