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Divorce
(Dissolution of Marriage)

Grounds for a Divorce (Dissolution of Marriage) in California

Irreconcilable differences that have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage. These grounds are determined by the state of California to be justifiable reasons for a marriage to discontinue, making it evident that a termination is in order.

Incurable insanity. This may be found as grounds for a dissolution of marriage if and only if the individual in question can be declared as clinically insane.

Out-of-state and foreign marriages

In general, all marriages entered outside of California, that were valid under the laws of that state or country, are valid in California.

If you meet the residency requirements in California, you may file for dissolution of marriage in this state, regardless of the location in which you married.

Uncontested vs Contested Proceedings

If you and your spouse can agree on every issue that arises, then you have an “uncontested case.” If your spouse fails to file a response, this lack of response becomes a “default” and your case can be completed as an uncontested case. Many uncontested cases can be handled by mail and, in most instances, do not require an appearance before a judge.

If your spouse files a response that conflicts with anything in your filing, then you have a “contested case.” You may have to appear before a state judge in order to resolve your disagreements.

If your case begins as a contested case, or later becomes contested, you may still be able to come to an agreement through mediation and the negotiation of a Marital Settlement Agreement (a written agreement between the involved parties).

Documents Filed Regarding Divorce

Divorce:

  • Petition to file for a Dissolution of marriage that Legally dissolves one’s marriage to another.

Response to a Divorce Petition:

  • If you have been served with a summons and petition, you are the respondent in a court case for divorce or legal separation. You must file a written answer to a divorce or legal separation petition as soon as possible to avoid missing the court deadline for a response.
  • If you fail to respond in time, the court might grant the other party of all the items that he or she requested in the divorce petition, leaving you with no way to contest the divorce or its provisions. Your submitted reply is your formal response to all of the allegations in the petition submitted by your spouse.

Summary Divorce:

To qualify for a summary dissolution of your marriage, you and your spouse must meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • Marriage was shorter than five years.
  • Time between the date of marriage to the date of separation is less than five years.
  • Children between the two of you are not expected at this time and there have been no children, born or adopted, prior to or during the marriage
  • You do not own any part of land or building together
  • You do not owe more than $6,000 in debt acquired since the date you got married (these debts are called “community obligations”).

Annulment:

  • Marriage did not last longer than six months.

An annulment (also called “nullity of marriage” or “nullity of domestic partnership”) is when it has been determined that your marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid. An annulment makes it possible to proceed as though the marriage or partnership did not happen since the arrangement had not been legal in the first place.

 

The following passages are short explanations of some of the qualifying legal reasons for an annulment. These reasons must be proven in order for an annulment to be granted. The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing for an annulment.

  • Incestuous: The people who are married or in a registered domestic partnership are close blood-relatives.
  • Bigamous: A spouse or domestic partner is already married to, or in a registered domestic partnership with, someone else.
  • Age at the Time of Marriage or Domestic Partnership: The party filing for the annulment was under 18 years old at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • Prior Existing Marriage or Domestic Partnership: Either party was already legally married or in a registered domestic partnership. This is different from bigamy because, in this case, the marriage or domestic partnership took place after the former spouse or domestic partner was absent for five years and was either thought to be deceased or not known to be living.
  • Unsound Mind: Either party was of “unsound mind” or unable to understand the nature of the marriage or domestic partnership, including the obligations that come with it.
  • Fraud: Either party married or registered as a domestic partner due to fraud. The fraud must have been about something vital to the relationship that directly affected why the deceived party agreed to the marriage or domestic partnership. Some examples include marrying for a green card or hiding infertility.
  • Force: Either party consented to marrying or filing for a domestic partnership as a result of force.
  • Physical Incapacity: The parties were married or registered as domestic partners while one party was “physically incapacitated.” In this case, one of the spouses or partners was physically incapable of “consummating” the relationship and the incapacity continues and appears to be “incurable.”

Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA)

Once both parties involved have a written agreement about the divorce or separation, the marriage or domestic partnership may be terminated. We can help draft this agreement. With the right guidance, a court hearing might be avoided. This agreement, also called a “stipulated judgment” must be signed and notarized.

Both parties should ensure that they understand everything in the agreement, which may cover:

  • Division of property and debt
  • Spousal or partner support (if applicable)
  • Child support, custody, and visitation orders (if applicable)

Legal Separation

Allows a couple to live separately, but remain married.

During a period of legal separation, neither spouse may remarry or enter a domestic partnership. The procedure for legal separation in California is similar to that of divorce.

Terms to Know

Petition for Dissolution of Marriage/Domestic Partnership:

Document that must be filed with a California court in order to terminate a marriage or domestic partnership under specified grounds.

Petitioner:

Individual filing a petition. In a divorce case, this is the spouse initiating the divorce.

Respondent:

The remaining spouse, or the individual against whom the petition is directed.

A respondent has 30 days from the receipt of a petition to respond in order to avoid a “default” divorce.

Default Divorce:

If respondent does not file a response to a petition, all terms within the petition, including such issues as child support, spousal support, and property division, may be defined by the petitioner via their filed petition. No trial is needed in this case.

Marital Settlement Agreement:

Document incorporated into a Divorce Judgment in which both spouses agree upon all issues. No trial is needed. This document may also be drafted between disagreeing petitioners and respondents in an effort to avoid trial. Any contested issues that do not make their way into a Marital Settlement Agreement may result in a trial.

Summary Dissolution:

A simpler, faster, divorce reserved for those couples who have been married for five or less years, share no children, real estate, or significant debt, and meet certain other requirements.