A no-fault divorce state is one where neither spouse must prove that the other did anything wrong to end the marriage. In contrast, a divorce state is where one party may state specific grounds for the dissolution of marriage.
California is a no-fault divorce state. Spouses can end their marriage based on irreconcilable differences. Even if one spouse were to blame for the breakdown of the relationship, the court generally would not consider their actions when determining matters such as property division or spousal support.
Although California is a no-fault divorce state, you must still meet certain requirements before your case is finalized.
California's Two Options for Legal Grounds for Divorce
If you are considering a divorce in California, you do not need to give the court any specific reasons for dissolving your marriage.
In fact, when preparing the initial documents, the only two options on the divorce petition are:
- Irreconcilable differences and
- Permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.
Essentially, "irreconcilable differences" allows you to request a divorce without assigning blame. This option makes the process more efficient, as you do not later have to prove your grounds. The court may grant your divorce regardless of the underlying reasons for it.
All states allow for divorces based on irreconcilable differences or similar blameless grounds. Yet not all states are purely no-fault. Some give couples the option to list a specific reason for dissolving the marriage. In other words, a divorce can be based on fault.
The divorce laws vary from state to state, but in general, examples of grounds include:
- Incarceration, and
If one party wishes to pursue a fault-based divorce, they must prove that the other's misconduct caused the marriage to end.
Explaining Irreconcilable Differences
Most California divorces are based on irreconcilable differences. California Family Law Code § 2311 defines the term as "substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be resolved."
In short, "irreconcilable differences" means that the marriage has broken down. It is unlikely the couple can repair the relationship and stay together.
Having Grounds Won't Necessarily Affect the Court's Final Decisions
You might be wondering whether bad behavior on your spouse's part will influence the judge when deciding on issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody, or child support. For the most part, factors like infidelity will not have any effect. The judge will decide based on what is fair for the parties and in the best interests of the child/children.
That said, some forms of misconduct will guide the judge's decisions. For example, if you allege and the judge determines that your spouse committed domestic violence, they may not award child custody to your spouse – although your spouse may have visitation rights.
Requirements for Getting a Divorce in California
You might not need to prove that your spouse is to blame for the breakdown of your marriage, but you must still meet specific criteria to get a divorce.
These requirements include:
- Being a resident of the state for at least 6 months before requesting a divorce.
- Being a resident of the county you're filing in for at least 3 months before requesting a divorce.
- Preparing and submitting the divorce petition and summons.
- Serving your spouse with the divorce papers.
- Waiting 30 days after your spouse was served for their response.
- Sharing financial information with your spouse.
- Working with your spouse to agree on how divorce-related issues will be settled (if you and your spouse can agree, the court will decide for you).
- Completing required documents before your divorce is finalized.
Reach Out to Claery & Hammond, LLP Today
With a no-fault divorce, you don't have to prove misbehavior led to the breakdown of your marriage, but that doesn't mean going through the process will be easy. You may still face challenges along the way. Our San Diego attorneys can help navigate your case and protect your best interests.
To get started, please call us at (619) 567-6704 or submit an online contact form today.