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What are the main ways to end a marriage?

Most people are familiar with the concept of divorce, but there are three ways a marriage or registered domestic partnership can be ended in California. How you choose to terminate your marital relationship can depend upon a number of factors, including whether specific criteria are met.

The three main methods of ending a marriage in California are as follows:

  • Divorce — A divorce in California can be contested or uncontested. However, since California is a no-fault state, the spouse seeking the divorce is not required to prove that their spouse committed marital misconduct. Instead, they only need to show that there are "irreconcilable differences" between the spouses. At least one spouse must meet the state's six-month residency requirement to divorce and they must have been a resident in the county of filing for at least three months.
  • Annulment — There are strict criteria for an annulment, and very few marriages qualify for this option. This determination is only for marriages that were invalid from the outset. For instance, a marriage can be annulled if it was entered into between close relatives, or if a spouse was already married to another person at the time of the union. A marriage might also be voidable if either party was of unsound mind or under 18 at the time of the marriage. Other reasons for an annulment can include incurable physical incapacity or inducement into the marriage by fraud or force.
  • Legal separation — A legal separation is similar to a divorce, but it does not change the couple's marital status. Property and assets are divided in the same way they would be in a divorce, and both child and spousal support can be ordered. This option may be beneficial when a couple wants to go their separate ways, but one spouse wishes to remain on the other's health insurance policy. Legal separation may also be considered by couples who oppose divorce for moral or religious reasons.

Summary dissolution is a faster, easier way to divorce in California. If you file for a summary dissolution, you are not required to go before a judge. However, not all couples qualify for this option. Spouses must have been married for less than five years and have no children or real estate holdings. Additionally, they must not have acquired more than $47,000 worth of community property or have separate property worth more than $47,000. The spouses must also agree that neither will request spousal support.

Whether you are considering a divorce, annulment or legal separation, it's important to consult with an experienced attorney to discuss your legal rights and options. Strategic Law Command is dedicated to providing clients with knowledgeable counsel and aggressive advocacy to clients facing divorce in the Greater Sacramento area. Call (916) 787-1234 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Roseville office.