Summary Dissolution

One of the main gripes I hear from clients, aside from complaints about their former spouse, is how lengthy the divorce process is. There is one procedure many do not know about, which may allow for a quicker and even more economical dissolution process. This procedure is Summary Dissolution.

Summary Dissolution is a relatively straightforward and cheaper way to dissolve a marriage. Unfortunately, it is only available for certain parties under specific circumstances.

First, the couple must meet “jurisdictional requirements.” This means the court must have “jurisdiction” over the couple, their property, etc. In order to meet this requirement, either one of the parties must have been a resident of the state of California for at least 6 months, and a resident of the county where the Petition is being filed, for at least 3 months.

Next, the couple must have been married for no more than five years and have no children together, born before or during their marriage. This also includes parties who have adopted a child. Additionally, the wife, must not be not pregnant at the time of filing the petition.

The next requirement is couple must not have any interest in real property. An exception to this, is they may have a short-term lease for a residence. If the parties do have a residential lease, it must not contain an “option to purchase” clause. This would disqualify them from Summary Dissolution.

With exception to debt incurred as a result of purchasing an automobile, the parties’ marital debt must not be in excess of $6,000. Alternatively, the total fair market value of the parties’ community property assets must be less than $40,000. This includes, bank accounts, deferred compensation and retirement plans, stocks, bonds, etc.

San Diego Summary Dissolution

If you meet all of these requirements, you may choose to proceed with Summary Dissolution. So, you qualify, what now?

  1. Go to your local court website. If you reside in San Diego, the link is http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-summarydissolution.htm. Here, you may obtain a copy of the “Summary Dissolution Information” booklet. This booklet explains all of the applicable law and provides a step-by-step guide for how to proceed.
  2. Carefully read the “Summary Dissolution Information” booklet.
  3. Gather relevant documents.
  4. Fill out worksheets. After each party reads the booklet, each will use the worksheets provided to enter into a property settlement agreement. This agreement will identify how the couple is dividing their community assets and debts, as well as include any documents, or other evidence necessary, to effectuate any property transfers. [Note: The “Summary Dissolution Information” booklet contains a model property settlement agreement. However, it should be cautioned, the model may not be appropriate for all summary dissolutions, and it may be wise for parties to consult with an attorney.]
  5. Exchange Declarations of Disclosure. Parties to a dissolution are required by statute to exchange detailed property and income information. For a summary dissolution, the parties must complete and exchange Income and Expense Declarations, form FL-150, and complete and exchange copies of the worksheets attached to the Information booklet. These documents are available for free on the court’s website.
  6. Prepare and Execute the Joint Petition. Both parties must sign the Petition, under oath.
  7. File the Petition. Bring the original Petition and 2 copies to the courthouse located in your county of residence. To determine the appropriate courthouse, visit your local superior court website. Be aware, there will be a filing fee. In some cases, the parties may qualify for a fee waiver. To determine the appropriate filing fee, or if you qualify for a fee waiver, visit your local court website.
  8. At the time of filing, the parties must also file a Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of Entry of Judgment, form FL-825, and a Family Law Certificate of Assignment, SDSC– D#49. Whomever is the filing party, shall also be sure to include 2 copies, and 2 stamped self-addressed envelopes, one addressed to each party.
  9. The Court will process the judgment, and return a copy of the Dissolution packet to each party, in the envelopes provided.

It is important to note, in every case, the California court system imposes a 6-month waiting period, or a “cooling off period.” The purpose is to allow time for the couple to reconcile, if possible, and to determine if dissolving their marriage is truly the path they wish to take. The period begins once the Petition is filed and has been properly served on the opposing party.

Unfortunately, the date the couple actually ended their relationship, will not have any effect on when this waiting period begins. This may be hard to understand for couples who split-up years ago, and are just now filing. However, it is a mandatory period for all cases. This means, no matter what, the parties will not be returned to the status of “single persons” for at least 6 months following the filing/service date.

There are two very important differences between the Summary Dissolution process and the Regular Dissolution process. The first, and most important, is parties proceeding with a Summary Dissolution, irrevocably waive their right to any court hearing or trial. This also means, if either party at a later time become unhappy with the outcome, they will not have the right to appeal to a higher court. Last, by proceeding through a Summary Dissolution, the parties waive any rights they may have to spousal support.

The process of dissolving a marriage can be tedious, time consuming, and overwhelming. While the forms for a summary dissolution are fairly straight-forward, it is always a good idea to have an attorney’s help in preparing or reviewing the documents prior to filing with the Court. Contact Cage & Miles, LLP for further information and assistance.

The contents of this website are provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

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