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Understanding Divorce Options in California

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Marriage can be a beautiful thing, but not all marriages are destined to work out. Sometimes, the healthiest thing for everyone involved is to end the marriage. That can be an incredibly difficult decision, but it’s often the right one.

But even when divorce is the right choice, it comes with some pitfalls. If you’re considering a divorce or in the midst of one, you need to be very careful to protect your interests and your future. It’s important to understand the divorce laws in your state and how to handle the process.

Read on to learn more about the divorce laws here in California and how they might apply to you.

Ending a marriage in California

Though the term “divorce” is often used as a catch-all, there are actually three major ways to end a marriage under California law: divorce, annulment, and legal separation.

An annulment treats the marriage as if it had never happened, legally speaking. To get an annulment, a party must prove that the marriage was invalid due to it meeting certain conditions. For instance, if the marriage was bigamous or resulted from fraud or force, it will be annulled under California law.

A legal separation, on the other hand, is pretty much what it sounds like: the married couple will live separately and be separated in certain legal ways, but will remain married. They can still get married — or end the separation — later on.

And then there’s divorce, which legally ends a marriage and sets forth the conditions for things like financial support.

Who can get divorced in California?

California is a no-fault divorce state. What this means is that individuals who wish to get divorced from their spouses do not have to prove any particular fault on the part of their spouse (such as adultery) in order to get their divorce. A married person in California can file for divorce for “irreconcilable differences,” a legal term that means for any reason and without fault.

A married person in California also does not need the cooperation of their spouse in order to get divorced. If one person wants a divorce, that’s enough; the process can move forward even without the other person’s cooperation, and will end with a “default” judgment that makes the divorce legal.

Getting representation and protecting your rights in a divorce

The divorce experience is never easy, but it can vary widely. In some cases, couples cooperate and make the process relatively easy, while other divorce cases lead to messy court battles. But no matter how your divorce will go (or how you expect it to go), make no mistake: you need an attorney.

If you think you may be headed toward a divorce, you need to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. California divorce laws do not give any special treatment to the party that files for divorce, so there’s no rush to the courthouse. But there’s no doubt that giving your attorney more time to prepare will help you in the long run. Whether you expect your divorce to be contentious or not, you should find a trustworthy local attorney quickly.

With the right attorney in your corner, the basic understanding of California divorce laws outlined here should be all that you need. Your attorney will help you with the details, from filing for divorce to negotiating — or fighting for — child custody, financial support, and more.

Divorce is a difficult process no matter how you approach it. But with an understanding of California’s process and the right attorney, you can make this experience as tolerable as possible — and get ready to move on with your life.