Use Divorce to End a California Marriage
Divorce is one of the most common options used by couples to end their marriage. In a divorce, the marriage is legally ended and two people are then are free to remarry after the court enters judgment and the designated “termination date” passes. For example, in California, a spouse can file a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences” between partners. In other words, California is a “no-fault” state, and a party who wants a divorce does not have to prove any other reason. For this reason, the court does not determine a party “guilty” during the divorce proceeding. When considering your options to end a California marriage, remember that in all proceedings the court will be able to make order on child custody, child support, spousal support, division of assets, and who is responsible for paying debts.
To file for divorce, you must meet the requirements. In this regard, one spouse must have lived in California for the past six months and in the county where the divorce is filed for the past three months. Remember, in California, the termination date of the marriage cannot take place before six months after filing the case and serving the other party. If a couple does not meet the residency requirement to file divorce in California, but would like to start the divorce process as soon as possible, they can file for a legal separation. Afterward, once they meet the residence requirement, the Petition for legal separation can be amended to a divorce.
Use Legal Separation to End a California Marriage
The main difference between a divorce and a legal separation is that in a legal separation the spouses are not free to remarry because they are still technically “married.” It is important to realize, however, that like a divorce, a court will still make orders on all issues of the marriage. In other words, the court will make orders on child custody, child support, spousal support, and division of property and debts. In the event a couple opts for a legal separation instead of a divorce, there is no residency requirement other than living in California at the time of filing. There are many reasons a couple may want to file legal separation and not a divorce. A couple may choose to file legal separation because of religious beliefs or personal objections to divorce. As a result, filing legal separation will allow the court to settle support, property and other issues. Using legal separation to end a California marriage may allow a spouse to stay on the other’s health insurance. Although this may be true, we have heard stories of some insurance companies attempting to disallow this between separated spouses.
Use Annulment to End a California Marriage
The third option for ending a marriage in California is an annulment. In an annulment proceeding, the court will declare that the marriage was never legally valid. This is like “unringing the bell.” Be that as it may, unlike a divorce or legal separation, an annulment the court will grant an annulment only for specific reasons. Under California law, the reasons for an annulment are:
- The marriage is incestuous. (i.e. the spouses are close relatives.)
- The marriage is bigamous. One or both spouses were legally married at the time of the wedding.
- One spouse was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage and did not have parental permission to marry.
- The marriage was the result of force or fraud.
- One spouse was mentally incapacitated at the time of the marriage.
The partner seeking an annulment must prove why the court should annul the marriage. To prove their case, the Petitioner must testify in person and present evidence in a formal court hearing before a judge. If the judge believes the Petitioner’s reasons satisfy the legal requirement, they will grant the annulment. Note that a religious annulment is not the same as a legal annulment. Even if a couple gets an annulment from a church, they will still have to obtain a legal annulment or a divorce before they can remarry.
Contact A People’s Choice for more information on the various options to end a marriage in California. Learn more about the differences between divorce, legal separation and annulment. We offer full-service, low-cost document preparation and case help to complete a California divorce, legal separation or annulment. If you have immediate questions, please call us at 800-747-2780.
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