Summary Dissolution

If a couple has been married for less than five years, have no children and have minimal assets, California law permits the couple to file for “summary dissolution.” This is a relatively fast, simple and inexpensive alternative to the regular dissolution proceeding.

Eligibility To qualify for summary dissolution, you have to meet all of the following requirements at the time you file your petition.

  • One of you has lived in California for the last 6 months and in the county where you file the petition for the last 3 months. (There’s an exception to this residency requirement for same-sex married couples who no longer live in California, but were married in California. If this is your situation, you can file for summary dissolution in California if your current state of residency will not dissolve your marriage. To do this, you must file in the California county where you were married.)
  • Both of you want the marriage or domestic partnership to end because of irreconcilable differences.
  • You have no minor children together and do not expect (are pregnant) any children together.
  • The marriage or domestic partnership lasted five years – from the date you were married or registered as domestic partners to the date of separation – or less.
  • Neither of you own any real property, in other words, land or buildings. You can have a lease, but it can’t have an option to purchase and it must end within one year from the date you file your summary dissolution petition.
  • Neither of you have incurred more than $6,000 in debt since the start of your marriage or domestic partnership. You can exclude car payments, however.
  • You have $38,000 or less in community property. Generally speaking, community property is all assets and debts acquired or earned during marriage. You can exclude your cars here, too, but you must include any deferred compensation (like a 401K) or retirement benefits earned during the time of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • Neither of you has more than $38,000 in separate property. Separate property tends to be anything you owned before marriage or registration as domestic partners and after separation. It also includes any gift or inheritance you got during marriage or your domestic partnership.
  • You both complete and sign a property settlement agreement, which divides your community property. Before filing your summary dissolution petition, you also must sign the necessary paperwork to make this agreement effective. In other words, you need to take care of title certificates, bills of sale, or other transfers.
  • You both agree to waive (give up) any rights to spousal support.
  • You both waive your rights to appeal once the court enters your summary dissolution.
  • You both agree that you have read and understand a booklet called Summary Dissolution Information (provided by the California courts).

You need to wait six months after filing your petition for summary dissolution. Once this time runs out, the court will enter a judgment that dissolves your marriage or domestic partnership. At that point, your marriage or domestic partnership is over and your property settlement agreement goes into effect. You are also free to remarry or enter a new domestic partnership.

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