The Bar Association of San Francisco recently published a very interesting article which nicely sums up summary dissolution, including how to qualify and what the process entails:
Michael Welch is probably best known for his role as the high school student with a crush on lead character, Bella, in the “Twilight” series franchise. Recently, Welch made news for choosing Valentine’s Day as the day to file for divorce. However, the divorce is interesting for another reason. TMZ reported that Welch and his wife, Marissa Lefton, “jointly filed” for divorce. A joint filing means that Welch and Lefton made use of the summary dissolution option in California. This option allows couples without children, married for a short time, with few assets and few debts to simplify the divorce process.
Welch’s filing will probably be the only celebrity summary dissolution this column will ever get to present because few celebrities will qualify to use the process. The requirements for a summary dissolution are laid out right on the Judicial Council forms making the process that much simpler to do without an attorney. In order to qualify for a summary dissolution, the parties must have been married for less than five years with no children of the marriage; neither person may own any real property; neither the community property nor separate property worth cannot exceed $38,000; and the total community debt cannot be more than $6,000. Vehicles are excluded from these calculations. Finally, both parties must be willing to waive their rights to spousal support.
If the parties meet the requirements for a summary dissolution, they must jointly complete and submit the petition and judgment forms all at the same time. The court holds on to the judgment forms for the requisite six month waiting period and then returns the filed, signed forms and the parties are divorced. There is a catch. During the six month waiting period, either party just has to file one form requesting to end the summary dissolution process and the process ends putting the parties back at square one.
Welch and Lefton married in 2008 and claim they separated in 2011, for a total length of marriage of around three years. They have no children. According to TMZ, they marked the box indicating that they have no community property (which is difficult to imagine given a three year marriage and three “Twilight” movies during that time). Since the two have submitted their forms, all they have to do is wait out the six months and hope that neither one changes his or her mind during the interim.
While summary dissolution is rare, it can be a great option for couples who fall within the guidelines laid out on Judicial Council Form FL-800. For those who do not, I recommend divorcing couples contact a divorce attorney to assess how they may be able to assist in making the dissolution process as amicable and quick as possible. There are several options available to those who do not qualify for summary dissolution, including mediating agreements or proceeding by default with written agreement.
For the full article by Ms. Sosna and Ms. Van Voohries, see: http://www.sfbar.org/basf-bulletin/2013/april2013/family-law-corner-apr2013.aspx
Maria E. Crabtree, CFLS