Divorce can be a challenge. Don’t go into it blindly.

At Mendes Weed, LLP, we want you to know what to expect and how to endure the hurdles, legal and emotional, that you will go through.

We have been assisting clients in Contra Costa County with family law matters such as divorce, child custody, child support, non-court ordered mediation, spousal support, and domestic violence restraining orders, and we can help you as well.

To begin understanding, here are some of the basics of divorce in California:

California Divorce

Under California Family Code section 2310, there are only two legal bases available for divorce in California. The first and, by far, the most common of the two is “irreconcilable differences” causing the irreparable breakdown of the marriage.  The second is “incurable insanity.”

In order to file for divorce in California, at least one party must have lived in California for the last 6 months.  In addition, one party must have resided in the county where they plan to file the divorce for the last 3 months (California Family Code section 2320).  More help determining if you meet the residency requirements to file for divorce may be found at the  Judicial Branch of California, Divorce and Separation at the California Courts website.

Once preliminary divorce paperwork has been filed with the Court, there is a mandatory 6-month waiting period before your divorce may become final.

In California, it is possible to conduct a do-it-yourself divorce, but if you have substantial assets, complex assets, like a business or rental property, or if you have children, there could be pitfalls. In these cases, a consultation or representation from a good divorce attorney can be beneficial.

First, the basics:

  • To get a divorce in California you must have lived in California for at least 6 months.
  • To get a divorce in Contra Costa County, you have been a resident for at least 3 months.
  • Starting a divorce begins with filing a petition that involves completing two forms.

Considering a divorce? Start with our checklist.

Legal Separation

A legal separation will not operate to end a marriage or domestic partnership. Unlike divorce or dissolution, in cases of a legal separation, the marriage or domestic partnership remains unbroken, prohibiting the parties from remarriage or entering a new domestic partnership. Legal separation is an option for couples that do not wish to divorce but want to separate their finances and property.  The grounds for legal separation are the same as those for divorce. To file for legal separation, one party must reside in the county where the papers are filed at the time the case is started; however, there is no required length of residency.



With an annulment, the court determines that a marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. Marriages or domestic partnerships that are incestuous or bigamous are never valid. Others can be declared “void” or “voidable” because on one of the following:

  • of force, fraud, or physical or mental incapacity;
  • one of the spouses was legally too young to marry or enter a domestic partnership; or
  • one of the spouses was already married or in a domestic partnership.

More information about the grounds for an annulment, as well as time limits for filing for an annulment, are available from the California Family Code, sections 2210 et seq. Annulments are very uncommon. If you ask to have your marriage or domestic partnership annulled, you will have to go to hearing with a judge. To file for an annulment, one party must reside in the county where the papers are filed at the time the case is started. Again, there is no required length of residency.

When Should I Hire a Divorce Attorney?

 Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, it’s important for you to hire a divorce lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyer will help you prepare for your case and serve your best interests and that of your family.

You should contact a divorce lawyer to represent you when:

  • a hearing is set
  • you get served with a motion
  • you file a motion

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Hire a Divorce Lawyer

 Divorce is a complicated process and not just a piece of paper.  Your future and that of your children (if you have them with the partner you are divorcing) depends on the thought, time, energy, and detail that goes into a divorce.

You want the best results from your divorce, and that can only be done when a lawyer has sufficient time to prepare for your case and meet court-imposed deadlines. Hiring a lawyer sooner rather than later allows your lawyer to

  • Review your case
  • Gather sufficient evidence, research, and documents to act in your best interest
  • Prepare for your case
  • Confer with the opposing counsel
  • Clear their calendar for your court date
  • Prepare court documents to legally represent you
  • Prepare any responsive pleadings

Divorce Resources

Divorce Preparation – Part 2: Collect these documents

Collect these documents to prepare your forms These documents are the basis for the financial disclosure divorce filings: Individual income tax returns from the past three to five years (federal and state) Any business income tax returns from the past three to five...

Divorce Preparation – Part 1: Can you get divorced in California

What’s your situation? Can you get divorced in California?> Residency Requirement In order to get divorced in Contra Costa County: You must have lived in California for at least 6 months, and You must have lived in Contra Costa County for at least 3 months. If you...

Preparing for Life After Divorce

Divorce is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.  Whether you wanted the marriage to end or not, you are most likely going to experience an entire gamut of emotions. The thought of ending ties with someone you thought you were going to spend...


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Mendes Weed, LLP is located in Walnut Creek and serves clients around the Bay Area. For your convenience, we also have offices in San Francisco and Sacramento by appointment only.

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