In California, the party who files is called the Petitioner; the party who answers is called the Respondent. The divorce is filed in the Superior Court, normally the county of residence of the couple. One spouse or the other must have lived in California for at least six months and in the county where the divorce is being filed for at least three months. Moreover, there is a six-month waiting period after the service of process or an Answer by the Respondent before the divorce becomes final.
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 of the county in which the proceeding is filed for three months preceding the filing of the petition.
Most of the forms used in divorce in California are those adopted by the California Judicial Council, and their use is mandatory. County courts also have forms that may be used in compliance with local rules governing divorce. Some counties require that all forms be completed in black ink.
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 county where the marriage was entered.
California is a “no fault” divorce state, which means that the spouse or domestic partner that is asking for the divorce does not have to prove that the other spouse or domestic partner did something wrong. To get a no-fault divorce, one spouse or domestic partner has to state that the couple cannot get along. Legally, this is called “irreconcilable differences.”
The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is the initial document filed with the California court. It is in this document that the filing spouse will request the court to terminate the marriage under certain specified grounds. Dissolution of the marriage may be based on either of the following grounds: (1) irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage or (2) permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.
Irreconcilable differences are those grounds which are determined by the court to be adequate reasons for the marriage to not continue and which makes it evident that the marriage should be terminated.
Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions requires ample proof that such an incapacitating condition exists. This can be presented through competent medical or psychiatric testimony from a professional. Additionally, the spouse must have been legally incapacitated at the time the divorce petition was filed.