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What Are the Grounds for Divorce in California?

divorce lawyer in El Cajon

You may believe that you have the best reason in the world for wanting to divorce your spouse, but stating that reason may not be necessary to satisfy the California family courts. Each U.S. state defines its own laws surrounding marriage, including valid reasons for separation and divorce. If you plan to seek a divorce in California, it helps to have a basic understanding of the California Family Code as a guide.

What are Grounds for Divorce in California?

California is a no-fault divorce state, which means that citing the wrongdoing of your spouse when you file for divorce isn’t required or even permitted. Instead, most California divorces are granted on the grounds that the marriage bond has been broken, meaning you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences. You need only state that you “no longer want to be married,” and that should be sufficient.

In the past, a spouse was required to prove some sort of fault to receive an approved divorce in the state. Common grounds included adultery, abandonment, criminal conviction, substance abuse, and sexual deviance. These divorces became so costly that couples would either lie to the courts or travel to Mexico to obtain a cheap and fast divorce. These practices ended in 1969 with the state’s Family Law Act that produced the first no-fault divorce law in the nation.

The only other grounds for divorce in California is incurable insanity. This means that one of the parties to the marriage has been deemed permanently mentally incapacitated. If you are using this as a ground for divorce, the burden of proof is high. You or your family law attorney must prove two things. First, that your spouse was suffering from incurable insanity at the time you filed for divorce, and second, that medical professionals expect this condition to continue indefinitely.

Couples must also meet a residency requirement. At least one of the spouses must be a California resident for at least six months and a resident of a county for at least three months before filing for divorce. These rules are meant to prevent a spouse from shopping around for a judge that they believe will be most sympathetic to their circumstances.

When Your Spouse’s Wrongdoing Might Matter

While fault isn’t used as a ground for divorce, if your spouse behaved badly, there is a chance that those facts could be used in your favor elsewhere. The courts have discretion when they look at other family law matters that are tied to a divorce. These might include child custody issues, the division of property, and awarding spousal support. Your family law attorney can advise you in more detail about your rights when it comes to each of these areas.

Dissolution of Marriage vs. Legal Separation in California

California is among a handful of U.S. states that provides legal separation as an alternative to divorce. In both cases, you go through a legal process, divide your community property, and decide on matters related custody and support. However, once a legal separation agreement is approved, you remain married but live separately.

Why would you want to do this? The main reason that couples choose this alternative relates to finances. A spouse may need medical benefits that they can only receive through marriage. There may also be veteran’s or social security benefits that would be lost through a formal divorce. In other cases, strongly-held religious beliefs prevent a person from going through a divorce, but a legal separation may be a viable alternative, particularly if there are other issues to resolve such as child custody.

Speak with a Qualified San Diego Divorce Attorney

If you are seeking a divorce or separation in California, you probably have a lot of questions. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate this state’s laws regarding getting a legal separation, divorce, child custody and support, and spousal support.

At Garmo & Garmo, Attorneys at Law, we understand that divorce cases are full of emotion and our dedicated California family law attorneys handle each situation with compassion and sensitivity. Our goal is to ease the transition so that you can rebuild your life. Contact our San Diego office now at 619-441-2500 or reach us online to schedule a free consultation.

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Garmo & Garmo, LLP office update (January 4, 2021)

Garmo & Garmo, LLP’s physical office is open to assist you with your legal needs.  We are following the strict guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State of California and County of San Diego.  Unless necessary, in-person meetings will not be held in our office.  Our office can conduct phone meetings or video meetings with clients/visitors.  Please note the local San Diego courts are open for most business operations. 

Please consider the following if you must come to our physical office:

  1. All clients/visitors must wear facial coverings at all times while in our office.
  2. All clients/visitors must practice social distancing while in our office.  This includes maintaining a minimum of six feet from our staff and others.
  3. For the safety of our staff and others, all sick clients/visitors may not enter our office.
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We are closely monitoring the latest advisories from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), State of California, County of San Diego and the local court system. We will update our policies as we receive new information.

We appreciate your patience and confidence in Garmo & Garmo, LLP’s ability to serve you.