California Divorce Laws – What You Need to Know!

In California, there are three options for ending a marriage, and each has its own requirements. The three ways that registered domestic partners or married couples can end their marriages are:

  • Divorce
  • Legal Separation
  • Annulment

Both partners or spouses do not have to agree that any of these options is what they want. Either person in the relationship can decide that he or she wants out. This means that deciding not to participate in the divorce won’t do you any good – the filing party will simply end up with a judgment by default.

Does California Recognize a “No Fault” Divorce?

California is a “no fault” state for divorce. This means that neither partner or spouse has to prove that something wrong was done by the other partner or spouse. One partner or spouse has to tell the court that “irreconcilable differences” led to the demise of the registered domestic partnership or marriage.

What Is a Summary Dissolution?

The person who is filing will need to determine how to end the marriage or domestic partnership. If divorce is the chosen option, do you meet the summary dissolution requirements? Most people will not meet the requirements, but if they do, there is no requirement to go in front of a judge. Here are the requirements for a summary dissolution:

  • You must not have been married for more than five years.
  • You must not have any children together, adopted any children together and are not expecting a new child.
  • You cannot own any buildings or land.
  • You cannot rent any buildings or land. However, there is an exception for where you currently live as long as there is no option to buy or a 1-year lease.
  • You cannot have marital debts of over $6,000. This does not include loans for cars.
  • You cannot have marital property worth more than $40,000 that was acquired during the partnership or marriage. This does not include your vehicles.
  • You cannot have property owned solely by either party. This does not include your vehicles.
  • You must agree with the other party on the separation of debts and property. This does not include your vehicles.
  • Both parties agree that there will be no spousal support.
  • One partner or spouse must have lived in the county where filing for the last three months and in the state for the last six months. However, same-sex couples that were married in California but now live in a state that does not recognize same-sex divorce do not have to meet the requirements for residency.

If any of the above requirements are not met, then you will not qualify for a summary dissolution and must file for a regular divorce.

Filing for Divorce or Legal Separation

When filing for divorce or legal separation, it is best to contact an attorney, as the court process can be complicated. This is especially true if either party is seeking child custody, child support, property division or spousal support.

The next steps required for a divorce or legal separation depend on whether there is an agreement on the matters of child support, child custody, property division or spousal support and if the non-filing spouse filed a response. Mediation may be an option to help you save money on legal fees and time, as well as the stress of fighting it out in court.

Filing for an Annulment

An annulment may be filed for when the marriage or partnership is not considered legally valid. Some reasons include:

  • When the parties are close blood relatives.
  • When either party is already in a registered domestic partnership or marriage.
  • When the filing party was not 18 when the marriage occurred.
  • When the marriage or partnership was the result of fraud or of either party being of an “unsound mind.”

If an annulment is granted, it is as if the partnership or marriage never occurred. That means if there were children born during the partnership or marriage, it may require that paternity be established. There is no spousal support and property division could be divided in such a way that is not governed by community property laws.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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