A "summary dissolution" is a shorter and easier way than a "regular dissolution" to end a marriage and/or a registered domestic partnership. But, it can only be used by couples who meet very specific conditions. The Judicial Council of California has written a booklet detailing a summary dissolution, including step-by-step instructions and the joint petition for dissolution requires that each party attest that they have read and understood the Summary Dissolution Information booklet (Form FL-810)PDF. This booklet and all the necessary forms can be found on the California Courts website at http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-summarydissolution.htm.
Do We Qualify?
According to the California Courts:
A summary dissolution is an easier way to get divorced or end a domestic partnership. It’s less expensive and there’s not as much paperwork as the standard divorce process.
Not everyone can use this process. In general, it’s only for couples who:
Have been married less than 5 years
Have no children together
Own or owe relatively little
Do not want spousal support
Agree on how to split any property
To use the process, all of these must be true. If even one isn’t true, you cannot use the summary dissolution process.
If you don't qualify, you will need to follow the standard divorce process.
You meet the residency requirement
For married couples or domestic partnerships not registered in California
One of you must have lived in California for the last 6 months and in the county where you file for summary dissolution for the last 3 months.
Domestic partnerships registered in California
You do not need to meet the residency requirement. You can end your partnership in California even if neither of you lives in California.
You have been married or partners for less than 5 years
It’s been less than five years from the date you married or registered your partnership to the day you split up (called your date of separation).
You do not have any children together
You do not have minor children (under 18) together, born or adopted
Neither of you is pregnant
You do not own or lease real estate
You do not own or lease a house, land, or any other building.
Together you owe less than $6,000
This just counts what you owe from when you married to the day you split up. Exclude any car loans in this count.
You have less than $47,000 together and separately
Property from during your marriage (community property)
The property you and your spouse own together is worth less than $47,000
Property is things like money (cash or in a bank) and items you own, like furniture
Do not count the value of any cars
You can use this worksheet to help you figure this out
Property from before you married (separate property)
You each have property worth less than $47,000 from before you married or after you separated
This also includes things you inherited or were a gift to just one of you
You can use this worksheet to help you figure this out
Don't forget about retirement accounts.
The property includes your retirement plan, like a 401k or a pension. These can have a high value.
Community property: What you own or owe together during your marriage
Separate property: What you each own or owe individually from before you married or after you separated, and any gifts or inheritance
Community or separate? You need to know your date of separation
You need to know when you married and when you separated to figure out what's separate property and what's community property. The day of your marriage is generally easy to figure out. Separation can be trickier.
Date of separation:
The day that one of you let the other one know (by actions or words) that they wanted to end your marriage
After that day, your or their actions were consistent with wanting to end your marriage
For some people, this is the day they moved out. For others, this is a day the two spouses agreed together that their marriage was over, and they made plans to divorce. Generally, from that day forward, what you or your spouse earned or loans you took out were no longer community property.
How to tell when something is community property
Generally, this is what either of you earned (or debt you took out) after you married, but before you separated. The “community” is you and your spouse. The property belongs to you both equally.
Community property is:
Anything you earned while married
Anything you bought with money you earned while married
Debt you take on while married
The property you didn’t earn, like a gift or inheritance one of you received while married, is not community property.
You may have more community property than you realize. Many people don’t think about retirement or pension plans. You have the right to part of the money in that plan if any of it was earned during your marriage.
You may have more community debts than you realize. Your spouse may have debt in his or her own name that you don’t know about. Usually, these debts belong to you both.
How to tell when something is separate property
Generally, separate property is:
Anything you earned or owned (or a debt) from before you married or after you separated
Anything you buy with separate property or you earn from separate property
Gifts or inheritance (to one of you) even if it was given or inherited when you were married
If you have separate property, it belongs only to you, as long as it was kept separately. Kept it separately means you didn’t give it to your spouse.
Sometimes property is part community and part separate
Property can be part community and part separate. This is called commingling. This just means that separate property and community property got mixed together.
This often happens with big purchases, retirement plans, and bank accounts.
How to divide your property and debts
In general, after a divorce, a judge would order that you:
Keep your separate property
Divide your community property equally
You and your spouse can agree to something different if you both think it’s fair. But, if you do not agree that’s usually how a judge may divide your property.