CA Divorce Basics
Your marital relationship and its dissolution is a personal matter that is unique to you. Each step of the process will be paved by the facts of your decision to end your marriage, your needs, and how you choose to proceed with the matter. When you file for a divorce you are seeking to end your marriage by law. A divorce is a court judgment ending a marriage.
The final outcome of a divorce can have a significant impact on your financial and parental rights. With so much at stake, it is essential that you have qualified and experienced legal counsel to protect your rights before, during and after your divorce.
A marriage in California can be ended by:
- Legal Separation
One spouse cannot stop the other spouse from ending the marriage, and cannot avoid the divorce process by refusing to participate. If one spouse refuses to participate in the divorce, the other spouse will be able to get a “default” judgment, and the divorce will proceed.
It is more common in California to refer to a “divorce of marriage” as a “dissolution of marriage.” The terms are interchangeable. To begin the process, you should file your petition for dissolution, nullity, or legal separation in the superior court in the count where the marriage was entered. Your petition must state what your ground for divorce is. “Grounds” means the legal basis for the divorce.
California is a “no fault” divorce state. This means that the spouse asking for the divorce does not have to prove fault or wrong-doing of the other spouse in order to be granted a divorce. Rather, the spouse seeking the divorce must simply “irreconcilable differences.”
Petitioner: the spouse who files the first divorce or legal separation forms with the court
Respondent: the spouse who is on the receiving end of the filed divorce or legal separation forms
A judgment of Dissolution of Marriage may not be entered unless one of the parties to the marriage has been a resident of this state for six months and resident of the county in which the proceeding is filed for three months before the filing of the petition.
For the purpose of a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the husband and wife each may have a separate domicile or residence depending upon proof of the fact and not upon legal presumptions. The Dissolution of Marriage is typically filed within county in which the filing spouse lives.
After one spouse files, uncontested divorces evolve in one of two ways. The first is when the spouses agree on every issue: asset and liability division, the terms and conditions of child custody, support and visitation, alimony. A divorce can be said to be uncontested when the spouses do the fighting before going to court, come to an agreement, and the judge then approves it if it is fair and reasonable. The second way happens when the respondent does not respond to the petition for divorce. In addition, sometimes the respondent spouse cannot be located. In these two last instances, the court will likely rule in favor of the petitioner.