Ask the County Law Librarian – California Divorce Residency Requirements

Q: My husband and I recently moved to Sacramento from Reno, and now that we live here, we want to get divorced. Do we need to file for divorce in Reno, where we got married, or can we file in California?


A:  Sorry to hear about your situation.  Moving to a new city and all of the changes that come with it can really put stress on a marriage.

According to the California Courts Self-Help website, California has jurisdiction over a marriage, and the power to dissolve it, only if at least one spouse has lived in California for a certain period of time.  Either you or your spouse must have lived in California for at least six months, and in the county where you plan to file your papers for at least three months, prior to filing a Petition for Dissolution. If you and your spouse have lived in California for at least six months, but  in different counties for at least three months, either of you can file in either county.

If you do not meet the residency requirements for a divorce, you can still file for a legal separation. Then, once the requisite time has passed so that you do meet the residency requirements, you may file an “amended petition” and ask the court for a divorce.

A really good self-help book that discusses divorce in California is “How to Do Your Own Divorce in California,” published by Nolo Press. This book will take you step-by-step through the process, and includes sample forms and  instructions. We have this book at the Law Library. It is also available for purchase directly from the publishers’ website at

The Family Law Facilitator in the Self-Help Center located at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse on Power Inn Road may be able to help you get started with your divorce. Every court in California has a Family Law Facilitator, a lawyer that can help you with your family law problems for free. The Facilitators can’t represent you in court, but they can help you in many other ways.  For example, they can instruct you on which court forms to use to get a divorce, and how to complete them. The Family Law Self-Help Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., excluding court holidays.  Because help is provided on a first-come, first-served, walk-in basis, it is best to arrive early.  Alternatively, you could use their new "E-Correspondence" service, and ask questions and receive answers via secure email.

Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.

Coral Henning, Director
@coralh & @saclawlibrarian

  • I have been seoerated from my husband for 22 years and I want a divorce but never knew how to go about it or what to do since he is from Mexico and has gone back to Mexico and I don’t know where to find him or how to start the process. please help.
    Matty – Sacramento, CA

    • Allison Joy

      Hey msmatty1, I would recommend emailing Ms. Henning, our columnist, at to ensure you receive a response. Best of luck to you.

  • hi my name is melissa and i got married to 2 of my children dad when i was 18 i am now 20 but when i moved in with him our marriage only lasted 5 months and we seperated he has left the country and wants nothing to do with our kids i i want a divorce how would i go about it? i dont have very much in funds to pay for it either.


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