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What are the Grounds for Divorce in California?

Deciding to get a divorce isn’t an easy choice, but when you understand more about the process, you give yourself a greater base of knowledge on which to form your decisions. Learning about the grounds you can use to file for divorce in California can help you determine whether divorce is appropriate in your situation. So let's delve into what California law says about acceptable grounds for divorce.

No-Fault Divorce

California is considered to have a “no-fault” divorce system. Aspects like adultery or other forms of marital misconduct generally don't have a direct impact on the eligibility to file for divorce or the granting of the divorce itself. Unlike fault-based divorce systems, where cheating or abuse can be leveraged for a more favorable settlement, California's courts usually don't consider these factors when deciding to grant a divorce.

The primary question the court considers is whether the marriage is "irretrievably broken." By eliminating the need to prove fault, the system aims to make the divorce process less adversarial and emotionally draining. Therefore, even if one spouse has committed adultery or another form of marital misconduct, it won't typically affect the court's decision about whether to dissolve the marriage.

Two Grounds for Divorce

There are only two grounds for divorce recognized by the California Family Code, and most divorces are granted on the basis of one factor. That is, most divorces are based on “ irreconcilable differences, which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” The other legal ground on which to seek a divorce is one partner’s “permanent legal incapacity to make decisions.”

Irreconcilable Differences

The term "irreconcilable differences" offers a lot of flexibility when you're considering divorce. You don't need to pinpoint specific incidents of wrongdoing, like adultery or abuse, to justify the decision to separate. You and your spouse may simply have philosophical, emotional, or practical differences that have led you to the point where staying married isn't tenable. Filing on this ground avoids a lot of the finger-pointing and stress that can accompany divorce proceedings, making it easier and often quicker to move through the legal process.

Legal Separation Before Divorce

Legal separation can be an interim step if you and your spouse aren't entirely sure that divorce is the right option. While legally separated, you can divide assets and debts, figure out child custody arrangements, and live separately, all without legally ending the marriage.

It's a way to get a feel for what divorce would entail emotionally and financially. After a period of legal separation, if you decide that reconciliation isn't possible, transitioning from legal separation to divorce can be more straightforward since some of the agreements may already be in place.

Divorce on the Grounds of Incurable Insanity

The option to divorce on the grounds of "incurable insanity" is not commonly used in California but it is still a legally valid reason for divorce. This would require proving with medical or psychiatric evidence that one spouse is and will remain incurably insane.

Because this involves bringing medical professionals into a legal proceeding, this approach can be more time-consuming and costly. It also might involve more emotional turmoil, given the serious nature of the claim. Therefore, most couples opt for the no-fault ground of "irreconcilable differences" unless the situation truly warrants a claim of incurable insanity.

What Happens to the Assets in California?

Asset distribution can be one of the most contentious parts of a divorce. In California, a community property state, any assets acquired during the marriage are typically divided equally between both parties. However, any property or assets you owned before the marriage remain yours, unless commingling of assets occurs.

While adultery or other forms of wrongdoing during the marriage do not provide grounds for divorce, they can impact the division of marital property. If one spouse’s divorce attorney demonstrates that the other spouse’s bad conduct wasted marital assets, that attorney could persuade the judge to award additional marital property to the other spouse to make up for the waste.

Residency Requirements in California

To file for divorce in California, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months. Additionally, one spouse must have resided in the county where you plan to file for at least three months. If both parties agree to the divorce terms, they can finalize the divorce out of court, but it can be very difficult to reach an agreement on all the issues without legal assistance.

Contact Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC

Even though it may be simple to determine the grounds for divorce in California, other aspects of the process can be quite complex. The terms of your divorce will affect your life for years to come, so it is worthwhile to invest time and resources to ensure that you receive a fair settlement.

To put our experience to work protecting your interests in divorce, call Holstrom, Block & Parke APLC, today at (844) 237-5791 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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