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Featured / 1.31.2024

What Are The Different Kinds Of California Divorce?

A judge rolls his eyes as the plaintiff argues for his right to claim his “invaluable” vintage stuffed animal collection. Meanwhile, the defendant is yelling about how the plaintiff has no rights after he slept with her best friend. When we think of divorce proceedings, we typically think of a Judge Judy-esque courtroom like the one mentioned above; however, some divorces look nothing like this. Some divorcees never meet with judges to figure out their divorce. If you aren’t sure how a couple can forgo a courtroom and judge, it’s time to read this blog about the different kinds of California divorce.


The first thing to understand about California divorce is that all of them are no-fault divorces. A no-fault divorce is a situation were, as long as one spouse wants to get a divorce, the courts will grant it (regardless of the reason the spouse wants to get a divorce). Therefore, fault-based divorces are an impossibility in California.


An uncontested divorce is where the couple agrees on every aspect of the divorce. When we say every aspect of the divorce, we mean every aspect.

Uncontested means the couple agrees on all the following items and more:

  • Child custody;
  • Child support;
  • Division of property;
  • Visitation;
  • Spousal support (alimony).


A contested divorce is the kind of divorce people see on television and movies. A contested divorce is where both parties can’t agree on all the terms of the divorce proceedings. As a result, the couple will go through one or a mix of the three methods of dealing with a contested divorce: mediation, arbitration, and full trial.


In a mediation scenario, the plaintiff and the defendant (the spouses) will meet with a third-party facilitator (like an experienced family law attorney) to solve the pain points of the divorce. The moderator’s role is to help the spouses work out divorce-related conflict and disagreements. Additionally, the mediator will draft a legal contract which includes the compromises the couple makes during the mediation process. It’s important to note that the mediation process is non-binding, which means the contract is not set in stone until approved by a judge. Therefore, mediation is arguably the most flexible form of divorce.

While mediation can be done with one attorney representing both parties, we advise having an attorney present that represents only you to explain the law and to make sure that any written documents sufficiently meet your needs.


When a couple has vastly different views of how the divorce should go, but they want to avoid a trial divorce, they should use a collaborative approach. A collaborative divorce is when both spouses hire family law attorneys to represent their side of the divorce. Instead of allowing a judge to decide the outcomes of the divorce, the two parties sign a participation agreement where they will attempt to hash out their problems to reach a consensus. While less expensive than a traditional divorce, the collaborative approach requires that both parties remain open to compromise. If an agreement can’t be reached, the process is terminated, and the couple resorts to a traditional divorce.


A traditional divorce is just that, a courtroom divorce where a judge presides over the case and determines its outcome. In a traditional divorce, both sides will argue their case to a judge, who will then decide who gets what. In a traditional divorce, your divorce proceedings will be public record and the judge has the final say. Traditional divorces are typically the costliest form of divorce, and they are often the longest of all divorce proceedings.


As you can see, there are many different types of divorce; however, one of these types best fits your needs. That’s why it’s crucial you talk to an experienced California family law attorney about your options.

If you need help deciding the best divorce type for you, or if you have any other questions about divorce, call 424-421-0009 for a consultation for your case!


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