California Family Code Section 2320 requires that one of the parties to a dissolution of marriage must have lived in the state for at least six months and in the particular county where the dissolution will be filed for at least three months prior to the filing of the action. Additionally, the state requires that parties must wait a minimum of six months after service of the Petition and Summons to actually become divorced (often called the “cooling off” period).
This sometimes causes a problem for a party who wants to file for divorce immediately, but doesn’t meet the state’s residency requirements. Not only might the party have to wait for six months to meet the residency requirements, but then would have to wait for at least another six months to become divorced.
That’s where California Family Code Section 2321 comes into play. This section permits a party to file a Petition for Legal Separation (which has no residency requirements), and then afterwards amend that filing to a Petition
for Dissolution of Marriage once the residency requirements have been met.
In this situation, the date of the amended Petition is used to satisfy the residency requirement, but the dissolution can proceed forward as if the original Petition for Legal Separation had been a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage instead. In other words, the party could conceivably save up to six months over waiting to satisfy the residency requirements before filing for dissolution in the first place.
Obtaining a divorce in California can frequently take much longer than six months. Depending on the circumstances in a particular case, it is possible for a divorce to take 12, 18 or even 24 months to be finalized. Although there is a way to terminate a marriage prior to the resolution of all the divorce issues (called “bifurcation” and termination of status), many times it may not be cost-effective given the requirements under the Family Code. A competent Family Law attorney can help walk you through the complexities of your case and give you an understanding of what will be required to obtain your divorce.
For more information about California family law and divorce issues, please contact attorney Gary D. Sparks.