Summary Dissolution FAQs

Summary Dissolution FAQs

The divorce process can seem overwhelming. The thought of filing for divorce and going to trial keeps many people in marriages they wish they could end. However, for couples who have been married for less than five years, the divorce process might not be as complicated as they assume. 

Registered domestic partners and married couples may choose a summary dissolution to end their marriage legally. Summary dissolutions are generally quicker, easier, and less costly than a regular divorce. If you are interested in a summary dissolution, you can contact our law firm to talk with one of our divorce lawyers. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Summary Dissolutions

Below are answers to many of the most frequently asked questions about summary dissolutions in California.

What Is a Summary Dissolution?

A summary dissolution is a shortened version of the divorce process. The parties are not required to fill out as much paperwork or appear in court for trial. However, there are several requirements the parties must meet to be eligible for a summary dissolution.

What Are the Requirements for a Summary Dissolution?

To qualify for a summary dissolution, married couples and individuals in domestic partnerships must meet the following requirements:

  • You have been married for less than five years
  • You and your spouse do not have any children together that were born or adopted before or during the marriage
  • You are not pregnant now
  • You do not rent any building or land other than where you live
  • You do not own any real estate or buildings
  • Other than car loans, you do not owe more than $6,000 for debts acquired since you were married
  • Other than motor vehicles, the value of property acquired since you were married (community property) is less than $45,000
  • The total of separate property does not exceed $45,000, not counting your cars
  • Neither party is seeking spousal support
  • Both spouses have signed an agreement that divides all property and debts
  • At least one spouse has lived in California for at least six months and in the county where the summary dissolution is filed for at least three months

There is an exception to the residency requirement for same-sex couples. If a same-sex couple were married in California but live in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, the couple can file in the county in which they were married regardless of residency. 

How Much Does it Cost To File a Summary Dissolution?

The filing fee for a Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution is $435. You pay the filing fee when you file the paperwork with the court.

Individuals who receive public benefits or have low incomes may not be required to pay the filing fee. However, some couples might qualify for a fee waiver. You must complete a Request to Waive Court Fees form and submit it to the court. 

How Long Does it Take To Complete a Summary Dissolution?

Your divorce is finalized six months and one day after you submit all required paperwork for a summary dissolution. California has a mandatory six-month waiting period before your divorce can be completed. 

If either spouse changes their mind during the six-month waiting period, they can file a Notice of Revocation of Petition for Summary Dissolution. The other spouse would be forced to file a petition for divorce if they still want a divorce. 

How Do I File for a Summary Dissolution?

First, you need to read the court’s booklet explaining summary dissolution. The information in the booklet helps you complete and file your paperwork. You are required to swear under penalty of perjury that you read and understand this booklet when you file your summary dissolution paperwork.

You must file in the county of your residence. For example, for individuals living in San Diego for at least three months, it would be San Diego County. You can use the court’s guide to locate where to file your divorce

A Joint Petition for Summary Dissolution must be prepared and signed by both spouses. Other forms that you must complete and file with the court include:

  • Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment
  • Income and Expense Declaration
  • The worksheets from the booklet or a Declaration of Disclosure, Schedule of Assets and Debts, or a Property Declaration
  • Property Agreement 

Some courts may have local forms that you must complete. You can check with the local Clerk of Court’s Office for local forms. The spouses must also exchange tax returns and financial information.

At this point, you may want a family law facilitator to review the forms before you file them with the court. Having your documents reviewed before filing can save you time and trouble by catching and correcting mistakes before the court has the forms. 

When you file the forms with the court, you might receive the Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment, or it might be mailed to you at a later date. In either case, your divorce is not final until six months after you filed the case. You cannot get remarried until after the effective date of your Judgment of Petition for Summary Dissolution. 

Is a Summary Dissolution Right for Me?

Even if you meet all of the requirements for a summary dissolution, it does not mean that a summary dissolution is the best process for you to take to end your marriage. If you suspect that your spouse may be concealing assets, you should seek legal advice before proceeding with a summary dissolution. 

Another reason to seek legal advice would be if you cannot support yourself after the divorce. You could be entitled to spousal maintenance while you obtain training or education to get a job. 

Suppose your spouse alleges that the property you acquired during the marriage is not subject to property division. In that case, it is another reason to seek legal advice before you agree to dissolve your marriage or file for a legal separation.

Should I Hire an Attorney To File a Summary Dissolution?

While you are not legally required to hire a lawyer to file a summary dissolution, it is wise to seek legal counsel before making decisions that could significantly impact your future. 

Situations and factors that indicate you need to seek legal advice about divorce include:

  • Situations involving domestic violence
  • Your spouse is concealing assets
  • You and your partner cannot agree on how to divide property
  • Your partner has substantial debts 
  • Your spouse pressures you to give false information to the court

Summary dissolutions are intended for shorter marriages with very few assets or debts. If your situation does not fit nicely into the strict requirements for a summary dissolution, it is best to seek legal advice before proceeding with court action. 

Contact Our San Diego Divorce Lawyers for a Consultation 

If you are unsure whether a summary dissolution is right for you, contact San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC for a complimentary consultation. An experienced California divorce attorney will discuss your situation with you and explain your options for a divorce. Weighing the pros and cons of all divorce options with an attorney can help you avoid costly mistakes.