Grounds for Divorce: California

The state of California was the first to implement the “no-fault” divorce. Under this statute, if a married person wishes to seek a divorce, they may. Today, a divorce in California is granted on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” Irreconcilable differences are any grounds that the court determines to be substantial reasons for the marriage not to continue.

Before 1970 and the application of California statute 2310, divorces had to be on specific grounds such as adultery or physical and/or mental cruelty. The statute removed these requirements and laws for divorce – in California called a dissolution of marriage – were eased. California divorce law declares the “matrimonial contract broken” and the separation is finalized.

Another California statute dealing with irreconcilable differences is statute no. 2334, where if it appears that there is a “reasonable possibility of a reconciliation,” the court will continue the divorce proceeding (grant a continuance) for up to 30 days. After the continuance ends, the court may enter a judgment of divorce on the motion of either spouse.

Also, a California marriage may be dissolved on the grounds of “incurable insanity.” This can only happen, however, if the husband or the wife can prove – through competent testimony by a medical doctor or psychiatrist – that the spouse was incurably insane at the time the petition for divorce was filed.

California divorce law also makes provisions for legal separation and/or nullity. But, nullity – which declares the marriage invalid – is very difficult to prove in court.  Legal separation is much easier to obtain in California than a nullity, and can be appropriate for people that don’t want a divorce for religious reasons. Legal separation is used to divide the couple’s property and to provide for child support and spousal support where the husband and wife wish to live separately but remain married. This can prove to be advantageous in situations where a divorce would cause one of the spouses to lose medical insurance, veteran’s benefits, or social security benefits, for example. To be legally separated under California divorce law, both parties must “intend that the marriage be over” and must “act consistent with that intent.”

Every divorce case filed in the state of California must declare the grounds by which the divorce is to be granted. The grounds for divorce must be supported with evidence or testimony, otherwise the court may dismiss the case.

Before filing for divorce in California, one spouse must meet the state’s residency requirements. They must have lived in California for a minimum of six months, and one spouse must have lived in the county the divorce petition is being files for at least three months.

Under California divorce law, there is no waiting period for filing for divorce, as long as one spouse meets the state’s residency requirements. California does, however, require a couple to wait six months after filing the divorce petition before going forward with the rest of divorce. This is commonly referred to as a “cooling off period.” Once the divorce is finalized, though, neither spouse has to wait before remarrying.

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