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Divorce or Separation

Family Law Self-Help

To end a marriage or registered domestic partnership in California you must either file for a divorce or an annulment. Once completed it restores the parties to single status.

A legal separation is for couples who do not want to divorce but want to live apart. It does not end a marriage. You cannot remarry or enter in a domestic partnership if you are legally separated.

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A Dissolution of Marriage or Registered Domestic Partnership (Divorce) is a legal action that ends marriage or a registered domestic partnership.

  • Residency Requirement - To obtain a divorce in California you or your spouse or partner must have lived in California for the last six months and have lived for the last three months in the county where you file for divorce.

  • No "Fault" Required - No one has to prove that either spouse or partner is "guilty" or "innocent".

  • It is not necessary that both persons agree to end the relationship. One spouse or partner cannot make the other stay in a relationship.

  • It takes a minimum of six months from the date of the divorce papers are served (given) to the other party before a divorce can be final. However, you are not automatically divorced at the end of six months. At least one spouse or partner must complete the required legal process and obtain a written judgment.

  • More information on dissolutions (external site )

  • Take a Dissolution Workshop - Check the Self Help Legal Services Events and Workshop calendar. 

  • Form Packets

  • Divorce Road Map (pdf )
  • Mandatory Settlement Conference
  • Case Status Conferences

A Legal Separation is a legal action filed by a married person or domestic partner who wants to stay married or in the domestic partnership, but also wants to resolve all other issues, such as child custody, child and spousal support and property division.

A Nullity of Marriage or Domestic Partnership (Annulment) is a legal action to determine that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. An annulment restores the parties to the status of single persons, as though they were never married.

This action can be used by a married couple to end the marriage. This action is very limited and can only be used by a married couple which meets the following requirements:

  1. The parties have been married less than five (5) years as of the date the action is filed.
  2. There are no children together born before or during the marriage, including by adoption, and the wife to her knowledge, is not pregnant as of the date the action is filed.
  3. Neither party has any interest/ownership in real estate.

The married couple jointly signs the necessary paperwork and the originals are filed with the Court. After waiting six (6) months, either party can file the document requesting that the marriage be ended.

Domestic partners are defined as "two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in a intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring."

To end a Domestic Partnership you may file a Petition for Dissolution, Legal Separation, or Nullity.

Spousal Support is the legal obligation to contribute to the economic maintenance of his or her spouse after a dissolution, legal separation or nullity of a marriage or domestic partnership. When a couple legally separates or divorces, the court may order one spouse or domestic partner to pay the other a certain amount of support money each month. This is called ‘spousal support’ for married couples and ‘partner support’ in domestic partnerships. It is sometimes also called ‘alimony’.

For more information visit the California Court's Self Help site (external site ).

Family Law Facilitators are attorneys with experience in family law matters and who provide free assistance to unrepresented litigants regarding petitions, responses, Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) questions, child and spousal support calculations, motions, and general family law questions. Facilitators can help you in preparing your forms and can give you general information, but they cannot go with you to court.



The Family Law Facilitator is not your lawyer, but a neutral person who does not represent any party. There is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Facilitator. Communications between you and the Facilitator are not confidential. You should consult with your own attorney if you want personalized legal advice or strategy, have a confidential conversation, or be represented by an attorney in court.

The Family Law facilitator is not responsible for the outcome of your case.

Facilitators are available to meet with litigants on a first come, first served basis, during regular hours at various courthouses throughout Riverside County.

While visiting the Riverside Superior Court’s Family Law Facilitator offices/Self Help Centers, it is recommended that your children be left with an appropriate child care provider or family member. If you are unable to find care for your children, you may bring them. However, if your children become disruptive while you are at the Family Law Facilitators Office or Self Help Center, you may be asked to leave. Note: Children are not allowed in workshops. Please plan to attend a workshop on a day and time when you have care available for them.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are beginning a family law case you will be required to attend a workshop before meeting individually with a Facilitator.