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In California, either spouse in a marriage or partner in a registered domestic partnership can ask the court to end their legal relationship. The person who files court papers first is called the "petitioner," and is known as the petitioner throughout the court case, no matter how long it lasts.  The other spouse or partner then is known as the "respondent," and is known as the respondent throughout the case.

You can make handling your divorce or dissolution of a registered domestic partnership case much easier by learning something about these cases in general, and then taking the court process one step at a time. 

This part of the website has information about legally ending a marriage or registered domestic partnership.

The section called "Before a Court Case" gives you information to help you decide what you want to do.   

The section called "During Your Court Case" gives you information about how to get through the court process, if that's what you decide to do. 

The section called "After Your Court Case" gives you information about paperwork that needs to be done right away after you have gotten your final judgment, and suggests some things you may want to do once the divorce is final. 

Please note:

  • Some words have special meanings when used by the court. If you click on a word that is in blue with this symbol (example default), a new window will open and it will give you an explanation of what the word means.
  • We also have some videos that may help you understand this information. If you see this link (exampleShow Me | Tell Me”) you can click on this link which will take you to a page with video and audio files that you can watch and/or listen to on your computer.
  • Finally, most people have lots of questions about divorce cases.  For this reason, we have created a list of Frequently Asked Questions, and a section with the forms you will need for your case.
  • To get the information you need, you can click on the section name that is in blue, use the “drop down” menu at the left side of each page, or you can click on the “Next” button at the bottom of some pages.

To view some short videos with general information about how California's court system works, click here.

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