How to File for a Divorce in California | Online Divorce Lawyer

If you are considering ending your marriage or domestic partnership in California, it’s important to understand both the general process for filing for a divorce in California as well as your basic options for filing a divorce in California.

Keep in mind that this post is primarily about simple uncontested California  divorce where the parties are not disputing any issues in the divorce, including the divorce itself. If you think that your divorce will NOT be one of the 80% of California divorces that are uncontested, please know that all Online Divorce Lawyers handle contested divorce as well as uncontested. Call 1-800-DIVORCE and let your local Online Divorce Lawyer know that your case is contested.

What Are Your Options For How To File a Divorce in California?

You should know all of the following options on how to file a divorce in California. Again, keep in mind that this advice is for simple uncontested divorce only. Your options are listed in ascending cost order (cheapest first):


DIY means that you do not pay for or receive ANY professional help. You are literally on your own preparing all California state and local county forms and finding out what to do with each form at every point in the complex California divorce process.

Up through the 90’s, you could buy a relatively cheap book on how to do your own divorce. There would be current state forms included and detailed instructions included. It could be done at that time.

Online Divorce in CaliforniaThen California divorce got complicated. The strict property and debt disclosure requirements began in 1999. Each California county, and sometimes each California Superior Court within a county adopted its own policies and procedures concerning disclosure requirements.

Other laws, including the child support guideline, also changed and became more complex.

After 2000, you could still buy the How To Do Your Own Divorce in California book, but now in bold print at the front of the book, it actually told you that you would no longer be able to use the book to get your divorce without some additional help. At least the book was honest, if no longer useful.

Don’t do DIY! It is false economy. You will screw it up and you can easily screw it up so badly that you will then need the most expensive option listed below in order to finalize your case.

Cheaper Non-Lawyer Online Divorce Mills

These are almost all located outside of California. The bigger ones are in Ukraine, India or Mexico. They are well beyond your local District Attorney’s  Consumer Fraud Division.

These completely fraudulent and highly incompetent online divorce mills are easy to spot. They are all in the claimed price range of $139 – $299. A LOT of them claim a $139 “complete fee,” but that’s a total lie. Look at their Terms of Use. $139 covers you for the first 30 days only. You will need service for 4-6 months or more to get your California divorce. All of the cheap divorce mills have monthly fees.  They will hit your credit card every month until you cancel.

If you read their hundreds of Better Business Bureau complaints (this one is aAvoid Divorce Mills good example) you will notice many complaints where divorce consumers have submitted their divorce papers to court and the court has sat on them for many weeks, as is normal, and then rejected the paperwork because there is one document missing. It is clear that these divorce mills purposefully leave out one critical divorce document from each batch so that your case will be delayed and they get paid for a few more months.

Additionally, these cheap divorce mills are aggressive up-sellers of so-called “premium” packages at an additional $199-$300. Again, reading BBB complaints will reveal that many divorce consumers felt that “something” would go wrong with their divorce cases if they did not purchase these up-sells.

It would be very easy to pay total fees of $400 – $750 to these frauds.

Also check BBB complaints in which divorce consumers state that literally within a few minutes of hiring these con-men, strange people began to call them on the phone to sell non-divorce related services and those callers already know the private personal information of the divorce consumer.

The above addresses only the financial danger of these conmen. Keep in mind that they are almost completely ignorant of your local court’s rules and policies. They will cheat you, but they will also screw up your divorce so that you will need a much more expensive solution to get your divorce finalized.

Expensive Non-Lawyer Online Divorce Mills

There are only a few of these –, and are the primary examples. went out of business in 2022.

These are also easily identified. They are often fronted by hot-shot divorce lawyers like Laura Wasser and Erin Levine, but these are not law firms. They are complete rip-offs, aggressive up-sellers and feel-good BS artists.

online divorceTheir fees range from $400 (the lowest package on Hello Divorce) to as high as $5850 (the highest package on Wevorce). Remember that these fees are all for uncontested divorce. And they are all for non-lawyer assistance. No lawyer looks at your case or provides any kind of a legal rights checkup.

BTW, that $400 is a teaser package. It includes use of their software only, but nothing else. No one will be available to speak with you and no one has a strategy session with you or proofreads your completed docs. 

Hello Divorce’s next highest package is $1500, where you will at least get an “account coordinator.” In other words, Hello Divorce is invested in your case’s failure at $400 so that they can get you to at least the $1500 level. These are up-sellers from way back.

Online Divorce Lawyer

All Online Divorce Lawyers are independently owned and operated. As such, each sets his or her own flat fees and uncontested divorce packages.

However, most Online Divorce Lawyers will have uncontested packages in the ranges of $695-$995 (no minor children or property), $995-$1495 (children and/or property/debts) and $1500-$2000 (includes Marital Settlement Agreement).

Uncontested Divorce LawyerYou get a case strategy session, unlimited use of the wicked-cool Online Divorce Lawyer software and some number of phone calls and emails for follow-up questions.

Online Divorce Lawyer provides the low-cost, convenience and self-empowerment of online divorce PLUS the safety and peace of mind of a local California lawyer on your team should your case blow up or additional legal services become necessary.

Hiring an Online Divorce Lawyer offers several benefits by comparison with your other uncontested divorce options. Most Online Divorce Lawyers offer a flat-fee structure, which saves huge sums of money compared to traditional California divorce lawyers (see below). They are also convenient, accessible, and allow you to handle your divorce from the comfort of your own home. By working with an Online Divorce Lawyer, you can ensure that your divorce is handled efficiently and effectively, lessening the stress and emotional burden during the process.

You also know your cost up front, and you use your Online Divorce Lawyer only where you need your Online Divorce Lawyer.  You do NOT over-pay just in case something might happen (see below).

Oh yeah! You’ll never forget your Online Divorce Lawyer’s phone number!

Traditional California Divorce Lawyers

Traditional California divorce lawyers want to charge you at least a $3500-$7500+ retainer fee and burn up that retainer as fast as possible to get you onto the $300-$450 billable hour treadmill.

That’s because they don’t know what else to do.  Unlike Online Divorce Lawyers, they literally have nothing else to offer you but traditional retainer fees and billable hours.

Churning through client money is the only thing traditional California divorce lawyers have ever done. Don’t fall for it if you have a simple uncontested divorce. Almost all California divorce lawyers have not been among the very few competitive and savvy California divorce lawyers who have adopted online divorce as either an additional service offering or their only service offering.

Traditional lawyers will trick you into hiring them by scaring the heck out of you on some issue that could happen in your case but almost certainly won’t. 

Then, when they’ve got your money, you have to disclose your assets and debts to them as part of the California divorce disclosure process. So they know EXACTLY what cash and assets you’ve got as well as your credit card balances.

All they need to do from that point is churn. Requests for Orders, Discovery Requests, Discovery Responses, Hearings, Interrogatories, Postponements, Trial Briefs, etc., etc. until your cash and assets are gone. 

If your spouse has a lawyer too, the 2 lawyers will do their dance until neither one of you has cash or credit left. Then they’ll recommend that you settle your case and tell you what a great job they did.

Don’t fall for this nonsense. There are times when you will need such lawyers (and if your simple uncontested blows up, you will need such lawyers), but not in a simple uncontested California divorce.

Avoid unnecessary and dishonest lawyer churners. Know your cost up front. Know your options on how to get a divorce in California.

Benefits of Hiring an Online Divorce Lawyer

Online Divorce Lawyer Online Divorce Lawyer saves you from the dangers of DIY, the fraud and incompetence of online divorce mills in Ukraine, India or Mexico, the huge non-lawyer expense of up-selling feel-good flash divorce mills, and the treachery and over-paying of traditional California divorce lawyers.

Online Divorce Lawyer is a Best of Both Worlds option. You get the low cost, convenience and self- empowerment of online divorce PLUS the safety and peace of mind of a California divorce lawyer on your team should the case blow up or develop a legitimate need for additional legal services.   

Finally, an Online Divorce Lawyer ensures that your simple uncontested divorce is handled efficiently and effectively, reducing the stress and emotional toll of the process.

If you are ready to get started on your low-cost, flat-fee online divorce by a California lawyer, call 1-800-DIVORCE to speak with your local Online Divorce Lawyer today or complete the web form below. 

Check Your Options on How To File a Divorce in California

FEATURESOnline Divorce MillLocal Traditional LawyerLocal Online Divorce Lawyer
Approximate Cost:Most are in the range of $300-$1100; A couple are as high as $2500-$3500; Another Group Claim $139-169 is the Total Price But Has Many Hidden Fees, such as a $40 monthly storage fee , a $125 “Expedite” fee (or you have to wait 10-12 days to get your docs) or a $199 “Premium Package” Fee; Constant Up-Selling$3500-$7500 +++ retainer fee, but then they work off that retainer at $450-$750 per hour as fast as possible to get you onto a billable hourly rate at $450-$750 per hour. All services, whether you need them or not are drastically oversold and over-charged.$700-$1500; Each ODL Independently Owned and Operated; Compare Terms; Some ODL’s Charge Around $700-$800 for Their Basic Doc-Review Package INCLUDING Legal Advice PLUS All of the Advantages Listed Below
Education:Unknown – None RequiredCollege Degree and Law DegreeCollege Degree and Law Degree
Professional Qualifications:None RequiredBar ExamBar Exam
Professional Association:NoneYour State’s Bar Association;Your State’s Bar Association;
Online Divorce Association of America
Code of Ethics:NoneStrong Enforced State Bar Code of EthicsStrong Enforced State Bar Code of Ethics
Licensing:NoneStrong State Lawyer LicensingStrong State Lawyer Licensing
Continuing Legal Education:NoneStrict State Bar CLE RequirementsStrict State Bar CLE Requirements
Location:Often in Another State, Ukraine, Mexico or IndiaYour Home TownYour Home Town
Accountability:None UNLESS they are located in your state; Maybe Through THEIR Local District Attorney or State Attorney General for Blatant Consumer Fraud, but Very Difficult For You to Pursue; Also, No DA’s in India; If Things Go Wrong, You’re On Your OwnHuge Accountability Through YOUR State’s Bar Association’s Strongly Enforced Complaint ProcedureHuge Accountability Through YOUR State’s Bar Association’s Strongly Enforced Complaint Procedure
Local Knowledge of Laws, Rules of Court and Local Court Policies:Unknown; High Risk; Hit or Miss; Low-Quality Training; High Turnover of Untrained Low-level StaffProfessional-Level Knowledge of Your State’s Laws and Your County’s Rules of Court and Local Court PoliciesProfessional-Level Knowledge of Your State’s Laws and Your County’s Rules of Court and Local Court Policies
Wicked Cool Online Divorce Software:YesNoYes
Prepares ALL of Your Legal Docs:No – State Forms Only – No Local County Forms – Every Case Has Local County FormsYesYes
Legally Able To Provide Legal Advice:NoYesYes
Performs An Analysis of Your Legal and Economic Rights in Your Case:No – Not Qualified: But Doesn’t Do It Anyway; Some Will Up-Sell You to Local Lawyers for Legal Advice or Other Legal Services at ADDITIONAL cost, but Only AFTER You Are Fully PaidYesYes
Responsive Client Support – Returns Calls and Emails Promptly:Generally No; Low-Quality or No Customer Support; No Reason To Provide Quality Support; High Turnover of Low-Quality Untrained Staff; You’re On Your OwnYes – Required By Strongly Enforced Bar Code of EthicsYes – Required By Strongly Enforced Bar Code of Ethics
Available to Meet:NeverYes – Subject to AppointmentYes – Subject to Appointment
Flat Fee:Always Claimed, but Often There is Rampant Up-Selling of Undisclosed “Expedited” Service Or Other Add-ons; Some Fees Claimed to be Complete are MONTHLY FeesNo. Will drastically over-sell all services, whether needed or not; Will tell you that ALL additional services are required and will scare you to death about all consequences of not paying them more.Yes; ALL Fees Must Be Disclosed In Advance And Agreed By You in Writing
Scalable Services:No – If You Need Legal Advice or Additional Legal Services Such As Mediation or a QDRO, or If Your Case Blows Up, They Will Up-Sell You To a Local Lawyer Who Has Subscribed Your Zip Code and Pays for the Referral; Why Not Start With That Local Lawyer at Similar Cost and Be Covered for All Risks?Fully Scalable – but they will attempt to scale ALL services at ALL times; They know how much money you have, and they want it. You are in a very weak position strategically.Fully Scalable – MOST Online Divorce Lawyers Offer unbundled document review services; All offer Full Representation. Most Offer Mediation, QDRO and Other Potential Legal Services. All Costs Fully Disclosed in Writing Up-front with You, the Well-informed Client, Controlling All Costs.

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