The decision to end a marriage or domestic partnership can be extremely distressing. Luckily, A People’s Choice has over 35 years of experience guiding our clients through the various ways of terminating a marriage in California. We also offer support with preparing the legal documents necessary for a divorce, legal separation, or annulment. However, we always encourage our clients to understand how to terminate a marriage or domestic partnership in California, as well as the different options available to them.
What do I need to get a divorce in California?
A divorce, sometimes called a dissolution, is one of the most common ways to terminate a marriage or domestic partnership. From the moment that the court awards a divorce, the marital relationship is over. This is an important distinction when comparing a divorce to an annulment; divorces take effect from that point forward, while annulments reach back.
Furthermore, California is a no-fault state. In other words, the party seeking divorce does not have to prove their partner committed any sort of wrongdoing. Unlike some states, which require proof of wrongdoing, California only requires “irreconcilable differences”.
What is a legal separation?
A legal separation allows spouses to keep their married status while living separate lives in just about every other way. Finances, child rearing decisions, and control of property may all be affected by legal separation. Additionally, couples may prefer a legal separation over divorce or annulment due to keeping marital benefits such as shared medical insurance. Such benefits would otherwise be terminated after a divorce proceeding.
Keep in mind that obtaining a divorce or annulment does allow you to remarry. However, a legal separation does not.
What is an annulment?
An annulment is similar to a divorce. However, unlike divorce, annulment declares an entire marriage null and void from the time before the couple signed the marriage license.
Couples may obtain an annulment because something at the time of marriage made the union illegal. In other words, the marriage never legally existed. Therefore, the court “reaches back” to the moment it began and nips it in the bud.
In what cases would the court grant an annulment?
Due to these specific requirements, securing an annulment is incredibly rare. There are only a few specific reasons for the court to grant an annulment. The state of California splits these justifications into two categories:
- Situations in which the marriage is never legal and void; and
- Situations in which the marriage may be declared illegal and voidable.
Keep in mind that a marriage that is void is one that is illegal, regardless of the couple’s desires. On the other hand, a voidable marriage provides either spouse the option to void the partnership.
The following are situations in which a marriage is never legal, and void:
- Incest: The married parties or those in a domestic relationship are related by blood to a degree that violates the statutory definition of incest.
- Bigamy: One of the partners is already married, making any subsequent marriages void as a matter of law.
Contrastingly, the following are situations in which a marriage may be voided:
- Fraud: One party in a marriage or domestic relationship can prove that the other lied about something crucial to the decision to get married.
- Force: One party forced the other into marriage.
- Incapacity: One party is unable to consummate the marriage at the time of marriage, and the problem persists.
- Unsound Mind: One party was unable to understand the significance or nature of the marriage or domestic relationship at the time of union.
- Age: One party was under the age of 18 at the time of marriage or entering into the domestic relationship.
- Prior Existing Marriage or Domestic Relationship: This situation does not describe bigamy. In this situation, two marriages have occurred, but the second marriage occurs after a spouse from the first marriage has been missing for five years. Thus, if a missing spouse returns to find his or her spouse has remarried, the marriage is voidable.
How to Formally Terminate Your Marriage
The process of ending your marriage or domestic partnership can be tedious. However, if you and your spouse have decided to go separate ways, you do not have to take it all on by yourself.
The team at A People’s Choice will help prepare the documents needed to get the process started, and help you make this transition as seamless as possible. Reach out to our offices today for a consultation.