The divorce process can be a long and trying time for all involved. It's a good idea to have a lawyer by your side to help you understand the divorce process, divorce laws in your state, and your options before leaving or filing from your spouse. If you're considering divorce, this article will familiarize you with three different ways that you can end your marriage in California.
How Do I Choose to Get a Divorce, Become Legally Separated, or Annul My Marriage in California?
In California, there are three main ways of ending a marriage. Those are divorce, separation, and annulment. All divorces in California are no-fault divorces, meaning neither party needs to prove any wrongdoing. However, if you and your partner are looking for alternatives to divorce, the state of California also offers legal separation and annulments.
Both divorce and annulment proceedings require a court hearing and the completion of paperwork. However, divorce is the legal ending of a marriage between two people, while an annulment determines that the marriage was never valid due to some technicality.
If you and your spouse opt for a legal separation instead of divorce, California law requires both parties to wait six months from the time they separated before filing for divorce. This waiting period also applies to individuals skipping legal separation altogether and looking to go straight for a divorce.
Divorce is the most popular way to terminate a marriage in the U.S., followed by legal separation and annulment, respectively.
The Divorce Process
The divorce process begins with one spouse filing divorce papers with the Superior Court of California. This can also be handled by their attorney. Once filed, either party may serve the papers on the other party involved in person or by mail. It's extremely important to ensure that your spouse receives divorce papers via delivery since this starts off all proceedings for divorce. If your spouse fails to respond to divorce papers, a judge can grant a divorce without your spouse's consent.
The divorce process can be a long and trying time for all involved. It can take anywhere from six months to three years from start to finish. If you're pursuing divorce, it's highly advisable that one of you retain an attorney since divorce proceedings are often complicated. The divorce case will conclude once the judge enters a judgment dissolving your marriage or granting your divorce. Everything related to divorce - including property division, child custody, and support - is resolved at this point as well.
The Legal Separation Process
Legal separation is not divorce. It's a legal process that may be pursued if both parties agree to live separately without divorce proceedings taking place. With a legal separation, spouses remain married legally but live separate lives - as opposed to divorcing spouses who are no longer lawfully married or otherwise.
Legal separations can also be "temporary" or "interim," meaning the divorce cannot immediately proceed due to some cause, such as infidelity or domestic violence.
In California, legal separation processes are similar to a divorce but can be easier to complete and can happen quicker than a divorce. There is no 6-month waiting period. Similar to a divorce, petitions must still be filed, and the courts can help determine child custody and child or spousal support if both parties cannot come to an agreement.
The Annulment Process
An annulment can be filed for many of the same reasons as divorce, but there are some key differences. An annulment is a court order that legally declares a marriage null and void from its inception. It's very important to know that an annulment is not divorce. An annulment is important to some for religious reasons.
To receive an annulment, you must have grounds as stated by California laws. One example would include an underage party who was pressured into marriage by their parents against the will of the underage party. A divorce cannot proceed under these circumstances because of the absence of consent from one spouse (the underage party).
Another few benefits of annulments are that there is no property division, any signed prenups will be invalidated, and will share all marital debts.
How We Can Help
Separating from a spouse can be an emotional, difficult period in anyone’s life. There are several different ways you can end your marriage, depending on the circumstances of your life. If you have questions and would like to speak to one of our lawyers today, please contact us. Our offices are open, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you.