Summary Dissolution: The Quick Answer to Divorce Woes?
Most people think of divorce as a long contentious process. The image of a
husband and wife bickering back and forth, arguing over every last detail
for months, is one TV and movies have pounded into our collective mind.
It’s true, divorce can be mean, nasty, and riddled with conflict. But it isn’t
always. In certain cases, if a couple meets a specific set of criteria, it’s
possible to get a quick, easy divorce in California. This is called a summary
Only an option in particular circumstances, not everyone can get a summary dissolution.
Most people will have to go through the normal steps. To qualify, you have to check off a
number of boxes relating to the length of your marriage, debt, assets, children, and more.
But if you meet the requirements, and if you and your spouse are generally on the same
page, this may be a way to shorten and streamline the divorce process.
Length of Marriage: As mentioned earlier, not every union qualifies for
summary dissolution. This is intended only for shorter marriages. In fact,
if you have been married for more than five years, you will have to go the
more traditional divorce route. However, if it’s been less than five years
from the day of your wedding to the date of your separation, this may be
Children: If there are children involved, summary dissolution is not a possibility in your case.
This includes both biological offspring as well as adopted children. If you have one on the
way, that also disqualifies you from following this path.
Land or Buildings: Ownership of any land or buildings, even in part,
puts summary dissolution out of reach. This also includes any lands or
buildings that you and your spouse rent together, outside of your
home, so long as you don’t have a one-year lease or option to
If you bought a house together, you’ll have to take a different route.
Debt: California is a community property state, where all property acquired during a
marriage is viewed as belonging equally to both parties. This also includes debt, often
community obligations. If these shared debts total more than $6,000, excluding car loans,
don’t qualify for summary dissolution. This can include everything from student loans and
credit card debt to medical bills and financed furniture.
Shared Property: Again excluding cars, if the community property
acquired during a marriage doesn’t exceed $41,000, you may qualify
summary dissolution. In addition to savings and checking accounts, this
amount can include just about anything. Jewelry, furniture, and even
figure into this amount. As do life insurance, joint or individual pension
plans, and savings bonds. If you have season tickets to the Chargers or
Padres, that can count towards this total as well.
Separate Property: $41,000 is also the magic number when it comes to separate property.
This includes stocks, savings, and pension plans acquired outside of the marriage.
Any pension benefits accrued after the separation also fit into this category. As does the
market value of items like jewelry, televisions, furniture, cameras, and more. If either party
exceeds $41,000 in separate property, summary dissolution is off the table. Again, this
not include cars.
Spousal Support: In many divorces, spousal support may be ordered,
either temporarily or indefinitely, to help your ex meet financial needs.
In order to qualify for a summary dissolution, however, you and your
spouse must agree that neither one of you will ever get alimony.
Residency Requirements: There are also residency requirements to qualify for summary
dissolution. Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least the past six
months. Beyond that, you must have lived in the county in which you file for at least three
months. These are general rules for any divorce in the Golden State, but they also apply in
If your case matches these requirements, you can proceed with your
summary dissolution. From here, it’s a fairly straightforward task. First,
you must determine the correct court in which to file, based on which
county or counties where you and your spouse reside.
In addition to any forms the local court requires of you, there are a number of documents you
and your spouse must fill out and file for summary dissolution. Chief among these are the
Joint Petition for the Dissolution of Marriage and the Judgment of Dissolution and Notice of
Entry of Judgment form.
After all of the worksheets are filled out, the financial information
exchanged, forms filed in the appropriate court, and fees paid, you will
receive your divorce judgment ending your marriage.
A summary dissolution is one way to simplify and streamline the divorce process. If you and
your spouse are on the same page and can work together, and if you meet the criteria, this
may be an option worth exploring. In relatively simple cases where there is little to argue over
or fight about, it can be a quick and easy way for you and your spouse to dissolve your
marriage and move on with your lives.
If you have any questions about your case, contact Goldberg Jones at our
San Diego offices. We’ll be happy to discuss your situation.