California has three ways to end a marriage: legal separation, annulment and divorce. Legal separation ends a marriage, but spouses are still married. Spouses aren’t legally allowed to remarry. Many married couples choose a legal separation instead of a divorce because they may not want to end their marriage for personal or religious beliefs.
An annulment nullifies, or makes a marriage not legally valid. It’s as though the marriage never happened. A marriage can be nullified for many reasons including bigamy, mental incompetence or one spouse wasn’t of consenting age. An annulment does require spouses to divide property and/or settle alimony or child support issues.
Dissolution of Marriage Legally Ends a Marriage
A divorce is the only way to legally end a marriage in California. This process is called a dissolution or marriage or a dissolution of partnership if the couple were domestic partners and not legally married.
A divorce in California takes about six months from the date an individual submits official papers to the court. The divorce timeline process can take longer, but it may also take less than six months. The state does have a mandatory waiting period, or divorce timeline, for dissolving a marriage. If a marriage is dissolved formally prior than the typical six months, the couple will still have to wait for the dissolution of marriage decree. A judge will approve the decree six months after the start of the divorce timeline.
When filing dissolution of marriage papers, a spouse must ask the presiding judge to settle the following issues:
• Child custody and support
• Division of property
• Marriage debts
Is a Summary Dissolution another Way to End a Marriage in California?
Yes. A summary dissolution is another type of divorce. It’s a quicker process and for a couple married less than five years. California has specific requirements for a summary dissolution. For instance, the couple can’t have children born or adopted before or during the marriage. They can’t be expecting a child prior to wanting to end their marriage. Other requirements include the couple not owning land together and having less than $6,000 in debts.
Dissolution of Marriage Requirements in a California
The state has specific requirements for anyone wanting to legally end their divorce. Either spouse must have lived in California for at least six months. They must also have lived in the county where they plan to file to end their marriage for at least three months.
If the couple has lived in California for more than six months, but live in different counties for at least for three months, they can file to end their marriage. It doesn’t matter which county they file to dissolve their marriage.
If the couple doesn’t meet residence requirements, they can file for legal separation. When they meet residency requirements, they can petition to amend, or change, the legal separation to a dissolution of marriage petition.
Determining whether you qualify for a summary dissolution or a dissolution of marriage requires finding a lawyer. The lawyer will determine which type of dissolution of marriage you qualify to obtain.
Grounds to Legally Dissolve a Marriage
In California, a spouse who wants to sue for dissolution of marriage can pick one of two grounds, or reasons, to end their marriage. Irreconcilable differences occurs when spouses don’t get along anymore. No one cheated or abused the other spouse. There was a breakdown in the marriage. Incurable insanity is the second option. It’s rarely used and requires medical proof that a spouse was and remains insane during the proceedings.
California Child Support and Child Custody and Visitation
We spouses can work together, they often determine who will raise the children and how much child support to pay. This is called a parenting plan. It’s attached to the petition to dissolve their marriage. The plan becomes a court order along with the dissolution of marriage decree.
By state law, each parent is responsible for paying expenses such as child care, medical care, food and shelter. The amount of child support is based on established guidelines according to each parent’s income.
For spouses who can’t agree on custody issues, the court will make the decision for them. It’s called a custody plan. Both parents meet with a trained counselor prior to court. The presiding judge makes their decision based on what’s in the interest of the child. Custody options include: joint and/or sole legal custody and joint and/or physical child custody.
Joint legal custody is awarded to both parents. They have the right to make decisions regarding the child’s medical, education and religious needs. Sole legal custody awards only one parent legal rights to decide what happens to their child.
Joint physical custody allows the child to live with both parents. For instance, one parent may have their child during the school year. The child lives with the other parent during the summer. A child lives with only one parent when sole custody is awarded. The other parent typically receives unsupervised or supervised visitation. This means the child may spend a couple hours or days with the parent who doesn’t have custody.
Understanding your legal rights regarding your child will require finding a lawyer. A lawyer will determine the likely amount of support and will fight for the type of custody you want.
Alimony in a California Dissolution
Alimony, also called spousal support, is sometimes awarded to one spouse a monthly payment. A spouse may ask for temporary and/or permanent alimony in their dissolution petition. Temporary spousal support is given during the court proceeding. Permanent spousal support is awarded after the decree.
The amount of spousal support is calculated by a specific formula for temporary support. Every county in California uses different factors when calculating the support for calculating temporary support. These factors include the length of the marriage, standard of living and age of the spouses.
Spousal support is one of the most complicated issues because one spouse may not want to pay. To determine your rights to receive or pay support will require finding a lawyer in California to answer your questions.
Property Division in California
During the process to end a marriage, property division and debts are often the most complicated issue. Property is considered anything that bought and sold like a house, car or furniture. Property is also anything of value like a bank account, business, pension, stocks or 401k plan.
California is a community property state. This means spouses own half of whatever property purchased during their marriage that was an inheritance or gift. It also means spouses owe half the debt incurred during the marriage.
Separate property is only owned by one spouse because it they acquired prior to marriage. For instance, a spouse buys a late model car prior to getting married. During the marriage, they purchase 10 antique cars. They completely own the late model car. Their spouse owns 50 percent of the 10 antique cars. The antique cars may be sold and the proceeds split between the spouses.
Finding a Lawyer for a Divorce in California
Legally ending your marriage is an emotional decision with a lot of complicated legal issues. A divorce timeline may be complicated or quick depending on you and your spouse. From child custody, spousal support and property division issues to settle.
Whether the dissolution of marriage is a mutual one where you and your spouse can easily agree on issue or not, seek legal counsel. You need to know your legal rights and protect yourself, child and any future spouse from future complication arising out of a prior marriage. If you’re thinking about ending your marriage, contact a California lawyer to determine how to proceed.