Divorce: Dissolution, Legal Separation and Annulment

From Amazon CEO Jeff and McKenzie Bezos divorce in 2019, to Netflix’s Oscar contender Marriage Story, to HBO’s aptly titled Divorce, the word divorce is instilled in our everyday vernacular. Yet divorce is but one mechanism for ending a marriage. This blog post focuses on the basics of California’s three ways to end a marriage.

Ending a marriage does not require mutual agreement. Either partner or spouse can petition to end a marriage. If your partner or spouse chooses not to participate in the judicial process, you can seek a default judgment against your partner or spouse. If you are considering ending your marriage, come up with a plan by speaking to one of our attorneys today.

Legal Separation

A legal separation allows you to live separate and apart from your spouse, although you remain legally married. You are not “legally separated” until you have a specific court decree. The Judgment of Legal Separation is the contract which forms the basis of the “legal separation.” While the stigmatization of divorce has dramatically decreased in recent generations, some individuals may not be ready to divorce their spouse. In this instance, legal separation may be more appropriate.  Contact one of our attorneys to discuss legal separation. 

Divorce

A divorce is a court judgment stating that you are no longer married to your spouse. In the eyes of the law, you are a single person. Most California divorce cases (with children) involve resolution of five main issues: property division, custody, support, reimbursements, and attorneys fees. Either spouse can request a divorce at any time during the marriage. California is a “no fault” state and the reasons for the divorce are more often than not, irrelevant. Contact us to discuss your rights and responsibilities in divorce.

Annulments

Annulments (or a “Judgment of Nullity of Marriage” or “Judgment of Nullity of Domestic Partnership”) have the legal effect of stating that the marriage never happened. The court has this power because in the eyes of the law, your marriage was never valid. A marriage is NEVER valid if it is incestuous or bigamous. A marriage can be declared invalid if:

  • the person asking for the nullity was under 18 years of age at the time of the marriage or domestic partnership; or
  • either party was already married or in a domestic partnership; or
  • it is the product of someone of unsound mind;
  • it is the result of fraud: “fraud” is narrowly construed for nullity. The fraud perpetrated must have been central to the contract, such as misrepresenting the ability to have children; or
  • it is the result of force; or
  • a party was physically incapable of entering into a marriage or domestic partnership.

Nullity cases are incredibly “fact sensitive”. It is important to talk with a lawyer regarding whether nullity is possible or prudent in your given circumstances. Contact us today.

**DISCLAIMER**

THIS INFORMATION IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. EVERY CASE IS DIFFERENT AND THIS GUIDE SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE READER AND ITS AUTHOR. IF YOU HAVE LEGAL QUESTIONS, CONSULT WITH A FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY.

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