How To File a Divorce in California

This advice is limited to how to file a divorce in California if your divorce is uncontested.  Uncontested divorce simply means that neither you nor your spouse/partner will be disputing legally any issue in the divorce or the divorce itself.

Uncontested divorces are about 80% of all California divorces.

If you technically have an uncontested divorce but your divorce contains complex legal issues, you have a very high net marital estate value (you’re rich) or your case involves domestic violence or the threat of domestic violence, you should not follow the advice contained in this article.

Instead you should hire a California certified family law specialist lawyer on a full representation basis. That may not be welcome advice, but we assure you that it is wise advice. You will not be disappointed if you follow it.

So if this advice does not apply to your divorce, call or contact 1-800-DIVORCE.

7 Best California Divorce Buying Tips

Below are the 7 best California divorce buying tips NetDivorce can offer you as a divorce consumer in an uncontested divorce.  This is essentially advising you how to file a divorce in California.

These 7 best California divorce buying tips are based on the foundation that online divorce is a wise choice for an uncontested divorce.

These California divorce buying tips are designed to get your California divorce papers prepared and filed without you getting cheated or having your divorce screwed up.

Whether you hire NetDivorce to handle your uncontested California divorce or not, these are useful factors to consider together with some things to avoid in determining how to file a divorce in California.

We have kept these tips as short as possible, but many of them are included in greater detail in other blog posts listed in the menu at the bottom of this page.

Forget Face-Time:

This is particularly true during C-19, but it has been true in uncontested divorce since about 2000.

Face-time is expensive when it comes to uncontested divorce form preparation. Do you really need to sit across a desk from your uncontested divorce provider?  If you do, that’s fine, but face-time is the major cost differential between online uncontested divorce providers like NetDivorce (NetDivorce: $129) and traditional “bricks and mortar” paralegals ($500-$800) where you can go into an office.

If you can avoid face-time, you will save hundreds in cost AND avoid an embarrassing interview about your personal life with someone you’ve never met before.

Don’t Pay Someone To Stand in Line at the Court To File Your Case.

This is good advice on literally how to file a divorce in California. It costs $50-75 per physical over-the-counter filing, depending on the court location, and you have to do it at least twice in most cases.

Like face-time, filing is a major cost differential between “bricks and mortar” paralegals, who pad their fee by insisting upon filing your case at court themselves, whether you want it or not, and online providers, who don’t include filing in their base fee.

File your divorce docs yourself or get your mom, sister or friend to do it for you.  Any adult can file in person for you.  It’s easy. If you use NetDivorce, we tell you how and where to file.

This saves you another $100-$150 off the main-street paralegal price of $500-800 for a simple uncontested divorce.

If you just can’t make it to the court when it is open and you ‘d rather not involve anyone else, or if you just don’t want to go anywhere near the court, relax. NetDivorce has court filers standing by at $50-70 per filing. But you will be doubling your divorce expense.

Additionally, at this writing, 26 of the 58 California counties now offer e-filing.  NetDivorce has e-filers standing by at approximately $10 per filing.

Don’t Ever Hire an Online Divorce Provider Outside the United States

This is probably our strongest divorce buying tip on how to file a divorce in California. It may seem obvious, but many California divorce consumers continue to be tricked in this way.

Many online divorce providers are outside the US – mostly in India, Ukraine, Czech Republic or Mexico.

If you hire within the US and you develop any kind of competence or fraud problem, you can immediately tell the provider as an ultimate threat that you will be contacting the consumer fraud division of your local District Attorney’s office.  You can do this if you encounter unprofessional or likely fraudulent practices from your non-lawyer US-based divorce provider, whether online or “bricks and mortar.” 

Online providers that are outside the US are well beyond the reach of your local DA or even the FBI. Those providers don’t care about such threats because they don’t have to.

Don’t Download Blank Divorce Documents

Don’t download free divorce papers from any site other than the site of the California Judicial Council or one of the Superior Courts. These sites are the only ones guaranteed to have the current up-to-date forms. And they’re free!

And you don’t have to give up your email address to get them.  

BTW, you would only want to download blank forms if you wish to suffer the extreme frustration of trying to figure out how to prepare your own divorce papers yourself. This is NOT how to file a divorce in California.

Some folks insist on that frustration as a method of saving money.  It is possible to figure it out yourself, but it will take weeks and many rejections of your docs from the court.

If you value your time at a very low level, you could save money. See our article on the false economy of DIY in California divorce.

If you’re just wanting to download California divorce papers free but don’t intend to pursue the false economy of DIY, that’s fine.  It’s good to familiarize yourself with the docs in advance of hiring someone. See the next divorce buying tip.

Don’t Download For Free or Pay $10-$30 For An Online Divorce Forms “Kit.”

This is again not how to file a divorce in California. The forms are free from the California Judicial Council website or from local county Superior Court websites.

The alleged “instructions” that come with such kits from other sites are very thin and will not even come close to telling you what you need to do to get your specific personal case filed and completed.

NetDivorce does not provide or sell a divorce “kit.” NetDivorce prepares customized online California divorce papers using your personal information. NetDivorce forms are completed forms that are ready to be filed at court or served upon your spouse.

Online Divorce “Kit” Providers Are Just Lead-Generators For Lawyers.

They sell you (or sometimes give you) the “kit,” with very thin, un-personalized instructions, knowing that you will need far more specific personalized instruction than they could possibly provide.

They know you will get confused by their kit. They have your email address for follow-up. 

They have already sold your zip code to one or more lawyers.

Lawyers are forbidden from soliciting your business directly, unless they buy the lead from a lead generator, but kit providers are not lawyers. They can bombard you with emails or just sit back and wait for you to contact them after you’ve realized their “written instructions” are crap and won’t work. 

Then they “rescue” you by referring you to the next lawyer up in your zip code. You will then be pressured into over-paying a traditional full-representation lawyer you do not need.

Don’t Disclose Any Personal  Information To An Online Divorce  Provider Until You Have Hired Them

The newest online divorce trap is from sites that offer “free divorce documents – no credit card required” or something similar. It is true that you get one single free document without a credit card, but that single document will not get your case filed or completed. 

You need many more completed documents to do that and these sites don’t even offer a divorce papers preparation service. And by the time you have gotten your single free document, you’ve already filled in an online interview providing all of your personal marriage info to a Google-affiliated company (in the case of the one dominant website using this trap – Rocket Lawyer) without the benefit of any contract to protect you. 

There is nothing free!  These sites are selling pre-paid legal services plans at either $20 or $50 per month on credit card auto-billing and those plans don’t include divorce.

They count on you feeling that you are already committed to them, because you’ve already completed their interview and provided a lot of personal data, and assuming that the legal services plan will cover divorce.  It doesn’t.

Though you can hire a lawyer through them at either a 40% discount on the lawyer’s “regular” fee or $125 per hour, whichever is greater.

If you want to get divorce papers prepared, make sure the site you’re looking at provides that service.  If it’s unclear, call them and ask before you click any button that says anything like, “Claim Your Free Form.” 

And whatever you do, don’t begin an online interview unless you have paid the site so that you have a provable contract with them to protect you if things go wrong.


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