Dissolution of Marriage in California
There are two ways to end a marriage in California: Divorce and Annulment. Though divorce and annulment produce the same result-- the ending of the marriage is different. To file for either a divorce or an annulment you'll need to do the following:
1: Get started with online marriage license services.
2: Go to a Clerk of Court office in person
Marriage takes work and commitment, and unfortunately sometimes just doesn't work out. Divorce is a stressful process in 99.9% of situations for both parties, but the more help you have the less painful it will be.
It is highly recommended that you do not enter into divorce proceedings without an attorney.
Petitioner & Respondent
Either the groom or spouse will file the initial paperwork to begin divorce proceedings. The person who does this is known as The Petitioner while the other party is The Respondent.
You can file for a divorce in the county in which you live as long as you meet the California Residency Rule. This rule states that the Petitioner must have lived in California for a minimum of six months and in the county in which they are filing for at least three months.
- If you and your spouse have separated and live in different counties, the Petitioner may file in the county in which they live.
- If you do not meet the residency rule, Petitioner may file for a legal separation.
Before starting divorce proceedings, the Petitioner should consider how he or she wants to end their marriage. A marriage may be ended by:
- Summary Dissolution
If you and your spouse agree on all terms of the divorce, have been married less than five years, and don't have any children, you can file for a Summary Dissolution. This is the simplest and fastest way to end a marriage in California.
If your marriage does not meet the requirements of a Summary Dissolution but you and your spouse are in agreement on all terms of the divorce, you may file for a Uncontested Divorce.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on some or all of the terms of divorce, you must file a Contested Divorce. It is highly recommended that you each seek out an attorney and/or mediator.
California is a community property state which means that the goal of any divorce proceeding is to divide property and possessions equally.
- Everything purchased during the marriage is considered community property.
- In order for property to be exempt from this rule, the deed must state it was acquired separately.
- Either party may stipulate that certain property is exempt.
- Property issues are recorded and handled in a Marital Settlement Agreement. If parties do not agree and sign the settlement a judge will assign property in a court-issued final dissolution order.
- A judge will also assign responsibilities for debts incurred during the marriage.
In California, alimony is almost always awarded on a limited basis (three years). It is typically considered as a short-term rehabilitative effort to enable one party a chance to stabilize their personal situation amidst this financial shift.
Alimony is often awarded in order to:
- Help a spouse return to school.
- Acquire new job skills training.
- Acquire a motor vehicle.
A judge will award primary custody based on the what is in the best interest for the child. Some criteria a judge will look at are:
- Living arrangements remain consistent and resemble pre-divorce state as much as possible.
- Financial situations of both parents.
- Reports of abuse or violent behavior.
A judge may order mediation in some situations. A custody investigation or evaluation, known as a 730 Evaluation, may be ordered if mediation fails.
- Child support payments are based on incomes reported in a W-2.
To learn more, download the Marriage License Packet to assist you with the State of California marriage license process, as well as offer you helpful information on popular marriage topics.