While some states still allow spouses to file for divorce based on grounds, such as adultery and fraud, California is a no-fault divorce state. This means citing fault or blame as a reason for divorce in California is not required or permitted.
California has only two legal grounds for divorce, whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. These are irreconcilable differences and the permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.
Irreconcilable differences are circumstances a judge deems to have ended the marriage. Regardless of these circumstances, the grounds for divorce will remain irreconcilable differences.
The California family court will not consider any grounds for divorce when hearing a divorce case. Instead, the court will look to one party to prove the inability to redeem or repair the marriage when granting a divorce.
Fault is not considered when dividing property or awarding alimony; only the party’s finances are taken into account.
Permanent Legal Incapacity to Make Decisions
Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions is a medical determination made by a doctor stating that one spouse cannot make decisions for him or herself. The court must determine based on medical testimony that the incapacity is permanent.
Permanent incapacity to make decisions may result from physical or psychological illness, traumatic injury, or any other condition. The burden of proof is high to prove permanent legal incapacity.
Although the court will grant a divorce based upon permanent legal incapacity to make decisions, the divorcing spouse is not relieved of their financial obligations to the other party. An incapacitated spouse who is unable to support themselves may need lifelong support from the divorcing spouse.
Annulments and Legal Separation
In California, a spouse may also seek an annulment or a legal separation. An annulment is a ruling that a marriage never existed. There are grounds for an annulment that make annulments more challenging to obtain than divorces.
In a legal separation, there are property, custody, and spousal support orders put into place, and the spouses live separately. However, the two remain legally married.
Spouses may prefer a legal separation or annulment over divorce for financial, religious, or other personal reasons.
California Residency Requirements for Divorce
Before filing any divorce in California, the spouses must meet California’s residency requirement. This requires at least one of the spouses to be a California resident for at least six months and a county resident for at least three months before filing for divorce in that county.
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