As a no-fault state, California allows you to get a divorce without providing a reason beyond irreconcilable differences. But how long do you have to be separated before divorce in California? Is there such a rule? 

Read on as we explore California’s divorce requirements and how long it will take for your divorce to be finalized.

How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce in California?

Many states have a legal requirement for couples to be separated for a certain period before being able to file for a divorce.

But California is not one of them. There is no period of separation required before filing for divorce. If you and your spouse decide to file for divorce, you may even start the divorce process on the same day. 

While the divorce laws in California allow you to file for divorce whenever you want, the entire process takes at least six months. 

How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce in California

Source: Photo Contributor: fizkes

Duration of separation before divorce

California does not have an obligatory separation time, but it does have a six-month waiting period for the divorce to be finalized.

A couple may even remain together in their house until their divorce is finalized because they are not required to separate during the six-month waiting period. You and your partner may live in the same house during this period.

For some couples, the best course of action may be to live together without going through a formal separation because it might be challenging to manage costs on your own or divide child custody. However, if they want to separate from their spouse during the divorce process, any spouse can do so without any obligations.

Legal separation 

When you file for divorce but do not meet the California divorce requirements, you may file for legal separation instead.

However, you must remember that legal separation does not mean you are legally divorced. In California, you are not allowed to get re-married, at least not until the divorce is finalized. You must also continue filing taxes as a married couple and sharing health insurance. 

However, you can begin to divide assets and property on your own after obtaining a legal separation. You and your spouse may try to reach an agreement on the following cases:

You may put everything you decide on in a settlement agreement that you must file with your divorce forms. This is because the judge must approve and sign off on it. 

How long do you have to be separated before divorce is automatic in California?

If you are wondering if there is an automatic divorce after long separation in California, the answer is no. Divorce is never automatic. You or your spouse must file for a divorce to start the process officially. 

However, if you have started the process and have served your spouse with divorce papers without them filing a response, you may file for default divorce (Request to Enter Default form FL-165).

The judge may finalize the divorce process even without the input of your uncooperative spouse.

Alternatives to Separation Before Divorce

Besides filing for a legal separation during the six months, you and your spouse may try other dispute resolution alternatives.

A great method for resolving disputes and assisting you and your spouse in reaching decisions about your divorce that you can both agree on is mediation. 

If you choose mediation, a qualified mediator will assist you and your spouse in identifying the core of your disagreement’s problems and lead you toward a resolution.

This impartial third party is not authorized or able to decide anything on your behalf. Divorced couples have complete control over the decisions made during mediation. The mediator’s only role is to assist in guiding discussions constructively. 

Marriage Dissolution – Finalizing a Divorce in California

In California, divorce can typically be finalized in six months, particularly in uncontested cases where spouses opt to handle the process without legal representation and file the paperwork themselves.. 

On the other hand, in contested divorces, the process may last for years until a resolution is reached. Also, if you decide to involve attorneys, they may attempt to drag out the process, putting a significant financial strain on you and your spouse.

Finalizing a Divorce in California

Source: Photo Contributor: fizkes


How long do you have to be separated before divorce in California? California does not require spouses to be separated for a period before being able to file for divorce. However, once you start the divorce period, the earliest the courts may finalize your divorce is six months.