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Start Case - Divorce, Legal Separation or Nullity

Also for: Dissolution, Legal Separation or Nullity

Introduction

What's the difference?  If you are unsure about whether you want to request a dissolution of marriage, legal separation or nullity then, you may need additional information about the difference between these options.  Click the What's the difference? link above for more detailed information about each option.

In order to file a Dissolution of Marriage (divorce) case in San Luis Obispo County, at least one of the parties must have resided in the State of California for the last 6 months and in the County of San Luis Obisop for the last 3 months.

Sample Forms

You may view the Overview for Petitioner & Sample Forms.

Forms Needed

You must complete the following forms to start case.  There are additional attachments that you may use as well.  The forms are found at www.courts.ca.gov.  You may click on the form links provided to print out the forms needed.  You may also complete these forms on your computer or print in blue or black ink.

  • FL-110 Summons
  • FL-100 (for Marriages) or FL-103 (for Domestic Partnerships) Petition
  • FL-160 Separate Property Declaration (staple to FL-100)
  • FL-160 Community Property Declaration (staple to FL-100)
  • FL-311 Child Custody and Visitation Application Attachment* (staple to FL-100)
  • FL-105 Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act*
  • FL013 Statement of Venue
  • FL-150 Income and Expense Declaration with last 2 months of payroll stubs
  • FL-140 Declaration of Disclosure

* Complete FL-311 and FL-105 only if there are minor children of the marriage.

If you cannot afford to pay the $435 filing fee you will also need to complete the fee waiver forms below. If you do not qualify for a fee waiver, you must bring money to pay the filing fee.

Make Copies

Once the necessary forms are completed you should two hole-punch each original at the top and make two copies of the completed originals; one for you and one for the other party.  The originals are for the Court to keep.

If you would like the Self-Help Center / Family Law Facilitator's Office to review your forms before you file, then do not make copies until after the Center has reviewed your documents.

File Papers

Take to the Family Law Clerk's Office the completed originals and 2 copies including FL-110, FL-100, FL-160s, FL-311, FL-105, FL013 and FL-150 and if you are requesting a fee waiver FW-001 and FW-003.  Do not file the original FL-140.  Also do not file the ownership papers and account statements mentioned in the FL-160 Property Declarations.  For more information on where the courthouses are located, see our map.

The Family Law Clerk will assign a case number, file your originals and return the filed stamped copies to you. Your case number will be given to you at the time you file your case. Your case number will begin with FL and be followed by a series of numbers.

Deliver Papers

The other party must receive:

  • A copy of all the completed legal papers mentioned above (except fee waiver)
  • All ownership papers and account statements mentioned in the FL-160 Propery Declarations
  • Notice of Case Assignment (court clerk will give to you when you file)
  • Blank FL-120 (for Marriages) or FL-123 (for Domestic Partnerships) Response
  • Blank FL-140  Declaration of Disclosure
  • Blank FL-150  Income and Expense Declaration
  • Blank FL-160 Property Declaration
  • Blank FL-105 Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act* (only if minor children)

The person giving the other party these papers cannot be you and must be 18 years or older. The person giving the other party these papers could be a friend, relative, private process server or the Sheriff's Department. This is called "personal service".  It will be important to write down the date, time and address of when and where the documents were delivered.

If the other party won't take the papers, then the papers may be left at their feet.

Complete FL-115 Proof of Service

FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons:  The person who gives the legal documents to the other party must sign and complete the  FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons and return it to you.  Do not give the other party the original FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons.  You should make a copy of the FL-115 Proof of Service of Summons for your own records and file the original with the Court.

Wait 30 Days

Wait 30 days after the papers were given to the other party.  After the 30 days, you will be able to decide how to proceed with your case.  There are several options on how to proceed with your case, but which options are available to you may depend on whether the other party files a Response.  The other party has a minimum of 30 days from the date of service to file their Response.

If the other party files a Response, a copy of it should be mailed to you. To check that a Response was not filed you may go to the Clerk's Office at the Courthouse or call (805) 781-5706.

Attend Parenting Class

If there are minor children of the marriage, you must attend a class that deals with the impact of divorce and/or separation on children.  The name of the class is Children: The Challenge in Divorce.  There is a $30 fee for this class, however if you have a fee waiver order signed by the judge, the fee may be waived.  Advance registration is required so to register for the class please call Family Court Services at (805) 781-5423.  Please have your case number available when you call.  You may register for the class after you file your case.

Finish Case

There are many more forms that you must complete and file before your case is finalized.  You may proceed with your case in one of three different ways: Default, Uncontested or by Trial.  You or the other party must file additional documents in order for your case to be final.  The court will not contact you.

After you have completed the steps to start your case, you will need to finish your case.

Helpful Tips To Complete Forms

Petitioner & Respondent

If you are filing the Petition you will always be the Petitioner in this case and the other party will be called the Respondent.

Date of Separation

Date of separation is the date that in your mind you knew the marriage/domestic partnership was over and you did something to show that you no longer wanted to be together.

Separate Property

Separate property is any asset or debt that was purchased or incurred before your date of marriage/domestic partnership or after your date of separation and will be listed on your FL-160 Separate Property Declaration.

Community Property

Community property is any asset or debt that was purchased or incurred after your date of marriage/domestic partnership and before your date of separation and will be listed on your FL-160 Community Property Declaration.

Pension Retirement Plans

A pension can be more valuable than any other asset acquired during the marriage or domestic partnership, including a house. It may be worth more than all of the other assets put together.  There are very specific and technical rules that apply to pensions and you should get legal advice from a lawyer in order to protect your interest in the pension.  In some cases, a pension plan must be “joined” as a party in your divorce case before a judge will issue an order about how the pension will be divided. Read the Retirement Plan Joinder — Information Sheet (FL-318-INFO) for more information about whether the pension plan must be joined in your divorce case.  The court order that details how a pension will be divided is called a qualified domestic relations order, or QDRO. The QDRO must be approved by both the benefits provider and the judge to assure that the spouse/partner that is not the employee of the company or organization will receive those future benefits. A QDRO is an extremely complicated legal document and if you make a mistake, there can be harmful results.

Preliminary & Final Declaration of Disclosure

California law requires that you and your spouse give each other written information about all the income, expenses, assets and debts that you know to exist.  This act of revealing and making something known to the other person is called "disclosure."  Disclosure is required at the beginning of the case (Preliminary) and end of the case (Final).  Disclosure is intended to make sure that you and your spouse are aware of everything each of you own and owe.  With this information you can divide your assets and debts equally, and can make reasonable decisions about support. If you leave anything out, either by mistake or on purpose, your property division may not be accepted by the court and your case may be reopened or changed.

Legal Custody

Legal custody deals with the parents’ right to make the decisions relating to the child’s health, education and welfare. One or both parents can have legal custody. If both parents are making decisions about the child it is called joint legal custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody deals with the days and times that the child will spend with each parent. If the child primarily lives with one parent it is called physical custody. If you are requesting that both parents spend a substantial period of time with the child, it is called joint physical custody.

Visitation

Visitation is the time that the child spends with the parent who does not primarily live with.  There are several options to choose from when it comes to visitation, generally they are: (1) Reasonable Visitation (2) Specific Visitation Schedule and (3) Supervised Visitation.  Reasonable visitation does not define the days and times that each parent will have physical custody of the child. A reasonable visitation court order usually works when both parents are in agreement about the time share that each is to have with the child. A specific visitation schedule defines the days and times that each parent will have physical custody of the child. A specific visitation schedule may be necessary for parents who have a difficult time agreeing on the days and times that each parent will spend with the child. Supervised Visitation requires that a responsible adult be present during any visitation times with the child. A supervised visitation order may be necessary if there are reasonable concerns that a parent may harm the child if left alone.  You may request a non-professional or professional supervisor.  Click here for more information on Supervised Visitation.

Child Support

To determine the amount of guideline child support that the Court may order in your case, visit www.childsup.ca.gov and click on Calculate Child Support.

Notice of Related Cases

If another cases exists that involves the same parties and issues like child custody, support or restraining orders then a Notice of Related Case should be filed.