There are three legal options for couples looking to end their marriage or domestic partnership: divorce, legal separation, and annulment.
A divorce, also known as dissolution, legally ends a marriage or domestic partnership. Following a divorce, both parties are considered single, and thus free to enter a new marriage or domestic partnership. In California, there are two grounds for divorce: irreconcilable differences and incurable insanity.
Two types of divorce are available in California: Summary Dissolution and Regular Dissolution. Summary Dissolution provides an easier way to handle divorce, as it only requires a few forms. You do not have to appear before a judge eithis. Summary Dissolution is only available to those who have been married or registered domestic partners less than five years, have no children together, and have few assets and debts. If a couple does not meet the requirements for Summary Dissolution they will need to file for Regular Dissolution.
Legal separation does not end a marriage or domestic partnership and parties are not allowed to remarry or enter a new domestic partnership. This is a good option for couples looking to separate their finances and property without divorcing.
With an annulment, the court rules that the marriage or domestic partnership is not legally valid due to reasons such as the following:
Incest, fraud, or physical or mental incapacity,
Marriage or domestic partnership was entered into by force,
One of the spouses was already married or in a domestic partnership,
One of the spouses was not of legal age to enter into marriage or domestic partnership
Annulments are rare, and require an appearance before a judge.
An attorney will help you determine which option is the best option for you and your spouse. They will also be able to ensure that all paperwork is filed correctly. Ending a marriage can be difficult and working with a professional attorney can help to lessen the legal pain.
Source: Saclaw.org, Family Law: Divorce, Legal Separation and Annulment, April 2014
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