Divorce Basics: Ending a Marriage or Domestic Partnership
In California, there are three ways to end a marriage or registered domestic partnership. The first is divorce (dissolution), legal separation, or annulment. Because California is a “no fault” divorce state, the person asking for the divorce does not have to prove that their spouse or partner did something wrong. “Irreconcilable differences” is the catch-all term in a no-fault divorce used to describe a couple that can’t get along with each other.
Same sex marriage and domestic partnerships may qualify through the Secretary of State for a “Summary Dissolution” if they have been registered for less than five years, have no children, no real property, very few debts and assets, and have a written agreement dividing any marital property. Other restrictions may apply. For an overview of the court process, visit California Courts.
A divorce ends your marriage or domestic partnership. Once your divorce is final, you will be single and able to start a new marriage or domestic partnership. After starting a divorce case, you may request that the judge make orders for child custody and visitation, child support, spousal or partner support, and other applicable orders such as prohibiting domestic violence.
Facts about divorce:
- State residency of 6 months is required
- County residency of 3 months is required
- Divorce only after 6 months have passed from the date of spousal notification
- Divorce can take from 6 months to several years
A legal separation does not end the marriage or partnership. This means you cannot remarry or enter a new domestic partnership. If you decide to change the legal separation to a divorce later on, you may be able to change it if you meet specific state requirements. As with divorce, you can request court orders from the judge.
Here are some reasons why a couple might want a legal separation:
- For religious reasons
- For personal beliefs/morals
- For financial reasons such as health insurance or other employee benefits
- Residency requirements are not yet met and couple wants to separate immediately
- Court orders for parenting, money, and property division is wanted, but not a divorce
Annulment (nullity of marriage or domestic partnership)
The court says a marriage or domestic partner is not legally valid. It is like your marriage or domestic partnership never existed because it was not a legal union. Legal reasons for an annulment are:
- Bigamy (marriage or domestic partnership with someone already with another person)
- Incest (blood relatives)
- One of the spouses/partners where under 18 years of age
- Marriage or registered domestic partner resulting from fraud, force, or incapacitated mentally or physically
- If one of the parties was legally married or in a domestic partnership and another marriage/partnership took place after a prior spouse/partner had been missing for five years and thought to be dead
Annulments are quite rare. In order to get an annulment, you must prove to the judge that one of these reasons is true for your case.
Divorce is complicated and confusing. Some of this can be attributed to unfamiliar terms, acronyms, and phrases. Divorce has a language of its own. You do not have to understand all of the legal jargon, but you should understand some of the key words and phrases. Top Ten Divorce Terms can help you in your discussions with lawyers, judges, and divorce professionals.
For more California basic divorce information visit here.