Divorce and Separation

The end of a Marriage or Registered Domestic Partnership.

There are three main ways to end a marriage or registered domestic partnership in California:

    Divorce and Separation
  • Divorce/Dissolution;
  • Legal separation; and,
  • Annulment.

It is not necessary for both spouses or registered domestic partners to agree to end the marriage. Either spouse or partner can end the marriage and even if the other spouse/partner does not want a divorce he/she cannot end the process by refusing to participate in the process. The spouse or partner who desires to end the marriage can obtain a `default` judgment against the other, and the divorce will go through.

California is a "no fault" 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.` "Irreconcilable differences" ia a comon reason for divorce. It simply menas that the couple no longer get along.

Once you determine that you want to end your marriage or registered domestic partnership you will want to think about how you want to handle your case. Planning before you start and speaking to a lawyer can save you time and money. It does not matter who actually starts the proceedings. The court does not give preference to the first person to file or disadvantage the person who responds to the request for a divorce.

Ending a Domestic Partnership

As of January 1, 2005 couples who want to end a domestic partnership must also file for divorce, legal separation. or annulment. If you want to end a domestic partnership, it is important to talk to a lawyer and an accountant who is knowledgeable in this area of law. It is important to know how your custody and property rights might be affected by the dissolution. Further, there are complicated tax issues than can arise when ending a domestic partnership.


This is when a marriage or domestic partnership is invalid because the relationship was:

  • incestous,
  • bigamous,
  • One partner is under the age of eighteen (18)
  • prior existing marriage,
  • One partner was of unsound mind,
  • the marriage was procured by fraud, force or physical incapacity.

An annulment does not depend on the length of your marriage or domestic partnership. But there is a time limit on when you can request an annulment. Further, you must prove to the Judge that one of the listed reasons is true in your case. Proving a basis for an annulment can be very difficult. It would be helpful to speak to a lawyer about what you will need to show to the Judge in order to get an annulment.

If successful in obtaining an annulment, it means that your marriage never existed. Therefore your rights and obligations differ from a divorce which may have an effect on custody (if you have children) and/or property rights.