How to end a marriage or a domestic partnership?
Terminating a marriage or a domestic partnership in California can be a complicated, long, and emotional process. You must begin the process with a clear knowledge of your options and decide what is best for you. This is not an easy task and you must consult with an attorney that has experience and knowledge about the law and court procedure.
There are 3 different ways to end a marriage:
- Dissolution of Marriage
- Legal Separation
Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)
California Family Code refers to divorce as “dissolution of marriage.” California is a “no fault” divorce state, meaning that, in order to obtain a divorce, the spouse petitioning the court does not have to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. One can obtain a divorce based on a stated fact that they can no longer continue with the marital relationship — legally termed as “irreconcilable differences.” Although there are other grounds for getting a divorce, such as incurable insanity, bigamy, and fraud, in almost all cases, the grounds are simply stated as “irreconcilable differences.”
In addition, it is not necessary for both spouses or domestic partners to agree to get a divorce. Even if the other spouse chooses not to participate in a divorce, or is even against getting a divorce, the petitioning spouse can still obtain a divorce.
In California, the court cannot terminate marital status until 6 months and 1 day from the date the petition for divorce is personally served on the other party. However, this 6 months and 1 day period only applies to the termination of marital status — that is, for the parties to restore to the status of “single”. All issues, such as child custody or spousal support, can be completed much sooner than the end of this period.
In cases that continue past the 6 month and 1 day period, parties are allowed to request from the court to restore their “single” status at that time even if their divorce case is not complete.
Some couples choose legal separation over a divorce. A fundamental difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that a legal separation does NOT end your marriage. You will continue to retain your “married” status. There may be advantages or disadvantage depending on each couple’s situation. Before deciding which is the right option for you, you should consult with an attorney to fully learn about each.
An annulment is a court procedure that invalidates a marriage, as though it never happened. Some grounds for annulment are: incest, bigamy, fraud, unsound mind, force, pre-existing marriage or domestic partnership, age, and physical incapacity.
While with divorce or legal separation there is no time limit, there are deadlines when seeking an annulment.