2024 What Is the 5-Year Rule for Divorce in California?

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Apr 25, 2024

If you are considering divorce, you may be wondering, “What is the 5-year rule for divorce in California?” Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, helps to explain. The “5-year rule” in California refers to summary dissolution, which is a simplified process for ending a marriage or domestic partnership without a formal court hearing. Its hope is to be a fast and less expensive option for couples who meet the specific criteria.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Summary Dissolution?

There are several advantages and disadvantages to summary dissolution. It can be an advantageous option for couples who meet the eligibility criteria and seek a quick, low-stress, and low-cost way to terminate their marriage or domestic partnership. However, there are strict eligibility requirements and several drawbacks within the terms of the agreement. If you are considering summary dissolution, you should carefully evaluate the pros and cons:


  • Simplified Process: This process requires less paperwork when compared with a regular divorce, which can make it simple for couples to navigate without an extensive legal process and assistance. A court appearance is generally not required, which can be less intimidating and stressful for all parties involved.
  • Cost-Effective: Due to the straightforward nature of this process, costs are much lower when compared with traditional divorce.
  • Time-Efficient: Summary dissolution offers a swift resolution and shorter time frame if a couple meets all criteria and no issues arise.
  • Privacy: With fewer court requirements and documentation necessary, there is reduced public exposure.


  • Eligibility Restrictions: There are strict eligibility requirements making summary dissolution inaccessible to many couples seeking divorce. The limits on community and separate property and debt are strict.
  • No Judicial Oversight: Without a court hearing, there is less opportunity for judicial review over the fairness of the property division and other relevant agreements and arrangements. This can sometimes result in one party being at a disadvantage.
  • No Spousal Support: Both parties must waive their right to spousal support, which is not always suitable in all situations, especially if one party is financially dependent on the other.
  • Finality and Irrevocability: Once an official judgment is entered, the reversing of the decision is complex. All decisions made in a summary dissolution are final and legally binding.

As you are looking towards a summary dissolution, in order to address many of the cons, it is helpful to seek the support of a qualified local attorney to get oversight and advice. Summary dissolution can be a great couple for couples that are eligible, but even in the event that you are eligible, there may be other factors that could make other options more appropriate and suitable.

Eligibility Criteria for Summary Dissolution in California

To qualify for summary dissolution in California, both parties must meet several conditions. Below is a list of the requirements for this alternative process for ending a marriage or domestic partnership:

  • Timeline: This is where the “5-year rule” comes in, as a marriage can qualify for this option only if it lasted less than five years.
  • Children: The separating couple must not have any children together, both born or adopted before or during their marriage or domestic partnership. The wife also must not be currently pregnant.
  • Property and Debts: Each couple is required to have limited shared property and debts. This means that together, you owe less than $7,000 and have less than $53,000 together as community property. This does not include the value of cars, and each has separate property worth less than $53,000.
  • Division of Assets: As a couple, you must agree upon how to divide property and debt.
  • Spousal Support: Through this official separation option, you both must agree to waive any right to spousal support.
  • Residency: It is a requirement that at least one spouse has lived locally in California for at least six months and in the county where you file for at least three months.


Q: How Long Do You Have to Be Married in California to Get Half of Everything?

A: The length of time you have to be married in California to get half of everything depends on the circumstances of your marriage. California does not always look into the timeline of a marriage when determining asset division because California is a community property state, which means that all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are typically considered community property and subject to equal division during divorce, regardless of the duration of the marriage.

Q: What Is a Wife Entitled to In a Divorce in California in 2024?

A: A wife is entitled to, in a divorce in California in 2024, half of all marital property. California is a community property state that views all assets and debts acquired within a marriage as community property and equally divided upon divorce. Both spouses are entitled to equal distribution of this marital property.

Q: Can I Get Half of My Husband’s Retirement in a Divorce in California?

A: You can get half of your husband’s retirement account in a divorce in California from contributions made during the marriage timeline due to California’s community property rule that divides assets and debts acquired within the marriage between both spouses upon divorce. If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that outlines how retirement accounts will be handled in case of a divorce, this will be upheld even if it conflicts with the community property rule.

Q: Is a Divorce Settlement in California Affected by How Long You Were Married?

A: A divorce settlement in California is not generally affected by how long the marriage lasted due to the community property rule. This rule divides all assets and debts acquired during the time of the marriage, regardless of how long the marriage is.

Speak With a Local California Divorce Attorney to Learn Your Legal Options

As you are navigating the wide array of considerations and responsibilities surrounding a divorce, consider partnering with a local California divorce attorney at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP. Our team is dedicated to seeing our clients through a successful divorce process and providing them with peace of mind in this critical time due to the level of care and support we can offer. We invite you to set up a consultation today to learn how we can help.

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