It’s no secret that divorce is not a fun process. However, sometimes it’s the best course of action. If one or both parties are miserable and marriage isn’t working, it can be a relief to file for divorce and move on with your life.

There are lots of personal reasons for divorce in California ranging from extramarital affairs, lack of intimacy, and emotional abuse. But because of the way the state’s divorce laws work, there is one primary reason that is most often printed on the paperwork. Read on to find out more about reasons for divorce in California–and how you might be able to avoid a convoluted divorce process completely.

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California: A No-Fault Divorce State

Divorce is, of course, a legal process that spouses go through to end a marriage. Once the divorce is approved by the court, each spouse is free to marry again. The divorce rates in California have been on a constant rise in recent times.

For California residents interested in getting a divorce, it’s important to know that in California, a divorce doesn’t technically need to be anyone’s fault (such as domestic abuse). A few states in the U.S. need the spouse filing for divorce to prove that the other is somehow at fault for the end of the marriage (fault-based divorce). Valid reasoning for a petition for divorce in states like this is varied. They include adultery, desertion, domestic violence, imprisonment, impotence, physical abuse, alcohol, and drug abuse.

In the Sunshine State, none of that is necessary. Since California is a “no-fault” state, the spouse filing the divorce will not need to accuse the other of any fault to end the marriage in real life. The reasoning of the spouses not getting along anymore, or the fact that they do not want to be married any longer, is sufficient enough to qualify for a divorce. That reasoning, put in legal terms, is very limited, as you’ll read about in the next section.

Top Reasons for Divorce in California

The only valid grounds for divorce in California are irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity. Here’s the breakdown of what each of these terms means.

Irreconcilable differences: This is by far the most popular reason for divorce in California. It stems from issues occurring in the marriage that cause the couple to drift apart the guidance of a marriage counselor. We’ll discuss some of the reasons for irreconcilable differences in a moment. In any case, the marriage breaks down, and the couple does not get along enough to keep it going any further.

Incurable insanity: This means that a spouse was legally insane during the time the divorce petition was filed (probably due to substance abuse) and continues to remain in this incurable state. This is a difficult classification to qualify for; it must be verified by medical and psychiatric professionals.

Generally, it is not required for both spouses to mutually agree to a divorce. One spouse can start the process and continue with it even if the other wishes not to participate. The court will still authorize the divorce by default.

What Qualifies as Irreconcilable Differences?

This term, sometimes used interchangeably with the term “irremediable breakdown,” is a broad term. It means the marriage is unable to be fixed (due to poor communication), or the married couple is not willing to try and fix it. Being in an abusive relationship could be one of the factors towards an irretrievable breakdown.

Here are some of the most common legal reasons for a divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences:

  • Money disagreements: The couple may disagree on how to allocate their financial resources. This relationship issue can include what kind of housing and vehicles to buy or rent, how to manage investments and retirement, how much to spend on discretionary activities such as vacations and the like. In some cases, one spouse may have a shopping addiction, bad credit, or other detrimental financial habits that adversely affect the other spouse. This issue creates a greater risk for divorce.
  • Time management problems: The couple may struggle with coordinating work schedules, child care, home responsibilities, and personal time. One spouse may not be able to create time to invest in their partner. Lack of time for each other is a major factor in divorces.
  • Clashing parenting styles: Parents may disagree on how to raise their minor children. Issues can include education, discipline, extracurricular activities, and the like. Some couples may also not be able to agree on how many children to have (or whether to have children at all). The situation can be complicated further when children from previous marriages are involved.
  • Clashing intimacy styles: A couple may have problems in the bedroom due to incompatible sexual appetites. Sometimes in cases of divorce, there has not been any intimacy for a very long time of marriage. Bedroom issues are the major contributors to divorce. A mutual consent divorce between the partners can significantly get applied here.
  • Interference in the marriage from relatives: Relatives such as in-laws and siblings can sometimes contribute to tension in a marriage. At times, this may lead to a breakdown in communication between couples. One of the spouses may report cases of inhuman treatment from the in-laws.

One of the biggest contributors to poor marital development in most of these situations is lack of communication that can lead to difficulty in solving problems within a formerly successful marriage. Findings from interviews indicate that this lack of commitment can also prevent a couple from resolving grievances and developing positive connections; even if they attempt to salvage the situation through marriage counseling.

Residency Requirement to File a Divorce

Most states in the U.S. have a residency requirement when spouses file for divorce. This means that one or the other spouse must have resided within the state for a certain amount of time before they can file for divorce in that state and have that state’s laws apply to the divorce.

In California, the spouse or spouses must:

  • Have lived within the state for at least six months before filing for divorce;
  • Have lived within the county where they wish to file the divorce for at least three months.

If spouses do not meet these divorce residency requirements, they can first file for a legal separation as an alternative while they wait for some time to pass. Once they meet the residency length requirements, you can change the petition for legal separation and file for divorce.

The Divorce Process in California

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Filing for divorce requires completing quite a few forms irrespective of the type of divorce. These forms request a lot of crucial information that can determine the result of the divorce process and the court’s ruling concerning the ground of divorce. You can learn more about the specific process and forms on the California courts page or via our extensive collection of blog posts on the subject.

As you fill out these forms, you will be providing:

  • Basic information about you, your spouse, and the marriage
  • For property divisions, any separate property or community property that you and your spouse own before or during your married life.
  • If children are involved, information regarding child support and child custody matters.

Because accuracy is paramount and the forms can be complex, you may want to have a professional assist you with dealing with these forms. You have a few options in this regard; one of the easiest and most inexpensive methods is using a legal document assistant like A People’s Choice.

When you have completed the necessary forms, you can file these forms with the court. Be aware that you will be required to pay a filing fee during this step. This fee is $435 statewide, regardless of which county in the state the divorce is filed in.

If you are unable to pay the relevant divorce fees, you can request a fee waiver from the court. You must prove your financial need through documentation in order to qualify for this.


Divorce Alternatives in California

The process for divorce is not the only legal option available to spouses who wish to end their marriage. In California, there are three other possibilities: legal separation, marriage annulment, and summary dissolution of marriage. Here’s how these three processes work and when they apply.

Legal Separation

A legal separation deals with finances, child support, and custody while both spouses are permitted to live apart. A legal separation does not end the marriage; instead, some couples choose it because there is no residency requirement. Some couples also opt for a legal separation for religious or other personal reasons.

The process of acquiring a legal separation is very similar to that of filing for divorce. A spouse must file a petition and pay relevant fees to begin proceedings.

Don’t worry, married couples aren’t required to file for legal separation before pursuing a divorce. If they chose to file for divorce during their time of legal separation, however, all they need to do is change the legal separation petition and file for a divorce.

Marriage Annulment

In certain situations, a marriage may not be legally valid. An annulment is a ruling from the court that considers marriage to not be legally valid. This ruling denies the event of the marriage ever taking place, so divorce isn’t required at all.

An annulment can be requested for several reasons. Incest, bigamy, prior existing marriage, unsound mind, underage spouses, fraud, force, and physical incapacity are all grounds for one to file for a marriage annulment. Depending on the case, they may also be grounds for criminal charges.

Summary Dissolution

Summary dissolution is a faster and easier alternative to getting divorced that some couples may qualify for. They need to meet various logistic, circumstantial, and financial requirements to be able to qualify for this divorce alternative. Check out this article for more information on summary dissolution.

Will I Need an Attorney for My Divorce?

A divorce lawyer is an expert in divorce laws. Such a person can make the divorce proceedings much smoother, but it comes at a cost. Legal fees can be quite substantial, and a divorce can be quite a lengthy process.

An experienced divorce attorney stands up for your legal rights, but they can also charge large fees by the hour, for every hour you need them. When you need them to settle matters in a divorce regarding separate property, community property, and asset ownership claims, those hourly fees, usually hundreds of dollars per hour, can add up. Simply put, the longer and more complex the divorce process, the more fees you’ll need to pay.

Fortunately, there are other methods one can take to avoid this to achieve an affordable divorce. You could request a fee waiver, but that requires you to prove to the court that you are financially unable to pay any court fees. You can also consider using a more cost-effective service like a legal document service.

Affordable Assistance Is Available

A legal document assistant can help you with divorce proceedings at a fraction of the cost of a lawyer. A legal document assistant is an experienced professional that is permitted to prepare legal documents for consumers under California law. Simply put, a legal document assistant aims to aid a “self-help” client in settling their legal issues without the high costs of an attorney.

A People’s Choice may be a great option if you need help with your divorce papers, especially if you’re going through an uncontested divorce that isn’t overly complex. We offer our clients both online and personal assistance, with extended hours of operation and a substantial self-help library. Get in touch with A People’s Choice today so your divorce is over as quickly as possible and you can move forward.