Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce):

A dissolution of marriage, which is more commonly known as divorce, terminates the marriage of the spouses and resolves issues between them, including child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, asset and debt division, former name restoration, and even restraining orders.

Dissolution of Domestic Partnership:

Domestic partners are "two adults who have chosen to share one another's lives in an intimate and committed relationship of mutual caring." Persons of opposite sexes may not constitute a domestic partnership unless one or both of the persons are over the age of 62.

Legal Separation:

A legal separation case is similar to a dissolution of marriage or dissolution of a domestic partnership in terms of the range of issues that are resolved in the case, except that the parties remain married or registered to each other.


A nullity case is more commonly known as an annulment of marriage or an annulment of the domestic partnership. This can only be requested based on one of reasons listed below.

Grounds for Termination of Marriage

For dissolution of marriage or legal separation in California, there are only two legal grounds. The first is irreconcilable differences, meaning the marriage or partnership cannot be saved. The other reason is incurable insanity which, unlike irreconcilable differences, must be proven.

If you are seeking a nullity of marriage or nullity of partnership, you will need to prove in a court hearing that your marriage satisfies one of the grounds listed below. These must have applied at the time you and your spouse married or you and your partner registered:


incest means the spouses or registered partner are close blood relatives.


bigamy means a spouse or partner was knowingly married or registered to another person at the time of marriage or at the time of registration of domestic partnership.


underage means a spouse or partner was below age 18 years at the time of marriage or registration of domestic partnership and did not obtain parental consent or a court order permitting the marriage.

Prior Existing Marriage or Prior Existing Domestic Partnership:

prior existing marriage or prior existing domestic partnership means a spouse married or a partner registered on the mistaken belief that his or her previous marriage or partnership had ended in the death of the other spouse or partner, who in fact was still living.

Unsound Mind:

unsound mind means a spouse or partner could not and has not formed the intent to marry or registered due to a mental condition.


fraud means deception regarding a significant matter that led to the marriage or the partnership and continued until the breakup.


force means threats or acts of harm were used to force one spouse or partner into the marriage or domestic partnership.


incapacity means a spouse or partner was and continues to be physically unable to consummate the marriage or partnership.

Time Frame for Termination of Marriage

Remember that merely filing your petition and having it served does not automatically result in a judgment. There are other steps you must take before this can happen.

The minimum length of time it takes to acquire a final Judgment of Dissolution in order to be free to marry once again is six months and one day from the date the Respondent is served with the Summons and Petition, or, six months and a day from the date the Respondent files a Response or Notice of General Appearance with the court, whichever comes first. If the six-month period passes before you are able to acquire your judgment, then the effective date of your change in status from married to single is the date of entry of the judgment.

The effective date for legal separation or nullity is the day the judgment is entered, that is, the day the judge signs the judgment.

Be aware that a formal judgment signed by a judge must be entered before it is final. Any minute order from a hearing or a trial or a signed agreement without a judge's signature does not terminate the action.

Finalizing Your Divorce

Your marriage or domestic partnership does not automatically end six months after filing your petition. You will need to complete your dissolution action and get your judgment either by default (when the other party does not respond), by written agreement, or by trial.

The most common courses of action for various circumstances are:

  • If the other party did not respond (defaulted).

  • In the event you and your spouse or partner have an agreement on all issues (uncontested) in your divorce, you can have an attorney prepare your agreement and judgment.

  • If either of the following conditions pertain to your case, then it is suggested that you consult with an attorney: 1) your spouse or partner has filed a response, there are contested issues, and you have no written agreement; or 2) your spouse filed the divorce, you responded, and your spouse or your partner refuses to finalize your divorce whether or not there are contested issues.

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