One couple will divorce every 36 seconds in America, resulting in approximately 876,000 divorces annually. Nearly half of first marriages end in divorce, and 60% of second marriages do as well. Most divorces will occur about nine years into a marriage. But while there are as many reasons for divorce as there are couples who marry, legally speaking, there are only a handful of ways to end a marriage.
Here in California, in addition to divorce, there are two other ways to legally dissolve a relationship: legal separation and annulment. Divorce lawyers are able to assist a client in any of the three ways, but what method the client chooses is dependent on their unique situation.
To file for divorce in the state of California, one party (either spouse, but not necessarily both), must have lived in the state for at least the last six months and in the same county for three months.
Divorce Laws for Same-Sex Couples
This law can be exempt in the case of same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships. If the couple is unable to receive a divorce in their state of residence, but was married in California, they are able to file for divorce with a family law firm in whichever county they were married in.
Because California is a “no fault” state, only one person needs to agree to the divorce. As long as “irreconcilable differences” are cited as the reason for filing, no other infraction needs to be provided.
Legal separation is a way for a married couple to live separate lives from each other without ending the marriage itself. However, it’s often the first step on a road that ends in divorce. While divorce lawyers will ask the spouses to fill out legal paperwork similar to those of divorce, the two individuals will still remain married.
Some couples choose to do this when they are not getting along, but are unsure if the frustrations they have are justifiable for divorce. They may even hope to get back together in the long-run. Others may file for legal separation if their religious beliefs prohibit them from obtaining a divorce, but they do not wish to continue the relationship.
Unlike divorce, legal separation does not require a minimum residency in California. Some couples choose to pursue separation until the residency requirement for divorce is fulfilled. Non-U.S. citizens that are married to U.S. citizens may forfeit their abilities to remain in the country if they become divorced. If they wish to remain in the country, legal separation is a route that they may follow.
Legal separations can be valid almost immediately, compared to divorces that must be processed, and therefore do not go into effect, for months or even years.
In many religions, annulment is the only sanctioned way to end a marriage. For instance, the Catholic church does not recognize divorce, leaving Catholic spouses with few options for separation. By filing for annulment, the previous marriage is voided altogether, and each spouse can continue their lives as if their marriage had never happened.
However, grounds for annulment are both extremely limited and often limited to extreme situations; annulments on the grounds of incestuous or polygamous relationships are never contested, as marrying a close relative or more than one person are illegal.
Some reasons that someone may file for annulment are:
- The filing spouse was under 18 years old before marrying
- One or both spouse was not fully aware of what was happening when they got married (e.g. from being cognitively disabled, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, etc.)
- One or both spouse was forced into marriage against their will
- One or both spouses lied about who they were or were hiding something (e.g. concealing an existing pregnancy, lying about their financial situation, lying about a criminal record, etc.)
- One person is physically incapable of intimate relations
- The marriage was never consummated
Grounds for annulment are hard to prove in many of these cases, and the annulment may not be granted.
Working with Family Law Lawyers
No matter which type of legal separation you are considering, you could benefit greatly from working with a California family law practice. Divorce lawyers can help you establish grounds for divorce before filing, plus they can answer any specific questions you have about your options.
The breakup of any marriage or relationship can be stressful and confusing. If you’re looking for divorce lawyers or family law lawyers in Orange County, California, contact R and S Law Group, LLP, a boutique family law firm in Southern California.