For various reasons, a married couple may find it necessary to end their marital union. There are generally several matters for a couple to consider when divorcing. Three of the most common factors are spousal support, the distribution of property, and the division of debt. For couples with children, three additional factors are child support, custody, and visitation.
Regardless of the possible considerations, there are typically three stages in a divorce: filing, responding, and completing. Your state of residence may affect the proceedings. California, for instance, is a "no fault" divorce state. This means that the petitioner (person filing for the divorce) does not need to prove that the other party has committed any wrong doing. Additionally, California is a community property state, so with the exception of inheritance and gifts, all assets and debts accumulated during the marriage belong to both parties. If there are a great deal of assets or a lot of money involved, each individual will most likely require representation by their own attorney.
It is easy to see how divorces can quickly become complicated matters that must be decided in court. Should your specific situation require legal representation, we would be happy to refer you to a local family law attorney.
While some divorces can be very complex, an uncontested divorce is typically the least complicated as well as the least expensive way to settle the matter of divorce. It might also negate the need for the couple to appear in court, and is usually the most rapid way to obtain a judgment. However, uncontested divorce is only possible when both parties agree upon all terms of the divorce, and neither party contests the divorce agreement after it has been filed.
In California, a divorce may also be considered uncontested if the respondent fails to respond within 30 days after the divorce has been filed. In such cases, a request to enter a default is filed. If the request is approved by the court, the divorce proceeds without a respondent.
Uncontested divorces with children must meet all the conditions required for an uncontested divorce in California. Additionally, they must include a custody agreement that takes both joint legal custody and joint physical custody into consideration. Joint legal custody refers to making legal decisions on the child's behalf and requires that both parents confer with each other whenever making such decisions. Joint physical custody simply means the child lives with each parent part-time. Joint physical custody arrangements may vary, but as long as both parents are in agreement, they can be included in an uncontested divorce.
Annulments are frequently associated with the Roman Catholic tradition, but they also take place in other religious denominations. These are known as “religious annulments” and are granted by the church. Annulments also take place under the law, and are known as "civil annulments." When it is determined that a marriage was never legal in the first place, it is considered “voidable” and an annulment may be granted. In order for the annulment to be granted, various conditions must be met. The petitioner must prove that at least one such condition has been met. These conditions may include incest, bigamy, fraud, force and physical incapacity. Unlike divorce, annulments are usually retroactive, restoring both parties to single status as if the marriage never occurred.
A legal separation is usually entered into when the desired outcome is to remain married, but when certain other issues need to be resolved. Such issues may include child custody, child or spousal support, and the division of property. In some cases, the petitioner may not meet the residency requirements for filing for divorce. In such cases, the legal action is often amended from separation to divorce once the required residency status is fulfilled. Sometimes couples wish to stay in the marriage for religious reasons or to maintain medical or insurance benefits for the spouse.
The State of California began its domestic partnership registry in 1999. Created via legislation, without court intervention, the registry was unique in the United States. In the beginning, domestic partnerships offered just a few privileges to registered couples, such as next of kin and hospital visitation rights; however, the registry has since been expanded by legislation to include all the rights and responsibilities enjoyed by married couples. While the California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003 was the first piece of legislation to make significant changes to the registry, various senate and assembly bills have added further rights and clarification ever since.
Although California is currently one of 36 states that allow same-sex couples to marry, the state's position on same-sex marriage has undergone some dramatic changes in recent years...
May 15, 2008: Supreme Court of California issues a decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. Marriage licenses begin being issued to same-sex couples in June 2008.
November 4, 2008: California voters approve Proposition 8, defining marriage as “between a man and a woman,” ending same-sex marriage in the state.
August 4, 2010: A U.S. District Court decision in Perry v. Schwarzenegger rules that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. The decision is upheld in appeal. The State of California decides not to appeal or defend Proposition 8, prompting supporters of Prop 8 to appeal to the Supreme Court.
March 26, 2013: Oral arguments are heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
June 26, 2013: The U.S. Supreme Court dismisses the case on the grounds that the appellants have no legal standing.
June 28, 2013: Same-sex marriage resumes in California.
In California and other states that recognize same-sex marriage, divorce law treats same-sex and opposite-sex marriages essentially the same. That being said, much like the laws that govern same-sex marriage, the laws that govern same-sex divorce are in their infancy. If your specific situation does not require representation by an attorney, we can help you save time and money. You can find additional information on uncontested divorce (with and without children), legal separation and annulment at the top of this page.
If you wish to dissolve your same-sex marriage AND your domestic partnership at the same time, you may qualify for a summary dissolution if you meet certain criteria, including...
There are additional criteria that must be met regarding spousal support, joint assets and legal residency. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance in your personal situation.