Ultimate Guide to Divorce Filing in San Diego

How to file for divorce in San Diego guide by San Diego Chula Vista Carlsbad divorce mediator attorney

Filing for Divorce in San Diego

Divorce can be a complex legal process, particularly in a diverse and populous county like San Diego. If you’re considering filing for divorce in San Diego, California, understanding the specific steps and requirements is crucial for a smooth process. This comprehensive guide, spanning over 500 words, will walk you through the essential steps of filing for divorce in San Diego, highlighting key considerations and potential challenges.

Understanding the Divorce Process in San Diego

The divorce process typically involves filing a petition with the court, serving the other party, disclosure of financial information, negotiation or settlement, and eventually, a court trial if an agreement cannot be reached.

The timeframe of a divorce depends on the spouses involved. A Judgment of Dissolution can be submitted to the Court as soon as 31 days after the date of service of the Petition which means that the case can be resolved in a matter of months. Dissolution cases may also take significantly longer if there is no cooperation between the parties.

California’s No-Fault Divorce Law

San Diego, adhering to California state laws, follows a no-fault divorce system. This means you can file for divorce without needing to prove wrongdoing by your spouse. The main reason for divorce in San Diego is ‘irreconcilable differences.’ This means that the couple can’t get along, which causes the marriage to end.

When completing the FL-100 form known as the Petition, you will be asked to state the reason for divorce and one of the options provided is ‘irreconcilable differences’ among others. This is a catchall appropriate for the vast majority of divorce filings in San Diego.

Meeting Residency Requirements

Before filing for divorce in San Diego, you must meet certain residency requirements. Either you or your spouse must have been a California resident for at least six months and a resident of San Diego County for at least three months prior to filing for divorce.This requirement is crucial for the San Diego courts to have jurisdiction over your case.

Preparing Your Divorce Petition

To start the divorce case process, you must fill out and submit the required forms to the court. These forms include the Petition for Divorce (Form FL-100) and the Summons (Form FL-110). They explain the reasons for divorce and any temporary orders needed. In San Diego, you can find these forms online or at the courthouse.

Here are the four courthouses serving San Diego County:
North County Superior Court located at 325 South Melrose Drive, Vista, CA 92081.
Central Courthouse located at 1100 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101
East County Courthouse 
South County Courthouse

Filing Your Divorce Petition in San Diego

Once you’ve filled out your forms, file them with the clerk of the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego. This step involves paying a filing fee, which varies but is generally around $435. If you cannot afford the fee, you can request a fee waiver. Keep copies of all filed documents for your records.

For help with how to file for divorce in San Diego, our divorce paralegals near me can assist with divorce papers preparation and court filings.

Serving the Divorce Papers

After filing, you need to serve the divorce papers to your spouse, a legal requirement known as ‘service of process.’ In San Diego, this can be done by anyone over the age of 18, except yourself. Once your spouse is served, they have 30 days to respond.

In an uncontested divorce case where the parties are willing to work collaboratively to reach a divorce settlement, the Response is not necessarily a requirement. In a contested case, the Response must be filed by the Respondent. In this contested scenario, a failure to respond may allow you to proceed with a default divorce.

Financial Disclosure

Both you and your spouse are required to complete financial disclosures, detailing all assets, debts, income, and expenses. This step is essential for fair property division and appropriate determination of support obligations. In San Diego, these disclosures must be exchanged within 60 days of filing the petition.

Reaching an Agreement or Going to Court

If you and your spouse agree on the divorce terms, you can have a mediator or attorney draft a marital settlement agreement. If you cannot agree, you may need to go to court, where a judge will decide. San Diego offers mediation services to help couples resolve disputes before going to court.

Child Custody and Support in San Diego Divorces

Child custody and support arrangements are among the most critical issues in divorce cases involving minor children. In San Diego, child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child, taking into account factors such as parental relationships, child preferences, and the ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment.

Parents may agree on custody arrangements through mediation or court hearings, or the court may make decisions if the parties cannot reach an agreement.

Child support in California is calculated based on statewide guidelines that consider factors such as each parent’s income, number of children, and custody arrangements.

Finalizing Your Divorce

In San Diego, as in the rest of California, there is a mandatory six-month waiting period from the date your spouse is served until your divorce can be finalized. However, many mediated settlements are submitted to the court one or two months after the date of service. In these cases, a judgment of dissolution can be entered before the six months.

The six month rule in these cases means that your marital status cannot terminate until after 6 months. But the agreement can be reached and the judge can sign off on that agreement beforehand.


Filing for divorce in San Diego requires careful consideration of California’s divorce laws, adherence to procedural requirements, and attention to detail, especially regarding financial disclosures and child custody arrangements. While self-representation is a viable option, the complexities of divorce law and the potential for costly mistakes make seeking legal advice or representation advisable for most individuals.

Learn more about San Diego Divorce Mediation & Family Law mediation services by calling (858) 255-1321 to schedule a free consultation.